, Port Arthur, Texas

November 30, 2013

Chester Moore column: Migration, salinity important factors in catching big trout

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     For years a popular myth about speckled trout has persisted particularly along the Upper Coast of Texas. It says that during winter most of the trout migrate into the Gulf. That is just not so.

    According to officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD,) speckled trout spend most of their lives within five miles of where they were born. Nearly 90 percent of all fish recovered in a tagging program came from the same bay in which they were tagged.

    While many trout move into deeper water during cold weather, there is no scientific evidence of a winter migration to the Gulf. Research shows that some fish may move to the Gulf to escape blowing northers, but this is temporary and the fish return once weather abates.

    A study by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) report shows that one researcher tagged more than 2600 trout and received 50 returns.

    Of these, 20 came from the release point. Similar findings were reported by researcher Rogillio with 98 percent of the returns coming within 1.5 kilometers of the release point, while another noted that two spotted seatrout tagged in Calcasieu Lake were recaptured over 160 kilometers away east in Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana.

    As noted in my book, Texas Trout Tactics, the report details that in Texas, of 20,912 tagged trout released in Texas marine waters, 1367 were recaptured. About 84 percent were caught in the same bay where released; eight percent were caught in another bay; and five were recaptured in the Gulf. Of 588 spotted seatrout tagged in the Gulf surf, 14 were recaptured, 12 in the Gulf and two in Texas bays.

    And while there is no evidence to suggest mass migration, Salinity can be a factor in locating trophy trout. Researchers with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have found that big trout tend to prefer water that is close in salinity to seawater over more brackish water.

    For anglers wanting to fish the Sabine and Galveston areas this is extremely important as it often experiences incredible fluctuations in salinity due to a massive river systems feeding into these bays.

    Salinity is an important factor as the closer an area is to the Gulf, the higher the salinity, however there are some other factors that come into play with trout here.

    Big, incoming tides bring warmer Gulf waters onto trout friendly areas like shallow flats along channels and with them come baitfish. When you have the combination of water that is more saline, a few degrees warmer than that in the upper reaches of the system on top of a high presence of mullet and other baitfish you have serious trophy trout potential.

    Looking at this research alone helps you eliminate hundreds of square miles of habitat and focus more intensely on the areas where the big trout you seek are more abundant.

    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at . You can hear him on "Moore Outdoors" Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV ( on "God's Outdoors with Chester Moore".)