Maybe you’ve heard of Muskellunge called a “Fish of 10,000 casts” before? I’ll submit my request to add a fish to that, read on and you will see why.
We speckled trout junkies are kind of a small fraternity. There are a few sickos who would rather pursue a gator trout than 10X that many redfish or other species, and we tend to seek each other out and commiserate over our lack of understanding the behaviors of our muse – the elusive gator trout. Ralph has made me into one of those – and one of my fellow junkies is Justin Carter of Redfin Charters here in Charleston. Justin is famous here in Charleston for catching a 10 lb trout here a couple years ago on a TroutEye jighead. He regularly puts 20+ inch trout in the boat (catch & release, by the way) and definitely has put the effort in more than anyone I know in terms of pursuing the truly big trout in this area.
Just to be clear, we are talking about the pursuit of “gator” trout, let’s say, 23″ and up. These are a whole other level than catching “good” trout. A big trout is almost always female and almost always a loner. They don’t run in schools and you are unlikely to catch more than one in a particular spot. To catch them on artificial lures is something to be really proud of, and anyone who can do it consistently I would say is probably a hell of a good angler.
We have both admired Ricky Kellum, a.k.a the Specked Specialist out of Jacksonville, NC via social media and discussed chartering him to try to learn more about how he does it. The thing I find interesting about Ricky is I can tell by the background in a lot of his pics that he is fishing brackish water a lot of the time. This is what I do regularly and the areas I’m fishing look almost exactly the same as his.
We set a date and that was Dec 11. It turns out that it was the day after the “winter storm of a generation” hit North Carolina – mostly the western part of NC – but a bunch of rain had passed through the prior 3 days and the forecast was calling for 15 kt winds and high pressure. Needless to say, our expectations were really low going into this. But, we reminded ourselves that we were there to learn, first and foremost.
We left the landing dressed for the 35 deg weather and headed to a spot that produced a winning trout in a recent tournament. Ricky explained that the area was known for trophy trout and that it could also humiliate us. A friend relayed that they had fished for many hours and had a 30 minute period when they bit. To our expectation the bite was very shut off and we didn’t have even a bite for a couple hours. And that was Justin with a largemouth bass and I followed with a pickerel shortly after – if that tells you how fresh the water was.
Our day consisted of casting, a lot. And trying different spots and patterns. And casting. And casting.
We eventually found an area that held a few small trout – the trout were often hitting the lures without eating them – a tell tale sign of a negative fish.
It literally wasn’t until the last hour of daylight that Ricky set the hook on a fish, and when it came over the bow it was a real hammer. Estimated at 6 lbs. Big trout. And foul hooked – another sign of a negative bite.
A few casts later I thought I might have felt a bite (or bottom, after that many casts you tend to get lulled into a stupor) then I got the hit I was looking for. Set the hook and …. missed it…Ugh. It felt heavy…
Justin had a couple similar swings and misses. He was throwing a Mirrolure and it was probably the same thing where the fish didn’t really take the lure.
At almost the last minute I finally had a thump and landed a real nice trout, probably 23-24 inches. Not gonna lie, that felt good!
In the end our bite window was….30 minutes give or take. Go figure!
We called it a day as the sun went down. A long day, for just a few fish. But, I will say that despite the tough bite and conditions, that Ricky was upbeat and positive the whole time. He worked really hard to put us on some big trout. Really looking forward to fishing with him again hopefully soon. If you’re able, we would highly recommend him as guide.
Post-front, post rain, high pressure, freezing cold, gator trout – another Fish of 10,000 casts? I submit my vote. Worth it? Of course!