Spotted Seatrout Aquaculture at Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs Mississippi

The Trick to Trout Slicks

Smell that smell. For avid coastal anglers, they know exactly the smell that I’m referring to. The distinctive smell of what some people equate to watermelons is one that will make an angler stop their boat and look around to see where that sweet aroma originated from. I’m talking about trout slicks of course, and this post aims to give you the knowledge on how to properly locate the school of trout that created the trout slick. Hopefully the following information will give you the tools to make more efficient on-the-water angling decisions, and catch more trout in less time.

As stated previously, a trout slick is just as it sounds – a slick or sheen on the surface of the water. As a school of trout feeds, oils from the prey item (i.e., menhaden, anchovy, or shrimp) leaks from trout’s stomach or through their gills. This buoyant oil then floats to the surface. Once the oil makes its way to the water’s surface, it is quickly dispersed. The longer the oil has been at the surface of the water, the larger the trout slick will become, until the slick becomes too large and diluted and dissipates entirely. Trout slicks form and dissipate exactly like ripples on the surface of the water, starting out very concentrated and prominent at the origin, and fading out slowly as it widens until it no longer exists.

Now that you know what causes a slick, and hopefully have a rough idea of what they look like on the water, let’s get into the two factors that cause the movement of a slick. Getting used to using trout slicks as a method of locating schooling trout might seem daunting at first, but you can take solace in knowing that there are only two abiotic factors (wind and tide) that contribute to the movement of a slick away from its point of origination (i.e., the school of trout). Want to know the best part of relying on wind and tide to find the origin point of a trout slick?…they are consistent! Wind and tide do not change very rapidly, relatively speaking. Especially not in the lifespan of a trout slick. Therefore, you can be confident that the wind speed and direction, as well as tidal sequence will be consistent enough to adequately locate schooling trout based on the movement of a trout slick. So…how do you use wind and tide to track trout slicks back to a school of trout? You guessed it. Use wind speed and direction, as well as tidal magnitude and direction to pinpoint the origin of the slick.

Using wind speed and direction to locate the origination point of a slick:

When a slick pops up on the surface, it will immediately be subjected to wind pushing it along the surface of the water in the direction that the wind is blowing. The speed that the slick is moving is dependent on the speed of the wind. All slicks that form from that particular school of trout will follow the same path (assuming the wind direction stays the same), so if you’re lucky, you might be presented with a trail of proverbial breadcrumbs that will lead you back to the origination point. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a breadcrumb trail, not to worry, you can still efficiently locate the slick’s origination point. It will however, take a bit more distance estimating and trial and error to finding it. As soon as you encounter a trout slick, you should first look upwind for any signs of bird or baitfish activity. This will immediately tip you off to where the trout are feeding. If there is no bird or baitfish activity, you will need to maneuver your boat well upwind, while on the same trajectory as the slick in order to drift over the feeding trout. Fish the drift vector until you get a strike. Boom, you have now located the school.

Using tidal magnitude and direction to locate the origination point of a slick:

Wind will play the biggest factor in the direction and speed of a slick; however, tide can also play a role in slick movement. Tide influences slicks in the same way as wind, but at a slower rate. In other words, if there is no wind and the only force that a slick is subjected to is tide, the slick will move at a slower rate downcurrent of the origination point; thus, allowing for you to pinpoint the school of trout more efficiently as you don’t have to travel as far upcurrent.

Using a combination of wind and tide to locate the origination point of a slick:

It is rare for only one force to act on a trout slick at any given time, thus it is imperative to talk about the interaction of wind and tide and their combined effects on a slick. I won’t go into as great of detail here, as you already understand the concepts, but I do want to bring to your attention the fact that tide and wind can oppositely affect the way a slick moves. If wind and tide are moving perpendicular to one another, the slick will move at a 45 degree angle downwind and downcurrent of the origination point. If wind and tide are moving in the same direction, the slick will move at an accelerated rate from the origination point, as two forces are acting synergistically on the slick. If wind and tide are move in opposing directions, the slick will move in the direction of the strongest force acting on the slick, but will do so at a much slower rate as there are two competing forces acting on the slick.

There you have it – a little physics, a little biology, and little fishing. Hopefully this brief overview will equip you with the knowledge to get out on the water and locate some nice schools of trout, and do so in less time. If this information was helpful, or you want more information on trout slicks, please share this link on your social media, as we believe that everyone who wants to catch more trout can benefit from this post. Also be sure to send us pictures of your future catches to taylor@bocachicabaits.com or hit us up on Instagram and Twitter @bocachicabaits

Thanks for following and tight lines,

Taylor – Founder of Boca Chica Baits