• February 2013 - Volume 20, Number 2


    After deer season ends, lots of private land becomes available for hunters to turn loose their packs of beagles.

    After deer season ends, lots of private land becomes available for hunters to turn loose their packs of beagles.Meanwhile, a group of nine hunters, dressed warmly against the early morning chill, listened intently.

    About 10 minutes earlier, they’d pulled their vehicles off a paved road and parked at a wide shoulder next to the woods, well out of harm’s way.

    They’d loosed a dozen beagles that, after first taking care of the usual round of business, had struck out through the woods with two hunters trailing them.

    Father-son guide team looks for deep holes in otherwise shallow backwaters for schooling puppy drum.

    In North Carolina, February often plagues anglers with bone chilling cold, but the adventurous angler with warm clothes and an appetite for redfish can “endure” double-digit days in in the divine waters of the lower Cape Fear River system.

    The winter’s chill revamps daily activities for both predator and prey species in inshore waters. While the giant schools mullet, menhaden and shrimp have been gone since the first major cold fronts of the fall, resident redfish adapt with little effort. They find places in the estuaries with food and protection from marine mammals, and fortunately for anglers, these ideal niches are less common than one would believe, concentrating these fish in large schools.

    The bays and creeks off the Onslow Look for warmer water, slow down, and put more fish in the boat.

    Scanning the water across a creek near Sneads Ferry, Capt. Allen Jernigan spotted the telltale ripples made by a small school of red drum milling about. The fish were moving slowly, and it wasn't really a series of wakes but a spot experienced fishermen often call "nervous water."

    "That's a little too far to cast," Jernigan told the members of his fishing party. "Let me ease us a little closer so you can reach them and not spook them by splashing down a few feet short. Y'all get ready and I'll let you know when to cast."

    Moving closer in stealth mode, Jernigan finally decided he was as close as he dared get without spooking the drum, which were already acting a little nervous, and he told his fishermen to cast.

    Keep an eye on the birds; they’ll lead you to schooling fish every time.

    "What will February bring?"

    Many anglers ask that question as Old Man Winter decides how he's going to behave in South Carolina. For the past two years, he has granted us a pass, with relatively mild temperatures.

    Alabama rig, umbrella rig, tandem bucktail rig will put Lake Tillery stripers in the boat.

    After the Revolutionary War, a young Hessian soldier found a yellow rock lying in the bed of an almost dry creek that was part of the Yadkin River drainage.

    As the story goes, the soldier took the stone to his cabin and used it as a doorstop. Someone eventually discovered the rock actually was a gold nugget, which started North Carolina’s first gold rush and eventually resulted in the Reed Gold Mine at Midland.

    It shouldn’t be surprising that today another natural commodity along the Yadkin drainage has become as good as gold to the local economy and anglers: Lake Tillery.

    November was a month to remember for many Tarheel State hunters.

    The 2012 season showed that North Carolina continues to produce outstanding whitetail deer, with a tremendous number of trophy bucks reportedly taken from across the state, even though the number of bucks on the extreme high end of the spectrum appeared to dip slightly.

    No bucks that will threaten the Boone & Crockett Club’s standards for entry into its all-time record book have been reported to North Carolina Sportsman; two bucks made the grade in 2011, and overall, the number of 160-inch bucks from that season was missing in 2012.

    Spot and stalk or sit and wait, South Carolina hunters can take squirrels using several different techniques.

    A squirrel had just hit the ground belly up, with a slight thud, when Mike Spinks of Sumter whispered to his daughter Taylor, “Let that one lay because there’s another one up there. Stay still.”

    Taylor, 5, looked bright-eyed up into the surrounding trees.

    “Where?” she whispered back, but before her father could answer, she whispered excitedly, “Oh, I see the branch moving!”

    All was still and quiet for the next 10 minutes until the squirrel in the pine tree, feeling the coast was clear, stepped out of hiding and began moving through the limbs. Spinks slowly raised his Thompson/Center .22 rifle, peered through the scope and clicked off the safety.

    Upper end of lake and major creeks will hold the most slabs in February.

    One of the more desirable features about crappie, other than their table qualities, is that these scrappy panfish have a higher metabolism than most freshwater species.

    What that means is that when other species turn nearly dormant in the dead of winter, crappie have a continual need to feed on a regular basis. Because they feed on a more-regular basis through the winter, fishermen can enjoy the sport and catch fish — often times a bunch of fish, and big ones to boot — when other anglers are sitting inside re-spooling reels and waiting for spring to arrive.

    Learn more about guns, dogs and other equipment raccoon hunters take into the woods at night.

    The meeting took place at a travel center in Rocky Point, located just off I-40 at the NC 210 exit. Pickups parked side by side, David MacCallum, Vernon Eakins and Mike Milam walked to the counter in hip booats to buy snacks and soft drinks.

    Wearing a white helmet with a headlamp, MacCallum looked like a coal miner, but the black footprints of a raccoon stenciled on his hard hat told a different story. Darkness had fallen a few minutes earlie, and it was time to hunt raccoons.

    “This is one of our prime gathering spots,” said MacCallum, a 36-year-old landscaper who lives in Rocky Point. “We travel extensively to hunt, but this spot has plenty of parking, so we meet here when we are hunting close to home.”

    Big schools, clear water, light tackle combine for great catches.

    The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway provides safe travel from the northeast all the way to the gulf states via a system of connected canals and natural waterways. Its use for recreational and commercial boat traffic is beyond measure, but in South Carolina, as with other states, it is also of great use to recreational fisherman.

    It not only provides easy travel from one hot spot to the next but also provides habitat for one of the most sought-after inshore species, the redfish, especially in the winter when the water clears and they gang up in large schools for protection.

    Anglers in the Charleston area are blessed with easy access to the redfish-rich waters of the ICW both north and south of the city.

    Top-drawer Caldwell County stream has pools, riffles, runs and pocket water

    Wilson Creek is one of the jewels of North Carolina’s trout-fishing crown. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Caldwell County, it is tucked in among the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest and supports, in various stretches, delayed-harvest and hatchery-supported waters, and several of its tributaries are designated as wild trout fisheries.

    Wilson Creek has been designated as a wild and scenic river, as described in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The Act seeks to preserve the qualities of such waterways through public and private, voluntary stewardship.

    Discovering deer sign, moving stands and opening or extending shooting lanes can tilt the odds in your favor.

    It wasn’t your normal stroll through the winter woods, but as in years past, the walk had a purpose. We were looking for something, and if necessary, we would walk the entire property to find it.

    For at least a decade, this mid-winter stroll has marked the beginning of our deer hunting. Even though the season was nine months away, our hunting had begun in earnest. While many hunters are sitting by a fire, anxiously waiting for the winter to fade into spring and marking opening day on their calendars, others are out getting all of the knowledge the woods affords them.

    Fly rods are perfect weapons for sight-casting to spooky fish.

    Drifting onto the flat, you can see them, 50 or more, finning almost motionless in a foot of water that is so clear you can almost make out individual fish — but mostly it is just a mass of dark spots.

    Standing on the poling platform, you work ever so carefully to close into casting range, while your partner readies his 8-weight fly rod. Closing enough, you push the boat slightly to the right for an ideal forehand cast that your buddy delivers right on the nose of a spot-tail bass on the outside edge of the school, which is now clearly visible and may contain 200 fish.

    Whether it's shallow Lowcountry reds or deepwater crappie in the Midlands, South Carolina fishermen have options in February.