February 16, 2022
What one North Carolina inshore angler thought at first was a nice striped bass turned into the biggest speckled trout caught in state history.
Todd Spangler's 12-pound, 8-ounce fish caught Feb. 9 in the lower Neuse River beat a state record that had stood for more than 60 years, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. He caught it on a 4-inch Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ and 1/8-ounce HeadlockZ HD jighead.
The record measured 33.5 inches long and had an 18-inch girth. The previous record was 12-4, caught in 1961 off Wrightsville Beach.
Spangler said the record fish came on the "first bite of the day," in a news release on the catch from Z-Man Fishing. "I’d been retrieving the bait by popping it up and letting it fall back to the bottom—trying to imitate a shrimp—when I felt a sharp little thump, almost right below the boat. My initial thought was that it struck like a smaller trout, but when I felt the big head shakes and screaming drag, my buddy and I thought we’d hooked a sizeable striped bass.
“A few minutes into the fight, we saw a broad silvery flash, which further fooled us into thinking striper. This time of year, we’re mostly targeting seatrout, which bunch up in big numbers in these creeks during the winter. We often catch redfish and stripers, too, but striper season is closed."
The fish weighed 12.52 on Spangler’s digital scale, and his fishing buddy Josh Hamby immediately looked up the state record on his cell phone. “I knew by his expression that we might have a special trout on board," Spangler said.
The anglers weighed the fish at Neuse River Bait & Tackle in nearby Grantsboro—again 12.52 pounds—and it was later certified by a state fisheries biologist.
Spangler caught the record with a Daiwa Procyon reel and a custom-built spinning rod he had finished just a week before catching the fish.
The trout hit Z-Man’s special Dark N Stormy hue, a pattern by Z-Man pro Captain C.A. Richardson. "It’s sort of an electric purple color with silver flake that just lights up and comes alive in the water,” Spangler observes. “I’ve caught a lot of fish on that pattern—on the Jerk ShadZ, as well as the 3-inch MinnowZ™ and larger DieZel MinnowZ™."