In spite of the roller-coaster weather, speckled trout, plus both red and black drum, are biting in the New River and around Topsail Island. The bite offers something for everyone and the action begins in the surf and continues to the headwaters of most creeks.

Capt. Phil Leonard of Sneads Ferry's Fishin' Therapy Charters wishes the weather would settle out, but he's glad it hasn't stayed cold.

"We're actually pretty fortunate," Leonard said. "We had that one cold spell when the water temperature really dropped, but it is back into the 50s in the Intracoastal Waterway, and the surf and the back of the creeks are a degree or two warmer. This is just to the point the fish stay warm enough to feed and that makes all the difference in catching them."

Leonard (910-934-4677) said a good day would be starting with some red drum in the surf and then moving inland as the sunshine warms the day. He said many times the reds in the surf could be reached by casting from the beach, but he prefers riding down the beach, spotting them and easing to just beyond the breakers to fish. Leonard said the fish prefer the undeveloped places like Lea-Hutaff and Browns Islands and were usually willing biters on Gulp! shrimp and jerk shad.  


"Once the sun gets up good, it will warm the water a little and wake up the trout in the creeks," Leonard said. "There are usually some red drum and black drum in the creeks too and they add variety to the fishing. I'll tie on a 5-inch Gulp! Jerk shad, and the trout and reds will both hit it. Occasionally, black drum will hit the artificials, but they usually hold out for a piece of shrimp fished on a bottom rig on the bottom." 


Leonard uses his fish finder to locate deeper holes in the creek where specks have been hanging out. Once you find spots six to eight feet deep, you usually find some trout. Leonard heads up the New River and looks for trout in Southwest Creek and Northeast Creek and even in the river upriver of Jacksonville.


Leonard said the black drum are normally caught with or near the specks, but they won't go quite as far upriver into the lower-salinity brackish water; they'll stay in saltier creeks and often, just off the ICW.

 "You'll probably find mostly smaller reds back in the creeks, especially up the river," Leonard said. "There are some bruisers occasionally mixed with them, so don't get too relaxed. Those big fish seem to know just when you're not paying attention and hit then. On the contrary, most of the reds in the surf have been upper- to over-slot fish, but you can't always find them or get to them. I'm not too particular about either of them.  They are all fun to catch – especially in February."