It’s no secret that so far, this winter has been a mild one across the Carolinas, and that has kept the speckled trout bite hotter than most anglers have seen at this time of year. In most years, February is a month to fish schooling redfish pretty much exclusively, while waiting for warmer weather to get back into the trout.
But this year, anglers all up and down both coasts are still catching quality specks, and good numbers of them too. It looks like we are in for more of the same for the foreseeable future, despite reports that Punxsutawney Phil is predicting six more weeks of winter.
Water temperatures in the Hilton Head Island area are hovering between the low 50s and high 50s, and are ranging between the high 40s to mid 50s in the Wilmington area. These are favorable temps for inshore specks.
So how do we catch the trout this time of year? For Capt. Rick Percy of Reel Chance Charters in South Carolina’s lowcountry, it’s all about finding deep creeks, moving water, and using soft plastics.
“This is the first winter in 27 years of fishing here that I can remember the trout bite lasting so long into the new year. And if it doesn’t get real cold and we lose some fish, next fall will be absolutely insane for catching trout,” said Percy (803-535-6166).
On some days, Percy is finding the best trout bite on the incoming tide. On other days, his best luck is coming on the outgoing. But both tides are giving him good results with the specks. He’s using Norton Sand Eels and Sea Shads, and finding quality trout in holes ranging from 12 to 20 feet deep.
Don’t be shy about using live bait either. Percy is also having success with live shrimp threaded onto Jenny Jigs, and he said the key is to fish in moving water, even when the current is strong.
For anglers further north, Capt. Jot Owens of Jot It Down Charters is having similar success, and said he also expects the trout bite to keep going strong.
“Working MirrOlures slowly in deeper water breaks and drop offs can produce some very nice trout. If the water gets a bit dirty due to wind or rain/ice/snow, give Berkley Gulp 3-inch Shrimp and Jerkshad a try. Rig Gulp or Saltwater Assassin Sea Shads on lighter jigheads so you can work them just a bit slower due to colder water temps,” said Owens (910-233-4139).
For anglers looking for bigger trout, many of which have been caught this year in both Carolinas, Owens said to cast near the current, but not directly into it.
“Look for the bigger trout to be sitting close to the current, but just off and out of it. Remember, these fish are not going to burn calories they don’t have to by swimming against the current,” he said.