Capt. Rennie Clark of Tournament Trail Charters said the early morning speckled trout action around Carolina Beach has been about as hot as the weather, with specks crushing bait on the surface, dictating the use of topwater baits for fish that are averaging 3 to 5 pounds.
"Even though they are biting well, this is hot weather even for the trout, and the action is typically very early in the morning," Clark said. "This has been the pattern for a couple of weeks, but they have also bitten well during the middle of the day several days this week. I think that's because the tide is rising during the morning, and the rising tide brings cooler water from the ocean. The cooler water moving in and letting them get back up on the banks has to be a part of it. Whatever is causing this, I'm happy about it, and so are a lot of my fishermen."
Clark has been asking clients to arrive early; he likes to be on the water by 5:30 a.m. He wants to be in place as early as possible so he doesn’t disturb them around shell banks, grass islands, spoil islands and large oyster rocks – the closer to the inlet the better.
"I've been primarily using two sizes of Skitterwalks," Clark said. "The weather has been really windy, and a SSW 11 is a little larger and heavier and works better in windy and choppy conditions. It also casts farther into the wind. The SW 8 is smaller and lighter and works better in calm conditions. There haven't been many days with calm conditions in a while, just a few early mornings, so I try to take advantage when they come."
Clark said the bite begins so early, he doesn't think lure color is a primary factor. Trout are feeding, and if a lure is moving erratically, it will get hit. One thing most of his topwater lures have in common is they have some orange somewhere on the belly, and that's what a fish sees from underneath.
Clark (910-465-8943) said the trout are feeding wherever they can find bait. This week, the tides have been low in the mornings, which pushes bait out of the grass and shallow creeks and into the larger creeks, Intracoastal Waterway or the Cape Fear River. The trout follow, and the early action has been excellent.
"I'm pretty sure the high tides during the middle of the day are a big part of why we have seen some mid-day action this week," Clark said. "With the higher tides, bait can get back on the flats, on top of oyster bars and into the edge of the grass trying to hide and the hungry trout have been following them. It's rare to catch many trout during the middle of the day, especially when the water temperature is in the mid-80s, but there is enough bait it gets the trout's attention, and they can't help themselves. They are feeding like hungry men at a buffet."
Clark has caught some redfish mixed in with the trout, following the same concentrations of bait and chasing the same lures.