Surf Fishing For Specks And Slimers

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May 10, 2023

Speckled Trout: Trout are the most prized fish pursued on the Texas Coast.

Catching big trout in the surf is hit and miss but in my experience the very best trout fishing comes just before dawn until about 30 minutes after sunrise.

Savvy anglers hit the surf early throwing rattling, jointed swimbaits and topwaters designed to draw the strikes of big trout. Look for deep bowls in the surf and areas with high concentrations of mullet along the banks. Trout will corral them in the wee hours of the morning, especially on high tides and offer great shots at angling success often within casting distance of the bank.

Slow-sinking lures like the Corky can also be very productive, especially when there is light wave action. Look for emerging slicks (from the size of a fish to garbage can lid size) and for the sound of “slurping”.

Big trout sometimes smack their prey but most of the time they slurp it under. If you get a slurp and a slick know you’re definitely in the zone.

Sheepshead: Sheepshead are not super abundant in the surf but they do congregate around small rock jetties found in places like Galveston and around Corpus Christi and piers. And there are some huge ones to be found in these spots.

A favorite method for catching them is using a 1/4-ounce jighead rigged with a small piece of shrimp and fished vertically over rock outcroppings. Imagine fishing for perch from the shore of a pond with a cane pole.

Savvy anglers us braided line like Berkley Fireline, which has eight-pound diameter and 20-pound test. The low stretch line helps with hookset in the hard mouth since there is no stretch and it also aid with sensitivity.

The sheepshead’s bite can be so slight you actually have to watch the line because it can be virtually impossible to detect otherwise. A braided or fusion line can help overcome this but it can still be tough at time. Many times they thump a jig pretty hard but when they go stealth few fish can pick a bait off of a hook quicker.

Fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork is also a great way to catch them.

When the water clears up, these fish can be line shy so use a fluorocarbon leader under the cork for best results. Fluorocarbon virtually invisible and it also has low-stretch properties, which enhances its sensitivity.

Gafftop: Gafftops have extra-long dorsal fins that look like a sail on a boat, hence the name gafftopsail. They also have long, stringy whiskers. The fish average 2.5 pounds, but can get as big as 15 pounds. They have actually become fairly popular along the coast in no small part due to S.T.A.R. tournament.


Gafftops are like their freshwater cousins in that they are suckers for chum and will hit just about any kind of bait. Taking a small chum basket and fishing from a pier or rock jetty can be extremely effective especially when fishing a dead shrimp or chunk of cut bait.

Chumming in the surf is not recommended if you plan on wading of course. You might invite sharks. Not good.

Rigging up for gafftop is easy. A simple free-line with a 10/0 circle hook connected to 17-pound test or better is usually more than adequate. When pursuing gafftops in the surf, use a typical fish-finder (Carolina) rig with a wide-gapped hook works great. Popping corks with cut bait fished under them is also a great way to catch these slimy creatures.

Oh, we forgot to mention slime.

For anyone who has never caught a gafftop, all of the talk about slime earlier in the story might seem unusual, but it is true. These fish have more slime on them than any other fish in the sea. This slime actually finds its way up your line when fighting these fish. Gafftops make hard, determined runs, rubbing against the line and depositing the telltale slime in the process. The stuff then oozes along the line toward the spool like an alien visitor from a 1950s science fiction movie.

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