Tidelines – March 22, 2018
When your charter business model relies heavily on helping anglers fill a cooler with a limit of speckled trout, then a trout closure until June 15 is bound to affect business.
You would think that Capt. Ricky Kellum, the Speckled Specialist, would be a little bitter about the policy, since he’s seen a steep drop-off in trips since the closure. However, on our day together covering water in Southwest Creek, a day he would have normally been booked with paying customers and wouldn’t have been able to take Fisherman’s Post on a “buddy” trip, Ricky was not only optimistic about the closure but was wishing that they had closed the fishery for longer.
We Power-Poled down at daybreak at the first location, a popular spot referred to as the Grand Jury, and Ricky handed John Metzger and me each a Cashion CRT rod with a Betts Billy Bay Halo Shrimp tied on, and he pointed out to the middle of the creek and reminded us to let the bait fall all the way to the bottom.
My soft plastic showed wear and tear, and Ricky smiled and said that it had been in the mouths of over 20 trout just the day before. Ricky wanted to try out a new bait he had seen, a Tsunami shrimp-imitation in chartreuse. He had liked the profile and the tail on the simple-looking bait, noting that the squared off tail would most likely give the bait an attractive glide on the fall.
The Grand Jury has produced many a tournament winner, but on our morning we couldn’t raise a single speck, so Ricky moved us out of the center creek and into the left side creek to try working shallower water. In the center creek we had been in about 19’, but when we started using the trolling motor to work further up the side creek, most of the water was less than 8’.
In the winter time, and our early March day still counted as winter, Ricky points out that many anglers make the mistake of drifting down the middle of the creek and casting to the shores. He moved us down the bank and instructed us to cast out into the middle, and it didn’t take long for all three of us to hook up. It also didn’t take long for all of us to hook up again and again—Ricky had found the trout.
Our trout ranged in size from spikes to 3 lbs., and that’s one of the reasons Ricky likes the closure. This part of Southwest Creek, he noted, doesn’t typically hold a lot of smaller fish, but since the closure he had seen lots more trout of all sizes, and that was a good sign for the spring and the rest of the year.
“This area had a very slight fish kill,” Ricky explained. “I can’t prove it, but I think there are a lot of natural springs up here. This water was solid with ice. You could almost walk across it, but in sections there’d be steam coming off of it. No ice anywhere, so you tell me.”
The New River also features deeper water, which probably helped the trout (and the red drum and the flounder) survive better than at a place like Topsail with all of its shallow bays.
Since the closure, there’s been a lot less boats on the water, at least 50% less, according to Ricky, and those numbers add up. The commercial guys would be getting their 75 fish a night, and the recreational guys would be keeping their four fish/person limits (we would have had our 12 fish on the boat), and that’s a lot of trout over a week or over a month, especially when you talk spawning numbers.
“Last time we had a closure, we had one of the best springs we ever had,” Ricky continued, “and that wasn’t accidental.”
“The closure needs to be longer because the trout aren’t done in June. June 15 isn’t the magic day that all the trout have spawned. June is the middle of it. They should have gone to August. In July they’ll still be full of roe,” explained Ricky, clearly thinking more about the health of the fishery than his own charter business bank account.
We continued catching trout as we moved around and covered a lot of water, hitting spots such as the Strawberry Patch and the Naked Lady hole. When we would find a fish or two, we would drop the Power-Pole and target that area a little longer. Ricky would catch trout after trout. John and I would imitate Ricky’s style, but we never came close to his numbers.
I understood the game, though, and would try speeding up the retrieve, slowing down the retrieve, giving the bait a sharper pop, etc. I’m guessing that just about everyone that’s been trout fishing with Ricky has had a similar experience—you watch him land a bunch of trout while you figure out what to do to produce the same results.
We ended our morning trip right at lunch, and as we idled past the old Jacksonville public boat ramp (which could hold 15 trucks and trailers) and the new ramp on the other side of the river (which can hold 150 trucks and trailers), it became more notable that on our 60-degree day with a slight breeze and a trout bite going on in the Southwest, we had only seen two other boats. These were apparently the only boats like us that didn’t care about filling a cooler. They, too, were there just to “feel the thump.”
Capt. Ricky Kellum, the Speckled Specialist, puts clients on speckled trout throughout the year, but he also likes targeting red drum in the creeks and river, stripers in the Neuse, and bonito and spanish outside New River Inlet, among other pursuits.
For more information, you can reach him at (910) 330-2745 or check him out online at www.speckledspecialist.com. Now’s your chance to go fishing with a guy who’s earned his title of Speckled Specialist and works hard to instill in all his clients the same excitement and want for fishing.
Do it, like Ricky, for the love of the trout.