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With the water on the flats cooling, now is the time to check your light tackle. Service your small spinning reels and spool them with 6- or 8-pound line. Fishing for big gator trout is picking up, and light tackle makes for a fun and memorable trip.
The first winter after gill nets were banned in 1994, trout fishing improved dramatically. My trout catch has averaged more than 20 inches on many trips since. On some charters it is difficult to catch smaller ones. It is important to learn how to find big trout. I find the large trout in relatively shallow water in winter. Once you find them, they often stay in the same general area for weeks. Pole quietly, drift or use a trolling motor to spot them. Try to have the sun at your back so you can see into the water easier. Quality polarized glasses are a must. Have your anchor ready to slip quietly into the water as soon as you see the slender profile of Florida's most popular gamefish.
Potholes in the grass are snack bars for them. They will sit on the bottom and wait for something to wander out of the grass. Make long casts with 6-inch plastic jerk baits on light jig heads or use plugs that run very shallow. Mash the barbs so you can release them with little damage. Remember: Trout season is closed south of Tarpon Springs until January.
-- Capt. Wendell Akins charters the Drifter out of Crystal Beach (Palm Harbor). Call (727) 785-3018, or e-mail at email@example.com.