All fishing guides agree: speckled trout are one of the most sought-after game fish in Tampa Bay, and all of Florida for that matter. Not only do they make excellent table fare, but they are also quite the fighter. Once hooked, a yellow mouth will put on a great show as it thrashes wildly across the surface.
One Fish, Many Names
Speckled trout are known by many different names including specks, yellow-mouths, spotted sea trout, and paper-mouths. They are silver in color with an olive-green tint on the back. Its body is lined with small black dots that extend across its entire back and down to its tail. Its lower jaw extends past its upper, which contains two distinctive canine teeth.
Fishing guides use pogies, small crustaceans, shrimp, and croakers when targeting specks with live bait. A typical fish measures between 14 and 18 inches and will weigh around one to three pounds. Specks can usually be found in shallow coastal areas near sandy or muddy bottoms. Luckily, Tampa Bay has many areas that match this description.
Targeting Specks During the Summer Months
The best time to catch speckled trout in Tampa Bay is during May, June, and July. This is when they migrate to shallower flats to feed after spending the winter months in deeper holes to keep warm. Fishing guides will either bottom fish, drift fish, surf fish, or wade, depending on conditions. Some will use a combination of all four throughout an entire day to maximize the chances of netting a trophy catch.
If you choose to bottom fish, doing so with live bait can be very productive, especially if done near an underwater structure. Many fishing guides swear by this method as a sure-fire way to land a “gator trout” (a speck larger than 22 inches).
When going out to bottom fish in Tampa Bay, it is best to free-line if conditions will allow for it. Free-lining means just simply tying your hook directly to your line, casting your live bait, and letting your bait drift with the current. The use of circle hooks is strongly encouraged. Doing so will not only lead to more hook-ups but will also help ensure a safe release if needed. If the current is strong or the wind will not let your bait to drift naturally, then fishing guides will add weight to a Carolina rig. Remember to use as little weight as possible (a quarter to half an ounce).
You can drift fish with fishing guides in Tampa Bay over sand flats, oyster beds, rocky bottoms or any other large, relatively shallow area. And just like when you bottom fish, it is best to free-line your live bait if conditions are calm enough. By positioning your boat or skiff on the upwind side of the area you would like to fish and then allowing the wind to drift your vessel while you cast in different directions, you can drift fish. You will cover a large area and be able to better pinpoint where the fish are. Keep in mind that speckled trout tend to congregate near the bottom if the water is rough, and they will typically linger near the surface if conditions are calm.
Most people wade/surf fish when targeting speckled trout, especially among those who are not fishing guides. This is because you do not need a boat. All that is required is basic gear and two legs to get you to your desired spot in Tampa Bay.
To surf fish is to fish from the shore. Some people will walk the shoreline until they see signs of feeding fish (rippling bait or flocking birds repeatedly hitting the surface). Others will stay in place and let the fish come to them. Neither method is wrong, and each is heavily dependent on that day’s water conditions.
Wading means to slowly wade through knee to chest deep water in search of trout. Much like surf fishing, you will be on the lookout for signs of feeding fish all while meticulously covering the entire area within casting distance.
Early morning and late evening are the best times to surf/wade fish in Tampa Bay because this is when fish tend to feed most actively. If the water is calm, the best thing to use is a topwater lure that “walks-the-dog.” Good examples of these would be a Mirrorlure Top Dog or a Zara Spook. Using these during glassy conditions will produce explosive results when a speckled trout crashes the surface, disturbing an otherwise peaceful scene.
Catch Speckled Trout with Local Fishing Guides
While you can go out on your own and have a good shot at catching a lot of speckled trout in Tampa Bay, it is better to retain the services of local fishing guides if you want to have a truly memorable experience. Chartering with Salinity Now takes all the guesswork out of your excursion and ensures you spend the day catching fish. Additionally, you will not have to fuss over all the cleanup that comes along with fishing. Fill out our online form or call us at (727) 480-3620 and get started booking your next charter with Salinity Now.