Another Kind of Trout (Where to Find Them)

mct2ndaGuest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana; You can find part one of this post @ Another Kind of Trout.

I’ll talk about how the traveling angler can go prospecting for spotted seatrout with just a little of forethought and preparation.Although I am confident that finding spotted seatrout will have subtle variances depending on where you fish, there is one commonality—they prefer shallow, grassy flats. And like all saltwater fish, especially predatory ones, tides play an important role in finding feeding fish. For the shore bound angler finding water that exposes a lot (acres and acres of 6 inches or less) of grassy flats at low tide is one of the first steps in finding good wading water. Once you locate areas that expose a lot of flats at low tide, you begin to look for areas with a lot of structure. On eel grass flats ,with which I have the most experience, that structure takes two forms—potholes and cuts. The pothole is a large area of sandy bottom surrounding by grass. On healthy eel grass flats, potholes can be from a few inches to several feet deeper than the tops of the grass. This depth differential creates a perfect ambush place for the predatory seatrout. The trout hold along the edges of the potholes to ambush baitfish and crustaceans that expose themselves and hide from their predators. The edges of pothole create eddys as the tide flows, just like obstructions in rivers. Those eddys, however subtle, trap baitfish and small crustaceans. Finding potholes that have irregular outlines produce a lot of eddys as the tide flows. Cuts on the other hand are places that will hold fish at low tide and give them quick access to the flats at the tide rises. A cut is essentially a tidal river that is the primary path the water takes as the tides flow in and out of the estuary.

In the aerial photo, the dark green area just off the beach is an extensive Eel Grass flat. In this particular location, any negative low tide will essentially leave the flat high and dry. The wading angler can walk right to the edge of the cut. The cut, which is 6-8 feet deep, will hold seatrout along its edges. As the tide flows in and begins to cover the flats, eddys form where ever there is significant variation in the bottom. Seatrout will move with the tide into the flats as the depth increases holding along the edges of the potholes as they fill up. As the tide deepens the water over the flats, the wading angler slowly retreats across the flats, fishing all the potholes. A flat such as this can be fished for 5-6 hours as the tides change. Once the tide hits high slack, the water may be too deep for safe wading. For the first time on any new water, I would recommend always starting on a new flat at low tide. This will give you a much better view of the landscape and what it might look like once the tide comes in. However, if you are familiar with a particular flat, working a falling tide can be equally productive. You just don’t want to venture out onto a flat at high tide unless you are familiar with the landscape. Some potholes can be quite deep and edges abrupt. Remember this is fly fishing, not swimming.

The more adventurous wading angler can obtain access to even more water with the benefit of a kayak, even a cheap rental. Not all productive flats are accessible on foot from shore. In the aerial photo below, the large flat at the right is inaccessible to the shore bound angler and to some extent even to flats boats as it is very shallow except at high tide. At low tide, a lot of this flat with cuts on three sides is exposed. A quick 10 minute paddle from the shoreline on the left puts a wading angler on acres of grass flats with lots of potholes. The outside bend on the left hand cut creates a big eddy as the tide flows and seatrout hold there before moving on to the flat as the tide rises.

Presentation for seatrout fishing is rather simple. This is blind casting, with long casts dropping flies close to the edges of the potholes. Whenever you can work the fly parallel to the edges of the potholes, you are covering the most productive water. If you are casting across a pothole, try and put the fly close to those irregularities along the edges. Cast a few feet beyond the edge and strip the fly back into the pothole. One of the most reliable targets in productive seatrout water is the narrow area of sand where two potholes are connected. When the tide is flowing, the flow through these connectors is stronger and provides ideal feeding positions for seatrout. With Deceiver and Clouser patterns, you never know what fish is hitting the fly when you feel that first tap. A strong run or leap is probably a ladyfish, redfish or snook. Seatrout aren’t famous for their fight. They don’t run much and rarely jump. They do however have thin, fragile mouths, so horsing the fish in usually results in losing the fish. They can be at times aggressive top-water feeders and are a lot of fun on Gurglers, especially when the surface is calm. A lesson I learned decades ago when fishing top-water for seatrout, don’t set the hook when you see the strike. Wait until you feel the weight of the fish before putting an pressure.

Wading the flats for seatrout will put the angler in the presence of other desirable species as well depending on the time of the year. The flies you’ve tied for seatrout will work equally well for redfish, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and snook. Ladyfish and Spanish mackerel will school up in the cuts. Schools of redfish and snook will move into the potholes at the tide covers them. Sight fishing a school of redfish in a pothole can be real challenge.

No matter where you go in spotted seatrout country, there is accessible water like this for the shore bound angler. mct2ndbGenerally, within a few miles of any urban area along the Texas to Florida Gulf coast or around the Florida Atlantic coast you can find productive spotted sea trout water. Public access to the shorelines is not hard to find. Small and large parks abound along the coastline. Unofficial little beaches, boat ramps and such are everywhere. Where ever you might choose to head or have the opportunity to fish a bit along these coastlines, breakout the aerial photos. Look for those extensive flats, potholes and cuts accessible from the shoreline. Check the tide tables. Gather your saltwater rod and reel and tie up a box full of saltwater flies and hit the flats for that other kind of trout. You will be surprised how easy and how much fun it actually is.

Read part one here: https://blog.jsflyfishing.com/another-kind-of-trout/

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