Showtime specks in Cape Fear backwaters

speckled trout
Lots of chunky speckled trout feed heavily in the Cape Fear backwaters this month.

Citation-sized trout are abundant in June

June is a great time to catch larger speckled trout in the backwaters around the Cape Fear River. Typically it will be fewer trout than in the fall, but more of them will be larger fish, with a surprising number surpassing the 5-pound minimum for an outstanding catch citation or 24-inch minimum for a live release citation.

June is the peak of the speckled trout spawn in southern N.C. and many large sow trout are active and feeding. Good numbers of males and other smaller trout are also present.

They may be along the ocean beaches, around creek mouths and points of the many marshes, around rip rap and other structure of the spoil islands along the Cape Fear River Ship Channel and along the few jetties and breakwaters.

Capt. Tommy Rickman of Southport Angler Outfitters Guide Service ( in Southport said, “This is an excellent time to catch trout. There is also a good possibility of catching a big trout. Spawning keeps them busy and makes them hungry. And they enjoy feeding on live shrimp that are also making their way into the backwaters to spawn.”

Speckled trout love live shrimp

Rickman said fishing live shrimp under floats is one of his favorite ways to catch trout and even works well for fishermen just learning to cast. Simply anchor up current of the feeding trout, and drift live shrimp back to them. He said a prime key to being successful at this is finding the depth where the trout are feeding and adjusting the leader to hold the bait there.

Rickman likes the Billy Bay adjustable-depth Lowcountry Lightning Floats from Betts Tackle. He said everything you need to make the cork adjustable is in the package. And anglers can adjust the depth of the bait in seconds. Rickman typically begins with the bait suspended about a foot above the bottom. But if he isn’t getting strikes, he can quickly and easily adjust the bait shallower or deeper. This also works with soft plastic baits when live baits aren’t available.

“Sometimes June trout are feeding aggressively and you can catch them using topwater lures,” Rickman said. “It takes a little practice to learn the walking-the-dog retrieve motion. But it isn’t difficult. This is definitely the most exciting way to catch trout as they often make big splashes when hitting the lure. Twitching soft plastics and suspending lures or working diving hard baits through the water column will also catch trout.”

The probability is good this month to see some specks at and above citation size. Live shrimp are almost foolproof and a variety of soft and hard lures makes a good second choice.

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About Jerry Dilsaver 1144 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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