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Posted by Patrick on 21 January 2013 - 09:05 AM
These fish are absolutely migratory between the marsh/rivers and ocean.
I've been fishing for speckled trout, or spotted sea trout, for almost 20 years, from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey, which is a bit north of their normal range. I've read a ton of books, and fished with some great charter captains from Corpus Christi, TX, all the way around the coast of Florida, and up to New Jersey. I've tried to get as much information as I can about the species so that I can track patterns that make them easier to predict.
On the Eastern Seaboard, north of Florida (the ocean water stays warm there all year a lot like in the Gulf of Mexico), trout migrate into shallow estuary areas to spawn in the fall. Nobody is sure as to what triggers it, but my guess would be a change in water temperature, current patterns, or fall weather systems (and their pressure drops) cause this migration.
Trout grow roughly an inch a month in their first year, and become sexually mature between 8 and 12 inches. Almost all males are sexually mature at 12 inches, and more than 75% of females are sexually mature at 12 inches, which is around one year after they are born. Something happens at 12 months that causes trout to slow in growth. Scientists haven't yet figured out why this happens; it could be related to the fact that the fish are changing their diet. Reality is that trout usually take 2-3 years to reach 14-16 inches long, and males live much shorter lives. Based on the fact that few males live much past 5 years, most of the trout that are 5 lbs are breeding females. This is why it's critical to release fish larger than that as soon as they are caught, because they are breeding females. There are a ton of websites that you can go to to get information about how old a fish of a certain length is, but a trout that is big enough for a citation in Virginia's Saltwater Fishing tournament is usually at least 5 years old. A 30" speckled trout can be between 8 and 10 years old!
These fish go into the same estuary where they were born to spawn. They will spawn within a very short distance from where they were born, so the offspring know exactly where to go each spawning season. That's another reason why it's important to release bigger speckled trout, because they are actually creating the "stock" that an angler enjoys in a specific area.
There are a number of reasons why the Elizabeth River is such a good place to catch them, but the most important are the salinity levels of the river, access to shallow water adjacent to deep water, and current. If salinity levels are too low, eggs will drop to the bottom and will become covered in silt before they hatch, and they will die. Contrary, if the salinity is too high, the eggs will float away from the shallow areas with natural cover, and the fry that hatch will be unprotected and likely eaten by other trout or another predator. Places like tidal rivers provide both the cover, current, and salinity levels this species need to successfully reproduce. Once the eggs are released and fertilized, current carries them to areas of underwater structure (grasses, rocks, oyster reefs, etc.) where they hatch. The fry will live and feed in the river until they get big enough to join the migration out to the open ocean each winter/spring. In the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the Louisiana area, this pattern is relatively the same, although the Gulf's temperatures stay warmer, so the season is shorter (usually late October inbound).
There are trout in the Elizabeth River all year. I've caught keeper trout in every month of the year, but I will say that the numbers drastically go down from the March-August time frame. The fish are usually smaller in the late spring and summer because a majority of the fish are resident males and females that haven't yet gone out to sea. Trout are an ocean-living species, but they return inshore to spawn.
The power plant that created the "Hot Ditch" action that the river is famous for has attracted the trout to a more localized area in the past, because the river gets cold in the winter. Once they bred there, the instincts to come back to that same area are ingrained in the offspring, and the cycle repeats itself. The discharge from the power plant used to make the water very warm, in some cases in the 70s, and that would keep the trout much more active and congregated in a smaller area. I don't think it has "fooled" the fish, I just think it created a better spawning area in the past, and instinct has kept the fish coming back. I've caught fish in all parts of the river, from the Great Bridge Locks to points many miles north of the "Hot Ditch" area, during all times of the winter, so they aren't just localized to the "Hot Ditch" area.
That power plant has only discharged a handful of times in the last 2 years, and only once in the winter time, to my knowledge. It is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2016 (?), but I've heard a rumor that it was actually shut down for good last month. Earlier this month, I saw a dry-bulk vessel berthed at the pier where coal is offloaded at the plant, but I'm not sure if it was delivering or taking coal away.
As to why the fish "leave" the local sounds in your area of North Carolina and head into the ocean, I can't speak for that. I'm willing to bet that they don't leave for open water; they probably go back to wherever it was that they were born to spawn, like further inshore, closer to marshy areas. If the water gets colder, that could trigger them to move; below certain temperatures, trout become very sluggish and will feed very infrequently, so unless you hit them on the head with a lure and make them mad (jokingly said) they really don't bite.
I must say that the Elizabeth River is an absolute gem with this trout fishery. I just ask that everyone who fishes this area practice good judgement. Quick releases of fish that aren't kept will allow this fishery to flourish for the future, giving our children and grandchildren a chance to enjoy something that can only be found in a handful of places in our great nation. I keep fish every year from this river, and eat fish every year from this river, so I'm not advocating changes to quantity or size limits. I'm only advocating that we all do what we can to protect this fishery so that it can be enjoyed by all. Besides, if the striper fishing continues to be so tough in December through January, this fishery gives inshore and nearshore anglers a place to ply their trade.
I've probably given enough information to make some people on this site mad and don't want to give out any more specifics. Send me an email and I'll give you some books and resources that you can read/visit to get some more information on this species. They have helped me for the last 20 years successfully target this species all over the Gulf and Eastern Seaboard. I fish the Elizabeth River every weekend that I can in the fall and winter in my 14' Monark with my buddy, who's been fishing there for 23 years. He and this river have taught me many things, including expanding my knowledge of how to catch these fish and how wonderful this fishery actually is.
Tight lines and stay safe on the water,
Posted by Patrick on 13 January 2013 - 07:17 AM
A friend of mine mates for a number of charters in the area. He has forgotten more about fishing than I've ever learned, and he's 20 years younger than me...
Yesterday his charter hooked a 200 + lb bluefin on a Penn 320 GTI. That reel only has 10 lbs of drag on complete lockdown...
He helped the angler do everything right. The charter captain has been fishing for over 30 years and is one of the best offshore captains I've met anywhere in the world. After a 2-hour fight, the hook pulled and they lost the fish.
Two things: First, the longer the fight, the more the fish can turn and shake its head. Every time it does either of those things the hole in the fish where the hook is gets bigger. The bigger the hole, the better chance of pulling the hook.
Second, the reel is smoked. A fish that big on tackle like that will be deadly to a reel. As much as I'd love to catch one again, I wouldn't want to do it at the expense of a reel, line, and possibly a rod.
You ask why the charter captain was fishing a rig that light? Because the bluefin haven't been anywhere near inside the line until just yesterday, and they were trolling 2 miles off the beach for stripers in an area nowhere near where the bluefin have been caught. That's the same thing that happened to a lot of captains between last Christmas and New Years too, before everybody realized the crazyness of bluefin being 2 miles off the beach.
Go with the right permits and tackle. You'll have enough fight on a Penn 50 or Penn 80 with a 200 lb fish, and probably won't wreck your tackle. Or b prepared to have to invest some cash in tackle when you get home and only have a story with no pictures of fish to tell when you get home.
Posted by VaRandy on 11 December 2012 - 12:53 PM
I don't know what the temperature was so if anybody knows, please post to this thread.
We should be able to keep track of these fish now and I am hoping they will make it to me here in Hatteras this year.
Let's keep this thread active throughout the run.
Posted by Sea2aeS on 18 October 2011 - 07:30 PM
Posted by Sea2aeS on 31 August 2011 - 10:41 AM
If I wasnt stuck to the trolling the oceanfront due to vessel size I would troll the CB Buoy line from a few miles east of Cape Henry Southeastward towards the end & back up it. Another good alternative with this kind of water would be around the Chesapeake light tower artificial reef site where all the tanks and boxcars are. Any wrecks in atleast 50 to 60 feet of water or more within 15 to 20 miles of the beach, such as the Santore, tiger, the dumpsite, The small wreck just east of the 2nd further yellow dump site buoy. For those willing to make a 28 mile run from Rudee, I highly suggest the 4A Drydock.
Fish deep if you can. Planers or downriggers would be better. A chartreuse seawitch/ballyhoo 100 feet behind a quick release planer or downrigger thats down 25 feet deep get alot more hits than the same thing on the surface. Rapala CD18 magnums can turn the trick as well as large clark spoons run 50 to 100 feet behind a quick release planer.
I had a talk with with Spurgeon Stowe about how to find king mackeral a few falls ago on one of his King Mackeral trips back when the king bite in Hatteras was on fire & he said "70-72 is ideal water temp for the mackerals". "Find the right water first, Then work live bottom such as rockpiles, edges, humps, wrecks, or structure". "If the mackerals are there you will know shortly & if not then move onto another area". "These fish are constantly on the move & will be in one area one day and another totally different area the other".
Hope this helps guys & if you got any more questions drop me a PM & hopefully ill see yall on the water.
Schism on 68
Posted by 71Whaler on 27 June 2011 - 07:24 AM
Posted by Marlin Maniac on 27 June 2011 - 06:00 AM
Posted by kdfarmer on 27 June 2011 - 05:15 AM
Posted by kdfarmer on 27 June 2011 - 04:57 AM
Posted by Classicrockfish on 27 November 2010 - 09:32 AM
P.S. Went yesterday afternoon to the weight master. According to the gentlemen working there who has been weighing these fish for many years, Kevin's fish would have been a weight citation as well had we been able to weigh it after the catch. Due to the holiday and late time when we returned that would not have been possible..Kevin had to work the next day until late afternoon which is finally when we got to weigh it.... oh well.. I guess we will have to go out there and hope that we catch a few more ...
Posted by Seb on 01 August 2011 - 06:58 AM
Posted by LASwampRat on 31 July 2011 - 08:47 PM
First: I want to say that I had been asking for crew or to be crew for a few weeks, this week I had a few hits. However, I had to decline and retract an invite. My husband, surprised me by asking that we do this trip alone. His concern was that neither of us really knew how to fish the area. Also, given that the last 2 trips had turned up some post AK winter gremlins in our equipment, he wanted this trip for us to learn and to ensure our equipment worked properly. I apologize for retracting the invite.
Now for the story:
The Hubby came back from a 3 week foray to the West Coast and just in time for FAC seas and an outstanding offshore forecast! Can you say TUNA TUNA?! The Hubby could NOT...he kept pronouncing it MAHI MAHI! We didn't catch either!
We did go 70NM offshore, carrying 15 extra gallons of fuel, and leaving the dock at o'dark thirty. We stopped a few times to watch the sun rise, check valves, gear, and other stuff. We went to the g buoys in hopes of finding some MAHI MAHI. Enroute the buoys we stopped and trolled with dolphins. No joy. We trolled the G buoys. No Joy. We headed to Norfolk Canyon where I hoped to sneak a TUNA TUNA. No Joy.
I was starting to get discouraged. This was an offshore trip to a new area and I was solely in charge of the gear. I had visited the house of a strange man I met on line and gotten some tips and some gear. THANKS VOODOO! He said it was all about the ballyhoo! He told me what I needed, showed me how to put it all the gear together, then sent me to YouTube to learn how to make off the ballyhoo. I was determined to use the damn bait. I rigged one and it skipped on the surface. I cussed. I let out more line. I did this on 3 lines and had a tangle. I persisted.
Each time I rigged up a ballyhoo I made The Hubby slow so I could see if it worked. It seemed to be getting better and better. Eventually, I had The Hubby look to see if the damn bait looked right. He said it did. Still no bites.
Then the reel screamed...and I do mean SCREAMED! I thought TUNA TUNA. The Hubby kept driving to see what else came up. Then I saw it jump! I yelled...loud...STOP. IT IS A MARLIN!
The Hubby stopped. My reel was screaming. I went to tighten the drag, but noticed the line and didn't. My reel was screaming. The Hubby cleared the 3 other lines. My reel was screaming. I said (not overly calmly), "We are going to have to follow it. I can't stop it." I barked helm commands and The Hubby complied. This ensured I had constant tension and didn't get spooled. The Hubby, fortunately, is VERY talented because he did way more than respond to my helm commands. He, also, manned the camera (mind you he couldn't see the LCD bc of the sun and didn't have time to use the view finder), he outfitted me with the stomach guard thingy (bc that rod digging into my belly hurt), and he found and put on the line handling gloves so we could (and did) photograph and safely release the BLUE MARLIN, all while chasing the fish! HE DONE GOOD!
I didn't think we would get it to the boat bc, well, and here is the kicker...the reel I was using had 30 lb tess line that is 4-5 years old. No way it would hold! AND besides that what the hell did we know about boating a BLUE MARLIN! But when I realized the Hubby was driving in a slow circle and there was more line on the reel than off, I started to get excited. When it came to the boat, The Hubby was GREAT! He almost got the fish by the bill, but it took off under the boat. Ken had INNAMORATA twisted and the fish back on the beam in a heart beat. All while I held the rod and prayed. The Hubby took another shot and grabbed the bill and lifted. A few quick photos of OUR fish and she was safely returned to the sea - again thanks to The Hubby.
Blind photo 1:
Blind photo 2:
Blind photo 3:
The Hubby with OUR fish:
Me with OUR fish:
The release. I clutched in the engine, kept us straight, and took blind photos. The Hubby did get the fish turned up the right way, wiggled its head, saw bubbles as the water ran through it's mouth and gills. When Ken let go the fish swam away...AND WE DANCED!
When we stopped dancing, shaking, screaming, and generally smiling, we put lines back over. Ken made a turn and noticed the lines doing weird things. So I reeled in, found a tangle, and a ballyhoo head...I think we had another hit that didn't take.
Which is the best way to rig the nose of the ballyhoo and should I clip the fins to keep the bait from twisting?
P.P.S I might need heavier gear and new line!
Posted by LASwampRat on 25 July 2011 - 08:29 AM
Thanks for the clarification on the blues... My sister has 5 young kids and keeps threatening to come down. Those blues and mack outta be a fun time.
Thanks again everyone!
Posted by LASwampRat on 12 July 2011 - 08:01 AM
Posted by Seb on 01 July 2011 - 08:39 PM