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Beat the heat with speckled trout, pompano and flounder

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Inshore fishing continues in its hot-water summer pattern, meaning fish are being caught, although not much is happening in the heat of the day. The best bets now are early morning speckled trout, feisty pompano in the suds or flounder inside.

Speckled trout are staging runs, mostly before noon or around sunset. They can be caught from the piers, around the bridges and jetties or near the creek mouths. The best bait for the specks is live shrimp, which you can gather with your cast net from shore in many places. You can also catch finger mullet for use on the trout.

If you have live bait, a float rig is the best to use. The ones used on the pier feature a sliding slip knot so that the depth of the bait can be adjusted for the depth of the trout. Inshore, you just need to keep the shrimp or baitfish high in the water column so that pinfish don’t dine on it before the trout.

Many people fish for specks with artificial lures, and some folks use lures exclusively. Like live bait, they are going to be effective now when it is cooler and when the tide is moving at a brisk pace.

Top choices for specks are always MirrOlures and soft baits on jigheads. MirrOlures and other plugs target a large size fish, but there are a good number of big trout available in the summer. Soft baits such as Gulp baits and the various shrimp-imitating lures catch trout of all sizes.

The hotter the water, the more you want to slow your retrieve for trout. Although you don’t have to go it at an absolute crawl like in the dead of winter, you don’t want to be out there whipping your lures in and out of the water and wasting your time (and possibly falling out due to heat stroke) when the trout are sluggish.

Meanwhile, another good choice for summer anglers are pompano. You won’t find them at all the places inside that you will speckled trout, but they are readily available to pier anglers and surf fishermen right in and behind the sudsy water of the beach.

Some nice pompano have been caught up on the piers already this summer. Pompano get bigger than many people think, and they are absolutely terrific eating. Since they are a bottom fish of the shallows, they are very important fish in the summer for anglers to target from the piers when other species aren’t cooperating.

Pompano are most often caught by cut shrimp fished on a standard two-hook. If you have fresh shrimp from the seafood market, you’ll do better than fishermen using previously frozen shrimp.

An even better pompano bait are sand fleas, which can be gathered now in many places on the beach. The reason pompano are in the surf is to gobble up sand fleas, and many of those sand flea shells you see washed up on the beach are the result of hungry pompano. If you can dig (or get your kids to dig) a bunch of sand fleas, pompano can’t resist them.

Many fishermen like to use gold hooks for pompano, and it definitely doesn’t hurt. Like Spanish mackerel, pompano are a hot-weather fish attracted to the shine of gold in the water.

Also, don’t use more than 2 ounces of weight in the surf unless conditions are just terrible. Some folks use weights that are too big and very taxing in hot weather. It’s OK if your rig moves around a little in the surf. That’s probably a good thing.

The other big summer fish being caught now are flounder, which are active in all the usual places. Flounder aren’t exactly jumping into the boats or onto the piers, but they are out there.

The best bait for flounder, like trout, is live bait gathered from your cast net. Finger mullet are hard to beat. You can also buy live mud minnows. As with trout, if you are casting for flounder don’t be in a hurry to reel your rig in, but instead take your time and allow for the fish to be sluggish in the hot water.

The best thing about all three fish highlighting inshore catches right now—speckled trout, pompano, and flounder—is that they are all terrific on the table. No matter which species you decide to target, you should come away with some good eating.

JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at saltyweeks@gmail.com or follow updated fishing reports on his blog at http://saltyweeks.blogspot.com.