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