Tidelines – April 25, 2019
Capt. Chadwick Crawford, of South End Anglers, treated Katelyn Millis (Media/Events Coordinator at Fisherman’s Post) and me to a morning of catching trout and red drum in the south Topsail Island area, including putting Katelyn on her biggest trout to date, but it wasn’t the catching that proved to be the biggest memory of the trip.
Spring inshore fishing around Topsail, for Chadwick like most others, means trout and red drum, and his plan for us was to start the morning off in some Topsail canals that he hoped were holding both.
In our first canal, we basically drifted down the middle of the canal, keeping our casts more in the center than out to the sides towards the docks.
Katelyn and I both were casting Z-Man Slim SwimZ, and our instructions were to cast out, let the jig head and soft plastic fall to the bottom so that we would be fishing the lower 18” of the 6-8’ water column, and then bring the bait in with a slow and steady retrieve.
The first part of the canal was quiet, but about mid-way down and out off of this one dock, I got the first trout bite. My next cast also found a small head-shaker, so Chadwick used the trolling motor to keep us in place.
“The trout are out in the middle taking advantage of the bait that is around,” Chadwick told us as we continued to hook small trout, “such as fry, stuff that washes in and out of those areas.”
The bite slowed, so we continued down the canal. At the end, Chadwick mixed it up. He threw some cut bait up under a couple of docks to soak, while Katelyn and I continued to cast for trout, but now we were throwing live mud minnows under a float.
The trout continued to cooperate, including a 19” speck, our biggest of the day and Katelyn’s biggest ever, but the drum didn’t. So it was off to the next canal.
In our second canal, Chadwick didn’t opt for drifting the length of it. Rather, he knew a dock that typically held red drum this time of year, so we went directly to it. Again we threw out cut bait on knocker rigs.
Chadwick’s knocker rig is an 3/8 oz. egg sinker right above a 3/0 circle hook. He likes this rig because it’s easier to cast than even a short Carolina rig. This time of year the reds are sensitive, so he also likes to use smaller baits. A smaller piece allows them to pick it up without having to mouth it in, so Katelyn had a piece of cut shrimp and I had a quarter section of a hard crab.
His confidence in red drum was greater at this dock, so we didn’t put rods in rod holders. Katelyn and I held the rods, waiting for the pull so that we could quickly set the hook and work on getting the red out and away from the pilings.
“I think the winter and spring reds mostly subsist on the stuff that lives on the pilings,” he explained, “the little tiny grass shrimp, the worms, the eel-like critters that are here year round.”
I was the fortunate one that got the first red drum bite, an upper-slot red that put up a strong tug-of-war before being pulled out into open water where I could take my time getting him in, and Katelyn was second, hooking her lower-slot redfish a little more towards the next dock down.
Our morning of trout and drum in different locales continued until Chadwick brought us to his dock behind the Assembly Building in Topsail Beach. There he carefully fileted both the red drum and trout, and then with filets in hand (in a bag in hand), we walked the block and a half over to the Beach Shop & Grill where Chadwick had arranged, via owner Jeff Price, to have our fresh fish cooked and plated for us.
We walked in the Beach Shop & Grill, were met by a friendly host that walked us to a booth, and the bartender took our drink order while Chadwick handed off the fish to Chef Jeff Philbrook.
I hadn’t been sure I was going to write about our trip, but that was before the two Jeffs brought out our four plates of food—two plates of fried fish hoagies, where they had used the tail sections of both the trout and red drum, and two plates of grilled fish, the thicker portions of the filets adorned with three sauces on the side: a remoulade, a chipotle, and a lemon aioli.
Capt. Chadwick Crawford, of South End Anglers, will be targeting trout a little while longer, but red drum are basically a year round opportunity. He also likes chasing bonito, spanish, cobia, kings, and false albacore off the beach, as well as flounder and black drum inside. Chadwick will target, depending on the conditions, the best opportunity to put his clients on fish anywhere from back in the creeks out to 22 miles.
As for Chadwick arranging to have your catch cooked for you at the Beach Shop & Grill at the end of your fishing day? It’s not a guarantee, but it might be something he can arrange for you.
My suggestion? Reach out to Chadwick at (540) 460-3432 or www.southendanglers.com and tell him you want to go fishing for whatever’s (1) biting and (2) delicious, and then if the cook-your-catch can’t be worked out, you still go over to Beach Shop & Grill for their famous Shrimp and Grits with Tasso Ham, or reward yourself with the Mile High Key Lime Pie, but at least get a tall, cold IPA or a crafted cocktail to celebrate a great day on the water with Chadwick.