Mention the word "gator" to the uninitiated, and images of a big scaly lizard or university mascot come to mind. For the serious Southern angler, it conjures reverential visions of gaping yellow mouths, sagging bellies and near-yardstick dimensions. Spotted seatrout are popular throughout the Southeast and Gulf coasts, and while school-size specks can be easily fooled, true "gators" are among the most challenging adversaries on the flats. Two experts — Mark Nichols of D.O.A. Lures and noted local trout angler Jerry McBride — have perfected the art of gator hunting in Florida's Indian River, racking up triple-digit numbers of trophy fish between them.
"My definition of a gator trout is 28 inches or longer," Nichols explains. "A six-pound fish is a really good catch, but it's not a gator, not a dream fish. The ones exceeding 30 inches and 10 pounds, now that's a true gator."