April and May are probably the single best two months for catching seatrout in my region, as the shrimp are running and the strong tides on the new and full moons are really carrying a lot of bait. Seatrout are a lunging/grasping predator, so you have to put your lure or bait fairly close to them to get them to eat it. There’s a couple of ways to target them with lures or baits: working the edges and drop-offs around oyster bars and fishing the docks at night.
The single most productive method of targeting seatrout is by fishing a live shrimp around the oyster bars, particularly on the outgoing tides. Shrimp move on the outgoing tides, so that’s when the trout are looking for them. Keep in mind that by late April, it’s starting to get warm, so the fish are only active from dawn until 9 or 10 in the morning. You can still catch trout after that, but the majority of fish have hunkered down in deeper water to avoid the bright sunlight.
If you’re going to fish live shrimp, you can freeline it, fish it on a 1/8- or 1/4ounce jighead or fish in suspended from a bobber. All are effective methods of targeting trout, and are used depending on the depth of the water you want to fish and the composition of the bottom. Freelining is good in 1 to 4 feet of water, where the shrimp can naturally swim or be reeled back just under the surface. Adding a jighead will take the shrimp to the bottom, and is great for bottom bumping the bait in deeper holes and along drop-offs or crawling them down the edge of a bar. The bobber method is the best of both worlds, and you can use a bobber stop to set the depth you want the bait to run, and add a little split shot if you want to fish it deep. The nice thing about using a bobber is that you can set it so the bait is just off the bottom, so you never snag, but it’s in the strike zone the entire time.
There’s also a lot of small mullet in the Intracoastal Waterway this time of the year, so topwater plugs will work well early in the day when fished around oyster bars and docks. You can also throw soft plastics like a white paddletail grub with a chartreuse colored tail on a ¼-ounce jighead and do real well, especially on the school trout. If you can find a live oyster bar on the outgoing tide or beginning of the incoming tide, you’ll find trout this time of the year.
This is also the best time of the year to fish the dock lights at night. The trout move to the docks that have lights on them because the lights attract shrimp, minnows and mullet, and the trout can just sit in the current and suck them off the surface as they swim through the light. You can fish it with a live shrimp, mullet or mud minnow, or even throw a plastic shrimp or small swimming plug and get your limit.
If you’re going to dock fish, use as light of a leader as you can, because the fish can see a leader better in artificial light than they can under normal daylight. I like to use 10 pound fluorocarbon leader, and 10 to 15 pound spinning gear on a 7’ rod and 3000 size reel for all my trout fishing. Trout are strong fighters but aren’t known for rushing towards structure, so you just want to use a medium drag to keep the fish from pulling the hooks and play them gently until you can land them.
Get on the water early or fish after dark, and you’ll have plenty of great seatrout action in the Northeast Region. Our average fish are 2-3 pounds, with fish to 8 pounds or more. If you’re not going to eat the fish you catch that day, then let them go to live another day. That will give you a reason to go fishing again in the future.