Sarah Gagliardo

Topsail – Winter 2016 – 2017

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Brittany, of East Coast Sports, reports that surf anglers are catching a mixed bag on the bottom. Sea mullet, black drum, and blow toads are biting fresh shrimp on double hook bottom rigs, and the best action has been around high tide.

Speckled trout are biting in the surf on MirrOlures and scented soft plastics on 3/8 oz. jig heads. The best fishing has been early in the day and at night.

Red drum are being caught on cut bait. The fresher the bait, the better the odds of hooking into these fish. The reds will patrol the surf zone throughout the winter and will often be found in large schools. Casting gold spoons and soft plastic jerk shads to them will tempt them to bite as long as the water doesn’t get too cold.

Inshore, trout fishing remains productive. The average size of the fish has dropped considerably over the past few weeks, but there are certainly some keeper-sized fish to be found. Z-Man and Gulp soft plastics have worked well for the trout, and lighter weight jig heads will often out fish heavier offerings. The trout are also biting Rapala X-Raps and MirrOlure MR17’s and 18’s.

Red drum are holding around waterway docks, mainland creeks, and oyster beds. Most of the fish being caught have been undersized. Soft plastics, cut shrimp, and live mud minnows will account for most of the red drum landings throughout the winter. The water tends to get very clear, so lighter leaders will result in more hookups.

Flounder fishing has been up and down over the past few weeks. The best fishing has been in the mainland creeks, and live mud minnows on Carolina rigs has been the most productive. The flounder will spend the winter back in the creeks and can be caught all season long. When the water dips well into the 50’s, though, they will remain largely dormant. A couple days of a warming trend can turn them back on, though.

Mark Narron, of Surf City, with a 41” red drum caught in the surf on a finger mullet.

Mark Narron, of Surf City, with a 41” red drum caught in the surf on a finger mullet.

Black sea bass fishing has been very good. Structure from 30-60’ of water will hold large numbers of keeper-sized bass. Chunks of squid on knocker rigs will bring these tasty fish to the boat.

Flounder are being found sporadically around nearshore structure, with bottom features outside of New River Inlet producing some fish. Bucktails tipped with 4” Gulp shrimp is how most of these fish are being caught.

Gag grouper fishing has been good, as a nice mix of undersized and keeper fish are being pulled from water ranging from 40’ and deeper.

King mackerel and false albacore are being caught in good numbers starting in the 10 mile range. The kings won’t tolerate water temperatures much below 70 degrees, so focusing efforts in water temps above 68 will offer the best fishing. Amberjack fishing has been very good in the same range.

Gulf Stream anglers are reporting catches of wahoo and blackfin tuna. Skirted and naked ballyhoo fished behind a planer has been the most effective method for the ‘hoos, and the tuna are being caught on green machines and cedar plugs.

Wes Pollard, of Sneads Ferry, with a 30” gag grouper caught in 70’ of water on a Spyro jig and a Gulp. He was fishing out of New River Inlet.

Wes Pollard, of Sneads Ferry, with a 30” gag grouper caught in 70’ of water on a Spyro jig and a Gulp. He was fishing out of New River Inlet.

Chad, of Lucky Dawg Guide Service, reports that the speckled trout bite has continued to be good. The best bite has been on MirrOlure MR17’s, Betts Perfect Sinker Shrimp, and Z-Man EZ Shrimp fished under a Cajun Thunder popping cork or alone.

Slot-sized reds are moving in and out of the inlet and surf zones, while smaller reds can be found in the bays and creeks. For reds and flounder, soft plastic paddletails work great this time of year when fished weedless or on a jig head. Try working the creeks and bays along the ICW.

Flounder are still moving around good in the backwaters, and the black drum are being found at their normal haunts. Soft plastics, both paddletails and grubs, have been working. When the bite has been finicky, adding a little Pro-Cure has helped draw strikes.

As we move into the New Year, the reds will begin to school up in the bays, creating some solid action on soft plastics and Flats Intruder spoons. Look for black drum around docks, in deep holes with structure, and around the back of creeks. Black drum will feed all winter on fresh shrimp on the bottom.

 

Jim, of Plan 9 Charters, reports that the king bite has been good starting in 60-70’ of water, but they are beginning to move further offshore as the water temperatures drop.

From the same water depths out to 100’, the bottom fishing has been very productive, including large sea bass, snapper, and grouper.

In the weeks to come, the king mackerel bite should remain strong. Finding 70 degree water that is holding bait will likely harbor kings. Mixed in with the kings will be some very large schools of false albacore.

Bottom fishing will continue to be a solid option as winter rolls along. The fish can be found from 60’ out to 130’. Be mindful of the grouper season closure on January 1 and focus on sea bass and gray snapper.

 

Robin, of Jolly Roger Pier, reports that bluefish are being caught in good numbers on plugs, and the bite has been happening throughout the day.

Bottom fishing has resulted in decent catches of sea mullet, with fresh shrimp on the bottom working best. Blow toads are beginning to show up, and they will be available all winter long.

In addition to the blow toads, during the winter months anglers can target sea mullet, black drum, and speckled trout.

 

Surf City Pier is closed for the season, but season pass holders will still be able to access the pier during the winter. Sea mullet, black drum, and blow toads will swim around the pier for the remainder of the winter.

Speckled trout and the occasional red drum can also be found throughout the winter.

 

Tyler, of Seaview Fishing Pier, reports that sea mullet fishing has been consistent. The fish are falling for cut shrimp and Fishbites. Black drum and blow toads have also been showing up and will continue to be available during the winter months.

Spiny dogfish numbers will increase as the water temperatures continue to fall. Cut bait on the bottom will tempt these fish into biting.