Armed with a set of fangs that would make any snake or vampire jealous, a voracious appetite and an explosive strike, the speckled seatrout ranks in the top three inshore game fish, along with flounder and red drum. Often attacking prey their own size, the strike of the seatrout is hard to beat. One nice “gator” trout I caught last winter almost took the rod out of my hands when he struck the plastic bait I tossed near the bank. My intentions were to let it sink a minute, so I had relaxed my grip on the rod and certainly didn’t expect the force of the trout’s attack. The fish weighed six pounds.
While after a cold winter the trout population sometimes dips, it seems like the past mild winter holds promise of booming schools of trout this season. In September, large schools of 13-inch fish were plentiful and, with the trout’s appetite, they should be much larger as winter passes. Some of their favorite prey are finger mullet, mud minnows and shrimp.
While the shrimp are plentiful in the creeks, I prefer to use them live. As the water temperature drops and the shrimp leave, I switch to artificial baits—soft plastics with paddle tails or screw tails—and scented plastics like the Gulp products, or hard lures like the Mirrolure or Mighty Bite. I have caught them on a chunk of dead mullet on the bottom while fishing for redfish, but the other methods should produce better numbers of fish.
If using live bait—finger mullet, shrimp or mud minnow—a popping cork with three foot of leader and a 2/0 or 3/0 circle or kahle hook will produce good results. Small live menhaden are also favorite food for the voracious trout. Working the popping cork vigorously will increase your strikes, because while some fish spook easily, the trout is fearless. Long ago, we used to troll the grass edge of the creeks, and the motor never bothered them.
Sleek, silvery, iridescent and covered with spots, the speckled seatrout is a beautiful, hard-striking, tough-fighting fish that provides an angling experience that is hard to beat. When taken to the table, the delicious, flaky flesh is the icing on the cake!
Article by Capt. Miles Altman
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new “Finatic” boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.