Keep ‘em alive, and you’ll catch lots of trout
As the heat continues to take its toll, speckled trout can be much more difficult to fool into biting a lure. An often overlooked and underutilized live-bait option is the menhaden, aka pogey.
Many of us associate pogies with the putrid smell from processing facilities or from rafts of floating by-catch more than putting one on a hook; however, they can make an excellent bait choice when chasing speckled trout, among other species. They make for a much-cheaper alternative than throwing live shrimp or croaker and are generally rather easy to locate and catch in a cast net.
The key to pogey fishing is keeping them alive. Many anglers will load a livewell full of great baitfish only to find them floating belly up a short time later. Pogies are susceptible to meeting an early demise in the livewell, typically due to overfilling. An easy way to help keep your pogies alive is to reduce the number you put in the livewell. Often, it only takes one throw of the cast net to catch way more than you will need. Depending on the size of your livewell, I recommend keeping six dozen or so. They will still catch fish as fresh, dead bait, but they are definitely much better alive.
There are probably more ways to rig a live pogey than there are to skin a cat, but these two are my favorites: just in front of the dorsal fin and just forward of the tail.
I fish it hooked just in front of the dorsal the majority of the time. Rigging the baitfish this way seems to give it plenty of action, keeping the pogie very lively and generating a lot of vibration that can be felt through the line. I believe the placement helps to increase hookups with short-striking fish as well. Hooked in the tail, just forward of the anal fin, the pogey seems to swim down and away. I like this method when fishing for fish that are deeper in the water column.
Both of these techniques generally keep the pogey very lively and make it easier to cast. Pogies also seems to stay on the hook better than hooking it through the nose.
I like to use bigger pogies, at least the length of the palm of my hand. Big baits for big fish, right? Depending on current and depth, I may fish them weightless or add on a small split-shot to get to the desired depth. Large rockpiles and jetties are great places to cast one. With a stronger current, the outside or Gulf side is better, and vice versa with a slack or slow-moving current. Exercise caution when fishing in channel with the ship traffic. Large wakes have been known to cause boats to end up on top of the jetty — or even worse. If you are anchored, pull it up before their wakes get to you and get on the big motor or trolling motor to maneuver over their wakes. If it is calm enough, try your luck at the short rigs; those trout out there especially love those larger pogeys. Free-lining them from the upcurrent side back toward the rig is the ticket.
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