Abundant forage is available, and that's a big reason that trout are in such an active feeding mode. As an autumn bonus, the trout bite is so good that artificial lures are absolutely lethal. Live bait is certainly productive during October and throughout the year, but now's the time when casting jigs and grubs can produce awesome results.
Bob Matthews of Ladson, is one die-hard jig-fishing master. He'll fish for trout anytime of the year, but he typically prefers the fall and winter months.
Matthews is pastor of the Heritage Holiness Church in Ladson, an activity that keeps him very busy - to say the least. But he is also an avid outdoorsman, and he said he rekindles his spirit by fishing for spotted seatrout.
"I do love the outdoors, and catching trout is a great way to spend a morning or an entire day - if there's time," Matthews said. "Fall, beginning in October, is my favorite time to fish for trout. One reason the fishing is so good then is that forage is abundant, and the trout will literally feed all day long.
"My preferred time to fish is early morning when I can catch a dropping tide at dawn. But the trout bite can be good all day long if you're fishing properly during October."
There are a wide variety of ways to catch these cooperative fish, according to Matthews. Artificial lures, live bait and trolling are all productive. But fishing artificial lures, especially jigs and grubs, is his favored technique.
"My No. 1 method is casting jigs with DOA trailers," he said. "I'll typically use a quarter-ounce jighead when I have that option. Of course, as is everything inshore, the exact fishing technique is driven by the tide and where the fish are found. Sometimes I'll have to use a heavier rig to get deeper in an area where the tide is pulling really hard.
"On some days, I'll use live bait if necessary," Matthews said. "I personally prefer shrimp, but other live baits will work well, too. In addition to these techniques, I'll sometime troll to find the fish, especially if I haven't been fishing recently and need a quick way to find the places fish are concentrated."
According to Matthews, there are certain places where trout tend to bunch up. When he's fishing for them regularly, the pattern will stay fairly consistent for several days at a time.
"Once you get on a good bunch of fish and find the productive pattern, you can enjoy repetitive success for a while," he said. "However, one day they will just move to another area, and you'll have to make adjustments to find them."
Another fisherman who prefers the fall is Tommy Tanner of Charleston. He has fished for many years and likens trout fishing to light- tackle fishing for largemouth bass.
Tanner said the technique he uses - in terms of presentation - is a lot like freshwater bass fishing. He uses a quarter-ounce jighead and a DOA shrimp imitation lure.
"Essentially, it's similar to a jig and grub, which also works, but the shrimp design seems to work best in salt water," Tanner said. "I'll usually try several color patterns until I find the right combination. However, proven colors that consistently produce for me are a red jighead with a light-color grub body with a red tail. Also the 'Christmas Tree' patterns produce well during the fall."
The actual presentation of the lure is probably the most important part of fishing with artificial lures, according to Matthews.
"I'll cast to the edge of the shoreline and slowly, very slowly, I'll bump the jig along the bottom as I work it back in," he said. "As the tide carries the lure down the creek, I don't have to reel much line - just keep a tight line and bump the lure along the bottom. Once the lure gets well downstream and starts to swing toward the middle of the creek and off the bottom, reel in and cast again. When a trout engulfs the jig, there's a light thump. Set the hook, and the battle is on.
"Often, when I'm fishing with people who don't fish for trout often, they tend to reel in too fast and bring the lure too far away from the bottom," he said. "Granted, on some days when the fish are really turned on, that will work, and they'll catch fish. Consistently, it's best to keep the lure close to the bottom."
Tanner said that that while the trout bite is good; the actual strike may feel like a light thump.
"While the trout are usually biting well, when fishing in deeper water with a jig, the bite is usually not a hard strike," Tanner said. "When you feel the 'tick' of a trout taking the grub, set the hook quickly. Sometimes it won't be a fish - just the lure touching bottom. But a quick reaction will definitely provide more hookups during a course of a few hours of fishing."
Both Matthews and Tanner have a structured gameplan for finding trout. Neither will randomly fish a spot unless there's some identifiable structure that has the potential to hold trout.
"Points are always a good place to start for almost any inshore saltwater game fish," Matthews said. "The tide current rolling over a shallow point surrounded by deeper water is always a potential hot spot, especially if there's an oyster bar associated with the point. Also, where a creek enters a larger creek or river is a great fall hot spot. Usually, the downcurrent point of this type of junction will produce plenty of fish.
"The fish won't always be right on the point," he added. "Sometimes they hold inside the point, often on the downcurrent side, ready to strike when a baitfish comes over the bar. That's where working a jighead and grub is really excellent. These fish seem to be poised to attack, and we'll get some hard strikes in places like that."
Tanner said this is also an ideal setup for live bait.
"Hook a live shrimp about a foot or two under a float with just enough weight to hold it down," Tanner said. "Cast the rig upcurrent from the point and let it drift over the point. If a speckled trout is there, he's likely going to nail the bait quick. At times, we'll have to deepen up just a bit and drift the bait across the point a bit deeper."
Tanner said that the first 50 to 75 yards of shoreline on either side of a point will often be very productive. Cast the jigs close to the shoreline and work it back toward the deeper water.
"Always look for some unique feature in the shoreline when fishing an area around the point," Tanner said. "Good examples of productive places can be a point of grass that sticks out when the tide is high and still in the grass, or a cutback of slightly deeper water into the grass line will also hold fish. Don't forget that for trout during this time of the year, when you locate one, you may be able to catch several from that same general area."
Both fishermen also key on areas where small creeks intersect larger ones.
"The junction does not have to be very large to be very productive," Matthews said. "Some of my favored places are small ditches that empty into creeks big enough to easily get the boat in and out, even at low tide. What I look for is a ditch large enough to drain a large grass flat. Plus, I prefer it to be in the outside bend of a creek. An outside creek bend is another favored holding area for trout. Usually, the water drops from shallow to deep quickly. Plus, there's usually a strong current in those bends that attracts baitfish and thus, trout.
"But when I find these two situations together, I've got a winner in terms of producing fall trout action," Matthews said. "These are the type of places that I can generally rely on to produce trout throughout the fall months and into the winter."
Matthews said that trout will not always orient right at the junction of the ditch and creek. Sometimes, they'll be found congregated above or below.
"Usually, I'll fish the downcurrent flow from the ditch first, but really, we'll find fish on both sides," he said.
Depending on the area, there may be docks and piers. Trout will sometimes hold around these structures as well.
"I still like to have some sort of underwater contour change, even when fishing a dock," Matthews said. "But I've found some places where docks are in the bend of a creek and will consistently produce trout. Some of the best places are near ditch and creek junctions. The trout have an affinity to hold around the cover of the dock. I've seen times that the ability to make an accurate cast around and under a dock meant the difference between a lot of bites and almost no bites. Generally, it's not that specific, but it can be at times."
Both Matthews and Tanner want to fish moving water -either a dropping or rising tide will produce action. They agree the slack tide periods are times to take a break, drink coffee or a soda and eat a sandwich.
"I prefer a falling tide for trout fishing," Matthews said. "But you can catch trout on a rising or falling tide, and you can catch them when the tide is nearing high or when it's getting very low.
"I prefer the falling because it seems to bunch the fish up as the tide continues to fall," he said. "I like to begin just as the water is coming out of the grass. If I'm in an area with fish and they move away from where I've been catching them as the tide gets low, there are usually some obvious places I can look to find them. One is a nearby deeper hole of water. Another is to move further down the creek toward deeper water or into the next larger creek."
Tanner said that when the tide gets close to low, many anglers call it quits. That's a poor decision, he said.
"Sometimes, especially on the low tide, you'll catch a lot of good trout right in the middle of the creek, in the deepest water," Tanner said. "As long as there's still some current flow, the fishing can be excellent. Look for the deepest water in the area, and often you'll find that's where a lot of the trout, especially the larger ones, will go.
"Casting a lure to the shoreline or drifting live bait around the same structures is productive," he said. "But the trout don't necessarily leave the area when that fishing slows. They usually retreat to deep water. Casting to the middle of the creek can extend your fishing time tremendously."
There are times when live bait does seem to work better according to Matthews. While he prefers live shrimp, he said that other live baits are very productive.
"Live shrimp has one drawback," Matthews said. "Everything loves to eat a shrimp. So you may have to deal with bites from other species of fish as well as your targeted species. If the bite is from a redfish, that's certainly okay with me. But sometimes, smaller fish will make it difficult to use shrimp.
"Other good live bait choices include finger mullet and mud minnows," he said. "Properly presented, trout have a hard time passing up any live-bait offering."
Tanner said that while he enjoys fishing jigs and grubs because of their depth versatility, other artificial lures will work well too.
"Both floating and diving lures with treble hooks, many designed for largemouth bass, work well. Topwater floater/divers like the Rebel or Rapala produce excellent results. In addition, swimming- minnow lures like the Cordell Spot and the Rat-L-Trap produce at times. Even topwater lures such as a Pop-R work on some days."
Trolling is another tool Matthews uses to find and catch trout.
"I'll rig a few rods with different-colored jigs and in different sizes and troll along the edges of the creeks, rivers and bays," Matthews said. "Experiment just a bit, and a fisherman can troll and find the general location of trout in the fall.
"Once I catch a couple trolling, I can usually get into them really good by casting. Sometimes, however, trolling will be the most productive way to catch them. It all comes back to the mode the fish are in on that day. My preference is to troll to find them, and then cast to them. But to catch plenty of trout on a consistent basis, I'll have to give them what they want in the manner they want it."