Fish Post

Topsail / Sneads Ferry – Winter 2019-2020

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Chris, of East Coast Sports, reports that speckled trout fishing has been good in the region, with anglers seeing fish split between the surf zone and mainland creeks. Surf anglers are landing trout with soft plastics fished in the deeper holes. Those anglers working inshore are targeting holes up in the creeks with MirrOlure MR17s and soft plastics (such as Bass Assassin Sea Shads).

Anglers should look for the action to stay on this pattern for several weeks. The trout in the surf will be the first to leave, as the inshore trout will hold over in the backs of creeks. Targeting these fish through the winter requires patience and a slow retrieve, though.

Bottom fishing in the surf has been producing black drum and good-sized sea mullet for anglers soaking shrimp and sand fleas.

Over the winter, surf anglers can target pufferfish while casting out shrimp on bottom rigs.

The big talk over the last few seasons has been the nearshore bluefin tuna that run along the coast from now into January. The fish are here and will increase in numbers into January.

Bill Mowery, of Hampstead, NC, wth a speckled trout caught in the New River while fishing with Nathan Bray. The trout fell for a Lit’l Fishie lure.

Mike, of Native Son Guide Service, reports that speckled trout are biting well, and the fish are in their transition toward winter holdouts.

Red drum are moving between the marshes, docks, and surf zone, as they’re following any last schools of bait still inside before they begin their large winter schooling.

Once the water temperatures start to bottom out, the red drum will gather in thick schools and push into area creeks. Anglers can be successful in targeting areas with dark, muddy bottoms, as any bit of sunlight allows the water to warm just enough to entice these fish to bite. Scaling down baits to lightweight rigs and suspending lures is key, as most fish will strike with the bait not even moving. Fish slow—this can’t be said enough.

Docks will hold red drum and the occasional black drum for anglers fishing with shrimp. Using heavier leaders and rods will help keep the fish from breaking off on sharp corners or structure.

Speckled trout that stay in the area will be in the backs of creeks, and fishing MR17s that imitate the menhaden in these creeks will give anglers a great chance. Once again, fishing slow will be the key component.


Chadwick, of South End Anglers, reports that speckled trout fishing is going strong as we move into late fall. These fish are holding in a variety of areas, from holes in the sounds and near inlets, as well as up into mainland creeks. MirrOlures are a local favorite as the water cools, but it becomes important to slow down your retrieval. Other options include fishing Z-Man soft plastics on 1/8 oz. Fathom Inshore jig heads. Adding Pro-Cure scents to either of the above setups will only help increase the amount of bites.

On good weather days, anglers are finding nearshore areas holding numbers of black sea bass and grouper while fishing jigs or cut bait.

As the water temperatures drop out for the year, anglers fishing in the sounds for trout will have the most success targeting deeper pockets in the backs of creeks. Fishing light or suspending baits becomes key, as cold temperatures will have fish lethargic and they must be tempted to strike.

Red and black drum will feed throughout the winter. Using the freshest shrimp possible on Carolina rigs with 4/0 circle hooks will have the best results. Look for the drum around ICW docks, mainland creeks, and out into the surf zone.

Anthony Osborne, of Sneads Ferry, NC, with a speckled trout that was caught near Topsail Island. He was fishing with Capt. Ethan Bilderback, of Steller Angler Guide Service.

Ray, of Spring Tide Guide Service, reports that the speckled trout fishery continues with its banner year. All the smaller fish from last year had a great spawn and, paired with a mild winter, led to the great numbers of fish caught this season. MirrOlure MR17s and popping cork setups have been most successful, but as the water cools, the transition to more soft plastics will begin.

The trout are staged just about everywhere, with this year seeing especially good numbers of fish sitting in holes near the inlet. Some of the larger fish being caught, though, are coming from the backs of creeks with MR27s, large Vudu shrimp, and Z-Man Diesel MinnowZ.

In the coming months, anglers should focus their efforts on mainland creeks, looking for deeper holes with current near the backs of creeks. Casting soft plastics on light jig heads and letting them flutter or slightly wiggle in the current will produce strikes.


Jim, of Plan 9 Charters, reports that bottom fishing is great through the area. Fishing the 80-120’ range has been key in filling the cooler with grouper, keeper black sea bass, and grunts. Cut squid, sardines, and northern mackerel have all been successful baits.

Over the next few months, large black sea bass and grunts will hang around these same nearshore reefs for anglers taking advantage of good weather days.


John, of Pelagic Hunter Sportfishing, reports that bottom fishing has been strong, with anglers landing good numbers of grouper, snapper, and large black sea bass around nearshore structure.

These same structured areas (15+ miles) are a great starting off point for large king mackerel. Live baits work great, but dead bait rigs are getting strikes with consistency.

As the water temperatures drop and with fish already being landed, watch for the bluefin tuna bite to pick up.


Tyler, of Seaview Pier, reports that citation-class sea mullet and the occasional black drum are being caught on shrimp fished on bottom rigs.

Over the next few months, bottom rigs with bait will continue to be the most productive for targeting all of the fish staying in the surf zone.


Edwin, of Surf City Pier, reports that good-sized black drum (18” range) are being caught with shrimp fished on bottom rigs. Sea mullet and blowfish are mixed in the counts, and both are also being caught with bottom rigs.

Speckled trout fishing continues to be good, with some anglers landing limits while dropping baits into deeper holes near the breakers, and a few slot-sized red drum (to 24”) are hitting Carolina-rigged cut baits.

Over the next few months, bottom fishing should produce blowfish, black drum, and red drum, and when the water starts to flip in mid-winter, anglers will begin to see bluefish in the counts.


Brandy, of Jolly Roger Pier, reports bottom fishing has been successful in recent days. A mix of speckled trout, pufferfish, and sea mullet are being caught with shrimp fished on standard bottom rigs.

Red drum (to 23”) are being caught with cut baits. A few good-sized black drum are mixed in with the other bottom fish. Shrimp has been the preferred bait.

As the winter moves in, anglers should continue to see red and black drum being landed on bottom rigged baits.