Fishing for Florida's Speckled Trout Might Land You a 'Gator'

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Call them speckled or spotted, these fish are plentiful throughout Florida, and can be caught by anglers with any skill level.

The spotted sea trout, an inshore fish more commonly known as speckled sea trout, abounds in Florida waters, waiting to be hooked by beginners and experienced anglers alike.

In the northeast section of the state, the waters surrounding the St. Johns River are legendary for producing boatloads of trout. The most successful fishermen in this area usually target creek mouths that dump into the Intracoastal Waterways. Using scented soft plastic baits pegged on jig heads just heavy enough to reach the bottom, anglers should follow the tide from the small creeks as it falls into the open water.

Further south, the famed Mosquito Lagoon produces some of the largest speckled trout in the state,  and probably in the southeast United States. These large fish are known as gator trout, and weigh-ins at eight to nine pounds are not uncommon. Gator trout, usually solitary fish as opposed to the smaller schoolies, have a reputation for being easily spooked and will test the ability of the most seasoned anglers.

The southern tip of the Florida peninsula finds anglers targeting these trout from the downtown Miami metropolis on Biscayne Bay to the remote, dark waters of the Everglades.

Tampa Bay trout often get to sizes that rival their east coast counterparts.

The common denominator for bigger fish anywhere seems to be shallow grass flats, pock-marked with sandy depressions or potholes providing cover for the bigger fish.

Trout in the northwest area of the state tend to follow the steps of their northeast brethren by orienting themselves along the narrow mouths of creeks and rivers. Anglers here have pretty much perfected the popping cork method and employ it to catch staggering numbers of nice trout.

Tackle for trout fishing usually consists of medium action spinning rods seven feet to seven and a half feet and 3,000- or 4,000-size spinning reels spooled with 10- to 15-pound braid. With a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth as well as the notorious “fangs,” one might think heavier leaders are necessary. Actually, anglers using 15- to 25-pound fluorocarbon will have greater success.

The beauty of speckled trout is their willingness to strike artificial lures. Throughout their range, trout have no problem smashing all sorts of fake offerings. My personal favorite is to toss noisy surface lures across shallow grass flats. I often catch bigger trout on topwater lures and with suspending baits. Shallow-diving lipped plugs or the venerable suspending twitch baits are also equally effective on trout and often the better choice mid-day. The absolute top artificial set-up for anglers of any skill level is the popping cork rig. This simple rig consists of a foam float with a cupped face suspended above a jig or live bait. Aggressive pops with a pause afterward usually result in instant action.

Live bait anglers know that bigger is better when it comes to targeting speckled trout. Gator trout are especially fond of jumbo live shrimp or a four- to six-inch live mullet. Regardless the method you use, trout fishing in the state of Florida is simple, yet challenging enough to suit just about every angler.


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