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Home / Fishing / Articles


Figuring Out Big Trout
by Todd Casey

Some of my best memories of fishing took place when I was just a kid. I was learning about the secrets of the bay, playing in the bait well, and always hoping for one more cast at the end of the day. My dad and I would drive towards the boat ramp in the dark early morning pulling a boat that today would be considered "For Sale". We would always stop at the convenient store on the way to the marina, and I would get some powdered donuts and a plastic cup of orange juice with the foil top. My body was running on a pre-fishing day sleepless night, and I couldn't wait to experience what we were going to get into that day.

Through the years I have grown from a young excited fisherman to an older excited fisherman. Not much has changed except for the knowledge I now have in the database in my head. I have experienced many different situations in all types of fishing. I love throwing a light lure at a tailing redfish. I can't wait to go to one of my flounder holes and hook into a five pounder. I dream of big snook popping a top water and then watching the flashy battle take place. In my mind, however, there is one thing you cannot beat with any fish hooking into a huge yellow-mouthed trout as big as your arm.

Big speckled trout are a very elusive and mysterious fish because saltwater anglers have given them a reputation. I have heard so many different opinions and stories on these fish that it is difficult to figure out what s fact and fiction. Basically, to me a big trout is just like a little trout, except there are a lot fewer big ones. People automatically give these trophy trout a personified status of being much smarter and sneakier than your regular ol' 17 incher.

Can you target big trout? Absolutely. You just have to go where they are, and that is sometimes the toughest part to figure out. Okay, this is our first trout fishing day. Let's try and target some 16 to 20 inch trout for the cooler. I use this size range because when you do get into nice trout like this, the keepers are usually all in this range with a lot of undersized trout mixed in with them. If you fish enough for these trout you will occasionally come across a big trout, say, 28 inches or better. It happens, and it hit the same little live shrimp the 14 incher you just threw back hit. So you do catch a big trout every once and a while in your fishing hole. Would you go there in a tournament with limited time on your hands and fish for the tournament winner? I didn't think so. Luck has a lot to do with winning tournaments and catching big trout, but location and presentation is the key. Now that we have got a few average trout for some fillets let's make a plan and go catch a trout of a lifetime.

Where do the bigger trout hang out? What do they eat? I am asked this all of the time and they are trick questions. Big trout hang out in the same place and eat the same things little trout do. Trophy trout will eat the same shrimp and various crustaceans as the little guys, but will slowly start eating more fish. But remember, there are much fewer big trout so you do not see them as often. This is where the trick question can trick you. Big trout will also hang out together in concentrated areas during certain times of the year. A trophy trout is an older trout. They have a little bit different ritual with their age. They will move to these concentrated areas for several reasons. Spawning plays the biggest part in locating a mature trout. Water temperature will move big trout around a little. Availability of baitfish can get them in one particular area.

To locate a big trout you must understand just a little bit of information that will help you to narrow your search for a good fishing hole. The trout species is considered to be a schooling species. This is very evident in their younger years. They will almost always be found in a good incoming or outgoing current. As long as the water is moving for them you are in great shape. Trout spawning is the number one certain way of locating some big ones. The pre-spawning period in South Texas is January to early April. The spawning season will usually begin in late April and stretch out until September. I would have to say the peak of the action is March, April and May. During this time the bigger trout will be moving from their low-salinity waters into some summertime high-salinity habitat.

Now we have narrowed our big trout search to a place with good current during spawning season in a high-salinity area. Now let's pay attention to the water temperature and moon cycles. Trout will start to produce eggs as the days get longer during the springtime. Spawning is usually triggered by a water temperature of 68 to 70 degrees. I don't expect you to go around checking the water with a thermometer. Just go fishing. Just remember as the cool winter water heats up slowly the action will heat up slowly. The water temperature will vary from 65 degrees to about 72 degrees many times during the spring. During the peak of the spawning period the water will usually be between 76 degrees and a hot 85 degrees. Another factor to take into consideration is the moon. Any time a few days before, on or after the full moon is prime time for big trout action. Female trout may spawn every week to every couple weeks during the spawning period.

So now we are getting even closer to finding some big trout stacked up on a sandbar. Let's sum it all up. Let's find a place with good current, high-salinity, water temperature over 68 degrees and let's go for the full moon. That sounds like too much to remember, doesn't it? Actually, this is just the scientific data that can be considered. If everyone waited for the perfect day like that to go trout fishing they would be sitting at home most of the time. My philosophy is to grab a rod and reel and just hit the water. This information is just helpful to know at certain times.

When you are in your big trout spot you need to be sure and not make any sudden loud sounds in the boat. The best way to pursue these fish is to get out and wade. We are in a spawning area that is going to be shallow and any fish, big or small, knows when a big boat hull is floating nearby. What kind of bait do you use? Like I said earlier, big trout eat the same thing the little trout do. They are just capable of eating bigger baits because they are a bigger specimen. My bait selection usually depends on the wind. Most guys will tell you that top water that is a foot long is the best bait to use for a big trout. I guess they will hit that if you throw it enough times, but finesse is something you really have to consider. When it is calm and quiet I love using a smaller bait. Small top waters and suspending mullet impressions are my favorite. If it is dead calm a soft plastic worm with no jig head or weight on it is awesome. I have caught some of biggest trout on lures you would use for catching bluegill perch in a pond. In a strong wind, a bigger, noisier top water bait is a good choice. This will get their attention when they are chin down in the grass in muddy water. Big trout are great predators and will usually eat if the presentation is good. If you accept the fact that they are successful predators you will understand that when you are fishing for them they probably already have a belly full of food. That's why I recommend you use smaller bait. They would rather cram one more shrimp or small mullet in there gut then to eat another 8-inch mullet. However, I did catch a trout once with a huge 8 or 9-inch mullet's tail sticking out of its throat, and it still pounded my lure.

Just as big Boone & Crocket whitetail are difficult to find, a big 32-inch sow trout is hard to find. There are not too many of them compared to the numbers of average sized trout and they require that you spend a little more time out in the field to locate them. Anybody who tells you they personally catch dozens of 30 inch plus trout every year is probably telling a big fish story.

The bay fishing everywhere up and down the coast seems to be getting better and better every year. I think more and more people are respecting our natural resource. Big trout are special creatures. I recommend you release these fish to swim another day if you are just going to cut their sides off and eat them. I am personally not sure conservation wise or scientifically if it makes a difference, but it is just an emotional time for me when a big ten-year-old speckled trout is cut up and forgotten. Mounting them for the memory or a great photo and a release is a respectable way of concluding the catch of a monster trout. They are one of the greatest fish that swim the shallow waters of our bay system.


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