What is the best salinity for speckled trout? The truth isn't what Louisiana's inshore anglers normally think.
When we look for speckled trout we think of saltwater, probably why some refer to it as "saltwater" fishing.
But that's a misnomer, as it's really inshore fishing, the "inbetween" of freshwater and offshore fishing.
However, this doesn't change the fact that, when targeting speckled trout, we think of the Big Three, and part of that equation is the presence of salty water.
best salinity for speckled trout
I've always assumed – not incorrectly, but not accurately, either – that a body of water must have a high salt content to yield speckled trout, though I never really got around to measuring exactly how much salt is present in the bodies of water they were caught in.
At best, we'd taste the water (at the surface, where it's the least salty) and give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.
But consider that, back in the day, before the MRGO Rock Dam, before the historically high rivers, salty water was so easy to come by that we just took it for granted.
But that's no longer the case and in the last 10 years our fishery has changed dramatically.
It's freshened a lot, and old honey holes now have more bass than speckled trout!
Yet we still see specks pushing deep inside the marsh during the fall and winter.
And, if you take a minute to look, you'd be surprised how unsalty these areas are.
These Special Maps Shed Some Light
There's a group of special maps you may find useful for revealing the best salinity for speckled trout, and those are the Hydrocoast Maps for southeast Louisiana.
They're produced by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, covering the Lake Pontchartrain and Barataria Bay Basins, detailing these specific items:
We're interested in the salinity map. In fact, here's one for January 2019:
Download the PDF (by clicking the above picture) and take a minute to familiarize yourself with the legend.
Okay, up to speed?
Now look closely at the area around The Wall in Chalmette and note the ridiculously low salinity, one conventional knowledge does not acknowledge as being the best salinity for speckled trout.
How low? Three parts per thousand.
To put that into perspective, specks need at least 17ppt to spawn and full strength saltwater is 35ppt.
That's right, the majority of the marsh we fish is barely a quarter salty as ocean water, and The Wall is where I caught limits of specks all winter long.
Still not sure?
Here's a Hydrocoast map for November 2016, when we saw some of the best speck fishing in Lake Pontchartrain in years.
That's right, that's 4ppt.
Now, these maps are just models, and not exact measurements in every location, but I doubt they're off by a huge margin, like ~10ppt.
What Fish Really Want
It's my humble opinion that, outside of their spawn, salinity is not a driving factor for speckled trout.
For a seasoned angler, this is no surprise, because he knows fish just want to be comfortable and have something to eat.
If this means changing their behavior, then that's what they will do, regardless of what we think the best salinity for speckled trout is.
Consider bass lakes where blueback herring are the primary forage: they stop acting like bass and roam the lake after schools of bluebacks, as if they were stripers.
Would the location and behavior of bait not equally affect the behavior of speckled trout?
What Speckled Trout Really Want
I think specks aren't focused on salinity, but where there is shelter from bad weather, and nearby food to eat.
Take a hard look at the MRGO near Chalmette, and it's obvious it has everything wintering trout could possibly want:
I haven't seen nearly as many big schools of juvenile pogies anywhere else I've fished, and have had the most success this winter in the MRGO.
One Obvious Exception
The only time of the year speckled trout rely heavily upon salinity is when they are actively spawning.
As said before, the best salinity for speckled trout during their spawn is, at a minimum, seventeen parts per thousand.
I feel as long as there is some amount of salt (2-4ppt qualifies) we can catch specks provided their other needs are met in that location.
Obviously things like river water would put a hamper on that in a hurry, but this doesn't change the fact that speckled trout are an estuarine species.
And they're an estuarine species with needs that could outweigh environmental factors.
Like any animal, they will make the necessary adjustments in order to thrive.
The Real Question
The question is, will you make adjustments to how you fish?
I have, and you can see exactly how in these fishing trip reviews:
Full access is only available to members of LAFB Elite, but there are free previews available.
My favorite part is the planning video, so you can see how I figure out where to find and catch these fish.
BS had it’s moments last year. I fished the Holy Cross rig in late June last year and the water was the cleanest I have ever seen out there. You could almost see the bottom. Got on a hot bite, but they were tucked so far into the rig it was tough to get them out, especially since they were all pigs.
I’d be shocked if your prophecy doesn’t come to be.
I miss the crystal clear water of Breton Sound in 2011-2012.
I took a trip to Central Rig last summer and was bummed to see the pea soup water.
Unfortunately I expect another tough summer for trout. Inconsistency in water quality will keep fish on the move as they look for areas that support feeding and other areas that support spawning. The fish will be there, they just won’t stay in one area for an extended time where you can whack them day after day. Get ready to burn some gas this summer.
I sure wish they would fix the wind gauge at the Bay Gardene gauge.
You’re not kidding about the freshness in Delacroix.
The salinity graph for Bay Gardene was virtually bottomed out for awhile.
My biggest problem with that is it needs to pick one and stay with one.
The area can never become an awesome bass fishery if it’s constantly being interrupted by salt and cannot become an awesome speck fishery if the salt keeps bottoming out.
I guess it’s a all a big cycle and am waiting for the year (or two) we have some good pushes of saltwater combined with a low, low, low Mississippi River.
The marsh is going to friggin’ explode with trout and reds. It has to happen sooner or later.
Thanks for providing your professional input, Capt Rory!
3 parts for thousand is higher than anywhere I have found all season long in the Delacroix area. One of my favorite fall and winter areas has been lucky to have anything over .5 ppt this year. Needless to say there have been no trout there this year and very few last year. Plenty reds, but no trout. I actually started to carry a hydrometer and some aquarium salt to keep from losing all my live shrimp. My system pumps in raw water and most areas we have been travailing in or fishing have been too fresh for shrimp to live.
The MRGO is the only place that has had stable water this year. The big thing about it is it offers some consistency. Consistency is no where to be found in the Delacroix area this year. I have been paying close attention to salinity gauges in the area and sure it might get up to 3ppt every few days, but only stay there for an hour or two till the tide or wind changes. Then it is down to 1ppt or less. Sure trout will winter in some pretty fresh areas, but what they are mostly looking for besides food is stability. They get that in the MRGO.
Good luck, be sure to post a report inside LAFB Inshore on Facebook if you get the chance. Thank you!
I can agree with that as long as the water temperature is now high enough for spawning. Then the females need the higher salinity in order for their eggs to float and survive.
Thanks for the intel! Will put it to good use in just a few days…