January is great for big specks in Murrells Inlet

Guide Jason Witten loves to target speckled trout in January in the waters of Murrells Inlet. (Picture by Justin Whitten)

January gives up some of the biggest specks of the year

Winter trout earn their nicknames every year when Old Man Winter flips the thermometer and transforms a warm fall into an old-fashioned southern freeze.

Anglers who target specks in South Carolina’s Murrells Inlet rarely complain too much, because they often catch their biggest gator trout. January is one of the coldest months. And it’s also the best time to catch the biggest, fattest specks in Murrells Inlet.

Justin Witten of Ambush Sport Fishing Charters loves the winter. And January is among his favorite months for speckled trout.

“We catch speckled trout all winter long,” said Witten (843-685-9910). “And the biggest ones come the days around the full moons in December and January.”

Speckled trout, aka winter trout, live in South Carolina’s estuaries year-round. But they thrive when the water temperature drops in the fall and throughout the winter into early spring. According to Witten, Murrells Inlet will produce more trophy trout than the neighboring waters to the north and south.

“We catch bigger fish here than Charleston and Georgetown,” he said. “Murrells Inlet fills up with shrimp and typically holds them all winter; that’s why the bigger trout overwinter here.”

Murrells Inlet is one of the smaller estuaries along the eastern seaboard; it is predominantly a saltwater estuary with little freshwater intrusion. Trout and redfish thrive in these waters and consume shrimp all winter.

Creeks and jetties are both good wintertime options

Witten will fish the estuaries and the jetties along the inlet itself through the winter. He will fish the creeks and the deeper holes in main creeks like Oaks and Garden City. On warmer days, he will fish shallower banks because the trout will slide into shallower areas following schools of bait. But the jetties are always good places to catch a big trout in the colder periods of the year.

“Jetties are always good places to fish this time of year,” he said. “We often catch some really nice fish back in the creeks in the winter, but the jetties always produce the biggest ones, especially around the full moon in December and January.”

Typically, Witten will use Matrix Shad in shrimp creole color. He casts these lures and fishes them slowly along the bottom in deeper areas of creeks or along the jetty rocks. When the fishing gets tough, he will get 10 dozen shrimp and head to the jetties.

“I would rather throw artificial lures, but on some days, it gets tough, and a live shrimp under a slip float is the way to make it happen,” said Witten, who will drift shrimp under a slip float and make sure he fishes the lower half of the water column. Sometimes he will even fish right on the bottom.

“January is a great time to go trout fishing in Murrells Inlet,” he said. “And you will be catching plenty of fish that are all the same size until the big one hits and you catch that one that is approaching 30 inches.”

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Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1247 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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