If you have fished Texas saltwater for any length of time you already know live shrimp is hands down, the best speckled trout bait in terms of all around effectiveness.
“Speckled trout are hard to please eaters who prefer fresh bait,” says Capt. Paul Marcaccio. “Live shrimp works wonders around bay flats, reefs and along the edges of grass and marshes. These are areas where trout are likely to school in large numbers.”
As far as some species are concerned the larger the bait, the bigger the fish that is likely to be caught. Marcaccio says in the case of speckled trout, however, the bait must be tailored to the waters being fished. Shrimp five to seven inches long make good bait for trout between four to six pounds, or when you are fishing jetty waters or in passes or channels that hook up the bays to the Gulf of Mexico.
Large shrimp are less effective in the bay areas. “It has been my experience that shrimp about three or four inches are ideal to secure good stringers of trout.”
In the winter use small shrimp when the trout are sluggish due to the cold water.
Hooking shrimp properly…
Whether you hook the shrimp through the next-to-last section of the body from the tail or under the spike depends on the size of shrimp and its stage of life.
“Very small shrimp are difficult to hook under the spike,” continues Marcaccio. “There are also times when the shell is very soft. In both cases you need to hook the shrimp in the last part, next to the tail. I prefer to use the latter method at all times. The bait appears more natural and you don’t run the risk of driving the hook in too far and killing the shrimp. Many times it’s how you present the bait that will make a difference on whether the trout takes it at all.”
Marcaccio also advises to sometimes try hooking the shrimp under the bottom (or belly), giving the look of a crippled bait. Other times squeeze the head just enough to crack the shell. This also gives the bait a disabled look and the juice will attract the trout.
It also helps in winter fishing to hook the shrimp near the tail, but through the lower part of the body.
The shrimp strike…
“Speckled trout have extremely large mouths, and when they strike, they usually take the whole bait,” explains Marcaccio. “But, this doesn’t mean they swallow the shrimp instantly. They hold the bait for a one or two count before ingesting it.
“Many times salt-water anglers believe that trout take the bait head first. A lot of times, after a solid hit with live shrimp, the bait appears to be squeezed together (head to tail), giving the impression that trout grab the shrimp from the side rather than head first.
”There are times when the fish nibble and peck instead of striking hard. This usually occurs several times each year when the fish have what we call “sore mouth”. This is when the two canine teeth become loose. Apparently, the trout shed these teeth. I’ve caught speckled trout with two long teeth, with one long and one missing, and I’ve even seen big trout with two small teeth. When this happens, hook the live shrimp through the second body part from the tail, rather than under the spike or last section. Sore mouth specks nibble at the underside and soft part of the shrimp, much like piggies or pan fish. If you take the time to examine more closely, you can tell whether it’s trout or piggies. Unlike pan fish, trout leave puncture marks and clean bits on the bait.
There are times when live bait is unobtainable, at any price…
“Fresh” dead shrimp is excellent. Try heading and pealing it before putting it on the hook. Suspend the bait under a popping cork about three feet. Hook the entire shrimp through the body. jiggle the rod tip and pop the cork carefully to give it a little action.
“Another alternative to live shrimp, and my all-time favorite, is the use of artificial lures,” says Marcaccio. Successful fishing with these baits is an art that is not acquired by accident. It requires a technique that takes time, patience and practice. Until it’s mastered, this type fishing can be quite unproductive.”
Live shrimp is undoubtedly the best bait for speckled trout, but knowing what size of shrimp to use, how to hook the shrimp and knowing how the trout strike the shrimp can up your chances even more to catch your share of fish. For more information on fishing Galveston Bay, call Capt. Paul Marcaccio, check his website, or go fishing with him. Capt. Paul knows how to catch trout.