Sometime around May through September, as the water heats up, fishing for trout with live croaker often yields good results. There are some theories as to why trout go after croaker, with the fact that the big females are spawning and protecting their eggs being the most common. The truth is, speckled sea trout are “broadcast spawners” – there is no nest of eggs or young hanging around to protect. Broadcast spawning means females release eggs when and where water conditions are conducive and the male trout release their contribution. Female trout 20” or greater can release up to 10 million eggs! Fertilized eggs then float in the currents and hatch in around 24 hours, hopefully around some sea grass to offer protection. So while there is no nest or young to protect from hungry croaker, and trout eggs float and croaker are bottom feeders, perhaps nature is simply trying to help level the playing field by making croaker an appealing option among the huge amount of baitfish found in the bays this time of year.

To fish with live croaker, you will generally need to purchase them by the dozen from one of our local bait stands. They are a by-catch of shrimpers and must be kept in a separate live well – and even fed to be kept in feisty, trout-attracting condition. Check that the croaker you are buying have no red on their bellies or fins and no chewed-up tails. Then be sure you keep them in aeriated water out of the sun. Fishing with live croaker takes extra work (and cost), but they are an effective bait for trout (and redfish, and flounder, and just about anything that eats other fish including hard heads).

Last Sunday, Marine veteran Captain Robert Aguilera with SSD Outdoors (210-708-6341) took a group of friends out after some dinner, and croaker was on the menu for the catch. His preferred method of fishing with croaker is to use a rattle weight with a two-foot leader of mono going down to a 4/0 Mustad Khale hook. He hooks the croaker an inch or so up from the tail under the back bone and the wriggling croaker is cast out. The rattle weight adds additional sound vibrations and keeps the bait down out of sight from aerial bait bombers (seagulls and terns). Then you are croaker soaking … and you keep your slack out of your line and pop your rod tip once in awhile to displace your bait from any hiding spot it might of found. Generally, a trout will grab that croaker and start pulling down and you pull back setting the hook. Unlike redfish, trout have much softer mouths – so while the hook will be set – don’t rip the lips off! Once the hook is on, you will feel the glorious head shake of a trout!

Current regulations for speckled trout are a bag of 3 at 17” – 23” with no oversized allowed. These tasty fish are fun to target and catch, but they do not freeze as well as other species – so consider keeping only what you will eat fresh. When fishing for trout, look for clearer water and sea grass, aim for the sand holes and be ready for a bite!

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