Just about every creature around is looking for a cooler place to hang out, and that includes one of Alabama’s favorite inshore gamefish species – the speckled trout, spotted seatrout if you’re a purist.
Speckled trout are typically ambush predators, holding in areas where the current or bottom features will provide the best opportunities for a meal, which could include shrimp, small blue crabs, menhaden, pinfish and croakers, to name a few of the bait species available on the Gulf Coast.
When the weather gets hot, those speckled trout may venture into the shallows for a short while at daybreak to feed on baitfish that are near the surface, but when the sun comes up, the trout are going to head to deeper water with lower water temperatures.
That’s why trout tactics change in the summer with a decided shift to live bait fished on or near the bottom.
If the only live bait you can find is shrimp, get plenty because just about every fish in saltwater likes to dine on shrimp. Therefore, you’re going to lose a lot of bait to the undesired species, especially pinfish.
Ideally, you will be able to find a bait dealer with live croakers, preferably 3-4 inches long for the trout. This size bait will likely yield nice trout of 16 inches and above. A side benefit is that redfish also will hit a live croaker for a drag-stripping bonus.
Fishing a live croaker on the bottom works best when the lightest weight possible is used to get the bait to the bottom but still allows the croaker to move around. In fact, many times you can watch your line and tell when a croaker feels threatened by an approaching trout or redfish and tries to frantically move away. Usually, within seconds, the strike will occur.
If your favorite deep summer fishing hole, which could include the deeper reefs or petroleum rigs near Fort Morgan have debris around the structure it makes it hard to fish live bait on the bottom because of all the hang-ups.
One method many anglers use to keep the live bait just off the bottom is called a Bobber Stopper. It’s a plastic or rubber rig that allows you to place it on your line to stop your float at a certain depth. That allows the bait to drift across the strike zone at a specific depth just off the bottom and greatly reduces the number of hang-ups. Any local tackle store will have a variety of Bobber Stoppers.
As every angler knows, the more time the bait spends in the strike zone, the better the chances to catch the desired species of fish.
Because the larger trout hang out in the deeper water, don’t be surprised if you end up with a yellow-mouthed trout on the end of the line. The mouths of the older, larger trout have a distinctive yellow hue.
If the heat becomes unbearable, an alternative is available on the Alabama Gulf Coast. You can break out your boat’s running lights and head out at dusk to find feeding trout under the many pier lights that dot the coastline.
One key to night-fishing that some anglers neglect is the need to be extra quiet. Fish key in on noise and resulting vibrations when the light level is low, so a stealthy approach is essential.
The overhead lights on the numerous piers and boathouses attract small fish and crustaceans, which attract the target species of trout and redfish. Shrimp and glass minnows will be the most common bait species under the lights, which means live shrimp and minnow-imitation plastic jigs usually work best. As with freshwater fly fishing, it’s best to “match the hatch.” If the bait you spot under the light is small, downsize your lures to match the bait size.
As you approach a light, start your casting on the fringes and work your way to the brightest part of the light. More often than not, the decent-sized fish will be lurking on the edges, waiting to ambush any bait species that strays too far from the light.
When you’re looking for a pier light to fish, those with access to deeper water nearby tend to produce the most fish. But be courteous and don’t try to fish a pier that is occupied. Keep moving until you find one that is not being used before starting to cast.
To find out what else is biting this summer and to learn about fishing rules and regulations, the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism website includes lots of helpful fishing information.