Sarah Gagliardo

Carolina Beach – Winter 2016 – 2017

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Red, of Island Tackle, reports that inshore anglers are connecting with a few stray sheepshead that are still in the area, and they are hitting live shrimp and fiddler crabs. Check for the sheeps around any area structure.

Bob Peterson with a wahoo caught near Devil’s Hole. The fish came in at 74 lbs. and hit a purple/black Blue Water Candy jag and ballyhoo.

Bob Peterson with a wahoo caught near Devil’s Hole. The fish came in at 74 lbs. and hit a purple/black Blue Water Candy jag and ballyhoo.

Speckled trout is the most active inshore bite right now, and they can best be landed with live shrimp under a popping cork. Small red drum and flounder can also be found in inshore waters.

Nearshore, anglers heading out of the inlet to the wrecks and ARs will still find some flounder, and they favor Gulp-tipped bucktails worked on the bottom. Gray trout can also be found on these same nearshore areas.

David Ager, of Wilmington, with a 19” black drum caught on a jig head in the waters behind Fort Fisher. He was fishing with Capt. Jeff Wolfe of Seahawk Inshore Charters.

David Ager, of Wilmington, with a 19” black drum caught on a jig head in the waters behind Fort Fisher. He was fishing with Capt. Jeff Wolfe of Seahawk Inshore Charters.

Surf anglers are hooking specks from the beach.

Offshore, anglers are connecting with wahoo, blackfin tuna, and king mackerel when trolling offshore. The wahoo and tuna are currently favoring Ilanders in black/purple.

Dropping a line down to the bottom will allow anglers to take advantage of a good grouper bite, along with snapper.

Brian Bellamy with a king mackerel caught while trolling off Carolina Beach with Don Bellamy.

Brian Bellamy with a king mackerel caught while trolling off Carolina Beach with Don Bellamy.

Christian, of Seahawk Inshore Charters, reports that the inshore waters are holding a plentiful amount of red drum, and while most fish are 16-17”, there are a few fish in the lower to mid-slot range. Throw scented artificials, like Z-Man and Gulp in natural colors, to connect with the fish, although dead shrimp on a Carolina rig will also tempt bites.

Sarah Proctor with a striper caught in the Cape Fear River. The fish hit a DOA shrimp in 6’ of water near a creek mouth.

Sarah Proctor with a striper caught in the Cape Fear River. The fish hit a DOA shrimp in 6’ of water near a creek mouth.

A good number of black drum are mixed in with the reds, and 14-16” fish will be the most commonly hooked fish (but 20”+ fish have been reported). Most black drum are being caught on dead shrimp on a Carolina rig.

Trout can be targeted in the usual spots with scented artificials (the same for the red drum), with Trout Tricks in purple working consistently well on the specks.

Kevin Edwards, of Wilmington, with a 7 lb. speckled trout caught on shrimp while surf fishing on Kure Beach.

Kevin Edwards, of Wilmington, with a 7 lb. speckled trout caught on shrimp while surf fishing on Kure Beach.

The striped bass bite is starting to pick up, with 5” swim baits in chartreuse or pearl being the ticket. Using diving plugs that go down about 10-12’, such as Bomber’s Diving Plugs, work well on the seasonal fish, too.

Going into the colder months, the trout bite may fall off, but the striper bite should pick up. Trout will be in the back of the creeks during warmer days, and stripers in the river can be found around docks, structure, and in deeper holes.

Finding structure is key to finding the striped bass all winter. Drop a 3/8-1 oz. jig head when in deeper water (10’+). If you are fishing in less than 10’ of water, use 1/4-3/8 oz. jig heads. And paddletails and grubs (5-6”) will work on the stripers through the winter.

Robert Griffin with a 26” pufferfish caught at Carolina Beach State Park on salted cut mullet.

Robert Griffin with a 26” pufferfish caught at Carolina Beach State Park on salted cut mullet.

Rod, of OnMyWay Charters, reports that the black sea bass bite is good around live bottom areas 10 miles out.

Starting in the 12-13 mile area, the gag grouper bite should be great until the end of the year when it closes.

Beyond the nearshore depths and into the 20-30 mile range, both the grouper and large sea bass bite continues to do well, along with pink snapper and beeliners.

The king mackerel bite can be strong, but to find them you must have a good temperature gauge in the boat. Finding water around 68 degrees—ideally near or around structure, live bottom, and ledges—will locate the fish. Troll Drone spoons, ballyhoo, or two hook seawitch rigs with strip baits or cigar minnows.

Out in the Gulf Stream, anglers are connecting with wahoo and blackfin tuna, and a few sailfish are also being reported.

Rich Gustavson with a 9.38 lb. flounder caught on a live mullet in the Cape Fear River.

Rich Gustavson with a 9.38 lb. flounder caught on a live mullet in the Cape Fear River.

Anglers fishing through the winter months will enjoy a great black sea bass bite in the 3-10 mile range. A 1-2 oz. bucktail with a 2” belly or squid strip on light tackle provides a fun fight, and they can tempt bites from fish weighing up to 2 lbs.

The king mackerel will remain all winter, but anglers must continue to go further offshore as the temperature drops. The magic temperature number is 68 degrees when it comes to locating the fish around structure. Find the bait, and the kings will be there. The twin wreck area on out beyond Frying Pan Tower are good locations to search for winter kings.

John Heffner, of Carolina Beach, with his first king mackerel. The 36 lb. fish fell for a live bluefish.

John Heffner, of Carolina Beach, with his first king mackerel. The 36 lb. fish fell for a live bluefish.

Jesse, of Ocean Stinger Fishing Charters, reports that the nearshore king mackerel bite has slowed down a little bit, with water temperatures in the mid-60s. Most kings have moved to deeper water, in the 15-25 mile range, where the water quality is better and warmer. Look for fish in areas like the School House, 23 Mile Rock, and other areas with good bottom structure that will hold bait. Drone spoons on #2 planers have put fish in the boat, along with sea witches and cigar minnows. Expect false albacore in these same areas.

Curt Ihrig, of Fayetteville, with a king mackerel that bit a blue/white skirted ballyhoo. He was fishing aboard the “Sarah’s Worry Too.”

Curt Ihrig, of Fayetteville, with a king mackerel that bit a blue/white skirted ballyhoo. He was fishing aboard the “Sarah’s Worry Too.”

Offshore in the Gulf Stream, the bite has been good in 40-60 fathoms. Head north towards Deep Ledge, Yellowfin Hole, and points north along the break to find blackfin tuna and wahoo.

Blackfin have been falling for pink UV squid teasers, and small blue/white Ilanders rigged with small ballyhoo have worked for the wahoo (along with Fathom rigs with silver heads and white/pink/black skirts).

Daniel Lantz with a 21” flounder that fell for live bait while fishing the Cape Fear River.

Daniel Lantz with a 21” flounder that fell for live bait while fishing the Cape Fear River.