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Fishing for Large Speckled Trout

by Barrie Mann

In a previous article I reported on an interview I had with Dr. Jay Wright holder of the IGFA 12 pound line record for Speckled Trout. During our conversation Jay shared with me his approach to catching large Speckled Trout on a fly.

A lot of the information Jay shared with me is probably no big secret. In fact, most of the information I gleaned from the conversation I’ve heard before. However, this was the first time I had met someone who not only preaches on how to catch large fish but actually practices what he preaches.

So I’m going to share with you the gospel according to Jay.


Preparation for a fishing trip can be as simple as just throwing a fishing pole and a bait bucket in the truck or car and heading out to the nearest lake to drown a worm. Or, it can be as detailed as the routine that someone as dedicated to catching large Speckled Trout like Jay Wright goes through.

Jay’s routine is he sits down long before he heads out the door and goes over his plan of action. It’s very detailed and consists of checking the appropriate topographical charts of the areas he plans to fish. Then he checks Jay Wright wading to catch large Speckled Troutthe tides for those areas along with the Solunar tables, as well as sun and moon phases. He then goes to his own records which have been compiled over many years and checks the information for the areas he will fish.

For many years Jay has kept a very detailed log of every fishing trip he has taken. He does this on a spreadsheet and logs information such as date, time, location, tide and moon phase, weather conditions, barometric pressure, fly used, and water conditions such as temperature, clarity, and depth for each fish over 6 lbs caught. He then compliments this with a written summary of the trip noting general trends such as what type of structure most fish were seen or caught around, what type of bait was abundant in areas holding fish, what patterns seemed to be working or not working, the number of fish seen and caught, etc.

He does this so he can go back and see what conditions were like and how they may compare with conditions he expects on his trip. For many this attention to detail may be overkill, but when you are as interested in catching large Speckled Trout as Jay is, then this approach has proven that it’s well worth the effort.

On the Flats:

One of many things I’ve learned when fishing for trout whether it’s in fresh water or salt water, is that the fish known collectively as trout are easily spooked. The salt water species known as the Spotted or Speckled Trout is no exception. The reason is because Speckled Trout have well developed Otoliths and Lateral lines, meaning they can detect sound and pressure waves from a moving skiff or a sloppy approach when wading. So it makes sense to approach the area of fishing in a very stealthy manner. It doesn’t matter whether in a boat or canoe, the goal is to arrive at the fishing site as slowly and as quietly as possible. In fact, if the boat or canoe can be anchored, wading the area to be fished will make for a better chance of connecting with the targeted trophy.

Four of the flies Jay Wright uses to catch large Speckled Trout

Trout are carnivorous by nature and opportunistic feeders. According to Jay Wright, the diet of larger trout consists mainly of other fish as they grow older, eating crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs less often. They focus on schools of bait fish and feed actively on these schools. In fact large trout only feed for about two hours a day, sometimes only feeding every two or three days. Consequently, Jay targets schools of bait fish whenever possible. He will try to fish flies that represent the baitfish that are present, but if they are feeding on large 10 to 14”mullet, that is not practical. Fortunately, even the biggest fish will take advantage of an easy meal that doesn’t take too much energy to consume. The key is presenting the fly in a subtle manner that doesn’t spook the trout and then make sure it is moving away from the fish.

Jay is very careful in his approach and will cast the furthest distance from the target fish as he is comfortable in doing. Frequently this means that Jay is casting 80 feet or more, especially if he is fishing from a boat. If fishing while wading the distance doesn’t need to be as far, but the further from the fish the less chance of spooking the fish and a better chance of catching it. These are desirable skills and it’s necessary to acquire them, or learn how to stalk the target so slowly so as to make little to no water movement at all. If Jay happens to spook a large fish he takes careful note of the location of where the fish was located. Depending on the time of year, he knows that the same or other large fish will return to that location and may be catchable under different conditions.

Knowing the Habits of the Fish:

Jay’s reason for keeping very detailed records of his trips isn’t just for the fun of it. In fact, without these records his knowledge of the fish, its habitat and life style would be minimal to say the least. Most of us, if asked what the habitat of a trout is will respond it is found on the flats in the grass and by potholes. While correct, this answer is only partially true. Trout can be found in all areas of the flats, plus have been caught off fishing piers in deeper water as well as in the surf.

Jay will tell you from his experience that big trout are rarely found in areas consisting of solid grass. He searches in areas typically between 20 and 30 inches deep with Jay Wright with a large Speckled Troutaccess to deeper water. In the spring time he looks for areas with large amounts of mud, sand potholes and bald spots with surrounding grass. He keys on areas with lots of baitfish. Remember large fish feed on baitfish so it makes sense to hunt for the schools of baitfish and fish the edges of the school.

In addition it’s generally thought that 90% of the fish are on 10% of the lagoon. So search for and find the fish first before commencing fishing. Once located, trout have been known to stay in an area for a few weeks. So it’s possible to go back to that area and fish when the conditions are at the best for them to feed.

The bottom line is this. When trying to catch big Speckled Trout, take a leaf out of the book of Jay Wright. Keep a log of the trip, and keep very detailed information. Get to know the target intimately. Learn to approach the target as quietly and as slowly as possible and last but not least, have infinite patience. If you do that, then you can and will catch some large trout.

My deepest thanks go to Dr. Jay Wright for his help by providing me with so much insight to the Speckled Trout.

Editor's Note: Jay was instrumental in the design of the Fishing Logs on this web site. Heed his advice and keep records of your fishing trips, and don't forget to record notes on those notable catches in each entry.

Author Bio:

Barrie Mann is a regular contributor to InShore Fishing Journal and an avid fly fisherman with extensive experience fishing such rivers as the Yellowstone, Madison as well as many of the streams in the Eastern Sierra in California.

His knowledge of fishing for trout has allowed him to write for a local California Newspaper the Kern River Sun in which he has over a dozen articles published.

Now living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida he is turning his fly fishing efforts to fishing the flats of the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons.


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By: Dave June 12, 2013 12:53
Trying to learn port charlotte inshore fishing,not easy, when we go,open to what we fish, but hard to know where to go with all the variables!! Where to go to know where fishing should be good? Any info thanks dave

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