The easiest way to catch speckled trout in Texas bays is to look for gulls diving over the shrimp and shad that specks send to the surface.
But can anglers specifically target large speckled trout under the birds?
If you’re talking about catching 30-inch behemoths forget it. It’s not going to happen.
However if you would like to seek out some bigger than average trout, catching them under the birds is possible. You just need to approach it with some strategy.
The only technical part to fall fishing under the birds is, don’t run up on the birds (or the fish beneath them) with the big motor. Stop at least 50 yards away and use a trolling motor or the wind to move in close.
Also, respect other anglers fishing the schools. It is highly disrespectful to fish right next to them. Fishing the same school is fine, but getting close enough to shake hands is rude and may earn you a good look at a middle finger—or maybe the whole fist.
These schooling trout will hit just about anything, including spoons, soft plastics, topwaters, and lipless crankbaits.
Something I have noticed over the last few years is sometimes the trout want a fast retrieve—and I do mean fast.
Most anglers fishing soft plastics hop the bait up and down, but during the fall, sometimes the trout will hit only if you throw it out and reel it in as fast as possible. If you find a flock of birds obviously feeding on trout and cannot get the fish to hit, try this method. It usually works when nothing else does.
By nature, the biggest specimens of speckled trout are lazy. They are old, fat, and seem to have lost their vigor for fighting the young ones for shrimp and menhaden. That means when you run into a school of specks feeding in the fall, the biggest specks will be belly-to-the-bottom.
Instead of fishing a soft plastic lure on a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce jighead, simply upgrade the head to 1/2-ounce so it sinks to the bottom quickly.
I personally prefer fishing with a 1/2-ounce silver spoon or deep-diving crankbait like the Fat Free Shad. I have started catching good numbers of trout on the Shad, which most anglers use for largemouth bass. It and other deep divers work for trout and are great for getting past the smaller surface feeders.
Another way to get bigger trout as well as reds is to fish on the outside of the feeding frenzy. If I have had my fill of smallish trout or are simply hungry for some tasty redfish fillets, I pull up about 20 yards farther out than you normally would while trout fishing under the birds. Then, I make pattern casts around the school with a Rat-L-Trap or 1/2-ounce silver spoons.
Live baiters can score by free-lining live finger mullet or small blue crab on a circle or Kahle hook. Anglers rarely use live crab in Texas waters, but it is very popular in Florida and it works here, too. Fiddler crabs will also work wonders, but they are very difficult to catch. Also, I do not know of any bait camps that carry them.
A few years ago while fishing with Mike Tennian of L&S Lures, I headed to the banks between Whisky Bayou and the Pines on Sabine Lake and found trout literally stacked against the shore.
Most of the time, trout are known for working out from the shorelines, but they were so tight to the bank that my partners and I were getting hits literally inches from the mud line. Small groups of birds (one to three) were diving over these small schools, which were holding much bigger trout than on the main lake.
We were fishing with the Mirrolure Catch 5 and a variety of topwaters. We caught the most fish by fishing them with a fast retrieve parallel to the shoreline. Most of the time, you’ll cast toward the shore, but once we figured out the fish were literally hugging the bank, we switched to casting down the shoreline to maximize the fishing action.
The areas that held the most trout were where there was a concentration of shad mixed in with shrimp. We found many shad with minimal trout, but when there were some shrimp skipping the top of the water as well, the specks were present. By the time this article hits, most of the shad will be gone so shrimp and mullet will be the primary food source for fall trout.
The whole scenario had me scratching my head because my theory has been that trout prefer easy access to doing hard work. On the main body of the bay even I could have swum like a fish and caught shad in my mouth. That is how thick they were.
The next week, I returned to do some wade fishing in that area and noticed something interesting about the bottom in this location. Over a roughly 100-yard stretch between two well-defined points, the bottom dropped off steeply into some big potholes.
The bottom went from waist deep to chest deep and then it rose up to my knees. What I realized is that when Hurricane Rita blew through the area a couple of years earlier, it changed the bottom in this spot and made it deeper.
Then I got to look at the cuts coming from the marsh. At the time, the tide was coming in strong and was quite high, which was the same situation that Tennian and I encountered before.
I noticed a couple of small eddies in relation to the new ridges and potholes formed in the storm. The trout were feeding there because the shrimp and shad gathered in the eddy. At that point, they were probably trapped there by the feeding trout. This made perfect sense.
The Louisiana shoreline tends to form eddies on incoming tides around cuts, but they are usually small and filled with flounders. Because this location had several small cuts and major changes in topography, it formed a large eddy that was one giant pot of seafood gumbo for marauding specks.
The key was looking for birds (and trout of course) away from the fracas on the main bay and keying in on shorelines.
Remember, you are not going to find the trout of a lifetime under the birds, but if you follow these tips, you will improve your chances of bagging quality keepers instead.
—story by Chester Moore