Speckled trout fishing can be fantastic throughout the fall, but when the weather turns cool, a lot of anglers look for other species. But, according to guides and expert trout fishermen, there’s no reason to abandon trout fishing this month, especially in the waters around Charleston.
Joe Dennis of Bonneau, who guides for both freshwater and saltwater species, said December can be a very rewarding month when it comes to catching trout.
“As the water cools when we get into December, the bait selection and presentation becomes more relevant to success,” Dennis said. “Earlier in the fall, trout are more aggressive in terms of biting lures or live bait. During December, you can still catch limits of these fish — and catch them in excellent sizes — but I find it necessary to be more precise and deliberate in the fishing style.”
Dennis said there are a number of ways to catch these very popular and tasty fish.
“Live bait, such as shrimp or mud minnows, is great for catching December trout,” he said. “For those who enjoy artificial lures, the jighead and grub will also produce plenty of bites. A grub with a mud minnow trailing piggyback will often produce plenty of action. One of my favorite artificial lures is the Live Target Shrimp, used either with or without a popping cork. I’ve had great success with this lure.”
Dennis (843-245-3762) said fishermen will find plenty of trout in creeks, bays and rivers, Basically, he said, find forage and you’ll likely find trout.
“Trout look for areas to ambush their forage, and a point created by the junction of two creeks is always a potentially excellent spot,” he said. “Also, bends in the creek channel, especially where there’s a big oyster bed, are another favored place for these fish to congregate in December.
“One of my favorite rigs is a ¼-ounce red or yellow jighead in black and chartreuse or electric chicken,” he said. “I have also found as the water gets colder, live bait also seems to produce excellent results, and there are days when live bait is best. Mud minnows are available commercially if you can’t catch other bait, and I recommend taking some on every trip.”
Dennis said a point or the area where a creek dumps into a larger creek or river is a prime place to find trout.
“These features form eddies and water current changes that attract baitfish,” he said. “I’ll usually work them with artificial lures first, casting the jig and grub and working it back to the boat or using the Live Target Shrimp on a 3-foot leader under a popping cork. Any secondary indentation or pocket can be a trout-holding hot spot. If that doesn’t work, I’ll use live bait under a popping cork. Typically, I’ll cast and let the current move the bait along the grass or near the shore. Sometimes we’ll hit a bunch of fish in one place, but more often during December, it’s a pattern where we catch a few here (and) a few there, but before long, we’ve caught really good bunch of trout.”
Dennis said that early December still offers some good trout fishing in the surf.
“In early December, fishing on a dropping tide near rocks and an inlet, can offer some excellent trout fishing,” Dennis said. “Usually I am use live bait for this type fishing.”
Another angler who loves cold-weather trout fishing is Bob Matthews from Ladson. A pastor at a very active church, Matthews still finds time to fish for trout and really enjoys fishing during the colder months.
“In December fewer fishermen are fishing for trout, and that gives us a little elbow room,” he said. “But truth is, the trout bite is still very good, but I’ve got to be willing to move and change things up to be consistently successful.”
Matthews uses some of the same tactics that Dennis does but said his one of his favorite baits is a ¼-ounce jighead with a soft-plastic trailer in a Christmas tree color pattern.
“Typically in this type of fishing, I’ll anchor near a place where a small ditch junctions with a creek,” Matthews said. “I like a dropping tide, and I’ll cast upcurrent and work the jig near the bottom as the current sweeps it along. Hold the rod tip up and work the lure. Retrieve the jig quickly enough so the lure just ticks the bottom occasionally. If you work it too slow, you’ll get snagged frequently on shells. Work it too quickly, and it will be above the fish.
“While I usually start with the Christmas tree color, pink and mixed colors such as red and white will produce better on some days,” he said. “My advice is to keep several color patterns and change frequently if you’re not getting enough bites — and that includes changing locations.
“Also, if the tide is strong, you’ll have to use a heavier jig to get deeper. Sometimes the trout will get pretty deep during December, and a lot of anglers miss them by not fishing deep enough.”
Matthews said that when the water gets near low tide, many fishermen will give up on the trout, but by working the middle of the creeks, you can still find plenty of fish willing to bite.
“During the cool months, trout can be fairly light-biting fish,” he said, “but they are also great fun to catch and are great table fare. That’s why I fish for them all winter.”
HOW TO GET THERE/WHEN TO GO — The waters around Charleston are easy to access, with I-26 of US 17 getting most fishermen to the area. The Ashley, Cooper, Wando and Stono rivers are all within an easy boat ride or can be easily trailered from most spots around the area. Those rivers, plus Charleston Harbor and bays to the north, including Bulls Bay, are prime spots to catch trout. Trout fishing is great throughout the fall, and December fishing can be excellent, in part because many anglers put their rods away after Thanksgiving. The trout bite will often remain excellent through the month.
BEST TECHNIQUES — Casting artificial lures such as jigs and grubs or using live bait both work well on December trout. Also, trolling along the deeper edges will not only produce trout but also enable an angler to find plenty of trout and start catching them by casting.
GUIDES/FISHING INFO — Captain Joe Dennis, Santee Cooper Charters, 842-245-3762. See also Guides and Charters in Classifieds.