Morehead City/Atlantic Beach – December 13, 2018
Matt, of Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, reports that speckled trout fishing has been great lately, and now that water temperatures are falling, more and more keeper fish are entering the mix. The specks are chewing all throughout the inshore waters, and the bite at the Cape Lookout rock jetty has turned on. Live shrimp and mud minnows are accounting for most of the action. As the water continues to cool, this action will keep getting better.
Plenty of redfish have been swimming alongside the specks, with 20-30 fish coming in from trips as short as four hours. The Morehead High Rise and Railroad Track bridges have been holding most of the reds (in addition to some sheepshead and black drum), and fresh shrimp has been getting the most bites. Reds are also being found in the Core Creek and Haystacks area.
As temperatures continue to fall, the larger schools of fish will move to the surf zone and around the point at Cape Lokout, where live mud minnows and Gulp baits should do the most damage.
Sea mullet have been schooling along the beach, just not in their usual numbers, so it seems that Hurricane Florence really affected the bite. Anglers are taking advantage of some fantastic speckled trout action, though, especially around Fort Macon and near the Oceanana Pier. Radio Island is also holding plenty of fish, but the bite may be on fire one day and completely dead the next. MirrOlure 52Ms and TTs have been fooling the specks, as have soft plastics.
Off the beach, false albacore have shown back up in droves, but kings have been scarce, with most of the action coming from the Northwest Places and out toward the Big Ten/Little Ten area.
When boats can make it out to the Gulf Stream, there are plenty of wahoo to go around. The Swansboro Hole up to the Rise and back toward the Big Rock area has been productive for the ‘hoos, but really all you need to find is a good temperature break. Sailfish have also been jumping on baits.
The success of the bluefin tuna season is anybody’s guess at this point. It seems like bait is moving back toward the beach, though, so the tuna will be easier to target in the coming months.
Paul, of Freeman’s Bait & Tackle, reports that fishing has been fairly slow due to the weather, rain, and cloudy water. Some red drum are still coming in, though, particularly on Gulp and Z-Man soft plastics. Very few trout have been caught, but there are some being landed from the beach. A few black drum are biting in the surf as well, with cut shrimp accounting for most of the action. Sea mullet are being hooked on shrimp and squid.Bluefin tuna are being found more regularly, and wahoo are biting in the Stream when you can make the trip out.
Winter fishing will be hard to predict since all the bait got pushed out due to the storm. The speckled trout bite should improve inshore, though, and bluefin tuna will likely be the main target off the beach.
Chris, of Mount Maker Charters, reports that plenty of small speckled trout have been biting fresh and live bait around the Haystacks.
There have been tons of gray trout around the nearshore reefs, where Stingsilvers and bucktails are getting the most attention. The Cape Lookout rock jetty has been holding some big specks, red drum, and sheepshead, which have all been falling for live shrimp.
Bottom fishing from 60-90’ has been producing solid numbers of gag grouper and big black sea bass on live bait and pinfish. The 90-130’ range has good numbers of vermilion snapper and triggerfish on small hooks and cut squid.
With a colder-than-normal weather forecast, it’s hard to predict what will happen to the fishing in the area. If the crazy weather levels out, fishing should remain productive. Typically, a cold winter will shake things up and can drastically change, or even improve, fishing.
Dave, of Cape Lookout Charters, reports that the speckled trout bite has been red hot. Green grubs and white flukes on 1/4-3/8 oz. jig heads are taking lots of fish, as are shrimp under popping corks and MirrOlure MR series hard baits. Most of the fish are being found in creeks, canals, and around bridges. Redfish are being caught on the same baits.
Black drum and sheepshead have been hitting fresh shrimp under the Morehead, Radio Island, and Beaufort bridges.
Bluefish and false albacore are biting close to the beaches, and black drum, sheepshead, flounder, and trout are all chewing at the rock jetties.
Justin, of Breakday Charters, reports that speckled trout are plentiful, though most of the catch consists of undersized fish. You can keep picking away at small schools and hope to find bigger fish mixed in, or keep moving around to increase your odds of finding a school of keepers. Most of the fish are in moving water around jetties, sandbars, cut marsh banks, docks, and bridges in the sound.
As temperatures continue to cool, look for many of the specks to start occupying the surf zone. Both inshore and surf trout will fall for soft plastics on jig heads and MirrOlures. Some of the trout will stick it out in the marsh creeks of the North River, Newport River, Bogue Sound, and the Neuse River Basin. They will likely be in the rear portion of the creeks, particularly as the water cools into the upper 40s.
Red drum are still readily available throughout the inshore and nearshore waters surrounding the Cape Lookout/Morehead area, including current-bathed marshes, bridges, jetties, docks, and the surf zone.
In the marshes, look for reds to be hunting during the last of flooding into the first of ebbing tides. Target tributary mouths, oyster points, cut banks, or any areas with bait concentrations. Bridges, jetties, and docks should be fished when the current permits. As the waters cool into the lower 50s and upper 40s, look for the reds to favor deeper water around such structure.
Plenty of drum will be wintering in the surf zone, particularly along the oceanfront of Shackleford Island and Cape Lookout.
Most flounder have left the inshore waters, but some may still bite while fishing for specks and drum.
Expect to find black sea bass on structure in 60-80’ of water, and use high-low rigs with squid and cut bait, or you can drop down jigging spoons and bucktails. The artificials will typically produce more keeper-sized fish. Ringtails, porgies, the occasional tautog, and grouper (until December 31) will round out the nearshore bottom fishing catch.
Tom, of Dancin’ Outlaw, reports that the past few weeks have provided plenty of fantastic wahoo and blackfin fishing when the weather has allowed. The waters from the Swansboro Hole to the Big Rock have been holding fish, where medium ballyhoo and Sea Witches will get bites. The wahoo should stay around throughout the winter, as long as the weather allows boats to get out to them.