Gary Hurley

Tidelines – August 3, 2017

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“We’re going to anchor the boat off this one shoreline, and then we should catch puppy drum off the front of the boat and big red drum off the back,” said Capt. Grey Davis, of Hyde Guides out of Swanquarter, making everything sound simple as we idled out of the public boat ramp off Oyster Creek Street.

The three of us—Grey, myself, and my brother-in-law J.J.—bumped a little in Grey’s skiff on the 15 minute run in the direction of Shell Bay, but soon we came off plane and Grey anchored us about 50 yards off a shallow grass shoreline with several skinny sandbars just visible under the water’s surface.

“This place is sandy, there are lots of troughs, and fish are known to frequent here and cruise those bars,” explained Grey as he pulled some fresh mullet and spot from out of the cooler and headed for the cutting board on the back of the boat.

Grey prefers mullet, as it is the main forage in the area, puts out a lot of scent, and stays on the hook better, especially if it’s fresh.

Capt. Grey Davis (left), of Hyde Guides out of Swanquarter, put Gary Hurley on his first citation red drum of the 2017 season. They were soaking cut mullet on a shoreline in 4-6′ of water.

Healthy chunks of mullet and one spot went on the circle hooks of his homemade red drum rigs. Grey fan casted four heavier rods off the back of the boat to the far side of the ledge holding in 4-6’ of water, before grabbing some lighter tackle to cast off the front towards the grass line and sitting in less than 2’ of water.

Peace and quiet is a big part of the charm of Swanquarter, a small fishing and hunting town set away from just about everything, tucked off of Highway 264 about an hour out of Washington headed for the Outer Banks. While the community hops in the wintertime thanks to the influx of duck and black bear hunters from across the country, the summer flow of visitors has stayed small.

Grey, like everyone in Swanquarter, knows it takes a community effort to make it through the summer months, so he plays ambassador on the boat by pulling out a pound of local cocktail claws. J.J. and I each eat a handful of claws, and then another handful or two, calling it chum when we toss the shells off the side of the boat.

The crab claws gets interrupted, though, when one of the front rods bends over and we hear drag.

The hooked fish makes several splashes in the shallow water as it fights against the hook, and a few minutes later, J.J. brings a puppy drum to the waiting landing net.

As the sun gets lower in the sky, the back rods stay relatively quiet. A couple of pull downs from the back we suspect are rays (on a bait check Grey finds the mullet mushed), but a couple of other pull downs seem more like red drum bites (the bait’s not mushed).

Big red drum fishing can be a waiting game, and that’s the beauty of Grey’s setup on this shoreline. While we’re keeping an eye out and checking baits on the back rods, the front rods continue to produce. A front rod bends again, and we’re fast to another puppy drum, and this action plays out at least a half dozen times (plus a couple of speckled trout) in the couple of hours we wait for the sun to set and our chances of big red drum to increase.

J.J. Khoury (left) with a 22″ speckled trout that hit a cut bait rig in less than 2′ of water. He was fishing for puppy drum off the front of the boat and citation drum off the back with Capt. Grey Davis of Hyde Guides out of Swanquarter.

The sun slowly disappears in a brilliance of color, and the half-way-to-full moon is now up in the sky. We have seen perhaps thousands of mullet popping in the last hour of daylight, and just after Grey makes sure we have fresh bait on all four hooks and announces that the big red drum bite should happen at any time, the far left rod violently doubles over and this time the drag screams and keeps screaming.

It takes me two hands to pull the rod out of the rod holder, and Grey and I keep an eye on the spool as the fish’s big run shows no signs of stopping. There is finally a pause in the run, and during the pause we both see what we were hoping for—the head shaking that confirms we’re tight to a big red and not a ray.

Many minutes later I’m able to guide the fish into Grey’s net. We pull the big female (no drumming sound) up on our laps for a quick photo, and then she swims away into the night. Though Grey had brought us out in late July before the true start of the big red drum fishery, he had executed his simple plan—catch puppy drum off the front of the boat, and land big red drum off the back.

The big red drum will be running strong through August and September and even into October. It’s a world class fishery in our own backyard, and Capt. Grey Davis, of Hyde Guides, is ready to put any angler on these fish of a lifetime.

Grey can’t yet give you a website to visit, but you can follow him on Instagram at Captain_Davis or call him direct at (252) 671-0577. In addition to trophy red drum (and slot reds), Grey and his business partner Troy Shearin also love targeting trout (predicting an epic fall bite this year, and preferring topwater for big trout over any other method), putting together family days that include clamming and fishing for spanish, blues, and flounder, and then transition to guiding duck hunts.

My plan, though, is to come back before October and take advantage of the private room with six bunk beds he has off of his own house and makes available to both fishing and hunting clients. That way, Grey explains, I can enjoy a drink or two (or three) on the boat while fishing for big reds and have a designated driver back to the bunks.

And hopefully on that next visit I’ll get even more of the Swanquarter experience: buying local shrimp from Hobo’s, picking up local crab meat and crab cakes from Mattamuskeet Seafood, having lunch at Beck’s, and maybe eating dinner at Harris Steak & Seafood House.

And catching red drum of all sizes.