Wanna step outside? June marks the real beginning of speckled trout fishing along North Carolina coast

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2023

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By Dan Kibler

If I marked the top of every page of my calendar with the name of the game animal or gamefish that I most enjoy pursuing in that particular month, there’s little question that “SPECKLED TROUT” would be scrawled across that page, in big, black Sharpie marks.

I think many fishermen with any experience along the coast of either Carolina would agree; June is the first really good month for catching spotted seatrout. Prized by anglers along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts, specks usually start showing up in good numbers this month — or at least more anglers begin to notice that they become more active.

Some trout are caught through the winter and into the early spring, but when the water temperatures climb, more and more fish begin to spawn, and by June, the spawn can be prolific. And unlike many species, the spawn seems to coax them into feeding even more than normal. They will spawn through September and sometimes into early October, with the periods around full moons being particularly productive — especially for larger fish — and especially at night. Many specks are able to spawn in their first year, at maybe 10 inches in length.

North Carolina manages speckled trout with a four-fish daily creel limit and a 14-inch size minimum. Members of the sciaenidae family — drum, croaker and gray trout, aka weakfish and close cousins — specks are believed to prefer waters of medium salinity, but they will make a showing well into brackish water if they can find a good food supply. Because they are almost exclusively sight-feeders, anglers have the most success catching specks in water that’s clear to gin-clear.

That often pushes anglers toward certain lures, and in June, it’s hard to beat walking topwater baits like Zara Spooks and MirrOlure Catch 2000s — especially fished under low-light conditions like dawn and cloudy days — and sinking and suspending jerkbaits like MirrOlures.

Guide Lewis Emery of Carolina Beach’s Tails Up Charters (910-617-2194) has some favorite colors and sizes of baits — and the times he uses them.

“If it’s real sunny, it’s hard to catch trout on topwater lures, except for early in the morning, under low-light conditions. That’s when you go to a MirrOlure,” he said. “The other thing is, you can fish them fast and cover a lot of water.”

“I think in … clear water, right at daylight, they really like pink baits. I really like the red/white and electric chicken colors.”

Emery looks for fish along the banks of marsh creeks, especially the junction of creeks or any other underwater structure that creates current rips and eddies. The trout are setting up to feed on tiny glass minnows and small menhaden, which are very common late-spring baitfish.

“When we get a lot of small menhaden in, we’ll go down to an (MirrOlure MR) 18, and when the bigger mullet get in, we’ll move up to bigger baits like Catch 2000s; we’ll get more big trout on bigger baits. When the mullet get in, if they’re not hitting topwaters, then you go to a (MirrOlure) 52M. It’s a bigger bait that resembles a mullet.”

“It will only get better, and when it peaks will depend on how hot it gets and how fast it gets hot, but we’ll get more fish and bigger fish.”


NCWRC to debut new licensing system on July 1

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is trying to make it easier for outdoorsmen and boat owners to keep up with all of their licenses and registrations. It will premier its new “Go Outdoors North Carolina” license and vessel registration system on July 1.

The system will allow all consumers to set up an account and keep up with their hunting, fishing and trapping licenses — including big-game tags — plus vessel registrations, hunter education and boater safety certifications and applications for permit hunts. It also allows consumers to apply for a new or transfer vessel registration online and to set up your account for auto renewal so you’re never stuck with an expired license or registration if you’re checked by an enforcement officer.

The GoOutdoorsNorthCarolina App will be available July 1 through Apple’s App Store and Google play. It will enable outdoorsmen to store digital licenses, find sunrise/sunset times, access hunting and fishing regulations and report big-game harvests.