By November, most menhaden and finger mullet have left North Carolina’s sounds and headed through inlets to the warmer waters of the nearshore ocean.
Inshore sportfish, including spotted seatrout often follow these baitfish. A problem for most anglers is that the trout often go south, north or offshore where they’re tough to locate and catch.
Fortunately, a significant number of specks heads west into the creeks and tributaries of coastal rivers such as the Neuse, Pamlico and White Oak, where they hunker down for the winter.
This annual inward migration puts them within casting range of plenty of anglers, including Dale Collins of Stella, who owns Fish or Die Charters.
“Some of our best fishing for specks is in the creeks and near inlets as the water gets cooler in November,” he said. “When they go up the creeks, they get in deeper holes where current pulls baitfish to them.”
The best trout holes contain dark, muddy bottoms that retain heat from sunlight or oyster rock holes.
“I like to cast soft-plastic grubs and MirrOlures at them,” said Collins (252-422-4326), whose base of operations is Dudley’s Marina in Swansboro. “My favorite soft plastic is a Zoom Golden Bream, and my best hard bait is a (MirrOlure) Broken Glass MR 18.”
Collins ties his lures to an 8-pound leader that’s connected to moss-green 10-pound Power Pro braid spooled onto a 2500 Penn Conflict spinning reel mated with a 7-foot Star Segis reel. He uses a 1/16-ounce Bluewater Candy jighead.
He expects fishing this fall to be tremendous.
“I think we had a big cold-stun kill in 2014, because last year we had thousands of ‘spikes’ around 11 inches long,” Collins said. “Fishing was tough last year after we had 17 inches of rain and lost all our shrimp. So we should have a good crop of 2- to 4-pound fish this fall.”
The good news for fishermen targeting spotted seatrout is the fish recover quickly in a year or two from weather events such as ice storms and the resulting cold-stun events.
Seatrout, he said, like to hang out around shell bottoms or hard, sandy bottoms.
“If you find a good place, you can catch 50 trout in just a little while,” he said. “I just throw upstream of the hole and let the current do the work while keeping slack out of my line. I like to fish a high, falling tide.”