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Gearing Up For Fall Speckled Trout Fishing

Featured in Coastal Angler Magazine
The Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort and Cape Lookout areas have some of the best speckled trout fishing that can be done on the East Coast. From late September into the winter is the prime time to get in on this great speckled trout action. Remember, current NC regs require a speckled trout to be at least 14 inches in length and you can keep 4 per person. A spec weighing over 5 lbs will get you a North Carolina Citation. This size fish is usually not hard to come by on the Crystal Coast.
Haystack’s Marsh, Core Creek, Middle Marsh, Hoop Pole Creek, North River Marsh, Spooner’s Creek, Broad Creek, Gales Creek and School House Creek are all great areas to start looking for speckled trout from late September into November. The Top Spot Morehead City Inshore Map has all these areas marked; this is a great map to have on your boat.
When fishing these areas, baitfish is the first thing you have to find. If there is bait around, there will be speckled trout around; look for live shrimp popping on top, as well as live mud minnows or live finger mullet. Most of the areas listed above are marsh areas or a creek that has bridges and docks in it.

The trout will stage up in the deeper water in these areas and come up into the shallows to feed. Now, when I say deeper water, it’s still usually not over 6 feet deep where they will be holding. They love to be around some kind of structure: bridges, boat docks, grass beds and oyster bars are great places to be looking for specs from late September through November.
The ditches that run through the marsh area are always great places to try. They actually flow through the marsh grass and are the deepest parts of the marsh systems, because of the current flowing through them. Trout love to stage up in the ditches and ambush bait that is being pushed through with the current. The Haystack’s Marsh, Hoop Pole Creek Marsh, North River Marsh and Middle Marsh have some great ditches that flows all the way through and hold speckled trout. They don’t really mind current, they like moving water…that’s where they like to feed.
As the water cools down in mid-October some of the trout will start to move, heading toward the ocean waters. Not all of the trout come out of the inshore waters but a lot of them will make their move to areas like Radio Island’s Rock Jetty, Fort Macon Rock Jetty, Shackleford Bank’s Rock Jetty, Atlantic Beach Surf Zone, Shackleford Bank’s Surf Zone, Ruff Point and Cape Lookout Rock Jetty. Again, the Top Spot Morehead City Inshore Map has all the spots listed on it.
Then, as it cools down even more in November, we will start catching speckled trout coming out of Core Sound, Pamlico Sound and other areas up north of us. Speckled trout are usually in these areas until late December. It all depends on the water temperatures, how cold it gets or how warm it stays. The Cape Lookout Rock Jetty has held trout up into January in most years past. It’s the biggest Rock Jetty and it has the deepest water of any jetty in this area. There are days in late October through December that you can find 200 boats on that jetty with everybody catching speckled trout. Yes, it does change from year to year but when the Cape Lookout Rock Jetty is on fire, it is the best spot you can fish. When fishing any of the rock jetties it’s kind of a no-brainer. You will need to be fishing the rocks right on the jetty because that’s where the fish are. You do need to pay attention to the tides that you are fishing, so you can determine which tides are doing the best. If you can’t figure this out you can pattern the fish on when they are going to be feeding the best.
The Atlantic Beach and Shackleford Beach surf zones can be great places to find speckled trout in the fall. When fishing the surf you want to be looking for sloughs along the beaches. A slough is a sand bar with a deep hole then a sand bar on the other side of the deep water. The deep holes are where you will find the trout. They will stage up in the holes to ambush bait moving up and down the surf zone. There are times the trout will be right up against the beach feeding on bait.
Artificial lures and live baits will both catch Speckled Trout. Yes, live baits are probably the easiest way to catch them but you can get just as many on artificial baits. I’ve seen 9 lb fish caught on both!
Let’s talk about the best artificial lures first. There are lots of lures out there but some work better than others. MirrOlures have caught more trout over the years than anything else. Great MirrOlure baits are 52M, 52MR, TT, S52MR, STTR, 17MR, 19MR, 27MR and Catch 2000. They all do about the same thing in the water but some rattle, some sink faster and some suspend. You’ll have to experiment to see which works best for the spots you are fishing.
Sometimes you need your bait to suspend in the water column or you need it to sink faster because the water might be deeper or the current might be running hard. The hottest MirrOlure bait over the last two years has been the 17MR and 27MR. They are suspending shad-shaped baits that have been very hot in the creeks and marsh areas. MirrOlures come in tons of colors but these are always great choices for this area: 808, 26, EC, 11, 18 and MGBG. One thing you have to remember when fishing a MirrOlure of any kind is: you cannot fish it too slow!  When you think you are fishing it slow enough, slow down even more. All you need to do is make very short snaps with the tip of your rod or just reel the lure “real slow” through the water column and let the lure do all the work.
Berkley Gulp is also a great choice for trout. I think any Gulp bait you can buy will catch fish. But it seems the best for the speckled trout is a 3” Shrimp in the New Penny or Pearl White colors. You can’t go wrong with either, fished on a jig head from 3/16 oz to ½ oz depending on the water depth you are fishing. Always remember you want to fish the lightest head you can get by with, but you need to be on the bottom or somewhere near it.
Billy Bay Halo Shrimp, DOA Shrimp and Strom Shrimp are all great lures to use also. Some of the best colors are Glow, Clear Silver Sparkle, Pink, Clear Red Sparkle, Pink Silver Flake and Gold Sparkle.
There are tons of soft plastics that will work but some of the best over the years have been; Gotcha 4” Curly Tails, DOA Jerk Shads, DOA Paddle Tails, Lil’ Fishies, Trout Killers, Tsunami Swim Baits and Storm Baits.
Now to live bait. Live shrimp is the best live bait you can use for speckled trout. When using live shrimp you can fish them on the bottom with a ¼ oz to 1/2 oz egg weight fished in a Carolina rig. But by far, the most popular way to fish a live shrimp is under a slip float. The slip float works best because you can set your depth at any setting and still be able to make a cast. You can fish it in 2 ft to 30ft of water, which is great for fishing around any rock jetty. One of the biggest key in live bait fishing for trout is a good 10-20 lb. fluorocarbon leader and a good hook. I like a # 8 treble or an Owner 1/0 Mosquito hook.
By December, the live shrimp will start to disappear. After the shrimp are gone, the live bait choice will be live mud minnows. The trout will really start to key in on the mud minnows because that will be the only bait left for them to feed on. You fish them the same way as you would fish a live shrimp. As the water really cools down into the winter they are just about the only way to catch good numbers of speckled trout.
If you like to fish for speckled trout, I invite you come by my shop, Chasin’ Tails Outdoors and fish in “The 3rd Annual Speckled Trout Challenge”. It’s not like most trout tournaments in the area; it starts on October 1 and goes through Jan 31. You have four months to fish anywhere in North Carolina. Fish anytime, day or night, by land, pier, or boat (subject to stated tournament rules). The winner will be the entrant who has the biggest speckled trout weighed-in during those four months of fishing.
Each month we have a “Wild Card” where we pick a weight and whoever gets the closest to that weight wins. Last year we never picked a weight over 4 lbs, so everyone had a chance to win a free trout rod while still trying to catch the largest fish for the top prize. You can weigh in as many fish as you would like. The entry fee is just $50.00…not bad for 4 months of fishing and to be able to fish anytime you like.
Last year we paid out 6 places of money and prizes and there will be more prizes this year. First place took home over $1,000.00 for just a $50.00 entry fee. It’s an l00% pay-back tournament. Rules will soon be posted on our website To sign up or for more information come by Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, 613 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach, NC.
Capt. Matt Lamb
Chasin' Tails Outdoors
Atlantic Beach N.C