Catch Spring Seatrout Now!

These shallow-water warriors deserve a high place on every inshore angler's to-do list this spring.

Anglers along the southern Atlantic coast know them by various names, including spotted seatrout, speckled trout or simply specks. Whatever moniker is chosen, they are held in high regard by those who pursue them, and justifiably so.

Early spring offers excellent shallow-water, light-tackle fishing for seatrout in protected areas.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Coates.

As April ushers in a new season for coastal anglers, rising water temperatures bring these trout into the shallow, warmer waters of bays, inlets and small tributaries where they feed on baitfish and crustaceans. Fortunately for coastal anglers, the speck's affinity for protected waters in early spring coincides with a time of year when winds and foul weather often make less sheltered locations difficult if not impossible to fish. Anglers in small boats and even those on foot can find themselves in the middle of some of early spring's best action.

As water temperatures steadily rise in the spring, speckled trout seek out shallow waters that warm more quickly from the sun. They are particularly fond of grassbeds in the marshes of inlets, tributaries and sounds, where they feed tight along the edges. They can often be found in very shallow water, provided there is deeper sanctuary nearby. Find such a setting with moving water that's close to a channel or a cut through a marsh, and you are likely to find specks.

Such a scenario is custom-made for throwing soft plastics or popping and shallow-diving hard baits up against the grass line. Try to cast and retrieve parallel to the grass line in order to work the entire edge.

A live shrimp or minnow can be fished in the same manner. A popping cork is a valuable tool for keeping your bait in the strike zone as long as possible with a minimum of casting and retrieving. Specks react to movement, so the line should be twitched as the bait drifts along.

Anglers should also work any holes or cuts farther back in the grass during a high tide. Trout will likely be holding in the very backs of cuts through marshes, especially in the deeper water associated with an inside bend along the shoreline. As the tide falls out, they are likely to move to holes outside the grass.

Speckled trout tend to move around a lot and aren't always easy to find. To make best use of their time and efforts, anglers should seek out the most favorable inshore habitat.

Like all game fish, specks will relate to structure, but they show a strong preference for oyster beds and sandbars. Cast over the bar on a high tide and along its deeper side during a low tide. Specks are also partial to moving water, so a strong rip that is created downcurrent of structure will be especially appealing. Tidal rips formed where one channel meets another always deserve a few casts. Also, look for shallow flats near deep holes, points or channel edges.

While speckled trout are normally found in depths of 10 feet or less, cold fronts, low tides and bright sun are likely to move them out to deeper water. At these times, anglers will need to employ a search bait to find the right depth. The same combination of grub and jighead can be used, but many anglers will turn to tried-and-true fish finders, such as MirrOlures and other shiny crankbaits.

The mouth of an ocean inlet can also be productive for anglers pursuing specks (and many other game fish) in the spring. These areas are full of the required amenities, including bait, hard structure, channels with sharp dropoffs and moving water. Specks will be working with the tides, and wise anglers will join them. Bait will be entering the inlet during an incoming tide and leaving it during the outgoing tide, so baits and lures should do the same. Fish the leeward side of jetties, breakwaters and other structure where specks will hold in calm water waiting for prey to be swept to them by tide and current.

Time spent learning the topography of the bottom just off the beach is always well spent for surf-anglers, but pay extra dividends in the spring. Sandbars and sloughs parallel to the beach are prime holding areas for trout. A slough that runs between a sandbar and the beach will be a thoroughfare for specks and their prey.

Scouting during low tide is the best way to locate these fish-holding sections, but anglers who study the water at other times can also find them. Sandbars can be distinguished by the waves that break on top of them, while areas along the bar without breaking waves will pinpoint a cut.

On an outgoing tide, speckled trout and other predators will patrol the ocean side of a sandbar, waiting for easy meals to be flushed out from the beach. Any cut in the sandbar that allows water and bait to pass through will be an ideal target for casting a lure that imitates whatever bait is present at the time.

Well-defined points jutting out from the shoreline will also attract fish. More and bigger trout will usually hold on the deeper side, but any area with visibly moving water should be checked out.

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