Joe Ward of FlyDaddy Charters in New Bern is looking at the closure of speckled trout fishing last year as a godsend – a key factor in the excellent fishing that anglers have enjoyed along the Neuse River since the season re-opened last Sunday. And in the past couple of weeks, trout have been biting consistently, with a mixture of small and large fish.

"They didn't bite every day, and they weren't always in the same places, but if you spent a little time looking, you could usually find them," Ward said. "One of the better approaches has been to begin the morning fishing the channels and deep holes and then working around and up on the shallower flats later in the day, after the sun has shone on them for several hours. This is far enough up the river that there isn't any lunar tide effect, so the water depth won't change much like it does closer to the coast. The wind pushes some water and bait around, but it has to be pretty strong to make much difference in the water level."

Ward (252-229-4656) has been catching a good number of stripers, too, sometimes mixed in and feeding with the trout. He said stripers will often move onto the flats early in the day, while trout typically wait for the water to warm a few degrees. He said there had been days when the surface water would warm five degrees or more from the early morning to mid-afternoon – a significant change for fish.

"I really like MirrOlure 17 MR suspending lures when the trout move into the shallows," Ward said. "In the brackish water of the creeks this lure sinks to about two feet and can be twitched across the flat at that depth. It looks just like the little shad and menhaden the trout and stripers are eating, so if they are feeding, they won't hesitate to hit it. 

"When I'm fishing the holes and deeper sections, I need a heavier bait to get it down to the bottom, so I switch to soft plastics on jigheads," Ward said. "There isn't much, if any, current in the creeks, so it doesn't have to be a heavy jighead, but it has to get the bait to the bottom. When the fish are in the deeper holes, they are usually holding right on the bottom and if you don't let your bait get there, you won't catch much.

Ward said stripers are hitting the same lures as trout. In fact, so will many other fish. It is rare he doesn't catch other species ranging from puppy drum to largemouth bass and even chain pickerel.

Ward is worried about the severe cold forecast for the coming weekend. He said there was a small-scale cold-stun fish kill in Slocum and Hancock creeks last weekend, and  he hopes the fish have moved to deeper water this week.