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!