Fall speckled trout fishing is hitting its peak along the N.C. coast, and fewer places are hotter than the marshes and creeks across the Cape Fear River mouth from Southport.

"That big rain event (a tropical storm dumped 22 1/4 inches in one day on the Carolina Beach-Wilmington area) a couple weeks ago really muddied up the river and the speck fishing fell off, but now it's back to normal," said Wilmington guide Jeff Wolfe.

Wolfe has been taking clients in recent weeks, and they've racked up some impressive catches, including 24- and 30-fish days.

"If I've got (anglers) in the boat who aren't used to throwing artificial lures, I'll use live shrimp behind a popping cork," said Wolfe of Seahawk Inshore Charters (910-619-9580, http://www.seahawkinshorefishingcharters.com/). "If anglers can handle a rod, it's a bit more challenging, but a lot of fun and just as effective to use artificial lures."

On a recent trip, two visiting anglers used Gulp! Live Action Shrimp and Mud Minnows to catch speckled trout weighing up to 4 pounds. In a half-day of fishing, Wolfe and the two men landed two dozen specks.

"Red drum and flounder also will hit those lures," Wolfe said.

Speckled trout fishing should be hot until inshore waters cool down in late November.