Even though autumn officially started last month, October is the month most anticipated when it comes to saltwater fishing along the border between the Carolinas, especially where speckled trout are concerned.

North Carolina and South Carolina are home to specks throughout the year, but the spring and fall transitions are when anglers will rarely have a dull moment on the water, especially in the estuaries just to the north and south of Little River Inlet. 

Guide Kyle Hughes of Speckulator Inshore Fishing Charters fishes the Little River area, plus almost every creek north to Lockwood Folly River near Holden Beach, N.C. 

“For me, October can be fantastic, but the real question is when in October,” said Hughes (940-840-7186). “Once the water temperatures dip into the mid-60s, the trout start bunching up, and the bite kicks off.”

Hughes begins targeting his fall trout, which are generally in the major creeks and rivers close to the Intracoastal Waterway. He avoids the Little River Inlet jetties early in the season. 

“The water temperatures in the creeks begin to fall first, well before the ocean; that makes the inshore waters better places to find trout in October,” said Hughes, who targets main creeks and rivers such as Dunn Sound, Calabash River, Shallotte River and Lockwood Folly River as well as Dunn Sound and the ICW itself. “These are all good options this time of year when the trout begin to crank up their feeding as they enter into the seasonal cool down.” 

Trout generally eat about anything they can, but shrimp, mullet, menhaden and small fish are staple forages throughout the year when available. Hughes looks for trout ambushing bait along points, creek mouths and eddies in creek bends. The forage species will congregate along main thoroughfares after getting washed inside and outside of smaller tributaries. 

Hughes’ tackle choice rarely changes much; floating live shrimp is his go-to tactic. He sets all of his slip bobbers to drift live shrimp into the lower third of the water column, but he will also keep a few rods rigged with artificial lures, especially a topwater plug or two. 

“Trout get aggressive in October, and a topwater plug can be irresistible. I always have some in the boat, especially on cloudy, overcast days,” he said. 

The trout fishing begins to take off this month in the Little River area and should continue towards the Christmas holiday.