Fish Post

Swansboro/Emerald Isle – Winter 2019-2020

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Richard, of The Reel Outdoors, reports that surf anglers are catching good numbers of speckled trout in deeper holes along the area’s beaches. Soft plastics are the most productive, but a few trout are being caught with bottom-rigged shrimp.

Blowtoads, sea mullet, and black drum are all hitting shrimp fished on bottom rigs. The slough that runs along the shoreline out to the first sandbar has been the area to target. Also, a few scattered red drum are falling for Carolina-rigged cut baits.

Inshore anglers are catching speckled trout as the trout shift towards their winter hangouts. Zoom and Z-Man soft plastics, as well as MirrOlures, are producing most of the strikes.

As the year ends, look for the speckled trout to move toward the backs of creeks and holding in deeper holes with muddy bottoms.

John Plower and John Plower, Jr,. from Conshohocken, PA, with a fistful of 18-20″ specks caught on Zoom Flukes near Swansboro. They were fishing with Capt. Rob Koraly, of Sandbar Safari Charters.

Dale, of Dudley’s Marina, reports that speckled trout fishing has been good, with most fish coming from mainland creeks. Most any lure is getting action, from scented soft plastics to MirrOlures to popping cork setups.

Red drum fishing has been slow and scattered.

As the area settles into winter, anglers will be targeting the trout in these same areas, such as Queens Creek and the White Oak River. The trout will be hitting baits worked very slow, and sometimes live bait may be the only productive option.

Red drum fishing will be hit or miss. These fish school into large groups and travel to where they can find food, whether that be inside or out the inlet. Cut baits and scented soft plastics both work best when finding winter reds.

Kim Jenkins and Ryan Dolph with a citation-sized speckled trout caught in the Swansboro area.

Chris, of Pogie’s Fishing Center, reports that speckled trout have been thick throughout the area this season. Most of the action is currently coming from the mainland creeks: Queens Creek, Bear Creek, and the White Oak River. These trout will continue to push up as they prepare for the cold water months. Gulp shrimp and Z-Man soft plastics are top producing baits, with MirrOlure MR17s also enjoying strong success.

Red drum are schooling up in large groups of 50-100 fish and moving between flats and throughout the marshes. This pattern will hold for most of the winter, with some schools pushing into the surf zone to feed.


Rob, of Sandbar Safari Charters, reports that speckled trout fishing has been great in the area, and water temperature changes are getting the fish to switch patterns. Many trout are staged up in the sounds and holes near the inlets, though a majority of these fish are spikes. As anglers start to fish up the creeks, they will notice the groups being smaller but sizes going up, as the larger fish seek ditches to winter over. MirrOlures, soft plastics, and live mud minnows are all successful when worked slow enough to entice these fish to feed.

Red drum will be schooling up in large groups from the sounds out into the surf zone. Scented soft plastics on lighter jig heads (inshore) will be key in getting strikes.

Nearshore reefs (from 15-20 miles) are holding large black sea bass and grouper for anglers looking to bottom fish. King mackerel will be holding in the same range until water temperatures truly bottom out.

Over the winter months, false albacore can be spotted in the <10 mile range hitting small metal casting jigs. These same jigs fished over bottom structure will land gray trout, black sea bass, and even some sheepshead.


Jonathan, of On Point Charters, reports that speckled trout continue to be the main target for anglers. These fish have moved up into the mainland creeks and large rivers where they seek to winter over. Live shrimp or mud minnows under corks work great as the water cools, as well as the action on MirrOlure MR17s. A variety of soft plastics also work for these fish when paired on lighter jig heads (1/8 oz.).

Most of the redfish are holding in the surf zone, but they should begin to break into large schools and push back inshore around late December. Anglers look forward to seeking out these huge groups and targeting them with Carolina-rigged live or cut baits and soft plastics on light jig heads.

On calmer days, anglers are finding a good grouper bite around structure in the 10-20 mile range while fishing cut cigar minnows and menhaden.


Bobby, of Teezher Charters, reports that the king mackerel bite has been hot over the past few weeks. Live bait has been best, but dead cigar minnows and spanish sardines are also producing strikes.

Bottom fishing has been great, with fat grouper, keeper black sea bass, and triggerfish all mixed in the counts.

Offshore trips to the Stream have been producing wahoo and blackfin tuna while pulling skirted baits. A few sailfish are still mixed in the counts and are a great surprise late in the season.

There are plenty of bluefin tuna being seen in the area, and on opening day of the season, a few 500+ lb. fish were landed. In the coming weeks, offshore anglers will primarily be targeting these “fish of a lifetime.”


Josh, of Liquid Fire Sportfishing, reports that king mackerel are being caught in strong numbers throughout the area. A variety of live or dead baits on skirts has been landing good-sized fish.

Further off, wahoo and a few blackfin tuna are mixed in the counts.

As winter settles in, the area may see another strong run of bluefin tuna similar to years past. A good sign is that bluefins are already being landed from the east side of Cape Lookout.

Wahoo also can be caught through most of the winter.


Teresa, of Bogue Inlet Pier, reports that speckled trout fishing was steady up until closing day for anglers fishing shrimp and soft plastics.

Bottom rigs with shrimp have been producing sea mullet and numbers of pufferfish.

A few good-sized black drum (to 4 lbs.) have been hitting the same bottom-rigged baits.

Bluefish have been mixed in the daily counts, and most are hitting cut baits.