Speck bite torrid, sizes huge at Crystal Coastal creeks

North Carolina Sportsman publisher Ty Conti, Sportsman Magazines national sales director Marc Hilzim and DownEast Guide Service's Brian Harrington display half of a four-hour trip's catch of speckled trout, including Conti's 7-pounder. These fish all hit live shrimp

MOREHEAD CITY — Big numbers of spotted sea trout and some of the heftiest individual specimens of the last five years are available to anglers now (October) and will be available through November in the marshes, creeks and rivers behind Morehead City and Beaufort.

North Carolina Sportsman Magazine publisher Ty Conti, Sportsman Magazine national sales coordinator Mark Hilzim, the NCS managing editor and one of Downeast Guide Service’s (252-671-3474) top anglers, Brian Harrington, went fishing Oct. 9 for specks in a creek behind Beaufort and in four hours landed 20 specks ranging from 2 to 7 pounds, along with one flounder, several under-slot-size red drum and one black drum.

“The (specks) are in the creeks right now because of the water temperature (76.7 degrees) that is starting to cool down,” Harrington said. “They’re moving down from the Neuse River (toward Beaufort Inlet).”

It was unseasonably warm Oct. 9 with water temperatures in the mid-70s, so Harrington used live shrimp with jigheads instead of artificial lures.

Harrington said as fall progresses and water temperatures drop, he’ll switch to artificial lures, including small MirrOlures.

“They just hit like crazy when the temperature is so cold your line guides freeze up,” he said. “The colder the better the artificial lure bite. I also like to use Fin-S (soft-plastic) lures then. But when the water temp is above 70 degrees, live shrimp are good baits, along with menhaden, even small pinfish.”

Seven-foot rods spooled with  10-pound braided line and 2 feet of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon make up his fishing outfits.

“I like Hank Brown jigs in 1/2- and 3/8-ounce weights when we’re fishing creeks with heavier current,” Harrington said. “When the current’s a little lighter, I like 1/4-ounce jigheads.”

Harrington, who has a 23-foot Contender center-console fishing platform powered by twin Yamaha 150-horsepower outboards, basically likes to fish the outgoing tide.

“The tide moves (south) from the Neuse River (toward Beaufort and Morehead City) and sweeps baitfish, and the specks, reds and other fish follow them during October and November,” he said.

Harrington lets the tide drift his boat slowly south with his anglers casting shrimp-baited jigs toward the shoreline. A slow bottom-bumping retrieve was the best technique. The only problem was differentiating between pinfish nibbles and trout bites, although that became evident after the speck attack upon speck attack for four hours.

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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