New River’s Oyster Highway is inshore hotspot

speckled trout
The New River’s Oyster Highway is a hotspot for speckled trout, and big redfish also patrol the area.

Speckled trout, redfish feed up along New River’s Oyster Highway

The magic number is 50 for spotted seatrout in the New River.

“Fifty degrees is the number I like,” said veteran Jacksonville angler Ricky Kellum (910-330-2745).

He’s probed the New for speckled trout since he was a tyke, fishing with his dad, the late Rendel Kellum, who caught the 1960s N.C.-record speck (11 pounds, 10 ounces).

Today he likes to fish near the New’s Oyster Highway. That project, 10 football-field size areas holding oyster reefs and spats (baby oysters), was completed in 2019. Its main goal is to improve water quality but also provide homes for inshore saltwater sportfish and angling recreation.

“The oyster highway is my go-to spot, starting in late April and most of the summer,” Kellum said.

Kellum caters to seasoned anglers who can cast artificial lures and novice live-bait fishers. His favorite artificials for trout include Zara Spook Jrs. He prefers those with a chartreuse head and white body or solid-bone color. But he always replaces factory hooks with No. 4, 4x treble hooks.

Speckled trout gather slightly away from the reef

Big-shouldered New River redfish, ranging from 18 to 30 inches in length, often attack Spook Juniors cast for specks. They mangle factory hooks. He also uses MirrOlure MR 17s.

MirrOlures in electric chicken (color) are good to cast upriver,” Kellum said.

To handle trout (and reds), he uses a 7-foot Cashion medium-light fast-taper rod mated to a 2500 Series Florida Products Osprey reel spooled with 10-pound-test Beyond Braid and two feet of 20-pound-test monofilament leaders.

“If we don’t have any cold-stun weather in late March, trout come out of the backs of creeks in April,” Kellum said. “That’s when I like to fish creek mouths such as Northeast and Wallace, the bypass bridge and beneath the N.C. 172 Bridge leading to the back gate (of Camp Lejeune).”

Kellum also targets shallow mud flats and bays where the spring sun warms dark bottoms and attracts baitfish and gamefish.

However, oyster clusters aren’t easy to navigate with lures.

“It took a while until I learned (how to fish) the oyster highway,” Kellum said. “Trout will be concentrated away from the reef, 20 feet or so, while drum swim in the reefs.

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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