It may be cold out but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time to go fishing for some specks. As long as you know how to catch speckled trout in the winter and have the right winter speckled trout lures, you will be landed fish with ease. You may even hook up to some gator speckled trout, if you can withstand the cold, that is.
Only a couple of months ago the air and water of Mobile Bay were both warm, still and pleasant. But now, once winter has arrived in the Deep South, the wind ripping over the white-capped water of the bay is sharp and it’s cold.
My cold hands struggle to keep good contact with my spinning rod because a couple of things are stressing me. One stressful thing is the vicious wind which chills my wet hands after I baited up with a nice finger mullet before my cast. The other stressful thing is something strong and disagreeable on the end of my line.
I allowed my finger mullet on the kahle hook to sink into the cloudy waters of a deep river channel which emptied into Mobile Bay less than a mile downstream. Once my mullet reached bottom, it didn’t take long before I felt the subtle but definite bite and take of something solid. That “something solid” came to the top and the silver sides and deep black spots of a strong three pound or so speckled trout flashed in the early morning sun.
I manage to keep the hook and the fish together until I slid the fish into my landing net, and admire the first fish of the day, This fine speck is gorgeous as it struggles in the net, and the thought in my mind of how nice this speck is going to look later this evening when I take it to my dinner plate straight from the skillet makes my cold hands seem a small price to pay.
Step One- Find ‘em
Most times of the year, anglers can locate schools of actively feeding speckled trout in a wide range of locations. Specks might be feeding around the platforms in the bay, they might be at the same time feeding up in bayous and smaller creeks or they may be in open water chasing shrimp.
But when the water starts to cool off and the wind gets seriously cold, specks are considerably harder to find.
We asked a couple of our very knowledgeable fishing buddies, Captain Yano Serra and Captain L.W. Burroughs, their thoughts how to catch speckled trout in the winter.
Captain Yano says, “There’s no such thing as a perfect day for fishing winter speckled trout and there’s no sure thing. There are so many variables that can change the fishing from day to day at this time. The weather, the water temperature, the salinity of the water all can change at this time of year. There’s no single pattern for catching specks in December. You have to work it out each day.”
Captain L. W. Burroughs adds, “Speck fishing in December can be quite productive due to the fact they seek the warmth of deep water, this can be from eight to twenty feet, in canals and rivers which flow into saltwater bays. In this scenario, large numbers of trout can congregate in these deeper areas due to the warmth, higher salinity, and close proximity to food sources such as shrimp, bait fish, and small crabs.”
Specific Cold Water Spots to Try
Although there are several good areas to find winter speckled trout in December, there are a few places that year in and year out produce good speck catches.
Anglers are urged to look at the Theodore Industrial Canal. This is not the most scenic place to fish with the huge industrial ports and plants surrounding the water but the deep water and steep ledges in the canal area are very good places to find cold water specks. Traditionally, the Theodore Industrial Canal is one of the best cold weather speck trout spots in the entire Mobile Bay System, and lots of anglers take advantage of it.
The Bayou La Batre Channel is a very good cold water spot to find some big gator speckled trout. Anglers should look for the deepest pockets in the channel and work the area slowly and thoroughly.
The Dog River between the marinas often produces good cold water specks. Look for the fish to be holding near the bottom in fifteen to thirty feet of water.
What They are Doing
Winter speckled trout, especially the bigger gator speckled trout, are a lot like most of us. They like to be as comfortable in their surroundings as possible. They also don’t like to have to work any harder for their meals than most of us do.
This means that in cold conditions the trout will tend to be in deeper, warmer water in larger bodies of flowing water.
“What I like to do is concentrate in main bodies of rivers, not bayous but deep water with ledges that hold bait. I like deep water that has shells and other structure on the bottom.” Yano said.
According to Burroughs, “Finding the right water depth where the fish are holding is very important. Speckled trout are typically more dormant in colder water of winter.”
So most of the time in December, speck anglers can motor past the bayous and shallower waters which held lots of trout back in warm months. The trout have relocated to water and conditions more comfortable to them and to the small fry they feed on.
And the Pattern Breakers
However, sometimes anglers can find some very big gator speckled trout doing some very out of the ordinary things in December.
On sunny days when there’s not much wind to move the water, the bigger gator speckled trout will move up shallower from the deep holding water to find the places where sunshine has warmed the water. On these sunny days, angler can sometimes find really large trout holding in very shallow water where they soak up sunshine and warmth. These are usually big trout who move into the sunny shallows.
These are not very active fish, and they won’t move far or fast to take an angler’s winter speckled trout lure, but they will eat a nice finger mullet or live shrimp that is cast right in front of them. And when these cold water specks feel the hook, they wake up fast and fight very hard.
Our Buddies Winter Speckled Trout Lures
Both guides ike to use jigs and soft plastics during cold weather times.
“I like GULP and Matrix Shad jigs in chartreuse and white, chartreuse and black, and just solid chartreuse,” Yano said. “Chartreuse is good this time of year. I’ll use 3/8 to ½ oz jig heads depending on the current. Sometimes the little jigs, the two-inch size, will work better on cold water trout than larger jigs.”
“In cold water, I primarily free-line live baits such as live shrimp, croakers, and finger mullet,” added Burroughs. “When freelining a bait such as live shrimp, this can be accomplished by slowly increasing the size of split shots until a bite is achieved. Allowing your bait to free fall at the appropriate rate to find the correct depth typically results in a bite. Also, a slip cork will allow you to adjust the depth of your live bait until a bite is achieved.”
Whether an angler uses live bait or artificials in December, most of the time the offering will be on the bottom where the fish will be holding, and, according to Yano, this can create some problems.
“You’ll hop the jig across the bottom, and you’ll think you’re hung up. It’ll feel like you’re hung up on an oyster shell. But if you feel the headshake, then you’ve got a trout,” said Yano. “If you can find three to four inch long finger mullet, sometimes you catch them cast netting the mouths of bayous over dark bottom, it’s a very good bait in cold water.”
“My best advice on how to catch speckled trout in the winter? Make sure you’ve got winter speckled trout lures, lots of hot coffee, and remember, sometimes the specks will bite best in mid-day,” Yano concluded.
Important Contact Information
Captain L.W. Burroughs
Captain Yano Serra
This article first appeared in the December 2018 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.