By the time day broke over Buzzard’s Bay on Tuesday morning, Lewis Emery of Tails Up Charters in Carolina Beach and his buddy, Larry Essick, already had a handful of speckled trout in the boat — and neither was surprised.

“It’s been a very good spring for trout,” said Emery (910-6172194). “We haven’t had any of the big spawners yet, but we’ve had a lot of keeper fish, a lot of 16-, 17- and 18-inch fish. 

“Last year, we had some 22-, 23- and 24-inch fish, but last year was one of the best ever for big fish.”

Emery and Essick worked over the local trout population with a combination of hard baits: Rapala Skitterwalks and a variety of MirrOdines mostly 17MRs and 27MRs, in a variety of colors. Lures with a shade of pink were especially effective.

“I think in this clear water, right at daylight, they really like pink baits,” said Emery, one of several guides who work out of Carolina Beach’s Island Tackle and Hardware.

The trout bite, he said, will only improve.

“It will only get better, and when it peaks will depend on how hot it gets and how fast it gets hot, but we’ll get more fish and bigger fish,” Emery said.

Emery has been looking for fish along the banks of marsh creeks, especially the junction of creeks or any other underwater structure that creates current rips and eddies. The trout are setting up to feed on tiny glass minnows and small menhaden, which are already filling up inshore waters.

“When we get a lot of small menhaden in, we’ll go down to an (MR) 18, and when the bigger mullet get in, we’ll move up to bigger baits like Catch 2000s; we’ll get more big trout on bigger baits.”