This time of year can be boom or bust for inshore anglers. It might not feel like it during the heat of the day, but the length of days and water temperatures have been decreasing since mid-August.
For speckled trout, September marks the transition from solid summertime patterns into the fall feed-up that coincides with baitfish migrations. Some of the best fishing of the year is getting ready to happen, but it might not be here just yet.
What many anglers will find is that fish are scattered. Speckled trout that were bunched up on deeper structure out in the bays and sounds have spread out. They are making their way inland ahead of the fall bait migrations. Although the bite is less consolidated and more sparse, it is a good time to catch bigger fish as they move shallower into the grass flats and marshes.
Covering water is important to catching fish during this transition period. Instead of chasing birds or anchoring up on a piece of structure and catching all the trout you can on live shrimp, try throwing artificials. Sure, you might find a pod of small fish hanging on an oyster bar or working under the birds, but you’re going to have to look to find bigger fish. They’ll be scattered across the potholes and pond drains.
This is a time to stay on the trolling motor or wade a flat while fan casting to cover a ton of water. Early in the mornings, this is a great time of year to work a topwater walking bait in anticipation of big blowups from bucket-mouth trout. Once the sun gets up, it’s time to switch to soft plastics on a jig head.
Coastal Angler writer Michael Okruhlik makes an awesome and innovative paddletail called a Knockin Tail Lure (www.mycoastoutdoors.com). It is a proven fish-catcher for redfish and trout. It’s got a rattle built into its tail, which continuously produces sound to get their attention. Paired with a jighead or a swimbait hook, it’s the perfect bait for covering water quickly and efficiently.
One of the best things about prospecting for gator trout with these techniques is that slot-sized redfish will be in the same types of areas as the trout, and a red will jump all over a topwater or a paddletail.
Getting out and beating the flats should carry you through the transition into the bait migrations, when catching fish becomes a simple matter of finding the bait.