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Feature Stories 2012

Volume 2, Issue 12, June 2012: Enter Sandman - Sand Seatrout show in good numbers

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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT,  Volume 2, Issue 12, June 2012:  Enter Sandman - Sand Seatrout show in good numbers , we stumble upon what perhaps might be the most delicious by-catch of the year.  Namely, we’re talking about a not so well-known member of the seatrout family, the sand seatrout.  Like their cousins, the spotted seatrout, these fish move around in massive schools and if located, can provide hours upon hours of steady angling action.  We were lucky enough to find one of these huge schools of trout recently and spent about an hour catching these fish in the 15-18” range.  According to most marine biologists, sand trout of this size are actually at the top end of their expected size so we not only put a mess of them in the boat, but big ones at that.  With a seemingly endless supply of sand trout hanging around beaches and sandy bridge bottoms during the spring and summer, it makes sense that there is no legal size or bag limit on this species.  So if you find ‘em, and you don’t mind cleaning ‘em, this is fish fry heaven!

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the June 2012 issue of Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)



Enter Sandman – Sand Seatrout show in good numbers
By Joshua W. Broer


I can’t remember the last time I motored away from the boat ramp to target Sand Seatrout.  And usually upon return it’s the friendly yet competitive exchange between anglers that sounds something like this:  “How’d y’all do today?” followed by the too often heard “Oh we slayed the reds today”, or, “Man we spanked the snook”.  I normally don’t answer by exclaiming “Dude we put a hurtin’ on the Sand Trout”.  But, in the future, I just might!

If you’ve never got into a mess of Sand Seatrout (Cynoscion arenariu), it’s perhaps the best by-catch out there. I remember catching a few here and there over the years, along with their closely matched relative, the Silver Seatrout.  But I never found a school of fish so thick, so hungry and so aggressive that merely leaving your lure or jig dangling over the side of the boat might result in a hook-up.  These fish not only appear in large schools and seem to stay hungry forever, they also fight like champs.  They definitely pull considerably harder than our more well-known Spotted Seatrout.

Sand Trout, I’ve discovered, like sandy white bottoms in about 5 to 15 feet of water.  They may occur in Atlantic waters of extreme southeastern Florida but for our purposes they are truly a Gulf species found inshore, residing in bays and inlets.  It is believed that they move offshore during the winter months.  These fish mature fast within only one to two years and have a prolonged inshore spawning season that extends through the spring and summer.  They feed mainly on small fish and shrimp.  Their bodies are pale yellow above and silver to white below.

Our bite came on all artificial lures.  It really didn’t matter what you threw at these fish.  As soon as our weighted lure or jig hit the sand, it was usually a twitch or two and then fish on!  Again, despite the fact that they are usually less than a pound and only approximately 12-15 inches long, they put up one heck of a fight.  What distinguishes them most from Silver Seatrout are their slightly larger size and lack of well-defined black spots on the back.  What I like best about these fish – they’re delicious.  Better yet, there is no established slot size or bag limit imposed on this species so keep as many as you care to clean.

One thing to take into consideration when catching Sand Trout is that they are best eaten fresh the day you caught them. To me, they taste just like Spotted Seatrout.  And just like those fish, put them on ice immediately and try not to freeze them as their flesh can become mushy and soft if not kept cold.  If you do choose to freeze a bunch of Sand Trout, be sure to use a vacuum sealer instead of the old-fashioned ziplock bags.  This way you can keep a whole bunch of these fish and have them for a fish fry down the road.

Sand Trout are especially thick in Tampa Bay and around our West Central Gulf beaches right now so now is the time to jump on them.  A simple jig head and swim bait body combo is all that’s needed to catch fish after fish after fish.  It’s good old-fashioned non-stop action for the whole family and the competitive angler alike.  There are many good recipes that can be found online – frying being the go-to way to cook them.  These fish will be plentiful throughout the summer so get out there and fan-cast the beach or bay bridge bottoms for some of the best action around.

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