Spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus — aka speckled trout or specks — are found in the surf from Hilton Head, S.C. to Corolla, N.C., and beyond. They gather in schools and feed on shrimp, minnows, smaller fish and crabs on the bottom and suspended in the water column. Anglers Luke Horn and Allen Lakey believe specks can be voracious when they are feeding, and once excited, will hit a variety of baits and lures.
Pier fishermen use a combination of live and artificial baits to catch specks. Live baits are fished under float, anchored or on live-line rigs. Horn often catches limits using live baits and then switches to soft plastics, with jigheads and single hooks, for releasing trout more quickly and easily.
While specks can be caught along the entire Carolinas coast, the waters between North Carolina’s Cape Fear to South Carolina’s Cape Romain are hot spots. Some fishermen believe this is because of all the bait flushed into the ocean on falling tides through the Cape Fear River at Southport, N.C., and the Waccamaw, Black, North and South Santee rivers at Georgetown, S.C., plus the many small inlets between. Trout are typically in the surf from late April until at least Thanksgiving, but they begin to spawn in late April, and lots of males gather around females from then into the summer.