Cold-Weather Trout

Winter seatrout fishing can often pay dividends
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Winter’s cold affects just about every game fish we target. But spotted seatrout – also called “winter” trout – can withstand water temperatures down to the mid-40s. So throughout much of their Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico range, trout become a go-to species for anglers in winter, and the milder the winter, the better. Here are a few excerpts from some of my recent cold-water trout trips. Chris Woodward
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To stake out a spot in the marsh, we often have to idle in on a super-low tide phase. We use a variety of floats/corks and either live shrimp or artificials. Chris Woodward
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The jackplate comes in really handy as we putter into water less than two feet deep. Chris Woodward
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We fill a shrimp bucket from the livewell, making sure to change the water frequently. The cold water stresses the shrimp too.
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An angler pins a shrimp under its horn, avoiding the vital organs. Trout like to strike a shrimp in the head. Chris Woodward
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A properly pinned, nice-size shrimp. Chris Woodward
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Watch the float. The moment you look away to talk to your buddy, it goes down. Every time. Chris Woodward
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The average winter trout doesn’t put a gigantic bend in the rod, but the action can be fast and furious. Chris Woodward
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Depending on the minimum size, many trout must – by law – be released. Larger trout are generally females and should be released if you’re not planning a fish dinner. Chris Woodward
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Trout can be very fragile, so take time releasing them. Wait until they’re ready to power away on their own. Chris Woodward
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A typical slip-float rig with a matched weight for casting and lightweight leader.
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A light, long-shank, gold J-hook is plenty strong to catch an average-size trout. Chris Woodward
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Trout lay up in schools in specific locations, at times. So where there’s one, there are generally more. Chris Woodward
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Gently remove the hook and get the fish back into the water quickly to minimize stress. Chris Woodward
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A healthy young trout about this length has usually achieved adult (spawning) status. Chris Woodward
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Legal-size trout await their photo session. Chris Woodward
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The colder the water gets, the more lethargic trout become. During the coldest times, they find deep holes in the rivers and bays where often the water is slightly warmer. Chris Woodward
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Spotted is definitely an understatement. Chris Woodward
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On low tides, along the marsh edge, redfish prowl as well. And sometimes you can even recapture the one that got away (notice the two floats!). Chris Woodward