Skinny Water Trout

Skinny Water Trout

Now here is a subject you get to read about often but most of the articles only tell the HOW and not much about the WHERE. This one is different, it is a HOW and WHERE article; the catching will be solely dependent on your ability to put in the time needed to master what I'm going to give you. I love to fish like this but get fewer chances than one might think. Guiding is still an action-oriented business and sight-casting to skinny water trout is not about tons of bites.

In October, the presence of frontal systems triggers the need-to-feed mode in all our gamefish. Days begin to shorten and nighttime temperatures are cool. The fish feed longer and more often, so your chances increase tremendously. The cooler temperatures allow trout to stay shallow longer. Before I say another word; yes the trout feed shallow in August, but by late September and on into fall their presence up shallow is prolonged and the possibilities increase accordingly.

Areas such as Allyn's Byte, Traylor Island, Mud Island, the Ship Channel spoils and the southeast shoreline from East Flats to Dead Man's Hole have always yielded consistent fall action. The larger trout however have always sought out the shallow grass flats and bars that have quick access to deep water.

Locate the shallow (knee deep to me) grass bars, flats and points that consistently attract bait. In my opinion, the best areas are those that hold bait long enough for the trout to move in and target them as their primary food source. When the bait becomes predictable the trout will too, until something changes. Trout become easier to trick when an abundance of bait is present.

Trick, now that is a term that honestly fits the description of what fishing with lures is really all about. Most of the lures we use have few characteristics common to anything that actually swims. I have never seen a purple and chartreuse shrimp or a bone-colored mullet. It is the action the angler is able to put on the lure that draws the fish's attention.

I have found that lures with little to no noise work better on skinny water trout, especially when the water is clear and calm. Add wind and suspended sand particles and noise comes back into play. My favorite lure for clear, calm, skinny water is a 5-inch Bass Assassin. I like to rig the bait with a Mustad 4/0 or 5/0 Ultra Point worm hook. This allows for weedless presentations that can be combined with a stealthy approach. Big trout get gear-shy in the shallows, yet we take more than a few five to six-pound fish with this setup. As water temperatures cool and our days become shorter, trout in the 8-pound class will start showing. In the dead of winter, during warming trends, you can expect to see the year's largest trout frequenting shallow water to feed and to gain body heat.

The manner in which we approach these shallow water havens is important. You want to drift or troll motor into the general vicinity and then wade from there. If you are spooking mullet, you're whipped before you start. You need to ease into the area of bait concentration and slowly become one with the activity. I know it sounds like Chevy Chase putting with a blindfold, but believe me; you can ease in without spooking bait if you pay attention to your movements. Jerky moves are taboo; this includes the cast and the hookset. I hold my rod low and keep my casts low, use your forearm and wrist. My ultra-light Waterloo rod and Daiwa Zillion reel allow me to cast with ease all day. Spooking bait when casting is the same as wading too fast or motoring in on them, spooked is spooked, and when the bait spooks the trout spook.

I strike my fish with the rod off to my right side on a horizontal plane. I want that fish to keep her head down as long as possible. Let the fish fight the tension of your rod and drag and learn to use the resistance of the line in the water. If she gets her head up and airborne, her chances of getting free increase dramatically. I kneel when I have the fish reeled close. I hate to spook them on a short leash; it stacks the cards in their favor. I like to hunker down, at 49 it is hard on the lower back but that is what health clubs are for.

Big black-backed trout blend with the bottom and slip away undetected. I can usually see their black tail and then try to focus on the whole fish. If you have never had a 30-inch fish easing along in front of you, you have an enormous thrill ahead. Have one eat right at your feet and well; words would only cheapen the thrill. I released a 29- inch fish two weeks ago that I watched eat the bait and then dump 25 yards of braid off the spool in the blink of an eye. I released the fish after grabbing her with my Boga. It said she went about 7- pounds.

The action I place on my Bass Assassin varies. I like to walk the dog for a few feet, then let the bait sink. Allow about 5 seconds in knee deep water when using braid. Power Pro is buoyant so we have to allow more time. Braid is also zero stretch, so the rod tip action needs to be less aggressive than with mono-filament line. I most definitely advise the use of a leader when fishing braided lines in clear water. Twenty pound is sufficient when you are not fishing around bottom structure that the fish can foul your line on. Rocks and pilings would require heavier terminal gear.

When you are up on one of these grass bars you need to spend more time watching and listening than moving. Watch how the bait reacts around the potholes. Frantic movement from baitfish is usually an indication of predators nearby. Look for small slicks appearing in the middle of baitfish schools.

Pay attention to the direction the bottom grass is pointing; it will tell you the direction of the current. Current, whether generated by wind or tidal movement is critical and you need to keep track of it. Zigzag your way across the flat. Kevin Cochran gave a good illustration in a previous issue that nailed it. Fish into the wind or at angles that cross the wind rather than directly downwind. I find this produces more bites and bigger fish. From time to time you might want to look back at your wading line. Many times I have seen large trout following and hunting in the dirty water I created. Redfish are notorious for this and trout do it too.

Working shallow water gamefish of any species can be tough but there is little doubt in my mind that large speckled trout are the toughest of all. I hope I have explained in good enough detail the approach and tactics needed to have a shot at this relatively small percentage of fish that do their work up skinny. Here are a couple of areas you might want to try around Rockport. The southern tip of Mud Island (up on top of the grass flat), Traylor Island (behind the bar), The East Flats (on top of the shallow bar out front) and shallow grass flat east of Grass Island in South Bay. Look for massive schools of bait, if they are there, so are the trout.

October promises to be the start of what I think might be our best fall fishing in many years. The abundance of rainfall and run-off, along with extremely high tides during August and September, has allowed the bays to flush better than in years past. The bait seems to be everywhere and this will draw fish to our shorelines and mid-bay reefs. Years with an abundance of rainfall have always been good for our fisheries. The rain cost us some days in July and August but we are going to get them back this fall and winter.

May Your Fishing Always Be Catching!