Gator Hunting: Fishing for Monster Speckled Trout in Texas


An Unlikely Trophy: Monster Speckled Trout in Texas


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Upon first glance, the Spotted Sea Trout, or as it's better known - Speckled Trout, is not the most sightly resident of the marshlands, backwaters, flats and bays that make up the inshore fisheries stretching down the East Coast, around the tip of Florida, and encircling the Gulf of Mexico. Surely, there are better looking fish out there: the copper shine and spotted tail of the Redfish, the contrasting zebra stripes on a Sheepshead, or even the yellow and chrome flash of a Jack Crevalle.

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Speckled Trout Fishing

What is it that draws anglers to Speckled Trout fishing? To stand in waist-deep muddy water in the dead of winter to target these monster "Gator" Speckled Trout?

We got the scoop direct-from-the-source on catching Speckled Trout: we spoke with 3 of our Texas inshore fishing guides that pretty much catch these things for a living. Sure, they go after other species. After all, going after Gator Speckled Trout isn't for every angler. It takes experience, managing expectations, and (you guessed it) a bit of luck to be successful when Speckled Trout fishing for giants.

After interviewing some of the best Speckled Trout guides in Texas, it's not hard to see why some anglers obsess over them...

Here's how to catch Speckled Trout and much, much more.

wade fishing for speckled trout

Captain Gary Mach showing off his catch


The Best in the Biz on How to Catch Speckled Trout


The questions we asked and the answers we received should give you a picture of how to catch Speckled trout in Texas, and how to catch the big ones: everything from fishing spots and conditions, to tried and true techniques and Speckled Trout lures. There's a bit in these conversations for everyone - the experienced angler, the newcomer, or someone who's just curious about Speckled Trout. After all, there's no better resource than someone that fishes for these things day in and day out.


Captain Steven Reed on Texas Speckled Trout

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Captain Steven Reed has been guiding for almost 30 years. He even has a trip dedicated to catching Specks

When is the best time to catch monster Speckled Trout?

"February, March & April."

Why is wading the preferred method for catching the big ones?

"The tides are lower in the winter months, and you can sneak up on them much better (than in a boat)."

Why do you use artificial lures?

"Live bait isn't as available, shrimp boats don't operate as much in the winter, and Croaker season isn't until the summer. Artificials are the preferred method in the winter - Corky's and big plastics."

What is so exciting about catching a "Gator" Speckled Trout?

"It takes longer for them to get that big and there are fewer of them. To catch a 27 to 30 inch Speckled Trout, I know guys that have spent their lifetimes chasing them and haven’t caught them. So its all about being at the right place at the right time with the right lure. That's the secret to joining the 30 inch club."

What do you tell your clients as soon as they hook into a good sized trout?

"Keep the rod high, don’t horse the fish, let him use the drag, and use the rod. Whatever you’re using most likely has multiple hooks, so depending on how they grab the lure, the fish could be hooked in the body outside of the mouth. Taking your time is the biggest thing."

What are the best lures for Speckled Trout?

"A lot of sub-surface plugs, Corky's are popular because the state record was caught on one. Paul Brown’s lures imitate a crippled mullet better than any Speckled Trout bait there is. There are a lot of custom companies that make multiple colors and flavors – whatever you need they can make it. Whatever you’re imitating is what they’re eating. Big Speckled Trout are not going to eat a 1 inch shrimp. I’ve had bigger trout eat foot-long trout. They're going to eat something big, and then not eat again for a few days. Some artificials are bigger than the mullet present in the water, and that’s why they work so well."

Tell us your "one that got away" story!

"I hooked one in East Matagorda - they call it the East Flat – its all knee-deep mud so not a lot of guys fish it. I was wading with a customer and I was throwing a Dayglow Corky in the evening. I knew the fish would eat, the tide was moving, and I hooked a trout that was probably 13 inches, so I set the hook and start reeling, and about halfway in something else hit that trout.

The bait was all the way in the small trouts mouth – so there was nothing to hook the big Speckled Trout with – I was pretty much fighting the bigger trout for the 13 incher. I fought him and fought him, and I didn’t have a net and he finally got off. He was well over 31 inches, close to 10.5 pounds. You don’t forget those stories over all the years. You just don’t forget something like that."

captain steve reed fishing guide

Would you say that you're obsessed with Speckled Trout? What makes them so much different than other inshore species?

"I spend my time chasing them for fun when I go. There are big ones here in Port O'Conner – Baffin Bay and East Matagorda will produce the next Texas state record Speckled Trout I believe, or down by South Padre Island. There’s something about those waters that grow much bigger fish than other places.

When I need to blow off steam in the winter time I go fishing for big trout, and I’m just going after one or two bites. When you go fish for big trout, if you're catching 12-18 inch fish, that’s all you’re gonna catch. For big trout, its like shooting a big deer – you have to go fishing for it. Catching a 30 inch trout is not easy. You have to go expecting to get 1 or 2 bites. And if you don’t, you don’t. You have to dedicate yourself to catching a big one – just like hunting a big deer. Put the time in and it will pay off."

How should a massive Speck be handled if you're lucky enough to catch one? How do you get those great Speckled Trout pictures?

"If we net 'em, we get the hooks out and keep them in the water. If they want to get one or two pictures, we can. If they want the trophy, we can weigh and measure them for a reproduction, because I recommend they don’t kill them. On my trips, if someone catches a trout over 27 inches, if they let them go, I’ll give them $50 towards a reproduction. The biggest thing is to handle them less. They're old fish, they cant be beat up. Get a picture, get a measurement, and put them back in the water to swim off."

How to find Speckled Trout- What signs do you look for in a good trout spot?

"Bait, bait and more bait! The right sized Speckled Trout bait too – the areas where they catch the biggest trout are eating the bigger mullet. You have to be around schools of baitfish that are the right size. You just have to be on the fish a lot - to know what they're eating, where they're eating, and what time they're eating. Solar tables also come into play. It’s a hunt – theres no doubt about it."


Giant Speckled Trout with Captain Colton Rembert

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It didn't take Captain Colton Rembert of Matagorda long to figure out the secret to catching Gator trout. See his trout trip here.

When is the best time to catch monster Speckled Trout?

"March, April, even into May – I feel like they have more time to put on weight."

Why is wading the preferred method for catching the big ones?

"I may not be the most experienced guy out here, but I’ve had quite a few years on the water, and wading is the way to get it done. You can fish spots more effectively is what it comes down to."

Why do you use artificial lures?

"Artificials are more of a challenge. When you learn how to use them you don’t need bait anymore."

What is so exciting about catching a "Gator" trout?

"These fish are just so much smarter than the other fish. Something like 1% of the fish are 28 inches and above. A lot more planning goes into it."

What do you tell your clients as soon as they hook into a good sized trout?

"Just keep your rod tip up, and don't try to muscle them in. Their mouths are pretty fragile so you don't want to tear the inside of her mouth."

What are the best Speckled Trout lures?

"It really depends on a few conditions. Water temperature and the sky have a lot to do with determining color. Bass Assassins, Corky's and that’s pretty much it."

Tell us your "one that got away" story!

"We were fishing in the surf... (laughs). We were in ‘Gorda surf fishing and we could see these big trout hunting in the waves. Me and my buddy saw a group of 5, and every fish was 7-8 pounds - who knows, they were big fish. I hooked into one that must’ve been every bit of 9 and he got off. For the summertime, that’s a big fish."

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Would you say that you're obsessed with trout? What makes them so much different than other inshore species?

"There's nothing like them. You can pick any shoreline and throw a lure and you’ll probably run into some Redfish, but there is a specific way to catch Speckled Trout on purpose."

How should a massive Speck be handled if you're lucky enough to catch one? How do you get those great Speckled Trout pictures?

"If you catch a fish that’s 10-20 years old, that’s a breeder, and you need let that fish go. Try and limit the amount of time you have them out of water is a big thing. They have a protective slime on their skin, so minimize the handling when they get that big is very important."

How to find Speckled Trout- What signs do you look for in a good trout spot?

"Anywhere with signs of activity. In the winter, they're not as active as they are in the summer, so they ambush their prey. I'm either looking for baitfish activity, or places where they can ambush baitfish. Water temperature, backdrop (sky color), and a lot of other factors play into it."


Speckled Trout Madness with Captain Gary Mach

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Captain Gary Mach has been fishing the Matagorda Bay complex his whole life. See his trips here, here, and here

When is the best time to catch monster Speckled Trout?

"December through March, and even in the summer time. You may not get the 30 inch plus in the summer time, but you might get a big one here and there with a Corky or artificial."

Why is wading the preferred method for catching the big ones?

"Wading is better for catching the big ones. We’ve released several big ones drift fishing – they can be caught in the boat, its just not likely, especially in the summer months. Wading is still the way to get 'em."

Why do you use artificial lures?

"There's not a whole lot of bait activity in the winter like there is in the summertime. Trout are mostly feeding on mullet in the winter – shrimp aren’t 100% gone but they’re deep in the canals – so Speckled Trout bait activity just isn’t that great in the summer. Artificials just work better."

What is so exciting about catching a "Gator" trout?

"Everything about the species – they're definitely a trophy fish. You just don’t catch them every day like Redfish, Sheepshead and Drum. I can't just say, 'We’re gonna go out and catch 3 or 4 of them today,' you just don’t get them that frequently. You really gotta fish for the big ones."

What do you tell your clients as soon as they hook into a good sized trout?

"Keep the tip up, don’t rush it in, just let it do it's thing, and bring it in. Don’t try to muscle it in. Let it fight if it wants to fight."

What are the best lures for Speckled Trout?

"Right now (in January), the first thing I would pull out is a Corky. It's just Corky season. You can use tails (soft plastic baitfish imitation) to try to find them, and then use a Corky. Right now, it’s a lot of slow retrieve stuff, lower in the water column."

gary mach fishing guide in matagorda

Tell us your "one that got away" story!

"I don't really have one, because I’ve had a bunch of them get away from me (laughs). They get right up to the boat and they just get away. Don’t know how many I’ve had jump out of the water and do their acrobat thing and get off. I’ve lost a bunch of 28 inch plus trout."

Would you say that you're obsessed with trout? What makes them so much different than other inshore species?

"They’re definitely my favorite to catch, but not to eat!"

How should a massive Speck be handled if you're lucky enough to catch one? How do you get those great Speckled Trout pictures?

"Put a BogaGrip on the bottom lip, try to keep them in the water as long as you can until you're ready to take the pictures, take pictures as fast as possible, and get her back in the water. Make sure shes gonna take off right before you let her go. Hang on to her tail and let her swim around until she kicks out of your hand.

I highly recommend releasing them to keep the population going."

How to find Speckled Trout- What signs do you look for in a good trout spot?

"Just wherever I’ve been catching them myself. I look for bait, I look for birds – any kind of bait activity in the winter is a good sign. If you see some bait working, there’s gonna be fish around there."

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