Fishermen around Charleston are pining for clear water as speckled trout have made their way back into creeks to spawn, and guide Chris Chavis said some of the biggest trout of the year will be looking for the best spawning grounds over the next two weeks. Knowing what they’re looking for is the first step to finding them.

“I can’t stress the clear water enough. That’s what everybody tries to find,” said Chavis, of Finstalker Charters (843-509-9972).  “Trout prefer clean, moving water, so if you combine the two, your success rate is going to be a lot better than just working any point or shell rake you see.”

Chavis said trout will spread out more, in order to take advantage of suitable spawning grounds.

“Now that we’re getting to the spawning time of the year trout, you’ll start seeing more and more of those big females,” he said. “Most guides have gotten to the point that if we catch a big female, and she’s full of roe, we try to let her go just to have more trout for the coming season.”

Chavis suggests anglers target both big females and the large numbers of smaller males with live and artificial baits. He said it’s hard to beat shrimp, either live or imitation. He will cast either upstream of ambush points and drift or float the bait downcurrent to the trout.

“We’re throwing both artificial and live bait. Both of them seem to be working as well as the other. The live-bait scenario is throwing popping corks with a 2/0 live-bait hook and either mud minnows or shrimp; if it’s a shrimp, they’re going to eat it whether it’s a big shrimp or small. For artificials, it’s hard to beat a Gulp in natural colors.”

Chavis chases the wind more than a specific location, which means he burns more gas targeting trout than when he’s on a redfish trip. The key is finding clear, moving water around an ambush point like a sandbar or oyster rake where trout will hold.

“The biggest factor is the wind direction and speed,” he said. “I’ll find areas along the lee edge of that wind, whether it be the Charleston Harbor itself or run up the Stono, Ashley, Cooper, or Wando Rivers. Sometimes you’ve got to make runs to find that clean water.”