South Carolina’s northernmost backwaters continue to produce solid catches of speckled trout. Typically, most January fishing days are on the cool side with cold water, slow action and lethargic fish, but erratic weather has helped maintain moderate temperatures, creating a perfect situation for wintering speckled trout, and Captain Mark Stacy of Ocean Isle Fishing Charters is dialed in on them, putting up double-digit catches of burly trout on each trip. 

“The trout are biting really well right now and surprisingly, they are frisky for the middle of January,” said Stacy (910-279-0119), “and the big ones are not having any problems pulling off drag.”

 Stacy is finding groups of trout in the same places they were in the fall, including the Intracoastal Waterway, jetties, Coquina Harbor, Dunn Sound, and neighboring waters just across North Carolina line, and he is having success both shallow and deep. As a general rule, most trout in the winter will fall back to the deepest places of the estuary.

“On warm days, we are catching trout in places less than three feet deep,” he said. 

Warm weather is pulling trout out of the depths onto the shallow flats to feed on the spotty schools of baitfish, including small mullet and mud minnows. Even though shrimp are nonexistent in inshore waters, Stacy has been catching trout bouncing artificial shrimp along the bottom and around oyster beds.

“We are catching most of our fish on Vudu Shrimp. They are hot right now and producing a strong bite,” he said.

Shrimp are irresistible to speckled trout and many other inshore fish species. To speckled trout, an artificial shrimp is kryptonite. However, lightly-weighted screw tail or paddle tail grubs and small, suspending MirrOlures will also produce bites in these places. A wide range of colors is producing bites from natural to chartreuse.

Stacy is catching fish on just about all phases of the tide in deeper areas, but he is having the best success on warm days in the shallows on falling water on the lower end of the tide.