There are very few places that can offer you more or better shots at catching a trophy seatrout than my home waters. Year after year it seems our trout fishery is only getting better; this year has not been any different. Of course, the question is, what is a trophy trout? The term Gator Trout gets thrown around a lot. I've seen pictures from various states, with the title gator trout under them. Some of them have been very impressive, but most are not. Now I understand that photos usually do not do a fish justice. So I try not to judge too much from the length of the fish in the photo. There are just too many ways to make a fish appear bigger than it really is and there are too many ways a fish may appear smaller than it really is. But I also know that a fish being held in a normal position, that barely covers a person's hands, is not what I would consider a gator trout.
A gator trout, by my definition, is a fish that will weigh over seven pounds or is in excess of 25 inches. I use both of these benchmarks because we don't usually weigh a fish and trying to take all of the measurements necessary to calculate it can stress some fish out too much. Getting the length is not too difficult and can be accomplished while the fish remains in the water or by briefly taking it while grabbing a photograph. Some people may have other opinions, and I'm fine with that, but these are my determinations for a gator trout.
With that understanding, my home waters offer some of the best shots at fish like this. What makes it even better is that the majority of these shots are true sight fishing opportunities. This means the angler sees the fish, cast to the specific fish, and gets to see whether she decides to crush the presentation or reject it. Most of the shots take place in water less than a foot deep, in clear conditions, in areas with abundant seagrass. It isn't easy! These fish are hyper-sensitive to noise, visual distractions, and presentation of offerings. More times than not, they realize you are there before you ever see them. Most of the other times, they refuse everything but the perfect presentation. But, when things come together, the angler is in for a stunning visual strike and a fight they will not forget. The strike can be as explosive as a pound of dynamite going off, causing a massive shower of water, a gaping hole in the surface, and a deafening sound. It can also be a subtle sip, where they gently rise, sneaking up behind the offer, and suck it into their yellow, gaping mouth. Regardless of which picture takes place, the fight is always exciting. Head thrashing, powerful runs, and a never say quit attitude; not what most people think of when they think of seatrout.
What can you expect to have shots at? Recently we landed the seatrout pictured above. In fact, it was my wife's first trout on fly. The fish was right at 30". She was photographed, revived and released to fight another day. Within a few moments of releasing that one, we had shots at several more fish. Two were bigger than this one, but most were smaller. We routinely take fish in the 25"-28" range. We landed 11 last year that were over 32". The largest one landed was 39". Still, there are bigger ones out there!
If you want a challenge, come join me for sight fishing these beauties. It isn't easy, it isn't for everyone, and I can't guarantee success. You will see them, you will have shots at them, but whether or not you can keep your knees from knocking, make the presentation properly, and trick them in to eating isn't up to me.