Now's The Time for Gulf Coast Speckled Trout Fishing

For anglers wanting to test Mississippi and Louisiana waters for the highly touted speckled trout the month of June is definitely a prime time to be on the water. It's mid summer and the coastal waters are quite warm, so all sorts of baitfish are teeming in this nutrient-enriched environment. Shrimp, croakers, anchovies, mullet, and menhaden are thriving in the coastal shallows, and the swarms of hungry speckled trout are gorging their bellies on the bountiful food chain.

With the masses of trout now foraging mostly in outer bays, sounds, and at barrier islands, it's a prime time to catch numbers of specks.

Here are a few tips that may help make your trout fishing a success this month.

BIRDS & SLICKS

Any angler worth his salt always is scanning the skies for signs of birds when trout fishing. Those birds are your eyes in the sky, and they seemingly come out of nowhere when trout chase bait to the surface. Although it's possible to catch trout under terns and pelicans at times, it's the big gulls that generally deliver the goods on a regular basis. If you have a trolling motor ease up to the outer edge of the birds, just within casting range, and watch for the shrimp jumping across the surface for their lives.

The trout feeding below hit most anything when in a feeding frenzy, and even a topwater bait can draw exciting surface strikes. Of course, you may encounter other species in with the speckled trout, including sand seatrout (also called white trout), southern kingfish (called ground mullet), gafftopsail catfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, sharks, redfish, ladyfish, and bluefish.

If you see concentrations of gulls sitting on the water, the birds are often right on top of the fish, or waiting on fish nearby to chase bait to the surface again.

Besides scanning the skies be sure to be looking on the surface too, and keep your nose on alert for scents coming down wind. Seatrout often regurgitate their food when on these feeding binges, and an oily sheen pops up to the surface. Often your nose picks up the scent before you spot the slick, particularly if you're down wind. It's an odor that often resembles watermelon to some and a menhaden oil scent to others.

The smaller the slick is, the closer the fish are to it since the wind and tide haven't had time to spread it out. Just like using the birds, anglers can often locate and track schools of feeding trout by spotting these slicks as they appear on the surface.

FULL MOON TIME

If you're looking to catch some really big speckled trout in June, be sure to fish three days before, and three days after a full moon. Generally trout like to stack up on reefs, wrecks, and other structure in more open waters just before they spawn. The big sows are concentrated and on the prowl.

One of the best baits for the big specks is a live croaker. If you locate the big fish, croakers as bait definitely are your ticket to success in catching huge 4- to 8-pound specimens.

It's surprising how big of a croaker a 3-pound trout can swallow. When targeting a monster trout, don't be afraid to drop down a 6-inch croaker. However, live pinfish, mullet, and menhaden make for good big trout baits, too. Depending on the depth of the water, these baits can be fished under a popping cork, free-lined, or fished on the bottom using a Carolina rig.

TROUT TACKLE

It's always wise to invest in good tackle that holds up to the rigors of fishing in saltwater. It should be sized to handle specks, but also handle any of the other bruising species like bull redfish, black drum, tripletail, and jack crevalle that may be encountered on trout trips.

A 7-foot rod is always an excellent choice, especially a good graphite model that's light in weight. That's a factor that comes into play when casting all day long for specks.

Generally, a medium to medium-light action baitcasting or spinning rod with a long butt section suffices. When possible pick the rod and reel at the same time, so you can see exactly how the combo feels in your hand.

Aboard my boat we fish a variety of medium action St. Croix Rods, however, there are many other excellent brands, such as All Star, CastAWay, Shimano, and Shakespeare rods that do the job. Again, a rod with a long butt section helps in making long casts, stores well under the arm, and can be anchored to your belly for leverage when battling a big fish for an extended period of time.

As for reels, it's hard to go wrong with a Shimano or Penn, both extremely popular brands with good reputations.

Since speckled trout fishing usually requires plenty of casting, go with a quality 10-pound-test line, like Yo-Zuri Hybrid or Suffix Tritanium Plus. Many anglers go with 12-pound-test, but the lighter 10-pound outcasts the heavier line in most cases, especially when tossing a light live bait or artificial lure.

A number of anglers are going to the braided lines, too. Although they are some of the strongest lines on the market, they do fish differently. There is no stretch, so you get the extreme sensitivity for detecting bites. But because of the soft mouth the trout have to loosen up the drag a bit, and ease up on the hook setting.

Also, since these lines are so strong for their smaller diameter, you can go with 30-pound-test that's equivalent in size to 8-pound. The thin line can toss a lure a country mile.

Finally, because braids are more visible underwater than monofilament, adding a 3-foot length of 20- or 25-pound-test Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader material is a good idea.

ARTIFICIAL LURES

Ask 10 different trout anglers for their favorite speckled trout lures, and there is a good chance you get 10 different answers. Of course, that's a good thing. It's a sign that these speckled gamesters are aggressive in nature and strike a wide assortment of fake baits, when in a feeding mode. However, in the soft-plastic category it's hard to go wrong with traditional softies like Salt Water Assassins, H&H Sparkle Beatles, Deadly Dudleys, D.O.A. Shrimp, and H&H Cocahoes.

As for color assortment, a good list would include chartreuse, white, root beer, and avocado hues. Depending on water clarity and time of day the bite may be best on a certain color. Thus, it's wise to keep a good selection of different colors on hand. If the bite slows on one hue, try another color.

Better yet, you can fish two baits in tandem, making sure you have contrasting colors. This way it's possible to see what color is attracting the most strikes, allowing the trout to dictate your color choice.

To complete the soft plastic set up, you need to thread them on the proper size jighead. Jigheads come in a wide variety of weights and colors.

The weight determines the rate of fall in the water column. In shallow water it might be best to go with a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jighead, where a fast descent isn't required. Over deeper reefs go with a 3/8- or 3/4-ounce jig that gets the bait down to the fish faster, especially if a strong current is involved.

Soft-plastics are so versatile that they can be fished as a single bait, two in tandem, or under a popping cork.

If you prefer to fish a slow-sink jerkbait it's hard to go wrong with a model 52M MirrOlure. These baits are legendary, come armed with three treble hooks, and have the flash and twitch action that catches fish.

The silver MirrOlure is ideal, especially for fishing around the barrier islands. But there are numerous colors that are extremely productive.

Fish these baits slow, a couple of turns of the handle followed by a couple of twitches of the rod tip. Depending on the area, it's wise to talk to local tackle shop staff or guides to see what baits and colors work best in their waters, and this goes for all baits mentioned.

TOPWATER ACTION

That's right, never home without them, top-water baits that is. Just like fishing for bass, big speckled trout are prone to smash slowly worked topwater baits. And June is an excellent month to be fishing them. Noisy surface baits with an erratic walk-the-dog action are killer on big trout, and a slow retrieve is the key to success. Often a trout swirls under the bait checking it out, and even strike at a bait multiple times with many strikes occurring close to boat side.

On some strikes they make knock the lure into the air, and then proceed to engulf it on the next strike. Once you get the first experience of seeing and hearing a big trout make that smacking sound as he inhales a top-water bait, well, you may get hooked on top-water trout fishing for life. Two of my personal favorites that produce consistently are MirrOlure She Dogs in the green back patterns, and a 4-inch Heddon Zara Spook in a bone color.

TROUT WATERS GALORE

Along the Mississippi and Louisiana coast the places to pursue June trout are immense in number. To get a handle on the current hot trout areas, it's always wise ask a few question in the local tackle and bait shops in the area you intend to fish. Better yet, hire a guide. They take you to trout hotspots, as well as teaching you the basics of catching the highly touted species in their region.

To name a few productive June areas, try Mississippi's barrier islands — Petit Bois, Horn, Ship, and Cat. Major points and the vast stretches of grass beds on the isles north side are the places to look. Anglers can wade, drift, pole or use a trolling motor to fish these trout havens.

Mississippi's Katrina Reef, just outside Deer Island, holds big June trout too. Plus, wade fishermen can score by early morning wade fishing Biloxi's front beach near oyster-encrusted pilings.

On the Louisiana side, try the gas rigs in Lake Bougne, Pass Marianne Reef, and Isle au Pitre. Farther south take a look at Oyster Bay, Chino Bay, Door Point, Martin Island, and Brush Island.

Bottom line, do your homework, and soon you can be catching your share of the most popular light tackle game fish in Miss/Lou waters.

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