08/07/09 — Stars finally align for summer specks

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Stars finally align for summer specks

By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on August 7, 2009 1:46 PM

While freshwater anglers say the muskie is the fish of a 10,000 casts for saltwater fishermen, the old saying perfectly describes the speckled trout. Call it the spotted sea trout -- long or speck for short -- but the beautiful, tasty treat can be here today and gone tomorrow which makes it one of the most-maddening fish a coastal angler can pursue.

Sometimes the wind, tide, time of year, time off from work and time of day may help an angler corral a few trout. Such was the situation I recently noticed coming to fruition. Even the moon phase, which was stuck at "new moon," appeared to be aligning toward a successful trip for summertime specks.

I told my son Justin, who is home from UNCC for the summer and is helping me with researching the 100 chapters of my next book "Fishing North Carolina," that we needed to be up by 5 a.m. since summer specks often shut down as soon as the sunlight hits the water. Having listened to his "old man" as he calls me these days, he knew the chances of a good fishing trip were in the offing.

And, 56 isn't that old.

Before daylight we left the dock along the ICW near Carolina Beach and headed for open water. A marsh complex was brimming with the second-highest lunar tide period of July. Baitfish and shrimp stayed back in the grass and away from marauding specks guarding the edges like sentries as they waited for the tide to fall out. Out of the grass along with the falling water, the baitfish and minnows would become their breakfast.

No matter whether an angler thinks the odds may be in his favor or not, the very nature of the fish makes catching a single sea trout an iffy proposition. Something as simple as lure color or size can spell the difference between success and failure.

For this reason I usually fish with jigs, which are relatively inexpensive lures. You can buy huge volumes of them in various sizes, weights and colors, and won't go bankrupt like a fisherman who tries to fill a tackle box with hard plastic lures. Once the right color is discovered, a hard lure can catch lots of specks.

I always prospect with a jig first. Probing an oyster bed with a jig and getting it clipped may cost 30 cents, unless you're using a scent-impregnated soft plastic trailer that might cost a dollar. But even that economic loss pales in comparison to a snipped MirrOlure at $5 or better per pop.

Justin drew first blood while casting an old Wal-Mart bulk package, hot pink jig with a Christmas tree-colored soft plastic trailer with a chartreuse tail. It wasn't long afterward that my Berkley Gulp Nuclear Chicken scent-impregnated trailer hooked on a white jig head was stuck fast in the jaw of a big speck.

As the tide fell, shrimp and baitfish left the grass bed, milling in circles as the specks sliced through them. Boils told us where to cast. Strikes came as the jigs struck the water.

When casting for specks, it pays to cover lots of water. My theory is that the fish move fast, following the baitfish. Everywhere we saw baitfish showering, we cast. Most of those casts netted a speck or two before the school sounded or moved.

Whenever the bite slowed, we prospected for specks by casting around the area in an efficient, clock-face pattern until we located a feeding school of specks with a tap on the jig. The bite began sporadically at first then reached a crescendo as the waterline ebbed to the edge of the grass. The sun began to peek over the tree line and two of these hallmarks of a speck frenzy started shutting down the bite.

We moved the boat to deeper water, following the schools of baitfish still obviously under attack. The specks hemmed them up against an underwater drop-off that could be seen through polarized sunglasses.

Justin hooked the last fish of our two-man combined limit of 20 and I shot a short video to commemorate the occasion and put on my new Website. It's not usually easy to get him up that early to go fishing. But he's learning to read the signs when the stars align for specks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To contact Mike Marsh, order his books and for more outdoor information, visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com.