Big trout are on the move and biting. I'm not talking little school juveniles. I'm talking gators.
Trophy trout are loners and don't usually mix with their little school buddies unless it's to eat them. You'll find them patrolling the grass flats, oyster bars, potholes and points right now.
While trying out the hot new twitchbaits from LIVETARGET Lures on Wednesday, I watched a wake heading toward my plug and then a huge, yellow, open mouth appeared above the surface sucking in my lure, shook its head and tossed the plug 10 feet to the side. Gator attack, plain and simple and it was a big one.
Capt. George Tunison
Two casts later as my plug ticked the top of the oyster bar it was completely inhaled crossways in yet another big yellow mouth, but this time I got a good hookup and landed a 4 3/4-pound Matlacha Gator that was so stuffed with bait it was comical.
Thursday I got a picture of a verified, beautiful 6-pound gator, caught by Brian David. In these parts that's a nice trophy as we are not known for consistently big trout in Southwest Florida. Although we are one of the most prolific nursery areas for sea trout in the world, the really big gators seem to prefer the colder water of north Florida and Panhandle regions where catches like these are fairly common with much larger specimens being taken.
Those from the Mid-Atlantic States that grew up salty remember catching weakies or weakfish, the much prettier cousin of our spotted trout, which were amazingly plentiful in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. It was nothing to catch several 8- to 13-pounders and much larger casting the time-tested white bucktail jig and white plastic trailer.
They were so plentiful that 30 people aboard a head boat in Lewis, Del., would fill two to three coolers each and then the captains would hand out burlap bags to stuff full of these beautiful fish.
Leaving the Delaware Bay after a days fishing to drive back home to Philly or Jersey, after sobering a bit, and now suddenly realizing their refrigerators wouldn't hold 100 pounds of trout. The rest stop dumpsters along the way home would be littered with sacks of fish or they would end up as garden fertilizer. We often would night fish the bay and see Russian trawlers netting them by the ton.
I last fished the bay in 1998 and caught four- to eight-pound trout on pink bass plastic worms till my wrists ached. Since then the fishing for weakfish in the Bay is pretty dismal. A sad case where both recreational and commercial fishing, severally damaged a once amazing fishery.
For those that have only caught school trout, your first encounter with a gator will surprise you and you'll swear it's not a trout because it's fighting way too hard. Big trout, all trout, are voracious feeders and surprisingly good fighters on the appropriate tackle.
How does one catch a trophy trout? Simple, put in your time and pay your dues and get real lucky. That being said, like most big predators a gator trout prefers to expend as little energy as possible for a meal and would rather take one big bite than having to chase 10 little morsels.
If I was forced to try to find and catch a trophy trout tomorrow with only one lure, I probably would be on the water before sunrise quietly throwing large topwater plugs over a mixed bottom of grass and potholes in one to two feet of water. Fifteen-pound braid and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader of at least 30 inches with a seven-foot limber tipped graphite rod would be my tools. Even a gator has a soft mouth, don't horse it.
Beach snooking (walking and casting beaches) has begun, as well as king macs and grouper offshore, and grouper at the Sanibel Causeway.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.flyingfinssportfishing,com.