As fantastic fall fishing looms on the horizon, Capt. Wayne Crisco of Hampstead says there’s no need to wait for cooling water temperatures to put together the coveted “inshore slam” of speckled trout, flounder, and redfish in the backwaters of Topsail Island.

Crisco (910-465-0611), who runs Last Resort Charters, will often start with specks the first thing in the morning when his eyes are on the prize of a late summer slam. 

“The water is still pretty warm, but if you’re in a good place when the tide is right, the trout are going to turn on,” he said, referring to deep holes and ledges adjacent to structure like the Surf City Bridge and nothing that a tide running too fast or slack water are to be avoided. “I’m floating live shrimp on a slip float because that’s the one thing they won’t turn down this time of year.”

Flounder are also nearby, often tight to structure like bridge pilings. 

“You can’t be too close,” said Crisco, who will vertically jig a Carolina-rigged mullet or menhaden next to each piling. “A flounder will lay down there with his nose against a piling.” 

Targeting redfish on the falling tide, Crisco anchors in the channels that cut through the marshes leading to New Topsail and Rich inlets to intercept reds evacuating the grass.

“I’ll find some bigger menhaden and use them as cut bait,” said Crisco, who pins them to Carolina rigs. “I’ll throw the baits out about two feet from the edge of the marsh and wait for the lowest of the low tide. A spot can be dead, and then all of sudden, three or four rods will go down.”

Crisco’s success in regularly producing inshore grand slams hinges on an abundant supply of live bait.

“Shrimp are a lot easier to catch on a low tide. When the tide comes up, they’ll get in the marsh grass and be hard to net,” said Crisco, who finds them in shallow marsh creeks, bays, and around docks. “I use a Betts Billy Boy adjustable slip float, a ¾- to 1-ounce weight, and a No. 4 treble hook when floating shrimp. 

“Mullet are a good bait for flounder and redfish, but a big school of (menhaden) will fill up the livewell a lot faster,” said Crisco, who cast-nets for them in the deeper water of marinas, boat basins, canals and some creeks and uses a 1/0 Kahle hook, a 6- to 8-inch leader, and a ¾- to 1-ounce sinker on his Carolina rigs.