A New Big Seatrout Hotspot

North Carolina and Virginia are producing surprising numbers of trophy trout.

Large seatrout
Large seatrout are being caught in Virginia and North Carolina. Jessica Haydahl Richardson

The word is out, you can add Virginia and North Carolina to the list of trophy speckled trout destinations. Before Texans protest, let’s look at the evidence. Two IGFA speckled trout world records were recently submitted from North Carolina. And Virginia anglers lead the race in the Release Over 20 conservation campaign, a nonprofit organization that rewards anglers for releasing large speckled trout, flounder and sheepshead.

Listen to Capt. Chris Kimrey and Keith Nuttall, local experts with almost a century of combined trout fishing experience. “Twenty years ago, we weren’t impressed by a speckled trout under seven pounds,” says Kimrey.

“The best trout fishing was in the 1970s when the 16-pound Virginia state record was caught,” says Nuttal. “Next year we’re going to see more trout over 28 inches.”

Since the freeze of 2014, Nuttall hasn’t caught a speckled trout over 29 inches, but experts credit mild, dry winters for pushing big trout farther into the marshes.

In Eastern North Carolina, Kimrey says November and December are best months to target large speckled trout. He fishes deep holes and docks with artificial shrimp under a slip cork. In southeast Virginia, Nuttall looks for the biggest trout in May. He uses a large walk-the-dog topwater or a twitch bait.

Anglers are optimistic about the future. After seeing numbers and sizes increase in recent years, Nuttall is excited about the future. “We’re going to see once-in-a-lifetime speckled trout fishing like we had 40 years ago,” he predicts.

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