In the summer, charter fishing clients frequently ask, “What do you do around here in the winter? Is there anything to fish for then?”
These questions always bring a smile to my face because—as all resident anglers know—winter on Hilton Head Island offers some of the best fishing of the year. Cooler weather brings cooler water temperatures, and the murky summer water turns a clear green. Put away the big nets and heavier tackle and break out the light rods and artificials—it’s trout time!
Speckled or spotted sea trout—known locally as “specks”—are here year-round, but not in the numbers found at this time of year. (Maybe they are here in abundance throughout the year and the cooler water brings out a voracious appetite. Like a lot of things related to fishing, I don’t always try to figure it out. It just is.)
There are days this time of year that every cast results in a rod-jarring strike followed by a spirited battle with lots of top water head shaking. Reeling in speckleds offers a lively, rewarding adventure.
Silvery iridescent and covered with black spots, the sleek specks average a pound or two, but fish in the three- to five-pound range are not uncommon. These bigger fish, often called “gators,” will literally take the rod out of your hand if you’re not careful.
As I said earlier, the sea trout strike is anything but gentle. To ensure the prey doesn’t get away, trout are armed with a set of fangs that are quite impressive.
So, how do you catch local sea trout? Hard plastic swimming baits, such as Mirrorlures, are productive but, more often than not, I prefer the soft plastic tails on a quarter-ounce jig head. There are many varieties and colors, paddle tails, screw tails and just plain straight tails. When fished properly, all can bring success.
A growing number of companies are incorporating scent into plastic lures. Gulp and DOA are some of the better-known brands and have proven their fish-attracting properties for some time now. One of my favorite colors is aptly named the Christmas Tree, which fits right in with the spirit of the holidays celebrated during trout season.
While everyone else is decorating and shopping, I’m tossing the Christmas Tree at speckleds. If the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is getting to you, give me a call and I’ll put you on some of best fishing the Lowcountry has to offer!
Written by Captain Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters who has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new Finatic boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at 843-290-6955 or visit www.bayrunnerfishinghiltonhead.com to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip departing from Shelter Cove Harbour Marina.