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Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Success Starts Before Dawn

As you walk across the dunes, the sun’s glow is just below the horizon. It’s a crisp November morning. The water temperature is in the lower 60s. In front of you is a perfect spot for speckled trout to congregate on their beachfront migration.

The surf is barely waist high. You step into the water and your waders wrap glove-like around your legs. The current is moving to the left. Make a cast, slightly to the right to accommodate for the current. There are breaking waves just close enough to reach with a long cast. Just to the left of them the water is smoother.

Cast again into the edge of the breaking waves. Twitch, twitch reel.

The top crescent of the sun is just now peering over. Thump! You set the hook onto a solid fish. It turns and tries to run into deeper water but your drag is set properly and your knots are well tied. The fish bulldogs into a wave, you wait until the next one comes in. Get the fish swimming towards you and surf it onto the sand. A sleek 3-pounder.

This scenario is common wherever speckled trout are present on the North Carolina coast. Many people pursue them every year. Many are successful. Many more are not. The reasons for both are myriad.

The tackle, lures, location and timing all come into play. Get one of them wrong and you are out of the action. I am going to try to help the angler up his odds of success.

If you are a novice surf angler, this will dramatically close your learning curve. If you do this once a year on vacation, you will know some of these things, but there is more. If you are an accomplished speckled trout angler but don’t surf fish for some reason, this will be a way to take what you know and apply it differently. If you are a veteran surf angler who lives near the beach and fishes the run every day, give me a call and tell me what I’ve gotten wrong!

There is not enough space to give a comprehensive breakdown here, just a quick summation. A person could write a whole book about this subject. (I did actually. It’s called “Speckled Trout from the Surf,” and it’s available wherever you might buy a book online).

"Speckled Trout From the Surf" by Gordon Churchill

Start with the conditions. Ideally you want light winds or winds from behind. This will keep the surf down and allow the water to be clear. Not crystal clear, it gets difficult to fool them when it’s too clear. I guess it’s easier for them to see what’s wrong. Lower waves also make it easier to wade out a little farther, which means we can get our casts out past that bar. Sometimes those first three cranks of the reel handle are when you’ll get strike after strike while others, who may not be able to get out as far, won’t.

In that regard, let’s talk about gear that maximizes distance. You want a rod about 8 feet long with a fast action that is rated for 10- to 20-pound test line. Rig this with a light spinning reel in the 2500 size range. Fill your reel with 15-pound test braided line. This set up will allow you to cast light lures a long way.

But which lures should we be using?

I prefer to use a plug most of the time when surf fishing. I — and a lot of others — still prefer using the old style Mirrolure 52 MR. But there are lots of new options. The size XL Mirrodine plug by Mirrolure has been a popular choice that I’ll probably give a slot in my tackle box this year. The Rapala Sub Walk is a good option as well. What you want is something about 4 to 5 inches long with a compact shape and a little weight to it so it casts well without tumbling.

The bite will come when the sun is still low

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