Abundance of spotted seatrout come to the dinner table
Spotted seatrout, one of Florida’s most popular backwater game fish, are readily available in our local waters. What’s nice about these yellow-mouthed predators is not only do they provide good table fare, they’re abundant, and will readily take a variety of bait.
Whether you’re using live bait, such as shrimp, shiners or pinfish, or if you’re up to the challenge of artificials, such as soft plastics or topwater plugs, you can get a bite. Also, when the trout takes the bait, it’s generally visual — trout like to break the surface of the water when striking. And that’s exciting.
Recently, while fishing with the Medina family from Charlotte, North Carolina, I hunted up a great spotted seatrout location over a grass flat in about 5-6 feet of water adjacent to a channel with good water flow.
The tide was just beginning to trickle in as we arrived at our fishing spot. Due to the initially slow water flow, the bite was a little sporadic. After 30 minutes, we had hooked up a few nice trout, but no rallies.
Then I noticed the incoming tide was really starting to flow. Like clockwork, three out of four rods we had out went off. The outcome was two spotted seatrout and one snook. The trout were keepers, while the snook was released.
Our trout bite continued for 45 minutes, with fish 15-22 inches in length aggressively feeding on the live shiners we provided them.
Needless to say, trout can provide a fun fishing experience as well as the reward of a fine, fresh fish entree.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore with good results. By fishing ledges and reefs, Girle is finding a great bite. Mangrove and lane snapper are responding to fresh-cut live shiners free-lined behind the boat. To catch these leader-shy fish, Girle is using an exaggerated length of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to a small circle hook. Mangrove snapper up to 18 inches are being caught, as well as lane snapper in the 12-inch range.
Catch-and-release gag grouper are being caught on ledges and reefs. To target these tackle-busters, Girle is using a 2-ounce egg sinker combined with a couple of feet of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a circle hook. Baiting the rig with a live shiner is luring a bite from grouper in the 15-pound range.
In depths of 45 feet of water or deeper, Girle is finding schools of king mackerel. Free-lining live shiners connected to a small wire leader is resulting in kings up to 35 pounds.
Moving inshore, Girle is finding flats species responding to live shiners and cut baits, including fresh-cut ladyfish. Redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook are hooking up with regularity, especially on live shiners. Fresh-cut ladyfish are working primarily for the redfish, although large snook, being opportunists, also feed on cut bait.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel are still being caught on speck rigs by pier anglers. Bubble gum and chartreuse colors are resulting in the most bites. While using these small tandem jigs at the pier, you can also expect to hook into ladyfish and blue runners.
Pier fishers using live shrimp for bait are catching mangrove snapper, flounder and even a few of winter’s remaining sheepshead. To target any of these three species, try a small live bait hook or circle hook combined with a split shot to get your shrimp down to the bottom.
Capt. Aaron Lowman of Island Discount Tackle is fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay southward to Sarasota Bay. By using live shiners for bait, Lowman is finding a good bite on spotted seatrout. Sandy potholes are holding concentrations of fish, although you can also find fish throughout the flat.
Snook are another mainstay for Lowman. Although it’s all catch-and-release since May 1, Lowman is finding good numbers of fish — some exceeding 30 inches. Shallow flats with good water flow are the top ticket to hook up with a linesider.
While targeting snook, Lowman’s clients are getting into some slot-size redfish, although he says schooling fish are harder to find. These fish are hitting free-lined live shiners and are generally being caught during the tail end of the incoming and beginning of the outgoing tides.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters says flats fishing remains consistent even with a spike in the water temperature. In past weeks, water temps in the mid 70s were the norm. Now temps in the shallows in the mid 80s are common.
To start, Gross is finding good numbers of spotted seatrout along drop offs and edges of flats that empty into deeper water. Live shiners under a cork are producing limits of trout, with some fish exceeding 25 inches.
Redfish also are coming aboard the Fishy Business, and while concentrations of fish are yet to be found, Gross is still managing to lay a few reds on the cleaning table.
Finally, catch-and-release snook fishing is in full swing for Gross. Live shiners free-lined to feeding snook are resulting in fish up to 36 inches. High tides and the beginning of the outgoing tide are bringing the bite, according to Gross.
On a final note, the 28th Annual Jerry Hill Memorial Kids Free Fishing Tournament at the Green Bridge Fishing Pier in Palmetto, will take place Saturday May 10. The free tournament for kids ages 5-14 is sponsored by Manatee Fish & Game Association, North Manatee Kiwanis, Bradenton Kiwanis and Palmetto Parks and Recreation Department. Registration is from 7-8 a.m. the day of the tournament. For more information, call 941-794-2806.
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