February is not only the shortest month of the year, but it’s also my favorite month to fish for large speckled Trout. Some call the bigger ones "gator trout" and others call them "yellow mouths" (like our shirt was designed after), but one thing is for certain, when you start routinely catching them above 25 inches, you get Trout fever. The speckled Trout was the very first ShapeShifter Fish and Friends design, and the fish that started our journey of creating our UPF50+ performance clothing line.
We talk a lot about sun protection and why our shirts make it easy to transition from inside to outside, but they are also great at keeping you warm for night fishing! Night time is the right time when targeting large Trout in the Tampa Bay area. I prefer the dusk till dawn hours, and I prefer to wade. Getting in the water at night can be a bit apprehensive, so it’s important to go with somebody who knows the water well, or to stick close to land. The big ones like to come out and feed when it’s dark! Because of a special layer of tissue on their eyes, they have an extraordinary sense of sight in low light conditions, and they are also very sensitive to noise. So it is very important to fish quietly with super long casts.
Depending on where the tide is depends on where I like to fish, but I always throw artificial. If the tide is high, I focus on mangrove areas adjacent to large grass flats as they tend to hold bait. When the tide moves out, the water pulls all sorts of food out of the mangroves. If the tide is low, I like to find deeper holes, pockets, and cuts around the same grass flats. During the February negative tides, Trout, along with Redfish, often get trapped in these areas where they will continually feed on a mix of shrimp, mullet, pinfish, and crabs.
Two of my personal favorite lures to throw for yellow mouths are either a suspending or slow sinking twitch bait called the Paul Brown by Mirror Lure or a soft imitation shrimp by Monster 3X called the X-Move. The key to catching the big ones at night in the winter is to fish as slow as you can. The professionals often say, “If you think you’re fishing too slow, you’re fishing too fast!” These big Trout don’t like to expend a lot of energy in the cold water as their metabolisms are running low, so they often go after prey that are moving extremely slow.
They don’t get big because they are foolish, so it is extremely important to be as quiet as you can and to present your bait as naturally as possible. I like to use at least three feet of 15-20 pound fluorocarbon leader. However, if the tide is right, the moon is right, and you’re fishing pre-frontal conditions when they are feeding heavily, you can catch Trout on lures of any shape, color, or size.
For me, in the fishing realm, there is no better feeling than hooking into a large fish and seeing an enormous head, with a yellow mouth, thrashing at the surface of the water. They are beautiful fish, and when you catch them at night, they often display colors that you never get to see during the day.
So I urge you, in the coming nights, grab your fishing pole and go throw your favorite bait at your favorite spot. Because remember friends, less screen time and more outdoor time will always be better for you!