New River specks warming up

Enhanced New River oyster habitat and a warm winter should help guide Ricky Kellum find more spotted seatrout during April.
Enhanced New River oyster habitat and a warm winter should help guide Ricky Kellum find more spotted seatrout during April.

Lack of extreme cold promises prime speck season

North Carolina didn’t experience bone-chilling, cold-stun fish kills this past winter. So spotted seatrout fishing should be extraordinary this spring, especially from Jacksonville to New River Inlet.

“April is when the trout bite really turns on,” said guide Ricky Kellum, “especially since we didn’t lose any fish this winter.

“Trout start moving out of creeks and toward the main river by April, but there still will be fish in creeks toward Sneads Ferry, such as Duck, Frenchs, Stones and Mill.”

But the main attraction will be topwater fishing at main-river points, he said.

“The main body of the river is where I’ll try first because baitfish will be out there,” said Kellum (910-330-2745). “Finger mullet will be in the river in April.”

April may be Kellum’s favorite because topwater fishing heats up.

Focus on banks and sand flats

“The topwater bite is best on the banks of the river and sand flats,” he said. “The only reason fish are out there is that’s where the bait will be. That water gets warm because it’s shallow. So that bite is controlled by temperature — whether it’s sunny and warm or cold and cloudy — and baitfish schools.”

His favorite river trout lure is a Zara Spook Jr., white body/charteuse head. But he also likes the bone color, a shade of ivory.

“I also like a MirrOlure 808, which is orange and gold. It not only catches trout, but red drum in the main river,” said Kellum, who also fishes Catch 2000 suspending lures and 17 MR MirrOlures in electric chicken color.

“Trout also always will hit the Betts Halo Shad,” he said. “Any kind of shrimp-imposter lure also will be good,” he said. “I like to throw a 5-inch Zoom Golden bream without any weight. If I’m fishing the flats where I know I won’t get hung up, I’ll put a soft-plastic Fluke or paddletail lure on a 3/16-ounce jighead.”

Kellum expects fishing to get a boost in 2019 from the 26-mile “Oyster Highway” — a project started in 2018 to place oyster rocks and young oysters in the New River to create a chain of oyster reefs. The major goal is to grow more oysters to filter the river’s water, but oyster bars and reefs also provide excellent habitat for many fish species.

“I know they put a ton of oyster rocks in the river last year,” he said. “The current reef put in the river (AR-398) has been a great place to find all kinds of gamefish.”

Craig Holt
About Craig Holt 1276 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.