Southport/Oak Island – December 13, 2018
Angie, of Dutchman Creek Bait and Tackle, reports that most of the catch over the past month has been speckled trout. Most of the fish are still small, but some are in the 18-19” range. Gulp and Vudu shrimp, MirrOlures, and Z-Man soft plastics are all getting bites.
A couple of flounder are still coming in as well. The Lockwood Folly area and the backwater creeks are holding the majority of the fish.
The coming months should see more trout, and the bluefish bite should be strong through January.
Tim, of Wildlife Bait and Tackle, reports that the speckled trout bite is on fire, along with the red drum, and at least one 5+ lb. late season flounder has been weighed in as well.
Grouper are between 25-30 miles offshore, and keeper black sea bass should start firing up soon. The winter months will also continue to feature wahoo, king mackerel, triggerfish, and both blackfin and bluefin tuna.
Mark, of Angry Pelican Charters, reports that speckled trout fishing has been outstanding this fall, with limits of keepers and some citation-sized fish in the mix. There are also a lot of juvenile fish in the backwater creeks, which should make for some great fishing next spring. High Water Lure soft plastics on 1/8-1/2 oz. jig heads are getting the job done, thanks to their unique paddle tail design, and MirrOlure MR-17s and 18s are working as well.
Increase your chances of getting a big fish by focusing on the moving water just before and after the tide changes. You will also have a good chance of finding a keeper redfish in the same areas.
Fishing for whiting at the mouth of the Cape Fear River is outstanding this time of year. Pound-for-pound, these fish are a lot of fun to fight on light tackle.
As water temperatures cool, concentrate on deeper holes in the rivers, creeks, and black mud-bottom marshes. On warmer winter days, topwater baits will be effective at bringing in bigger fish. Black drum and sheepshead will be plentiful, and they will be around and under structure, particularly the Long Beach Road and Holden Beach bridges.
There are still flounder holding in these areas as well.
Keeper black sea bass will be stacked up on live bottoms in depths of 50-60’, where squid and a variety of cut baits on standard bottom rigs will get the job done, though jigging bucktails and diamond jigs will produce bigger fish.
King mackerel fishing between the Horseshoe and the Frying Pan Tower area over the next couple of months should be productive. Dead bait behind Pirate Plugs, Mac-a-Hoos, or Blue Water Candy shovels should produce.
To cover more ground, troll Drone spoons on #12 planers or Sea Witches with double-hooked belly strips over live bottom ledges and rocks with water temperatures in the mid to upper 60s. Slow trolling with small/medium ballyhoo with pink/white or blue/white skirts in front will also work for bigger fish.
False albacore are feeding in the same areas, and they will continue to do so over the winter months. The albies will fall for the same baits and tactics as the kings.
If you can get there, the Gulf Stream should be producing wahoo, blackfin tuna, and a few scattered dolphin. Medium ballyhoo is likely to do the trick over live bottoms or ledges in 120-200’ of water. High speed lures like a Big Nic Dinner Bell will allow you to cover a lot of ground, but don’t spend too much time in any water deeper than 220’.
Bottom fishing in depths of 90’+ should be excellent over the winter months, with black sea bass, grouper, and triggerfish filling boxes. A variety of cut baits, live pinfish, or cigar minnows will draw strikes, but vertical jigs are a blast and tend to produce larger fish. Being right on top of a rock, ledge, or wreck is extremely important this time of year, so don’t be afraid to move around.
Luke, of Spot On Charters, reports that the main story on the Cape Fear River over the last few weeks has been the residual effects of not only Hurricane Florence, but the frontal system that recently moved up the middle of the state. All the rain and runoff has made its way down to the coast and dropped the water temperature close to ten degrees in the span of a week, making the Cape Fear unfishable.
With that being said, there are plenty of trout to be caught in the ICW. The sizes of the fish range from spikes and then jump up to 2-3 lbs., with nothing really in between. Some nice 3-4 lb. fish have been caught as well, mostly around the Masonboro Island area. Be prepared to wade through a lot of undersized fish until you find them, though. For bait, use smaller artificials (like an MR-17 or your favorite small soft plastic), and stick to dark green colors in light water or light green colors in milky water.
Red drum are around, too, but not in big numbers. As the winter wears on, expect them to be grouping together in big schools. If you find one, you’ll find twenty.
The coming weeks should see clarity on the river improving, and then striper season will be on. January and February are some of the best months to fish on the Cape Fear River due to the consistency of the weather, but be sure to always keep an eye on the temperature and avoid fishing after a big shock.
Robert, of Reelin’ Pelican Fishing Charters, reports that speckled trout, red drum, and black drum are all biting in the inshore waters. The trout are mainly coming off curly tail grubs on jig heads, and they will continue biting all through the winter. The reds will be in the deeper holes in the creeks as the water gets colder, and big spinner baits (like Redfish Magic) should be able to pull them out.
Offshore fishing has produced bluefin tuna on the beach, kings in the 30-40 mile range, and wahoo in the Gulf Stream. The bluefin tuna bite will stay strong in the winter, and the wahoo fishing will only keep getting better. The last few years have produced consistent 70+ lb. fish, and this year should be no different.
Ryan, of Fugitive Charters, reports that recent cold snaps have turned on the speckled trout bite just off the beach, and bottom fishing has been productive out to 6 miles, with big pink snappers and other species biting readily.
Bluefin tuna fishing is now open, and all the signs are pointing to an incredible season. Bait is plentiful off the shoals, and the water temperature is exactly where it needs to be.
King mackerel are scattered and not in big schools, but there are plenty of false albacore around. Uncle Josh Pork Rind Bonita Strips have been a surprisingly effective bait when trolled with Sea Witches and alongside spoons. Blackfin tuna have been mixed in, and all species can be found anywhere from the Horseshoe to the South 40 up to the Blackjack and above the Steeples.
Wahoo have been scarce but big, with at least one 97 lb. fish coming in over the past few weeks. The forecast for the coming months is hopeful. This should be a great year for trout, with plenty of fish biting in the backwaters. Anglers can expect the bluefin tuna to stick around longer than they have in the past, and kings should be stacked up come early 2019. Also expect more heavy wahoo to hit the scales. These fish may not be plentiful, but they should all be big.
Ocean Crest Pier is closed until March.