When the temperature plummets and the tourists head back inland for a long, cold winter, fish are still around to be caught in the waters off Brunswick County. It may take braving some chilly mornings or late afternoons, but the south-facing beaches are perfectly situated for sneaking out on a nice day to catch black sea bass.
On a sunny winter morning, two pickup trucks turned off a paved, farm-to-market road into a Columbus County farm field. In the beds of the pickups were dog kennels. However, they were not housing packs of deer dogs and coonhounds. Not even the whining of expectant beagles could be heard.
Before 1983, coyotes had been recorded in only a handful of North Carolina counties. Now, they’ve become established in all 100. Over the same period of time, fox populations have decreased to the point where many hunters and trappers no longer target them. The drop has not been traced to any specific cause, but many hunters who traditionally ran foxes with dogs have switched to running coyotes.
According to plenty of fishermen across South Carolina, one of the better — and often overlooked — winter bass fisheries in the state is Lake Monticello. Their reasons may vary, but a consistent one is the opportunity to catch both largemouths and smallmouths on the same trip.
While winter bears down on North Carolina, the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds play host to a combination of fins and feathers that’s sure to light a fire under any sportsman. Taking advantage of the coincidence are two guides looking to sample the best duck hunting and striper fishing available during frostbitten January.
The harvested corn field looked dull and brown against the gray, early morning December sky. Small shapes resembling Canada geese dotted the center of the field, and a handful of coffin-shaped structures barely showed above the stubble of cut corn stalks, seemingly breathing fog into the cold, damp air.
The harvested corn field looked dull and brown against the gray, early morning sky. Small shapes resembling Canada geese dotted the center of the field, and a handful of coffin-shaped structures barely showed above the stubble of cut corn stalks, seemingly breathing fog into the cold, damp air.
In January and February, the expectations of inshore fishermen are usually on the low side, with the major exception of one of South Carolina’s most-favored gamefish. The cold, winter weather brews a fire storm of redfish, and the massive, undeveloped estuary that stretches between Georgetown and Charleston, aka the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, is a prime area for harboring large schools of wintering reds.
“The tide is pretty low, and we may bump the bottom getting across this bar and into this creek, but it will only be a tap or two,” Allen Jernigan said as he left the channel of the New River and headed into a small creek. “Even if I have to get out and wade us across it, this is a place I planned on fishing today. I was in here a few days ago and it was loaded with drum. Let’s hope they haven’t been harassed and moved.”
The big swimbait sailed through the air and landed like a dead — or at least stunned — trout on the surface of Lake Jocassee. It lay there motionless for a few seconds while Rob McComas shrugged his shoulders to loosen up and focused on the water around the lure. Then, he began working the swimbait back to the boat, reeling slowly, stopping occasionally to give the line a couple of sharp twitches.
A few years ago, I found myself along Mud Lick Creek in the heart of the Belfast Plantation WMA, meandering along, looking for game. My female Boykin spaniel, Walter, found the musty scent of woodcock in her nose, and her bobbed tail wagged violently. Her rushed gait told me we were getting close. In a short stretch, she flushed no fewer than 24 woodcock, some holding so tight, I almost stepped on them as I plodded along.
The Nantahala River in North Carolina’s southwestern corner has a well-deserved reputation for outstanding trout fishing having been listed among the country’s top 100 trout streams by Trout Unlimited.
It's time to turn your attention to fishing, and there's lots of great opportunities at Lake Jocassee. But don't forget the coast -- and the end of the waterfowl season.