This has been a fall to catch speckled trout, and the action along the Cape Fear coast is as good as anywhere. Catching fish is expected and filling limits with many releases is the norm. It doesn't get much better than this.

Capt Stu Caulder of Gold Leader Guide Service in Wrightsville Beach said the trout fishing has been as good as he has ever seen it. He said the trout aren't huge, but there are enough large ones in the mix to keep fishermen excited. Caulder said the majority are ranging from 15 to 20 inches, but they are on a feed and biting readily.

"There are many days we are catching more than 30 trout, and some days that number exceeds 50," Caulder said. "The jetties at Masonboro Inlet have been the go-to place for many fishermen, and there is no doubt there are lots of trout holding there. Because the jetties are attracting so many boats and fishermen, I have looked elsewhere and have found trout in the (Cape Fear) river that aren't being chased as hard or as often. I believe the reduced pressure makes them easy to catch."


Caulder (910-264-2674) said there are fish on both sides of the jetties and they needed to be fished differently.  On the deep side, he is fishing DOA CAL forktail Fluke shapes, as they sink faster and get through the current to the larger fish near the bottom. On the shallow side, he has had good luck with DOA CAL paddletails and MirrOlures. He said chartreuse back/white belly and white over white have been his best colors. Caulder said DOA shrimp have been catching even after fishermen start fishing live shrimp.


When fishing in the river, Caulder concentrates on the spoil islands, especially those with riprap, and creek mouths between Snow's Cut and the power lines.  He said the water is shallower off the islands and around the creek mouths, and he is using the MR 17 series MirrOlures, X-Raps, and DOA CAL Grubs with good success.


"The biggest key to catching fish in the river is finding moving water," Caulder said. "The trout bite some, even on rising tides. This is best around the islands with all the rock along the channel. When the tide peaks and starts falling, there is usually good action around the creek mouths. Baitfish and shrimp are flowing out of the creeks and the trout gather around the mouths to feed. We also catch some redfish and an occasional flounder that come to the creek mouths to feed."


Caulder said working a moving tide with a lure shaped like a shrimp, small mullet or small menhaden is a sure-fire recipe for trout success.