Fish Post

Tidelines – November 16, 2017

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I’ve written before of the simple beauty and reward of drifting a live shrimp under a bobber, and once again it was Capt. Kyle Hughes, of Speckulator Inshore Fishing Charters out of Ocean Isle Beach, that provided one of those mornings of fishing Zen.

If experience counts, then Kyle’s the right person for the job. I’m the English side of the brain, so it helped to have Adam Meyer, one of the two partners of Wells Marine Insurance, on board to assist with the simple math. Kyle does about 150 trips a year (low ball number), on each trip he probably puts about 100 shrimp on a treble hook over the course of the day for his clients (very low ball number), and he’s been guiding for 15 years.

That’s a minimum of 225,000 shrimp that have been hooked on a treble and floated under a bobber thanks to Kyle, so every fall when the trout bite turns on, I’m happy to sacrifice at least 100 more in search of some quality speckled trout for the cooler.

Adam, Kyle, and I pulled off plane well in advance of our first stop, so we could quietly idle up and get in position a little off a grass line where the current clearly created a rip about 20’ down from the boat and then continued on past a little drainage creek.

While Kyle liked the rip and the drainage creek, what he really liked was the contour change under the water’s surface. The water depth along the grass line was about 3-5’ deep, but then it quickly dropped down (in less distance than a boat length) to 8-9’.

Along this contour change, Kyle predicted, was where the trout were going to be, and about 25’ into my first drift the bobber went down. The telltale head shaking told Kyle and I that it was trout, and the heavy bend in the rod and the short bursts of drag indicated that chances were high that it was going to be a keeper trout.

Keeper trout it was, and while I was lazily letting Kyle remove my trout from his landing net, Adam found another trout, his much further into his drift with the bobber disappearing on the far side of the drainage creek.


Adam Meyer and Gary Hurley with a few of the speckled trout (and a black drum) they caught while drifting live shrimp under a bobber in the Sunset Beach area. They were fishing with Capt. Kyle Hughes of Speckulator Inshore Fishing Charters.

Adam and I weren’t sure how many fish we wanted to keep, so Kyle turned on the livewell to stage our fish for culling and releasing.

While the typical float rig is simple, Kyle has had enough time over the last 15 years to break down and analyze every aspect of the rig—what works and what doesn’t.

For starters, he likes a 3/8 oz. weight, as 3/8 oz. is almost always sufficient for the depth of water and speed of current flow found in most inshore situations. Too light of a weight doesn’t get the shrimp down in the water column to where it needs to be. Kyle likes to target the bottom third of the water column, as that’s where the fish typically are, or at least that’s a good starting point for finding where the fish will be that day.

Too heavy of a weight, say a 3/4 oz., is better than too light, but he likes to limit the profile of his terminal tackle whenever he can when targeting the oft-finicky specks.

His standard hook is an Eagle Claw 3X treble. The 4X model is a little too visible in the water, and the increased size of the hook makes more disruption when hooking the shrimp. The 2X is better than the 4X for trouting, but the 3X is the size that comes in a black nickel finish, and Kyle’s found that hooks with this finish don’t corrode and he can keep the same hooks on for days.

It’s always fluorocarbon that he ties on, switching back and forth between 12 lb. and 15 lb., and the typical length of leader is roughly 18”.

His favorite right now is a Billy Bay bobber, as they are a smaller float, and he always uses rigging floss to create his bobber stopper (cut a 6-8” piece, make a loop parallel down the line, and take the tag end and go through the loop several times).

Adam and I kept drifting shrimp. Sometimes the bobber would go under and there would be no fish when trying to set the hook. If the shrimp was cut in two, then a bait stealer (such as a pinfish) was the suspect. When the shrimp came back whole and intact, then a missed trout bite was the call.

Luckily for us that day, more times than not the bobber went down and stayed down, our shrimp swallowed in its entirety by a two-toothed speckled trout.

Does Kyle float live shrimp under a bobber all year round?

“Whenever I can get them,” he replied, noting that shrimp in the Ocean Isle area are basically available from May through December.

Does Kyle catch trout year round?

“Yes. August isn’t prime time for trout, but we can catch them even then. May and June is the best time to target the biggest trout of the year, and we can catch big ones in the fall, too,” he answered, pulling up his anchor stick and heading us to the next location.

At mine and Adam’s request, Kyle took us on a small tour of the Sunset Beach area, catching trout between docks, around the inlet, near shelly banks, and along grass lines and other locales.

If having a disappearing bobber announce a trout (or red drum, black drum, or flounder) is on the line sounds like a good time to you, then check out more information on Capt. Kyle Hughes and Speckulator Inshore Fishing Charters by visiting, or give him a call at (910) 840-7186.

By my English-side math calculations, Kyle’s not far from hooking his one millionth shrimp on a treble hook, and rumor has it (purely rumor, and started erroneously by me) that the client on the boat that gets handed the millionth hooked shrimp will win his Triton bay boat.