April 12, 2017

April is truly a month of transition, winter is finally in the rear view mirror, and the fish have taken notice of it.  Our water temperatures are on the rise, and some (but not all) of our unique fisheries are at a pinnacle.

Inshore: One of our fisheries that is at its "Spring Pinnacle" are our Chopper Bluefish. The Bluefish that we are seeing right now are bigger than we have ever seen in a lifetime. There is a biomass of them in the 8-14LB range that are actively feeding on smaller Bluefish.  This is some serious cannibalism. These fish are roaming the shoals, and when it's low tide you can actually stalk them on the shoal in less than a foot of water (much like sight fishing a Bonefish or a Permit in the Florida Keys). Topwater walk the dog type lures, chugger head poppers, or even a large fly imitating a menhaden will provoke a strike. 'We've also heard talk of a few schools of FULLY GROWN "ALPHA MALE" Black Drum meandering the shoals as well. They are a little bit trickier to get a bite from, but will strike soft plastic baits imitating a shrimp, or else a live Blue Crab (make sure if you use crabs that they are not too small, NC has a specific size limit on our crabs). The Big Red Drum have been seen schooling on the shoals as well, it's better to look for them on a bluebird day, the Bull Reds will strike large bucktails/oversize curly tail, same setup as you'd sight cast a Cobia with. The Gray Trout fishing has been good at typical places like the Atlantic Beach bridge, and turning basin area, and many of the nearshore reefs. A vertical presentation with a "snap-jigged" Stingsilver will get the job done. There have been some larger Gray Trout than usual this year, an angler landed one that was just over 7LBS last week at an artificial reef. Bottom fishing along the beaches is picking up as well, especially for Sea Mullet, a few guys have been filling up the coolers soaking shrimp on the beach near the Oceanna Pier.  Flounder fishing is starting to begin to pick up at the Artificial Reefs, larger live baits on a Carolina Rig, or a Bucktail and Gulp Shrimp on some good live bottom will catch the hogs. Use your electronics and make waypoints when you catch one, then pound the area, lots of times they are very peculiar and tend to stack up on a small piece of bottom. Some of our species in the "Scombridae" family are making their first appearance on our inshore reefs right now, such as Bonito and smaller sized King Mackerel. It's still just a little bit early for Spanish Mackerel but it won't be long until they make an appearance. Speckled Trout fishing inshore has been decent, the big fish bite has tapered off a little bit, and a lot of the good areas for the Specks are being overrun by Cownose Rays unfortunately. If you are willing to grind it out, there are still limits to be caught. The after dark bite has been the best option for the Speckled Trout lately, especially if you are after the larger ones.


Offshore: Things are starting to get going offshore. The Wahoo bite is beginning to turn on as of late, and there have been some stray big King Mackerel, Gaffer Dolphin, and Blackfin Tuna chewing for the folks trolling areas near the Big Rock. Bottom fishing has been good for the Triggerfish, Black Sea Bass, Beeliners and Grouper (make sure you aren't targeting the Gag Grouper though, they're out of season right now). There are still plenty of Swordfish out in the depths that the folks targeting them are still getting some bites. With it being such a warm winter and warm Spring, it really would not surprise us if we sttarted hearing of some decent Gaffer Dolphin outings in the next two or three weeks. If you are going offshore and new to the game, a good piece of information before you go would be to check out the temperature breaks, and hone in on some of the warmest water. Rutgers University has a great website to use before your trips https://marine.rutgers.edu/cool/sat_data/?nothumbs=0&product=sst&region=capehat


As always, Tight Lines from Freeman's Bait & Tackle

March 14, 2017

This has been a very nontraditional 2017 "spring into springtime", as far as our local fishing is concerned.  It's been nontraditional in a very positive way! The water temp last week was at 66 degrees inshore, it has now dropped to 58 degrees, and the bite has not really slowed down at all.

Many anglers have been absolutely laying the "Pepper" down on the Speckled Trout. Z man Jerk Shads, classic Carolina Curly Tails, Mr17s, Mr18s, and Berkley Gulp scented soft plastics in the 4 inch Natural and Molten colors have been the select baits for these beautiful "Speckled-Peppersnakes". There have been some really nice Specks being taken all throughout the ICW. Look for some structure for these fish to relate to, or else find some small bait fish. If you don't get a bite after your first 10 casts, switch baits, ten more, switch baits again, ten more without a bite, then move spots. Lots of these larger Specks have actually been mingling with some big Gray Trout as well. Some big Gray Trout have already shown up at the AB bridge, anglers have been catching them jigging stingsilvers. The Port wall has some nice Gray Trout on it as well. Flounder have been taken at many of the Artificial Reefs jigging bucktails, if you can find some live mullet, you could really put a hurting on them. The Red Drum are schooled up on the beaches, and there have been some schools of the BIG GROWN ONES off of the cape, and Shark Island. Look for them on your electronics and drop a white bucktail tipped with a gulp shrimp. If you see birds busting on the surface near the shoals, it is very likely the monster reds feeding up top so make sure to haul your tush over to them and cast to the birds. Slot drum are hanging around nearshore structures like rock jetties, and long shoaly places like the cape. Sea Mullet are here already, anglers are catching limits of them in the turning basin/shipping channel areas with speck rigs tipped with some shrimp. Black Drum have been roaming the beaches, and someone caught a really nice one yesterday that he snagged in the back while using a storm swim shad targeting Red Drum. This tells you that they are in very tight schools, so when you find one there will likely be many more in the same spot.  We have already been seeing small Sheepshead loitering around dock
pilings, they are not the big adults, but can be fun for the kids, and the little ones still love a two hook bottom rig with shrimp. Bluefish have arrived as well. While Trout fishing this week, also had an encounter with an absolute chopper, and got it in close enough to identify that it was a monster bluefish just before his razor sharp teeth sawed through a 20lb fluoro leader. So its not too early to keep your lookout for some big chopper bluefish. No Spanish yet, which shouldn't surprise anyone. A few small rat King Mackerel have been hanging out nearshore, as well as the always abundant Amberjack.

The Swordfish bite has remained consistently good, anglers in search of them are still getting bites (seemingly on almost every outing). There have been a few billfish roaming around the Big Rock-Swansboro Hole areas, mostly Sailfish. The Wahoo fishing has actually been pretty good as of lately.  We have not heard of anymore catches of Dolphin, but you just never really know. There are still some Blackfins being caught as well. Bottom fishing for Beeliners and Triggerfish has been good. There have been a few stray random catches while Swordfishing, like the elusive Escolar. These fish are supposedly great eating, but be sure to only eat a small amount!

There are tight pods of albacores running the beaches between Beaufort Inlet and Bear Inlet, anywhere from the 2-6 miles range off of the beachfront. These albies are in smaller packs than in the fall, but they are also a larger size-class. If you tie a small fly (resembling the smallest glass minnow you've ever seen) these fish will
react to it, and sizzle some drag off of your fly reel. Another fishery that is here right now is fly fishing the shoals of Shark Island for Bull Drum. You will want to have a sinking head fly line for these bruisers, and use your electronics to find them. They are schooled up lower in the water column most of the day (suspended in the 20-40 ft range).
You can provoke a strike on the fly from one of these monster Redfish with an oversized deceiver (baitfish) pattern. You will want to let your fly sink down with your weighted line for about 30-45 seconds (when you are marking the fish). After that a strip-set cadence will be needed. A strip-set retrieve cadence is one where every time you strip your fly line in, you are trying to set the hook. Otherwise when you do get that big strike, the fish will likely just spit out your fly. With a strip-set cadence, you know that you will be able to penetrate a big Drum's fleshy mouth. Speckled Trout are being taken on small-medium sized weighted (lead wrapped flies), mostly deceivers or clouser minnows on a floating line. The best way to get the Specks to eat a fly is to drop your fly to where you think the fish are (use the current to drift your fly back to them). Then after that, just slowly jiggle the tip of your fly rod. The Specks still aren't super active yet so the slower the better. Fly patterns tied in the size and color pattern of a live mud minnow can be absolutely deadly right now.

As always, Tight Lines from Freeman's Bait and Tackle!

February 27, 2017

With spring flowers, and rising water temperatures, it’s time to go fishing!

Inshore: We are now starting to see our annual run of Sea Mullet showing up in the turning basin, surprisingly early, along with smaller sized Gray Trout. Two hook bottom rigs and shrimp is all you need for this type of fishing. Some of the bigger Sea Mullet will be schooled up along the beach. We’ve heard a very unusual report of keeper specks being caught on curly tail grubs off of the port wall. The Black Drum will be roaming the beach as well in similar locations as the Sea Mullet. Red Drum fishing is picking up as well. Some of the small Creek Mouths off of Core Creek are holding some slot fish. 4" Natural colored gulp and a 1/4 plain lead head jig worked as slowly as possible will get more bites than anything else at this time of the year. Down East locations like Smyrna Creek are holding some of the biggest Speckled Trout, we’ve heard of a 7lb fish taken there this week on an Mr52 chrome silver color variation. The water temp has climbed a substantial 6 degrees in the last two weeks. If you are looking for the Speckled Trout, try to find some Bay Anchovies or silversides flipping on the surface. The Specks are on the really small sized baitfish at this time of the year. Recommend trying to fish areas with a higher salt PPT (parts per unit) because we haven't had much rain and these fish have been holding closer to the inlets. If you are looking for Flounder there have been some fish filtering out of their overwintering creeks in the Neuse River. They are confused and are starting their springtime trends a little bit earlier than usual because of this fast rise in water temperatures. Use baits like a 4 inch natural gulp on a jig, and you might get lucky with some Red Drum and Trout as well. Always remember to work these baits slower than usual because it is still so early in the season. The Beach is still holding some nice slot sized Drum, places like Hammocks Beach state park will be home to the schoolies. Once you find them you can chip away at them all day long. Oriental area is still seeing some larger than usual Speckled Trout, it is a lot of work to catch one, but the fish in that area seem to be in the 20-24' range.

Nearshore/Offshore: From the Big Rock on out to the Swansboro hole; anglers have really been getting a true mixed bag. We have heard of a few stray gaffer Dolphin, a few sailfish, some wahoo, and a few scattered Blackfin being caught as well. If you find a good grass line out there, there could be a couple early arriving Mahi on it. If you are out there and are unable to find any grass, the best option is looking for a sharp 2 degree temperature break. This is where you can focus on the Wahoo, Sailfish, and the Blackfin. The Blackfin will prefer a smaller bait, so make sure you have at least one small ballyhoo out there, and make sure you pull it up top. The Swordfish grounds are producing very regularly to the anglers who are willing to make the run out there. Mackerel Strips, or any other type of flashy scented and brined fish skin will do the trick with the nocturnal beasts. A Swordfish has a much softer mouth than a Marlin or a Sailfish so it’s important to make sure your drag is set just perfect (maybe 17-19lbs) to avoid tearing the hook out. Electrical reels are going to make your life 1000 times easier when you are hooking up with a huge fish in 200 plus fathoms of water. As we all know, from the Big Rock on out, anything can happen at any time so bring lots of baits, use your electronics, and never take your eyes off of the spread. As far as bottom fishing goes, there has been a very good bite on some big black sea bass. The BFT bite in the MHC area has pretty much bottomed out with these warmer water temps, so it’s more or less time to call that fishery quits. The triggers and Beeliners should still be available; use of electronics will be your best freind as far as finding them.

Get out there, and always, Tight Lines from Freemans Bait and Tackle.


February 9, 2017

We are in what many anglers like to call the "Dead Sea of Winter". Many anglers believe that fish have left the feedings areas of the fall, and have moved to new "over wintering" bodies of water. This may be the case sometimes, but more than likely fish are still around in your favorite honey holes, and it's a matter of changing up your fishing styles.

INSHORE: Speckled Trout are still available in all of our ICW waters and connecting creeks. Right now, the bite really is all about throwing a live mud minnow and hitting a sluggish fish in the face. When fishing live mud minnows, I always like to try to get away with as light a weight as possible, so that little minnow has some freedom and space to cover the lower water column freely. I also like to fish my weights (one, maybe two) small split shot sinkers about 3-4 feet away from my minnow. This tactic will also produce bites from chilly water Drum in your Trout grounds. Black Drum have been relating to docks and pilings all along the ICW, as well as marshes. The key is to NOT fish with a two hook bottom rig at this time of the year. Get a small hook, and don't use any weight at all (that's right, no sinker) and pitch it next to a dock piling and wait for the line to slowly move. These fish are swimming along the bottom with their body and noses on the warm mud bottoms, and can at times be too lazy to even rise up and eat a shrimp on a two hook bottom rig. If you are surf fishing, obviously the two hook bottom rig is really your only choice (due to wave turbidity). There are still some lone ranging "Big Girl" Trout along the Rock Jetties on our beaches. This truly is a right at dusk or else after dark bite. Live minnows on a small split shot, or else slow rolling a small Storm Swimshad right next to the rocks can sometimes get these stubborn late winter giants to eat.
OFFSHORE/NEARSHORE: There have been a few stray BFT (Bluefin Tuna) cruising around, but that bite is obviously tapering off. If you want to try, get some monster JAGS and troll away. Use the largest Ballyhoo out of your pack. There are undoubtedly some Blackfin and Wahoo out there, it's just a matter of covering good water and finding a bait source. If you go, make sure to be ready for Blackfin if you encounter them, meaning have plenty of small Ballyhoo and mini chugger head presentations prepped in case you hit a school of "Blackies". Fish with a planer at all times for the "Who-Daddies". It's really a matter of just getting out and dialing in a good temp break and baits-source. Be prepared to work for your bites, but as they say, the harder you work, the better the gratification.
Remember, fish don't eat as much in the winter as they do in the summer, so fish natural, and fish slower.


Tight Lines from Freeman's Bait & Tackle

October 28, 2016

Fantastic weekend forecast ahead!  Get out there and get your share of SPECKLED TROUT, try any number of soft baits or live shrimp. There are also nice sized FLOUNDER that have moved into the area, you might get lucky with live bait on a Carolina rig.  If you can get out at night the gigging around Carrot Island and Radio Island have been hot. If you’re looking to get offshore, there have been reports of WAHOO and BLACKFIN TUNA in the area. Always remember your fishing license and be aware of the Department of Fisheries rules and regulations. You can still try your luck with bottom fishing. Many of wreaks off the coast have been producing VERMILLION SNAPPER, BLACK SEA BASS, and TRIGGERFISH. Enjoy your weekend and happy fishing!