Trout and redfish are active again

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By Jeffrey Weeks, Fishing Correspondent

After a bit of a lull, speckled trout and redfish seem to be hitting again along the Brunswick County coast and in upper South Carolina. The speckled trout and redfish bite is still inshore, along the marsh flats and waterway holes on the low tides and warmer days.
“Trout are still hanging around,” said Capt. Jacob Frick of J & J Charters, Ocean Isle Beach. “Redfish need to be targeted around the lower tides. Water temperature is near 60 degrees and a few flounder should start to wake up.”
Trout and redfish can be targeted now to great effect with the scented soft baits from Gulp and DOA. Topwater plugs might work in the morning. Redfish will be on the mud banks during low tide in the warmest water eating fiddler crabs and hiding from dolphins. Trout will be in some deeper holes (5 to 15 feet) ambushing whatever bait is in the water.
Slow retrieves are still called for when chasing trout and red drum. If you are fishing for flounder, you should be crawling your lure or hopping it at an extremely slow pace with lots of starts and stops.
“It looks like it could be a very early start this year,” Frick said. “Small fry are extremely thick in the natural canals and I hope that is a sign that mullet minnows will show early this year. The water temperature was at 58 degrees today and looking at the future weather pattern, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Lining up the falling tide is still going to be the best time to go right now, getting the most benefit of warmer water draining off the shallow flats.”
Flounder will show up first around hard structures and spread out on the marsh and mud flats. Even though it is March, flounder, like redfish, will be in shallow water as well as the deeper holes. It is clear you want to be fishing a moving tide.
 “The fish seem to still be holding in deeper water off the ICW and working up along the grass edges to feed on rising tides,” said Capt. Mark Dickson, Shallow Minded Fishing Charters in North Myrtle Beach. “Gulp baits and live mud minnows fished on Mission Fishin’ jigs continue to yield the best results.”
Mud minnows are available for cast netting on low tide in the creeks, and some tackle stores have them for sale. One reason to fish them on jigheads and not on a Carolina rig is that you can keep them moving (slowly) and you have a great feel for the bait, which lets you move them off of blue crabs, which will quickly grab your mud minnow and eat out the insides.
Ironically, the worst enemy of anglers this winter was the wind and not the cold. That is unlikely to change anytime soon and boaters going after inshore or offshore fish need to watch the wind forecast as much as anything. It has already been an early year for storms, as well, so don’t go far without checking the radar.
The full moon is this week, and in addition to the daytime action, the nights around the full moon have always been my favorite black drum fishing times. If you can find some structure with a lot of pilings, like a dock or bridge or pier where one black drum is hanging out, you can find a lot of them.
On full moon nights, they tend to hit harder (I think it is because they can also see the bait as well as smell it) and cut shrimp or clam meat is all you need to hook them. Fiddler crabs and cut blue crab will work as well. Your rig should be on or close to the bottom.
With the warming water the size of the fish caught will increase as well. Many anglers are eager to try the new LIVETARGET plugs that closely imitate pinfish and mullet, two key baitfish for big speckled trout in the spring. Other trout fanatics will stick to the MirrOlure brand, which continues to put out effective new plugs while still producing the old standbys that have always worked for trout.
It will be interesting to compare the LIVETARGET and MirrOlure plugs on mornings when the larger trout arrive. If you want to take a look at the new plugs, you can see them on my website at www.surfandsalt.com.
There have also been a few early reports of sea mullet (whiting) from the beaches. Sea mullet are usually the first and best thing going once the piers open. Fresh or frozen shrimp, squid, Fishbites bloodworms or even fresh cut bait will take sea mullet for early surf fishermen. Fresh cut bait on the bottom will also catch snapper bluefish when they begin arriving.
In the meantime, concentrate your fishing for redfish, trout and flounder around the creeks and flats and the moving tides. Low to high or high to low is not as important as having a good current going, which is when you are going to find the fish active and biting.

Jeffrey Weeks, author of “Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” 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.