John's Journal...

Finding the Ghost Trout of Alabama’s Mobile Bay

Fish Artificial

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Most visitors to Alabama’s Gulf Coast fill their ice chests with speckled trout, redfish and flounder during the spring, summer and fall. Five and 6-pound trout come frequently from the artificial reefs, numerous oyster reefs and oil rigs in Mobile Bay. But when Jack Frost comes calling, he seems to cause the trout in the bay to vanish like ghosts. Only the locals and some veteran fishermen know the secrets, which they pass down from generation to generation, to finding these trout that take a northern wintertime vacation to warmer waters and more-abundant food. What we’ve learned from these ghost-like trout in Mobile Bay may help you find where cold-weather trout stay in secluded hot spots all along the Upper Gulf Coast.Click to enlarge

“Wintertime is the one time of the year that we consistently catch more speckled trout on artificial lures than we do on live bait,” Captain Gary Davis of Foley, Alabama, who’s guided and fished for 40 years on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, says. Even though the weather’s cold, top-water action for speckled trout heats up the first two hours of daylight. Southern fishermen, some of the most-traditional anglers in the world, enjoy fishing with lures that have caught fish for years. I know outdoorsmen who often buy two or three dozen of lures they particularly like and hide those lures and not let anyone know of their existence – only sneaking them out to fish when no one but the immediate family’s in the boat with them. Many sportsmen treat old lures that have continued to catch speckled trout asClick to enlarge family heirlooms and pass them down from generation to generation. Avid trout anglers feel that although bait companies bring out new lures and discontinue old lures almost every year, if a lure catches speckled trout today, it will catch speckled trout 20 years from now.

That’s why many Alabama Coast fishermen use the Heddon Vamp, the wooden version of what Heddon converted to plastic in 1932 that became known as the Heddon Vamp Spook. You can’t buy these baits anymore, especially not the old wooden ones that walk the dog and call speckled trout up from their deep-water river haunts. Throughout the years, the bone-colored Vamp with the red head has caught the most specks and still does today. To sClick to enlargeolve the problem of running out of Vamps, several fishermen around Mobile Bay hand-carve these old-style lures from wooden mop and broom handles and then hand-paint them. “Even today, you still can buy reproductions of the Vamp in Foley and Gulf Shores, Alabama,” Davis mentions. “On a cold morning, you can throw the Vamp, the She Dog, the Zara Spook or the Spike-It soft-plastic jerkbaits out, work the lures on top of the water and pull speckled trout up from those deep holes.”

When the mornings top-water fishing ends the trout move back down into the deep holes. You have to fish for those deep-hole trout with: live shrimp, by putting a shot lead up the line about 1 foot above the hook to get the bait down; jigs; grubs; the D.O.A. Shrimp; the Berkley Gulp!; and/or the Fin-S grubs.

When planning a trip, check out Tidewater Fishing Service (Captain Gary Davis), Foley, AL 36535, (251) 943-6298 and, 1-800-745-7263.

Tomorrow: Enjoy Hot Fishing in Cold Weather

Check back each day this week for more about "Finding the Ghost Trout of Alabama’s Mobile Bay"

Day 1: Follow the Bait to Find the Trout
Day 2: Understand the Trout Migration Schedule
Day 3: Fish Artificial
Day 4: Enjoy Hot Fishing in Cold Weather
Day 5: Where to Find the Trout


Entry 381, Day 3