During the cooler months our area is famous for big spotted sea trout.
I am happy to report that over the years I have probably caught more than my share of gator trout (over 20 inches.) My only secret is go deep. When the water temperature dips, look for the big trout to head for the depths. How deep? Well actually that is a variable.
If you know of a deeper hole that is surrounded by lots of skinny water, that could be a winter time trout hole. In a place like that water five feet deep will do the trick. If you are fishing an area where the water averages around four feet, you will need to locate depths of seven or eight feet in order to have a chance for gator trout.
Recently on the coldest morning of the fall, I was out on the hunt for big trout. With the air temp in the low 40s, my kayak was not a very comfortable place, but I knew if I could find the fish biting, the cold would not matter.
The place I was heading had a large hole at least 10 feet deep while the surrounding water would average about five feet. Back when I first arrived in Volusia County, I managed a big cold water trout in a hole what was only about 25 feet across. The reason that six-foot-deep hole held my eight pound trout was it was the only deep water for a few square miles. I was so excited with that catch I had it mounted and I am still looking at it as I write this piece nearly 50 years later.
Now I was in place to cast and, as I began, I could see absolutely nothing was feeding on the surface. For a jig fisherman that is a good thing. Sure enough, on my fourth cast, I had a solid hook up. My seven-foot medium light rod bent in a tight arc as the fish hugged the bottom. I kept the rod tip high to keep the pressure on and knew that while I was hooked to a pretty good trout, it would not be the lunker that had lured me out of my warm house. After a while, I brought a nice 17-incher to the net. Not a bad start.
As it turned out, the cold weather had indeed turned the fish on and pretty quickly I landed four more sea trout. Unfortunately all of those were under-sized at about 14 inches. Nothing to take home, but good fun. When the weather gets cold, all of the trout seek the warmth of deeper water so a few small ones are to be expected.
When you fish a jig in a small hole, the fish will soon become tired of seeing the same bait, so I switched from my chartreuse to a Grand Slam Baits Peppermint Crunch. Right away the action picked back up and I had a nice battle with a fat 19-inch trout. A good keeper.
The undersized trout continued to keep me busy until I went back to the chartreuse shrimp tail. On my first cast with that old standby, I was on with a strong 18-incher. Now I had three nice fish to keep, but was still on the hunt for one of 24 inches or larger to give me that perfect limit. It was not to be. I finished my limit with another 17-inch fish and was happy to be heading home. A cold north wind had kicked up and that would do it for me.
If you go looking for deep water, try Turtle Mound, Miller Creek or High Bridge. All good deep-water spots. Better yet, find one of your own. Cold weather fishing can often be the very best.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.