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The Gill Wetter "Your Local Fishing News"

Gray Trout
by Capt. Matt Wirt

Gray trout, weakfish, or sea trout, there are many names for this species. I call them day savers. When the fall northeast wind is howling offshore and the flounder or reds don’t want to cooperate inshore, the gray trout are usually a sure thing. These structure oriented fish provide excellent action and are great table fare. The gray trout is an aggressive species and will hit a variety of lures and live baits. Here are some tips and techniques that will hopefully save your day as well.

The typical size of the gray trout in our area range from 12 inches (a 2 year old fish), up to some near 25 inches (an 8-9 year old fish). These trout grow rapidly and the average life span is 9 years. For a fish of this size I prefer a 7’ ultra light action rod with 15 lb braided line. The ultra light rod makes it much more challenging and seems to result in a greater hookup ratio. These fish are often called weakfish due to their weak mouths. The lighter tackle with a light drag puts less pressure on the fish’s jaw and you get to experience the full capabilities of this nice fighting species.

Gray trout are opportunistic feeders. They are structure oriented and don’t travel far to hunt their prey, instead they position themselves around structure and sit back and wait for the prey to come to them. They prefer near shore wrecks or live bottom areas such as John’s Creek or AR-378. When I am fishing an area of live bottom I prefer to drift and cover more ground. If we are targeting the structure I like to anchor up wind or beside the wreck where the current will allow me to present my bait or lure in front of, or beside the base of the wreck. Anchoring in the deeper offshore waters can be challenging to say the least. It might take two or three sets of the anchor, but you will be rewarded when it is executed properly.

The weakfish is not a very picky eater. The larger fish will consume mullet, menhaden, small croakers, pinfish, and other baitfish. The smaller ones stick to shrimp, small crabs, and clams or scallops on the ocean floor. The gray’ will feed throughout the entire water column. I suggest having both live bait and artificial lures when targeting the gray’s. When using live bait I prefer medium finger mullet on a Carolina rig with a number two hook, and just enough weight to get it to the bottom. We use 20lb Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader, it does a great job without breaking the bank. I have found that I can use a much lighter leader when using fluorocarbon verses mono because the fluorocarbon has a much harder coating and it is much more resistant to abrasion. As for lures, we have been using a product called Gulp that is made by Berkley with excellent results. This product breaks down little by little in the water and leaves an excellent sent trail. The 3” or 4” white curly tail grub they produce seems to be the best so far. When targeting Gray Trout with curly tail grubs it is very important to use a Gitzem jig head. These jig heads make your grub come alive! Instead of the normal up and down motion of most jig heads the Gitzem jig head goes side to side due to its unique design. This keeps your lure in the strike zone much longer and drives the trout crazy! I have also had success with sting silvers as well, with pink or white being the best color. 20 lb fluorocarbon leader works great for the jigs as well. Jig the artifical’s with your wrist and not your entire arm. This will increase your hookup ratio and will prevent tearing the hook out of their weak mouth. The trout will usually bite on the fall, and you should have an automatic hook set on your next jig stroke. Upon hook set, reel quickly five or ten times to get them away from the structure then back off and play it as easy as possible until they reach the net to avoid tearing the hook out of their weak mouth’s.

August to mid December seems to produce the best results and the early spring months are great producers as well. I prefer a water temp between 55 and 75 degrees when targeting the grays. When caught they should be iced as soon as possible. They have very tender flesh, are easily filleted and are great when fried. When targeting the grays positioning is everything. If you are ten feet to far from the structure you might not get a bite. It’s all or nothing. Good luck and hopefully this will put you in position to put some nice gray’s in the boat, and remember to leave a few out there for the next guy.

Capt. Matt Wirt

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