May 24th, 2011

Old North State Fishing Report

Overall lake fishing has been tough in February and the trend continued a little longer this year. Most anglers across the state have accepted this longer winter pattern and pushed back the spring patterns. Fish were still caught and even some of quality size as indicated by the winter bass trail results. But most anglers have started to see signs of longer days, a few red maple blooms peaking out and some warmer days. March madness is here and not a minute to soon. So get some new sunscreen, some new line or maybe a few new lures and get on out on the water.

Capt. Paul Rose, www.carolinabonefishing.com

Mayo Lake

Theodore Peters Jr. of Roxboro Trading Post (336-322-4100) can give your fishing reels and rods of any make the attention required after a long cold winter to have you ready for the season. Stop in on your way to the lake for the local conditions, tackle and a gear tune-up. Guide Kennon Brown of Hawg Hunter Guide Service works out of the same shop. “Pre-spawn is BIG bass time.”

Belews Lake

Power plant lakes are ahead of other local lakes from heated discharges. Water downstream of the outflows can be warmer and congregates bait and game fish. Guide Buddy Parks (336-414-4648) suggests drifting from the outflow for about 1 mile and keeping an eye on the temperature gauge and how it relates to depth.

On his first drift, he will have a plain old hardware thermometer attached to a weight and line. He will measure depths and record the pattern of temperature changes under the surface then mark the electronics.

The next drift he sets out crappie spreads in the ideal temperature ranges (58 degrees) at specific depths (4-to-20 feet), using Calcutta minnows. “The crappies have been coming on strong and this really pinpoints where they are holding before getting real shallow.”

Bass fishing is also picking up particularly around the willows. Carolina rigs and spinnerbaits with minnow trailers are working for fish in a strong pre-spawn pattern. Depths can vary to as shallow as 4 feet.

Hyco Lake

Due the warm water resulting from power generation, Hyco Lake offers earlier season opportunities for fishing. “Sometimes these lakes can be weeks ahead of others” according to John Stevens at Hyco Marina (336-599-2211).

The biggest crappies of the year are under the bridges right now. Get them on minnows with and without standard crappie jigs. As spring approaches John “expects more of an abundance rather than these monster slabs.” Besides the excellent crappie bite, April on Hyco features a great white-spinnerbait pattern against rip rap. Try South Hyco Creek and don’t be afraid to use a top-water lure, like a Spook, for a really big fish.”

Jordan and Falls Lakes

Jamie Olive (919-625-0707) has his strategy worked out on these two gems. He guides on both lakes and the pattern for success is identical. Lucky for us he readily shares info.

“In Feb you had water around 43 degrees. With it getting so cold everything is going to be late. Longer days and increasing temperatures have bass now on both lakes moving up from the depths into pre-spawning positions, particularly the big females looking for crayfish.”

His biggest bass of 11 pounds came from this exact pattern and the water was just 49 degrees. “Start at the mouth of creeks and work back to the edge of the spawning flats. Follow well defined channels and hit all the secondary points. Use Carolina rigged centipedes and Senko worms rigged wacky.

If it is windy, target the same points and any rock formations with lipless crankbaits and shad raps to score on the reaction bites. Spinnerbaits will work great on the south and west sides of the same points. Once you get a few strikes, get the jig or shakey heads out to slow it down for a few quality bites.

On Falls, fish Upper and Lower Batton and New Light Creeks. On Jordan best bets are Beaver, Whiteoak and Bush Creeks.”

Shearon Harris

Rich Szczerbala (919-418-2912) had this to say: “February was definitely slow and tough. Water was as low as 40-to-43 degrees. As the water gets up to low 50’s, the bass are pulling up to stage.

The primrose edge will hold fish and anglers should throw jigs and Netbaits in paca craw. If the water is calm, fish will suspend on these edges but can be spooky so stay off them a bit.

If the bite becomes tough, move out into the middle of the coves on the creek channel edges. As the water gets close to 60, move on the inside edge of the primrose and fan cast unweighted trick worms on 2/0 hooks with a swivel and 12-pound flouro to prevent twisting. Try a buzzbait to score a trophy.” Rich had a record 5 fish for 39 pounds on staging patterns like this.

Lake Gaston

Joel Richardson (336-643-7214) reports in with a rock pattern holding up well. “Fish rocks with deep water close by using spinnerbaits in chartreuse/white or crawfish cranks running 6-8 feet down. Jigs will always work.

Plenty of 3-5lb fish are being caught but expect a good 6-7 pounder one to bite. Spawn action runs from the end of March and well into April this year. Use floating worms in bubblegum/white or pumpkin lizards. Hit the visible cover in 5-feet of water. The Eaton Ferry Bridge to the dam has the clearer water”

Kerr Lake

Lynn Harvell had to endure temperatures as low as 38-to-39 degrees. But all is well now as “crappie are on brush tops and logs using 5/16oz jigs (c/r, c/b, and c/b) under a float.

You can also use small gold hooks and small minnows with a small shot about 4-feet up. Pre -spawn bass will react to Carolina rigged lizards on 3/0 hooks. Tandem spinnerbaits also have been productive along main lake points, around wood, and willow bushes. March and April temperatures will run 50-to-53 degrees.


May 24th, 2011

by Mike Marsh

Mike Marsh’s new book, Fishing North Carolina covers every detail for fishing 100 rivers, lakes, sounds, piers and beaches. Fishing North Carolina ($26.60 ppd.), Inshore Angler – Coastal Carolina’s Small Boat Fishing Guide ($26.20) and “Offshore Angler – Carolina’s Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide” ($22.25) are available by check or M.O. to Mike Marsh, 1502 Ebb Dr., Wilmington, NC 28409. For credit card orders or more hunting and fishing information visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com.

March is a transition month, with warming weather stirring anglers into action. While the wind can keep boats in port, it is the wind that will be warming up the water to jumpstart the spring fishing. Once April arrives, the fishing action picks up substantially.

Federal rules have shut down the fishing for several bottom fish species, but the action is still on for grunts, jacks, blackfin tuna and a host of other fish caught incidentally to what was once a “grouper” trip.

Inshore, red drum, black drum, sheepshead, whiting and speckled trout will begin biting eagerly as February ebbs and March rises. These species will bite at the piers, jetties, marinas and backwater creeks.

Little River

Capt. Chris Long (Longway Charter Fishing, 843-249-7813) said the bottom fish action would be good, but many fish species would have to be released.

“Because of the current regulations, we will be releasing some of the favorite species including sea bass, red snapper and grouper,” he said. “But anglers can still keep grunts, triggerfish, amberjack and other bottom fish species. They will still catch lots of fish and go home with plenty to eat.”

For the best bottom fish action, anglers should head to the hard bottoms located beyond 60 miles offshore. The key to finding the bottom fish is locating the correct water temperature where it occurs over a good hard bottom area. The best tactic for locating a likely fishing hotspot is to use online temperature services before heading offshore to go fishing. Anglers should try to find water temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s and, once they arrive in the area, use a color sonar unit to locate fish on the bottom structure. Different species are indicated by different colors, sizes of fish marks and height above the bottom.

Light-lining for wahoo, tuna and amberjack will be an excellent way to catch pelagic fish while bouncing squid and cut baits off the bottom for grunts and triggerfish. Small baitfish caught with Sabiki rigs or small grunts caught on bottom fish rigs make excellent baits for light-line fishing.

Pier Fishing

Apache Pier

Deon Grainger (Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach, 843-497-6486) said anglers should start catching some great eating fish, with April a better month than February.

“Black drum are the fish of the month for March,” she said. “There should also be some good catches of whiting.”

By the latter part of April, a few flounder will show. Anglers may also catch some speckled trout.

Most fishermen use shrimp for bait because it will catch all of these species. Shrimp is available at the tackle shop. Some anglers also use cut fish. The best wind for fishing is a northeast wind. But angler can also have good fishing during warm, calm weather. The pier has a shelter at the end from protection from the elements.

Springmaid Pier

Adriana Kascher (Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach, 843-315-7156) said the winter months shut down the fish, but bites should come more frequently as spring arrives.

“We will see some croaker, whiting, speckled trout, dogfish and weakfish,” she said. “There will also be some catches of red drum and black drum.”

The best bait is shrimp, which can be purchased at the pier house. The pier has a shelter at the end for bad weather and the pier house is always open for warming up between the fish runs. The best action occurs when the wind is blowing from the east.

Most fishermen use a medium- to heavy-action spinning rig for casting bottom rigs and catching the smaller species of fish. But if the dogfish run is strong, anglers may want to upsize their rods and reels and switch from monofilament to wire leaders.

Murrells Inlet

Capt. Jay Biesch (Fishfull Thinking, 843-902-0356) said action at nearshore reefs would be picking up.

“We will be catching sheepshead at all the nearshore reefs,” he said. “With grouper and sea bass shut down, that will be the best bottomfish action. Fiddler crabs will be the best baits for sheepshead.”

Sheepshead will also be biting at the inlet, along with black drum. Fiddler crabs will also work well for black drum. Shrimp is a great bait for black drum and will also catch sheepshead.

Back in the creeks, the red drum and speckled trout will bite more strongly as the weather warms up. Some good places to catch them are in Oak Creek and in the main channel near Marlin Quay Marina.

The best bets for red drum and speckled trout are slow-trolling or casting with MirrOlures and grubs. The channel edges are the best places. Any place with hard structure such as jetties, seawalls, marina basins and bridges should hold some fish.

King mackerel will strike spoons, live baits and frozen baits in the offshore waters. Anglers should watch their depthfinder screens for baitfish concentrations when they arrive in an area with the right temperature for king mackerel. The best water temperatures are in the upper 60s to low 70s and can be found by searching online for temperature charts.


Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said the speckled trout and red drum action would warm up.

“Redfish aren’t affected by the cold so there will be plenty of them around this spring,” he said. “But our speckled trout numbers may be down. The water got too cold last winter and may have moved them out. I don’t know that any of them were killed and we are hoping the fishing will not be impacted too badly.”

The best fishing will occur in the latter part of March. Red drum spend 90 percent of their lives in less than 18 inches of water during the first three years of life. Therefore, anglers will find them as they move from the deeper holes at night to the shallower, warmer waters during the day.

Speckled trout will be biting in the deepest holes in the backwater creeks. Ledges that drop from the shallow flats to depths of 4 to 7 feet are good bets for specks. By the last of March, the speckled trout will start moving to the jetties.

Black drum will bite in the deeper holes. They congregate wherever there is structure. If you catch one black drum, keep fishing because others are in the same area.

For red drum and speckled trout, soft plastic tails like the D.O.A-C.A.L shad tails and Haw River curly tails are good bets. They should be fished on jigs sized to reach the bottom depending on water depth and current flow.

While black drum will strike soft plastics, they prefer shrimp, cut baits and crab baits. If you can find them, live mullet or menhaden are good bets for all three species of fish.


May 24th, 2011

by Mike Marsh

Mike Marsh’s books, “Inshore Angler – Coastal Carolina’s Small Boat Fishing Guide” ($26.20 ppd.) and “Offshore Angler – Carolina’s Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide” ($22.25 ppd.), are available by check or M.O. sent to Mike Marsh, 1502 Ebb Dr., Wilmington, NC 28409. Visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com for credit card orders and more hunting and fishing information.

Little River

Capt. Patrick Kelly (Capt. Smiley’s Fishing Charters, 843-361-7445) said the best fishing for red drum would occur in shallow water.

“The fish are in big schools in the shallows,” he said. “Wade fishing or poling a shallow-draft skiff are the best ways to approach the fish. You have to be stealthy because the fish are super-spooky. Dolphin are in the water and are the top predator of redfish in winter because they are warm-blooded. They keep the redfish on high alert.”

The best tidal conditions occur starting at low tide and continue into the first part of the rise. On the lower tides, fish are concentrated in the deeper holes at the turns in the shallow creeks. For wading anglers, the shelly banks and hard bottom areas are the best bets because they offer firm footing. It is mostly a sight-casting game, with the angler spotting the fish before making a cast to them.

The fishing can be incredibly good or very bad. But when the action is good, it’s red hot. It’s important to avoid disturbing the fish in any way or they can completely shut down.

The best lures include scented softies, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp and crab imitations. A fresh blue crab cut into quarters is another good bet, along with mud minnows, mullet and fresh or live shrimp.

Speckled trout action should also be good. A D.O.A. shrimp rigged on a popping cork fished around the Little River swing bridges and at the mouths of some of the marinas is a sure bet for specks. Any of the shell beds, holes, bridges, docks or other structure areas could hold specks. Anglers may even catch a flounder or two while fishing for specks around the structure.

Pier Fishing

Apache Pier

Dave Barnes at Apache Pier in Myrtle Beach (843-449-7323) said anglers should still catch some great eating fish, even though it is winter.

“Whiting will be biting,” he said. “If you like eating fish, you will love catching whiting.”

Another great tasting fish is the small sugar perch or sand perch. On warm days, there are plenty of these small bottom fish around.

Speckled trout anglers will also have some excellent luck. A few flounder will also stick around to give anglers a thrill.

Shrimp is the universal bait for all of these fish and is available at the pier house. The best wind for fishing is a northeast wind. But anglers should watch for the warmer stretches of weather for the best action. The pier has a shelter at the end from protection from the elements.

Springmaid Pier

Colby at Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach (843-315-7156) said the winter months offered a mixed bag of fish.

“We will see lots of fish caught, including croaker, whiting, speckled trout, dogfish and even a few flounder,” he said. The best bait to use is usually cut fish.”

But sometimes the best bait is shrimp, which is available at the pier house. The best wind to stir the fish into action comes from the east. The pier has a canopy shelter at the end and he pier house is open.

Any medium to heavy spinning rig will work fine for casting bottom rigs and catching the smaller species of fish. But sometimes the dogfish are so big anglers may want to upsize their rods and reels when dogfish action is hot.

Murrells Inlet

Capt. Jay Biesch (Fishfull Thinking, 843-902-0356) said the inshore fishing would continue to be good during the cold weather.

“Speckled trout will continue biting well,” he said. “We will be catching them back in the creeks and around the jetties.”

Best bets for specks are live shrimp fished on float rigs and MirrOlures. Along with the specks, anglers will catch plenty of red drum and most of them will be keeper fish within the slot size.

Black drum will also be biting at the jetties. These hard fighters will weigh between 5 and 12 pounds. The best bait will be shrimp.

Sheepshead anglers will have good luck at the nearshore artificial reefs. The best baits will be fiddler crabs and barnacles.

Offshore anglers will find big sea bass biting at 70 to 80 feet of water. Cut baits and jigs will work best for catching bottom fish. Butterfly jigs will also work. But with the restrictions on certain species of snapper and grouper, anglers will have to settle for sea bass, amberjack, and grunts.

Farther offshore, king mackerel will be schooling in tight congregations and many will be extremely large fish of 30 pounds and up. The best way to catch them is by drifting or trolling live and frozen baits wherever the depthfinder shows concentrations of baitfish and the bigger marks showing the kings. Other ways to find the king mackerel are watch for the commercial boats or using online temperature charts to find warm water eddies where king mackerel congregate. For quick limits, anglers can also troll with lures and spoons rigged on heavy planer rods or downriggers.


Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said the speckled trout and redfish would be biting in the flats and holes.

“We will have some really good redfish and trout fishing,” he said. “The duration of our trout fishing depends on the water temperature. If it gets below 50 degrees, they head for the deep holes and go dormant. If it gets below 45 degrees for a week or better, it can kill them.”

The best places to catch trout in cold weather are the deepest holes in the backwater creeks. Anglers should use the lightest jigs and lines possible and fish very slowly.

The redfish action will be good on the flats. The redfish will be caught in combination with speckled trout by anglers casting topwater lures and dragging jigs along the bottom. The best jig color is chartreuse. Anglers will catch a few slot-sized black drum along with the red drum.