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Time to Fall for Specks
by Mark Lozier
Besides the beginning of spring letting go of winter, there is no other time of the year I like more than fall. Some are the obvious reasons are cooler temps, college football and duck hunting, but nothing gets more exciting than the Speckled Trout bite. This is the time of year when a lot of inshore fish that plan to spend the winter in the Mid-Atlantic States get really aggressive about feeding and packing on the pounds for the colder months. This means one of the best times to get out there with some light tackle and catch some yellow mouths.
Understanding the targeted species habits and feeding patterns is a big plus when looking for trout. By nature they are ambush feeders that will lay in wait for the next meal to try and pass by them. Also they are “up” feeders meaning they are more concentrating on the prey from a lower vantage point looking up. Using their spotted backs and gray/green colorings makes for great camouflaging in grassy flats, around the edges of oyster bars and deeper drop off holes are perfect for them. Their feeding is quite simple; they will be targeting more “fin” food this time of year, so using mullet, minnow and menhaden profile baits work best.
There are many artificial lures on the market that are great for targeting trout and will also give you the occasional bi-catch of a red drum or striped bass, which is always a plus. Probably my favorite way to start is always using top water baits. There is nothing better than the explosive strike of a Speckled Trout on a walk the dog style lure. Some of my favorites are the MirrOlure Top Pup and She Dog also another top producer is the Rapala Skitterwalk. The back and forth movement of a top water mimicking a dying fish is an easy meal for a trout and one that they can’t resist. Working down through the water column slow sinking twitch baits are another top producer. For these several more baits from MirrOlure get the most use for me. One of the best is the Mirrodine series with its slow fall and twitching movement that catches the trout’s attention as it slowly darts and moves. The best retrieve for this is to give it two sweeps of the rod tip and let it slowly fall again while taking up the slack in the line. There are three sizes to choose from and a heavier model when the fish are suspending deeper in the colder months.
Another good and effect way is using soft plastics and either a jig head or weighted swim bait hook. Next to top water this is the best way to work your way around an area seeing if any takers are even there. For this style of trout fishing my true go to soft plastic company Z Man Lures gets all my attention. Everything from the popular Minnowz, Grubz and the new and improved Trout Trick stick style bait are always tied on and ready to go. Besides for the 10X tough ElaZtech plastic that can handle the toothy trout’s mouth, it also makes them more buoyant and gives them much more lifelike action. Pair them with the Trout Eye Jig head; a 3/16, large eye, black nickeled jig and improve your hook up rate. The 3/16 weight is just enough for that slow fall you are looking when trout fishing. Again I find the most effect retrieve is two sharp upward pops of the rod tip and let the bait slowly fall again while taking up the slack in the line. More times than not the strike will come on the drop so keep the line tight.
At the other end of these is a very important part of the equation the rod, line and reel. I like to think the rod and line are more important than the reel. You want a softer tip rod but one with some backbone for setting the hook and keeping tight hook sets. The “keeping tight line” is something I keep repeating because trout have a soft mouth and violent head shakes once they realize they are hooked. That head shake along with the trout’s soft mouth causes a small hole to increase in size throughout the fight. So when and if your line gets slack there is a great chance the hook while come out. Just always remember “Slack Line Kills”.
For the main line I prefer Berkley’s Spiderwire Stealth Braided line, 10 to 15 pound test on my spinning reels and 20 to 30 for my bait casters. For all of these I use an 18-24 inch piece of 15 to 20 pound test Berkley Pro Spec fluorocarbon leader tied to the braid with either an Albright or Slim Beauty knot. The only exception is on the top water baits where I increase the leader strength to 30 and shorten the length to 12 inches. Spinning gear can be matched to a 7’ to 7’6” rod and reels anywhere from a 2000 to 3000 size. I normally stay with a 2000 to 2500 reel; you do not need the added weight and line capacity of anything larger for trout. For these the Penn Conflict or the Abu Garcia Orra Inshore will get the job done and even handle that occasional earlier mentioned red drum bi-catch.
So as the leaves change and the temps start dropping remember there are still plenty of great fishing days to be had! Also keep in mind that the local trout fishery has taken some pretty bad bad hits in the past years due to illegal harvesting and colder winters so don’t break the toy…. Be responsible in your handling techniques using wet hands or rubber nets, make catch and release more of a habit than an effort and teach the younger anglers the true meaning of good stewardship of our waters.
‘Til Next Tide!
Check out Mark's guide service http://www.1stlandingyakfish.com/