Speckled trout are finicky creatures. All fish have periods of aggressive biting and lockjaw but in terms of inland saltwater fish in Texas, specks are the most confusing, especially the larger ones
This is especially true during the winter and early spring when few anglers seem to find consistent patterns.
Some anglers hypothesize this is because trout are moving throughout the bay system following the available prey. Research shoots this down pretty quickly.
Of the 477 spotted seatrout tagged in a migration study in Alabama, 58 returns were received, and 53 percent exhibited no movement. If you missed a big sow in a particular spot, chances are she is still very nearby.
A trout’s metabolism slows greatly in winter and this is a proven fact as their growth rates rate slows to a crawl. This is even more pronounced in big trout which are by their nature slower moving and more selective. Most big trout are not likely contenders for daily migration.
One of the reasons we often miss catching trout is because we are not accurately “matching the hatch”.
When adult shrimp and menhaden (shad) are not abundant in the bays, trout feed on what is available and oftentimes it does not match up to the lures we typically take out of the tackle box and sometimes they are in places few consider searching out.
As trout grow larger they begin to eat larger prey. The largest trout eat the largest prey. Researchers in Texas and Mississippi have found mullet to be the preferred food of the biggest trout. At times the mullet is half or two-thirds the size of the trout.
Mullet imitating plugs are common on the Gulf Coast and certainly should be a part of any angler’s repertoire but what about color?
Small mullet tend to be slightly lighter in color than their bigger counterparts. Do your lures match the colors of the young mullet in your ecosystem? What about the larger ones?
I have seen mullet with greenish-looking backs in Louisiana and some nearly completely silver in Texas. If trout are reacting to a genetically inspired inclination to feed on that prey from their natural area then it is important to match colors as good as you can.
Trout have clear, color vision and are super line shy in clear water. The use of lures that mimic very close to your local trout’s prey can give you advantage. With virtually every fish natural colors work best in clear water whereas the more exotic fare can get the job done when it is murky. Due to a lessening of algae during winter and early spring waters to tend to clearer in Texas bays barring flood conditions. Making sure your lures line up with what you see in the water is a point that cannot be overstated. In addition, fluorocarbon line can help eliminate loss of potential big trout catches. It is virtually invisible in the water.
• Big speckled trout feed heavily on ribbonfish (cutlassfish) when they move into bays from the Gulf. Find ribbonfish scurrying to the surface in panic and you will find BIG trout. At a distance their silver flashes can spot ribbbonfish as they breach.
The biggest trout almost never school. A study conducted by researcher D.C. Tabb found that trout in excess of six years of age are nearly all-large semi-solitary females. These are the giants we dream of.
Big trout are truly elusive, strange fish that do not fit into a particular mold. They are much like giant largemouth bass in that once they reach a certain size their habits change dramatically. The angler who takes the time to study them and realize they will have to trade catching lots of trout for the chance to get one big trout will score on their personally fish of a lifetime.
—story by Chester Moore