By Neil Taylor, Kayak Angler Magazine
Late fall, winter and spring is the best time to target Florida’s most popular fish, the speckled trout. These fish are more cooperative and aggressive during the cooler months, making this a splendid opportunity to catch a huge trout. The big ones fight a lot more like a redfish than the smaller ‘come to the top and wiggle’ dinks.
Kayak anglers enjoy distinct advantages. During the negative low tides of winter and spring, trout stack up in pools accessible only by kayak. In the clear waters of the cooler months, the kayak is ideal. Even casters who are all thumbs can get close enough for a shot at a big yellow-mouthed ‘gator’ trout.
To improve casting distance and cover more water, use medium to ultralight rods with light fluorocarbon leader. Trout fall for three-inch paddle tails like the 12 Fathom Mullet or 5-inch jerkbaits on light jigheads when they are presented at the right pace. Lures should be worked slowly and smoothly, with the bait travelling just above the bottom. Use the rod tip to move the lure with a gentle lifting motion.
In shallower water, topwater lures are a great option. It is a thrill to have monster trout slurping and pounding away at a MirroMullet. Stick to water no deeper than two and ½ feet for the best results.
Location and Trip Planning
Early mornings and late afternoons are usually best especially if matched with maximum water movement, but action can be good during the middle of the day with good tidal flow. Trout frequent areas of mixed of sea grass and sandy bottom. The four to ten-foot depths within this sand/grass matrix produce the numbers. For the biggest fish, concentrate on the shallows, depths of two feet or less.
Speckled trout have soft mouths. They feed by squeezing down on their prey with fang teeth. Lift the rod tip up higher when the strike is felt and they will hook themselves. Often, they aren’t well hooked. Over-aggressive technique will pull hooks, losing fish. Anglers who smooth out their fighting technique and keep a gentle bend in the rod (don’t be a slacker!) will lose fewer trout.
Check your local regulations for bag and size limits. Fish to be released should be handled as little as possible.