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Last week I wrote about the nice redfish bite, and how those drum have been providing nonstop action all winter and into the early spring for local fishing guides like Capt. Mark Dickson.
This week, I asked Dickson about the emerging speckled trout bite, since specks are a fish that anglers’ thoughts turn to in April the way a second baseman’s thoughts turn to base hits.
According to Dickson, who runs Shallow Minded Inshore Charters out of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and fishes lower Brunswick County often, the smaller trout are active in our waters right now. He said when the rain and wind will let him get out, he’s seeing good numbers of these “spike” specks already, while with the bigger fish will come as the water warms.
The smaller trout usually run between 12 and 14 inches and can still put up a nice fight on light tackle.
“They’re feeding right now,” Dickson says, “and if you can find them you can really hammer them. We got 18 the other day. They’re really in that pre-spawn mode.”
Dickson says the larger females will become active as the water temperature rises with the season.
“Most of the ones we’re getting right now are the smaller ones,” he says. “Down in lower South Carolina, where they’re running a water temperature 5 or 6 degrees higher than us, I have a buddy catching nice 5- and 6-pounders.”
Once our temperatures rise, the big trout move out of inshore waters and spawn off the beach. That’s when Dickson says pier and surf anglers have their best luck, while he’ll take his clients to the jetties.
“We’ll catch the big ones on the jetties in late April,” he says. “By June, they’ll be all spawned out.”
Dickson’s biggest obstacle has been the weather, with the wind and rain playing havoc with the schedules of local fishing guides. He said he’s had to cancel quite a few charters. He also watches the tide closely, as speck bites only occur when a strong current gets the bait stirred up.
“The best bait has been the Betts Billy Bay Halo Shrimp,” he says. “I’ve been using them with up to a ½-ounce lead head. The trout bite when the water is really moving, and with the currents I’ve been fishing, the heavier jig heads will work better than the usual ¼-ounce size.”
Trout anglers guard their secrets well, but I was able to get Dickson to describe the retrieval he’s been using recently with the Billy Bay Shrimp grubs.
“How I work these baits varies, and the fish do not want it the same way every day. But I’ve been having a lot of success casting it up current and letting it sink and settle. I let it sit, then I pop it real hard once. It has action just like a real shrimp, and those legs on the Halo baits will shimmy in the water.
“You have to pop it to let them know it’s there, but you don’t do too much. Nine times out of 10 the trout will hit it as it falls back into the water.”
Dickson also says the color of the shrimp lures matters.
“If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use,” he says, referring to the color many speck veterans like to go to when the going gets tough. Personally, chartreuse lures have always occupied a large section of my tackle box as I’ve always seen their effectiveness on trout.
Dickson is hoping for better weather in April.
“The wind has howled this month,” he said. “Makes it tough.”
Right now the piers are reporting minimal action because of water temperatures that still hover around the 40s. Hopefully, as the spring trout bites turn from the smaller guys to the big sows, the going will get a lot easier.
To arrange a local trip with Capt. Mark Dickson, call him at (843) 458-3055.