After two years, fishermen are recognizing that voluntary catch-and-release efforts to help speckled trout recover from winter kills in 2009 and 2010 are paying off with more and larger trout this season.

Indications entering the winter season are promising. Capt. Johnny Spitzmiller of Ambush Inshore Charters (843-971-0537), who fishes Bulls Bay regularly, said that catches of trout from 14 to 20 inches have been better than before the back-to-back killer winters. He also numbers of juvenile trout are also high in the same waters.

"These trout are heading into their winter pattern now, and the bite is on fire," said Spitzmiller. "The fish are moving up onto long points early and late in the day when the tide permits them to reach the edges of the grass and simply working the edges of the grass and oyster beds by casting a quarter-ounce jighead with a plastic trailer has been the ticket."

Shallow areas such as Bulls Bay, which is near Awendaw north of Charleston, were particularly affected by the winter kills. South Carolina manages speckled trout with a 10-fish daily creel limit and a 14-inch size minimum, but by law, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources was unable to close the trout fishery without time-consuming legislation. Instead SCDNR asked anglers to voluntarily release speckled trout through two seasons with the promise that those conservation efforts would pay off later.

In the attached video, Spitzmiller demonstrates how good the bite is by landing several trout in the 16- to 17-inch range, and a nice fish in the 20-inch class.