No Wooden Stake Required
Updated: Jan 14
by Jay Angel
Their official name is Speckled Trout or Spotted Seatrout. You could call them Speckled Seatrout, but most just refer to them as specks. My buddy at iBass360 calls them tasty trout because these salty specks taste even better than the rainbows from the sweet water. Their range is from Massachusetts to the Florida Keys, up into the Gulf of Mexico, through the panhandle across to Louisiana, and finally down through Texas and Mexico. They are rare up north where their hardier relative- the weakfish- is distinguished from the speck because weakfish do not have spots on the tail or second dorsal fins. Specks are most common along warmer inshore waters such as estuaries and bays.
The Speck is easily identified by the yellow mouth and two vampire-like fangs that give it a colorful, but fierce look. My friend and Louisiana Charter Captain Calvin Duvalle (Delacroix (504) 957-4549) emphatically states, “live shrimp are the way to go! Most of the time I find moving water and fish the shrimp under a popping cork”. Cal looks for them over oyster reefs, or shell or good hard sand bottom.
Speckled trout are seasonal, and each season is different. As a result, “It takes most anglers years to totally figure them out,” according to Calvin. I have spent a bit of time accumulating experience catching specks and I have found that finding them, requires three elements: The first is clean water. The second is moving water, and the third is the right bait. It is best to find water moving around a point or over an oyster reef. Finding bait and matching the hatch is the final piece of the puzzle, and if you put the pieces together there is a good chance that specks will be there. As Capt. Owen Belknap (Down the Bayou Charters (985)387-8133) says, “I won’t target a place for long if there’s not bait popping on top of the water.”
Specks like a good marsh. Once you’ve found one with clean moving water the next logical question is where to target within the marsh. If you have ever fished the waters of South Louisiana, you know that a marsh can extend for many miles. Some of the water can be quickly eliminated by the two factors- clean and moving water. You also need to pay attention to the tides. If the tide is not moving, then neither are the fish. Next is to use your maps and research to locate points, oyster reefs, and areas with the potential for a harder bottom. Scout areas at low tide and plan to fish them when the tides are moving the water, especially the two hour period after high tide. Mojo Tackle Company owner Greg Combel says “If you’re fishing a marsh, the falling tide is best because the falling tide drains the hard bottom areas into bigger bodies of water. Look for structure that creates neck down areas that concentrate the bait. The bait will be shot through these areas that drain into the larger body of water.” The funneling and movement of bait often leads to the bait hitting the surface- movement that attracts predators.. Another way to find these areas during the falling tide is to follow the feeding birds.
The professionals I know make it clear- their preference is to get on specks using live shrimp. But as a bass angler who loves the challenge, I like to match the hatch with artificial lures. Specks are more than willing to bite a variety of lures. My favorite lure for specks is a swimbait. There are endless varieties of swimbaits, and most of them will catch trout given the correct set of conditions. A soft plastic shrimp like those made by Mojo are also effective.
There are two ways anglers present swimbaits to specks. The first is under a popping cork. A popping cork acts as both a “bobber” and a commotion making attractant. They are the salt marsh angler's version of throwing a top water popper to a bass. Cast the cork out with a swimbait underneath and reel in the slack. Once there is a straight line to the cork “pop” the rod. This action makes a “popping” noise. It’s this noise that calls the fish in. I like to pop the cork twice and then pause. Every angler has his own cadence and you should vary the cadence to find the rhythm that best matches what the fish are looking for.
As for size, I prefer a smaller sized swimbait-plus/minus 3 inches. Using a smaller swimbait requires a smaller jighead to control it properly. Some anglers prefer larger swimbaits due to the fact that white trout usually will not hit the larger profile. For me, the added control beats out the occasional catch of the more nuisance species.
As for color, everyone has their favorites but most follow the traditional color rules- when the water is clearer, use a color like Mojo Tackle’s Glass Minnow. This color has a white back and a clear bottom with glitter in it. When the water is a little stained, use a a high visibility color like a chartreuse swimbait. Follow these tips and you’ll never forget the feeling when you connect with
your first “gator” speck. I love their head shakes. They are definitely addicting, so give these vampire-fanged, yellow- mouthed head shakers a chance. They will quickly win you over.
Jay Angel is a lifelong angler and professional guide who has been writing, blogging and spreading the word about his passion since 1997 in many of your favorite fishing periodicals. While bass fishing is his first love, Jay also enjoys tangling with redfish in his home state of Louisiana. Jay has a weekly podcast- Let's Talk Fishing- where he interviews the industry's biggest stars and brightest innovators. The LTF podcast can be found on the Lets Talk Fishing Facebook page.