08/09/13 — Outdoors: Speckled trout not just a winter fishing option

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Outdoors: Speckled trout not just a winter fishing option

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on August 9, 2013 1:48 PM

It has always been a mystery to me why so many anglers consider speckled trout to be wintertime fish. I've always had good luck catching them in summer. August seems to be the best month for catching speckled trout, at least as far as I'm concerned.

By the time September rolls around, hunting seasons open and at that point, I kiss speck fishing goodbye, switching fishing rods for guns and bows and arrows.

My neighbor, Corey Durako, was showing off his catch of speckled trout made just prior to the full moon. One weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces and he and a friend had three other fish in their four fish each, two-man limit that weighed more than the NCDMF citation weight of 5 pounds. If that won't get your attention, you are simply not a pursuer of specks.

Although I had lots of work to do, I really wanted to be on the Cape Fear River the next morning to give specks a go. There were deadlines to meet, but I woke up spontaneously before dawn and could not get the images of those super-sized specks out of my mind.

Without even a taking a shower, I pulled on some fishing clothes, loaded the boat and headed down the river, rushing to beat the daylight. Summer specks are early risers and the biggest fish usually stop biting when the sun rises over the trees along the bank.

Biologists have told me that Pamlico Sound is the northern range of speckled trout, which they call spotted seatrout. Trout around here are therefore subject to winterkill during cold weather events that last more than a week or two.

After such events, speck fishing goes bust for a while. But the rapidly growing, enormously fecund fish reproduce rapidly to refill the estuaries' depleted account with more specks. They spawn at around age 1 and 10 inches in length and begin laying eggs in May or June. After that, they spawn continuously as long as the water stays warm. A female can attain the citation weight in just three years. For males, it takes a year or two longer.

It make sense when you think about it. The really great speckled trout fishing occurs in Louisiana, Florida and Texas. Their limits are higher and the sizes of their fish make the eyes pop out of the heads of North Carolina anglers who head to the Deep South for a change of scenery.

I had no illusions that I would duplicate Corey's catch, which he said totaled perhaps 60 fish, all of which except the eight fish were released. But, I headed at top speed, racing the daylight for my favorite fishing hole.

Mullet schools were working the bank. I could just make them out in the graying dawn. Big splashes behind them drove the mullet toward the grassy cover along the banks where they leaped from the water to escape predatory fish lunging at them from below.

I threaded a scented soft plastic lure onto a jig head and made a cast. The 10-pound braid slipped through the line guides and the lure made a gentle landing just behind a boiling mullet school.

The first speck struck the lure on the first cast of the day and the fish would also turn out to be the biggest. The fish was 19 inches long and weighed about three pounds. The fat female fought hard on the light spinning rig, but inevitably was lifted from the water by my landing net.

It wasn't long before she was joined by a 16-incher and a 15-incher. After that, the mullet rode the rising tide into the grass where they were hidden from predatory fish.

I kept casting anyway, finishing the morning with a total of 15 fish, of which only the three were 14-inches or longer making them legal fish to retain. It wasn't even 8 a.m. when I headed for home, rushing to meet the workday as quickly as I had departed, my cooler filled with enough fat specks to cook for lunch and with plenty left over for supper.