Ocean Isle/Holden Beach – Winter 2019-2020
Jeff, of Ocean Isle Fishing Center, reports that the reds are moving up on the flats, and speckled trout fishing has been hot over the last month. Vudu shrimp under popping corks are accounting for most of the bites, and the best action has come from fishing the falling tide in and around tidal rips where creeks converge with larger bodies of water or other creeks
Provided the water doesn’t get as freezing cold as it did last year, the trout bite should stay turned on throughout the winter months, providing anglers with plenty of action all the way through to March.
Brant, of Ocean Isle Fishing Center, reports that December is bluefin tuna month, as the fish will be in the area and the season is open. From Morehead to Southport, there will be bluefins holding around the bait/birds in the 52-60 degree water temperature range.
Wahoo fishing is typically strong through the winter as well, especially when warm water pushes across the 30 fathom edge.
Winter is the best time for black sea bass, which get bigger and come closer to shore in the cooler months. You can find the best bite in the 60-80’ range.
Kevin, of Rigged and Ready Charters, reports that there are plenty of king mackerel nearshore around the Horseshoe area. Anglers have had the most success using cigar minnows on dead-bait king rigs. With the temperatures still higher than normal, the kings will hopefully hang around longer than usual into the winter.
Speckled trout have been on fire, with anglers catching them on a myriad of soft plastics and hard plastic MirrOlures.
In the coming months, expect the speckled trout to keep biting on the same baits.
When it comes to offshore fishing, you can look forward to a fantastic bluefin season starting in December.
Tripp, of Capt’n Hook Outdoors, reports that the speckled trout bite remains very good. Most fish are in the 17-20” range, but there have been many fish over 5 lbs. Almost all of the specks are being caught on live shrimp, with a few fish hitting Saltwater Assassin grubs and 52MRs.
The black drum are biting and being caught on the bottom on Carolina-rigged dead shrimp. Most of the black drum are tight to docks along the ICW or around any deep structure.
The red drum bite has remained steady, and most fish are starting to school in the shallow creeks. The redfish are being caught using mud minnows or live shrimp fished on jig heads, and they have been anywhere from 16-30”.
Offshore, king mackerel are being caught on Drone spoons and cigar minnows, and the best action has been anywhere the water temp gets over 65 degrees.
The wahoo bite has started picking up, with most fish coming from the ledge in 180’ of water. Also look for the wahoo on temp breaks in the Gulf Stream that are shallower than 250’.
Inshore, trout and red drum will remain the targets throughout the winter. Redfish will become easier to catch as they push back into the shallow creeks. The best time to fish for the reds in the colder part of the winter will be on warmer, sunny days around low tide. The speckled trout will be tougher to catch, but most fish will be bigger. The trout can best be targeted with grubs or MR17s and 52s in deep holes.
Offshore, the wahoo bite should pick up and remain steady throughout winter, as long as temps in the Gulf Stream remain close to 70 degrees. The wahoo will be caught mostly on high speed lures or ballyhoo trolled with dark-colored skirts.
Tim, of Tideline Charters, reports that the trout fishing over the past month has been the best our area has seen in a very long time. They have been everywhere, and all are good-sized (keeper) fish, with the average going 18-21”. There have been plenty over that size, though, along with some as heavy as 5-7 lbs. Fishing live shrimp under a slip cork has been the best overall tactic, and long stretches of shell banks or deeper grass edges with good current have been the best areas.
Occasionally, there are a few reds mixed in with the trout. If you don’t have shrimp, MirrOlures (like the MR25 in purple or red and white) have worked. As the water cools down, the redfish will school together very tightly and be holding in super shallow water. Small depressions all the way in the back of small creeks will be where they are through the winter months. The trout will still be around, too, but they will likely hold in deeper water spots and around the inlets.
Black drum should be easy to target under docks along the ICW using fresh and dead shrimp, and some shell banks with shallow water will also hold reds.
Eye strike jigs paired with Z-Man soft plastics in the mood ring color will be the go-to bait for the trout in the winter. For redfish, it will be Gulp shrimp fished very slow on the bottom or mud minnows on the same jig heads.
Kyle, of Speckulator Inshore Fishing Charters, reports that the trout fishing has been exceptional. There have been good numbers of fish, as well as a good average size. The majority of the trout have been in the 16-18″ range, but plenty of 20+” fish are in the mix as well. In addition to a good average size, there have been fish up to 8 lbs. caught in the area. Live shrimp has been the ticket, but artificial lures like MirrOlures, shrimp-imitations, and swimbaits have been producing, too.
Anglers have been catching good numbers of reds and black drum in many of the same areas they are trout fishing, but the drum are beginning to move back up into the creeks.
That will be the trend in the coming weeks/months as well—the trout, red drum, and black drum will be in the backs of shallow creeks.
Cecil, of Rod and Reel Shop, reports that trout fishing has been awesome, with plenty of fish (some up to 5 lbs.) coming in from area rivers, creeks, and canals. The best baits have been everything from MirrOlures, live shrimp and minnows, and soft plastics in electric chicken color on jig heads. Trout fishing should stay strong throughout the cold winter months.
Red drum, bluefish, and pompano will likely slow down over the next few months, but they will pick back up in March.
In the surf and just off the beach, there has been some bluefish action.
Kings can be found nearshore, but out in that 30 mile range is where they are more readily available (as they continue to push offshore for winter).