Speckled trout follow a predictable, annual pattern. In spring, lengthening days and rising water temperatures trigger something in their pea-sized brains, and they get the signal it’s time to move to saltier water to create future generations of speckled trout.
That’s what they do throughout the summer, meeting nightly in deepwater passes to partake in massive fish orgies, producing fertilized eggs that move inland with the tides.
You would think the males, at least, would never grow weary of such a lifestyle, but apparently they do. By the end of summer, speckled trout have had enough of gettin’ busy and are really gettin’ hungry, so the bulk of them begin to move back inshore, not coincidentally at a time when white shrimp are leaving the skinny backwaters they’ve called home since their birth just a few months earlier.
Contained in those thin, shrimp shells is all the fuel the exhausted speckled trout need to recover from the rigors of the spawn and actually add fat layers in preparation for lean times in the winter.
Exactly when that move inland begins depends on the year. Sometimes, the only specks in interior waters in August are juveniles that weren’t ready to spawn. But then, there are years like this one, when those fish are joined by early migrators who get off the spawning grounds and commence to filling their bellies.
Early this year
I got a clue this might be an early-migration year during a mid-July trip out of Hopedale, La., with Capt. Charlie Thomason. We were targeting redfish that day in skinny water ponds and coves, and it seemed like everywhere we went, the trolling motor kicked up schools of tail-snapping white shrimp that went airborne in protest of our intrusion.
Before that trip, the earliest I had ever seen THAT many shrimp in interior waters was mid-August.
We didn’t catch any specks that day, but a couple of weeks later, Chas Champagne, who owns Matrix Shad, boated a 3-pound speckled trout, as well as a handful of smaller fish, while fishing an inside lake.
Not too many days later, I was deep inside the marsh on a hunt for bass and redfish when I came across a bayou loaded to the gills with shad and white shrimp. The bass were there, too, and I caught a bunch of them, but I kept seeing something explode on the bait in the middle of the bayou.
So even though it was August and the sun was well above the horizon, I reached for a rod that had a topwater Matrix Mullet tied on and made a long cast down the middle of the bayou. I don’t think I twitched the bait three times before something exploded on it.
After setting the hook, I reeled in a keeper speckled trout and repeated the process several times that morning. I was giddy to see the seasons change before my eyes — and at the prospects for excellent fishing this fall.
October can be a tricky month for inshore speckled trout fishing. Sometimes, like last year, the transition is late, and the fish are incredibly scattered this month. But when the migration is early, like it appears to have been this year, the fish are entrenched in their autumn patterns by October, and easy to find.
My favorite pattern this month is to watch the buoys for falling-tide trends and schedule my trips accordingly. I’ll set up at the mouths of major bayous, where they dump into big lakes and bays, and keep my eyes peeled for popping shrimp.
Once you find them, limits are almost a foregone conclusion. It’s usually not a great month for trophy-sized fish, but if you’re looking to host a weekend fish fry, it’s hard to beat October during an early-migration year.
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