Sarah Gagliardo

Morehead – Winter 2016 – 2017

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Matt, of Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, reports that the flounder bite has been excellent recently, both inshore and at nearshore artificial reefs. Inshore, the bite has been best around the Port Wall and area bridges. Offshore, AR-315 and AR-330 have been holding good numbers of fish, but any structure in the same depth should be holding plenty of flatfish.

Spro 2 oz. bucktails tipped with Gulp 4” shrimp have been providing the best results, along with live mud minnows on Carolina rigs.

As the water cools, look for the flounder to move into deeper water in the 100’ range where they can be caught alongside plenty of black sea bass.

Speckled trout fishing remains excellent, with more fish making their way into the ocean. The Cape Lookout rock jetty has been red hot recently, with anglers finding plenty of keeper fish. The Haystacks, Radio Island, and Rough Point are all holding excellent trout action. Anglers are tempting them with live shrimp, mud minnows, and a variety of artificial lures. As the water cools, look for the specs to move out of the inlet where they will stage around the jetty. Many trout will also hold in mainland creeks throughout the winter.

Harold Bohannon with a 6 lb. triggerfish caught in 130’ of water on the east side of Cape Lookout shoals. He was fishing with Capt. Chris Kimrey of Mount Maker Charters.

Harold Bohannon with a 6 lb. triggerfish caught in 130’ of water on the east side of Cape Lookout shoals. He was fishing with Capt. Chris Kimrey of Mount Maker Charters.

Anglers are reporting increased action with sea mullet. Most of the fish are being caught in the Turning Basin toward the Beaufort Inlet area, but the Dead Tree Hole has also been holding fish. Spec rigs tipped with bait shrimp and Fishbites have been putting plenty of fish in the boat.  Anglers have reported that staying on the move and covering large amounts of water is the key to finding large numbers of sea mullet that are schooled up in tight balls.

Along with the mullet, anglers are catching plenty of gray trout.

Surf zone anglers are beginning to report scattered catches of speckled trout. More fish should move onto the beachfront as the water cools. Anglers can tempt them with live mud minnows, shrimp, and suspended twitch baits.

When the weather allows, offshore anglers are finding plenty of wahoo, blackfin tuna, and a mixed bag of bottom feeders. The wahoo and tuna are out in the Gulf Stream where they will spend the winter. Naked and skirted ballyhoo will tempt bites from both species. Triggerfish, sea bass, snapper, and grouper are feeding in the 20-30 mile range and are taking interest in 3-4 oz. bucktails tipped with squid, cigar minnows, and Gulp shrimp.

Angela Baker, of Beaufort, with a speckled trout caught in a back creek. The fish fell for a topwater lure and weighed in around 3.5 lbs.

Angela Baker, of Beaufort, with a speckled trout caught in a back creek. The fish fell for a topwater lure and weighed in around 3.5 lbs.

Paul, of Freeman’s Bait and Tackle, reports that anglers are finding good numbers of speckled trout in the surf off of Shackleford Banks. The majority of the fish being caught are smaller, but there are some keeper-sized fish mixed in. Inshore anglers are finding the larger trout in mainland creeks and rivers, but more juvenile fish should begin to move into these same areas as the water cools. Scaled down soft plastics and suspending twitch baits, along with live shrimp and mud minnows, will tempt bites from the hungry trout all year.

Inshore bottom fishing has resulted in catches of sea mullet, spots, and blow toads in the Turning Basin. Fresh shrimp on double drop bottom rigs has been the go to for catching fish.

Offshore, anglers are finding good numbers of wahoo and blackfin tuna while trolling naked and skirted ballyhoo in the Gulf Stream. Both of these species will remain in range as long as the winter is mild.

James Ellis, of Goldsboro, with a 10.15 lb. flounder that was caught at the port wall. The fish bit a Spro 2 oz. bucktail tipped with a Gulp shrimp.

James Ellis, of Goldsboro, with a 10.15 lb. flounder that was caught at the port wall. The fish bit a Spro 2 oz. bucktail tipped with a Gulp shrimp.

Justin, of Breakday Charters, reports that the flounder fishing has been excellent at nearshore artificial reefs and natural reefs. The Breakday Bucktail in “peppermint patty” color has been particularly effective when partnered with a 4” white or new penny Gulp shrimp. Anglers can also connect with the tasty flatfish while using cut or live bait on Carolina rigs.

Further offshore, anglers have been finding good numbers of king mackerel and blackfin tuna in areas like the Northwest Places, Big 10, and Little 10. Trolling cigar minnows or ballyhoo on dead bait rigs has been the way to connect with both species. These fish should hang around until the water cools a few more degrees and then move further offshore where they will spend the winter.

Jenna Weathers, of Wendell, with her first speckled trout. The fish fell for a Gulp soft plastic on a jig head near Beaufort.

Jenna Weathers, of Wendell, with her first speckled trout. The fish fell for a Gulp soft plastic on a jig head near Beaufort.

Inshore, the speckled trout bite has been excellent; however, most anglers are having to contend with more smaller trout than keepers. Area rock jetties have been holding plenty of fish, and anglers are connecting with them using small soft plastics and suspending twitch baits. Bigger trout are holding in area marshes and will soon be joined by the smaller trout as the water cools. Anglers should remember that the cooler water makes the fish more lethargic, so fishing slowly will be the key to success throughout the cold months ahead.

Noah Goodwin, of Adams Creek, with a puppy drum caught on a Yo-Zuri in the marsh of North River.

Noah Goodwin, of Adams Creek, with a puppy drum caught on a Yo-Zuri in the marsh of North River.

Chris, of Mount Maker Charters, reports that speckled trout are in all the normal spots, including  Cape Lookout, inside marshes, and in the creeks. Most of the bigger fish have been caught on live shrimp.

Those looking to get offshore can expect good bottom fishing trips throughout the winter on the eastside in 120-135’ of water.

Michael Lesher Jr. with a 9 lb. false albacore caught at Radio Island beach access on a double jig head rig and white grubs.

Michael Lesher Jr. with a 9 lb. false albacore caught at Radio Island beach access on a double jig head rig and white grubs.

Thomas, of Dancin’ Outlaw Sportfishing Charters, reports that on calm days anglers are connecting with good numbers of wahoo and blackfin tuna while trolling naked and skirted ballyhoo in the Stream. The wahoo are also taking interest in high-speed style lures like heavy Dinner-Bells and Yo-Zuri bonita, particularly in dark colors like red/black and purple/black.

Offshore anglers are also finding swordfish while deep dropping a variety of baits.

Steven and Elyse Smiley, of Newport, with an 8.65 lb. speckled trout caught on live bait in a creek around Morehead City.

Steven and Elyse Smiley, of Newport, with an 8.65 lb. speckled trout caught on live bait in a creek around Morehead City.

The Oceanana Pier is closed for the season, but anglers are still catching sea mullet, croaker, and the occasional speckled trout from the surf around the pier.

Dustin Walters, of Morehead City, with an 8.73 lb. sheepshead caught in the Morehead City area on a fiddler crab.

Dustin Walters, of Morehead City, with an 8.73 lb. sheepshead caught in the Morehead City area on a fiddler crab.