Story + Photos by Collins Doughtie
Ask any local angler what they enjoy catching most in our inshore and nearshore waters and two fish instantly come to mind: Redfish and spotted sea trout. In my lifetime, I have caught thousands upon thousands of each but as much as I like redfish, trout are my favorite to catch.
Redfish might fight harder but there is something about trout fishing with a cork that takes me back to my earliest days bream or bass fishing with one of those cheap, red-and-white round plastic bobbers that bobs once or twice then disappears completely. Another reason trout are so much fun to catch is the infinite ways you can fish for them: Live bait, dead bait, top water plugs, or soft plastics. And where you find one there is usually a lot more in and around that same spot. Back when I fished with my dad on chilly fall and winter mornings, it wasn’t unusual for two of us to catch 50 or more on artificials like a screwtail or Christmas tree lure in less than an hour.
Hide & seek
Up until three or four weeks ago, you were lucky to catch one or two “keeper” trout during an all-day excursion. Then as the water temperature dropped a few degrees, like magic, they showed up en mass. This usually coincides when the shrimp and mullet begin their migration seaward and the trout seem to know this is their chance to fatten up for the long winter months. Almost always close to the shoreline, it is so cool to watch a popping cork with a shrimp dangling a foot or so below drift along with the current and as soon as you look away, you look back and that cork is gone. How cool is that?
When, where and how
I prefer the incoming tide for trout. Of course, you can catch them on about any tide but as the tide rises, the water clears up, making it way easier for trout to eyeball your offering and ambush it with fury. Popping corks and Cajun Thunder corks with either a live shrimp or natural color DOA artificial shrimp are a sure bet, but you need to remember to make either cork “talk.” As it drifts along every few seconds a quick, short jerk sounds a loud “pop” as the cork digs in.
That sound imitates the sound trout make when they go after a surface bait and if there are trout around, they come a-running hoping to get in on the action. Using artificials, chartreuse and electric chicken color screwtails or paddletails are deadly. The retrieve is slow and steady and about every third crank of the reel I use a short quick snap of the wrist that makes the lure hop much like a shrimp does when fleeing a predator. When I feel a trout grab the lure, I don’t haul back to set the hook but rather reel faster and faster. Your hook-up percentages will go way up using this method. At first light, try a topwater lure like a Yo Zuri Spook (bone color with chartreuse highlight). You might catch you the largest trout you’ll ever catch. Once the sun is up though, it’s time to switch to more traditional tactics. Another monster trout time is at night around docks with lights on them. Once again, an incoming tide and the trout stack up on the edge of light. Personally, I used to do it but nowadays I am in bed by 9. It happens.
Say you got into a school of trout and caught dozens. I encourage the people I guide to keep enough for a meal or two and release the rest. Unlike redfish, trout simply don’t freeze well. Preparing these two-toothed beauties is best done the day they are caught or the day after. Fried, broiled or whatever, the meat is very delicate and delicious. My favorite is lightly dusted with a flour and breading mix, a touch of salt and of course Paul Prudhomme’s Redfish Magic spice. In a small amount of oil, in they go and out they come. Overcooking trout is sinful and like most any fish, less cooking time is best. So, get out there, keep just enough to feed the gang and release the rest. That way they’ll be in the same place, at the same tide the next time you go. To keep trout, they must be over 14” in length and each angler is allowed 10 per day.
Lemon and Herb Trout (LOCAL Life Test Kitchen)
2 teaspoons butter
2 8-ounce whole trout, butterflied and deboned
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions  Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, about 1 minute. Turn off heat.  Heat oven broiler on high heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place trout onto foil; open trout so skin sides are down. Drizzle each trout with about 1/2 teaspoon melted butter. Season with salt and black pepper.  Broil trout in your oven with more melted butter for around 2 or 3 minutes until it is barely firm. Remove from oven.  Plate trout, then smother with lemon and herb sauce (recipe below).
Ingredients (lemon & herb sauce)
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup parsley
1 lemon, whole
Zest of 1 lemon, whole
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Directions  Melt butter in skillet. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, parmesan, most of the parsley and lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne to taste.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer around 5 minutes until slightly thickened.  Smother cooked trout with sauce and garnish with the rest of the fresh parsley.
Cuvée Sauvage Pinot Noir
Cuvée Sauvage meaning “wild blend” is a super premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir brand from the Russian River Valley of the Sonoma Coast, California. “This Pinot Noir has rich flavors, balanced acidity and a refined finish,” local wine expert Betsy Trish said. “It pairs well with shellfish, seafood and smoked trout dishes. Great for cooler nights!” Pick up a bottle for $31.99 at the Red Fish Wine Shop.