Specks will also bite this month
Low-water levels and generally cool temperatures have concentrated the striper and spotted seatrout in medium- to shallow-depth waters around New Bern.
Healthy mixes of salt and freshwater also have filled the Neuse and Trent rivers with thousands of baitfish — and sportfish.
“I generally concentrate on striped bass this time of year,” said guide Scott Wood of Cove City (252-671-7836). “But stripers and trout will be spread from the mouth of the Neuse all the way to the bridges at New Bern.”
Until weather turns brutally cold, striped bass gather near the town’s bridges and feeder creeks. Specks concentrate around the artificial reef a mile downstream from New Bern.
“The ledges also hold plenty of bait, mostly small menhaden from 2- to 2½-inches long,” Wood said.
He casts Z-Man soft-plastic grubs in chartreuse or chartreuse-glitter colors for both species.
Wood also finds stripers beneath circling sea gulls that dive on baitfish schools forced to the surface
“Birds are big keys” he said. “It’s not a topwater bite. But the stripers bust baitfish on top after herding them up from 10- to 12-feet deep.
Watch for birds
“As it gets colder, baitfish go into the creeks. Stripers and trout follow them.”
Wood prefers medium- to medium-light 7-foot rods mated to 3000 series spinning reels. His leaders are 21/2 to 3-feet long 20-pound test fluorocarbon.
“It’s nothing to hang a 27-inch striper in winter around New Bern. So you need something to turn his head,” he said. “I’ve also caught 20- to 24-inch trout when it’s cold.
“I put Pro-Cure Menhaden Super Gel on all my lures. It definitely helps me get bites.”
Spotted seatrout head to backwaters once water temperatures fall toward freezing.
“The closer you can find water that’s 52 degrees, that’s where you’ll find winter trout,” Wood said. “Specks like sunny days and warmer temperatures.
“But water temperatures don’t matter to stripers. Just watch for birds that’ll be hanging over them. That’s their key.”
River herring begin to migrate up the Neuse during late February. Stripers prefer river herring above all other natural food.
To match river herring, Wood casts 5-inch jerkshads.
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