Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak
With summer right around the corner, the inshore Speckled Trout bite is really starting to heat up. Shallow waters often provide the perfect conditions for grass beds to form. And it’s these grass beds that act as a hunting ground for big, hungry gator trout. As an angler though, simply finding good grass beds might not be enough to land some of these fish.
Depending on water clarity, suitable grass beds for trout fishing can be between 2 and 12 feet deep. This means that there can be a lot of water to cover in search for big trout and it may take some time to find where the fish are. As a general rule, I like to fish the shallower water early and late when the water temperatures are cooler. During the middle of the day while the sun is at its peak, it’s often wise to move into deeper water where the trout will move to in order to stay cool.
In addition to temperature, tides play an important role in regard to the trout bite. Usually the stronger the tides, the better the fishing is. This most likely has something to do with strong outgoing tides pulling bait fish from shallow water and incoming tides forcing them back into the shallows.
As far as gear is concerned, I prefer to use a light to medium action spinning rod with 8-12 pound test. Long casts are essential for shallow water trout fishing. Being able to cast a long distance gives one an advantage because it means less maneuvering around which lowers the chance of spooking fish.
One thing that anglers love about Speckled Trout is their willingness to hit a variety of both hard and soft baits. Early morning and late evening are the times to use top water lures on the grass beds. Your standard poppers often work well during these times. However, lures that have a side-to-side action known as “walking the dog” tend to produce far more fish and are my go to lures if the fishing gets tough. Trout are much more willing to hit a surface lure while the sun is lower in the sky primarily because of decreased visibility and prime feeding times. Surface lures can be advantageous on grass beds because they rarely dip low enough under the water to become entangled in the grass below.
As the day wears on and the temperatures rise, it is often wise to move into deeper water to find trout. With deeper water comes a change in gear. Depending on the depth, I like to use diving swim baits, soft plastic swim tails, or weedless soft plastic flukes. It will take some practice to figure out how to keep these lures out of the grass beds, but if worked quick enough and properly, they can be dynamite during the mid-day slump while the bite has almost turned off.
Like nearly all other fish, trout will rarely hesitate to hit the real thing. Live pinfish or shrimp are often the go-to baits for many anglers. Don’t be afraid to use bait that you may consider to be “too big”. Gator trout have mouths big enough to swallow nearly any bait fish you might find along the grass beds. Dangling a live pinfish or shrimp under a bobber or Carolina rig can be the ticket to landing a big Speck.
The final step to fishing grass beds for trout is deciding how you’re going to get around. Shallow water flats boats are a favorite among anglers because of their stealth and ability to be poled around with ease. Being able to stand up on the deck of a boat makes sight casting and long-distance casts much easier. However, don’t be afraid to get wet. Wade fishing can sometimes be the only way to quietly sneak up on a suitable patch of grass. Just remember to wear shoes if you are visiting an area with sea urchins. Picking spines out of your foot isn’t the best way to start off a day of fishing. Finally, kayaks can make for a healthy mix between stealth and maneuverability. It isn’t uncommon to have fish strike a lure 1-2 feet from the kayak simply because they didn’t know the boat was there.
There are thousands of inshore grass beds around the southeast that are beginning to heat up for Speckled Trout. With the right gear and know-how, they can be an absolute blast to catch and can nearly be caught all day long. So the next time you find yourself near some grass beds, be sure to get some fishing in. You never know when you might catch the big one.