Pamlico Sound puppies and specks

The Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ is a great lure for specks in Pamlico Sound. (Photo by Carolina ALL OUT)

Targeting redfish and speckled trout on the Pamlico Sound

The past several winters in the Carolinas have been fairly mild, which is good news for speckled trout and the anglers that pursue them. And one of the top spots for catching them is the Pamlico Sound, according to Chris Douglas with Carolina ALL OUT.

When lucky enough to find both fishing guides available on the same day, Douglas likes to team up on the Pamlico Sound with Captains Scooter Lilley of CWW Charters and Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Guide Service.

The trio targets trout specifically, and because redfish also live in the same vicinities and have similar diets, they can always count on catching that species as well.

Soft plastic lures like Z-Man swimbaits are great choices. The specks are more willing to bite a convincing retrieve.

“These speckled trout tend to respond better to a jigging presentation versus a straight retrieve or swimming presentation,” said Andrews (252-945-9715).

This is true even when the lure of choice is a swimbait. Andrews said after making a cast, anglers should impart some jigging action during the retrieve.

“During the retrieve with a swimbait, you want to pop it and let it drop to the bottom,” he said.

He said it’s also important to keep a tight line throughout the retrieve. Specks and redfish often hit a lure while it’s falling, so keeping the line tight is important for detecting bites.

To put his preferred retrieve style into words, Andrews said to reel, then “pop, pop” a double jigging motion. Dropping the lure after the double pop very often draws a strike.

Don’t worry about getting too close to the banks when fishing for specks, which usually hang out in deeper holes off the shoreline. (Photo by Carolina ALL OUT)

Cast away

Another tip Andrews shares involves where to cast. Many anglers, he said, cast too close to the bank when targeting speckled trout.

“A lot of anglers cast it right along the bank. And these speckled trout are more likely to be the distance of two or three casts away from the banks,” he said.

So for anglers who are in a boat that puts them one cast away from the shore, they are usually better off casting in the opposite direction. That’s where anglers should really concentrate.

Adding a spinner to your soft plastic helps in areas with submerged grass. (Photo by Carolina ALL OUT)

But Andrews said anglers shouldn’t entirely ignore the bank. Puppy drum are often there, and willing to bite. And it’s not unheard of to hook a speck in those areas either, even though it’s less likely.

“Sometimes they’ll be in that 2 feet of water. But they spend more time out away from that, in some deeper holes,” he said.

While the red drum will also bite the same lures, Andrews said if you really want to target them, it’s best to use a spinnerbait lure. He prefers a 4-inch Z-Man DieZel swimbait on a 3/16-ounce jighead, clasped to a heavy wire with a ball bearing swivel and a spinning blade.

“Color isn’t all that important. They just like that flash,” he said.

One of the best times to use this lure is when you encounter subsurface grass. While fishing a swimbait without the blade, anglers will often get tangled in that grass while using the preffered retrieve for specks. But with the spinning blade, anglers can swim the lure in, keeping it above the grass while enticing bites from fish that are ambushing baitfish.

“It’s a good redfish bait in the grass beds. Just run it right over the grass, keeping it above the grass and below the surface,” said Andrews.

And while redfish are more likely to bite the spinning lure, speckled trout aren’t completely shut off by it. So no matter which way you’re fishing, you’ve got a chance to catch either species.

Scooter Lilley, Chris Douglas and Richard Andrews show off the spoils from a day on the Pamlico Sound. (Photo by Carolina ALL OUT)

It’s not one-and-done

Lilley said that no matter what you’re fishing with, or what species you catch, anglers should remember that these fish are rarely alone. So if your fishing partner hooks up, it’s always a good idea to cast to that same spot, even while your partner is fighting his fish.

And if you’re fishing alone, just keep good tabs on where your last bite came from. Don’t leave that area without at least trying a few more casts to that same spot. This can turn a slow day into a big day in quick fashion.

The best depth for targeting these fish can change throughout the day. These fish are constantly on the move, looking for baitfish. The tide, the sun, the cloud cover, and a number of other factors can push the fish from shallow to deep, and back to shallow. So if the bite slows down considerably, don’t be afraid to change where you are casting.

If the bite near the grass slows, cast away from the grass. If the bite near oyster bars slows, cast away from them. If the shallow water bite slows, cast into deeper water.

The good thing about fishing in the Pamlico Sound is that it is full of likely fish-holding spots. So even though the fish change locations throughout the day, anglers always have visible targets to cast to, as well as some areas like deeper holes, that aren’t readily visible with the naked eye.

Puppy drum are active in Pamlico Sound this month, and readily bite the same lures as trout. (Photo by Carolina ALL OUT)

What is a puppy drum

It’s not uncommon to hear anglers on the east coast refer to a certain size-class of redfish as “puppy drum.” So what exactly does this phrase mean?

The use of the term varies among anglers, but for most, calling a redfish a puppy drum means that it is a slot-sized redfish. Not too big, not too small.

When redfish get too big to legally keep, anglers in the Carolinas usually refer to them as bull reds, bull redfish, bull drum or old drum.

When redfish, (which are also known as red drum, channel bass and spottails), are too small to legally keep, they are often referred to as rat reds or rats.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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