"The Wilmington and Cape Fear area is a great place for a kayak fisherman," said Huffine. "We have the (Cape Fear) river, all the creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and behind the islands, the bays between Fort Fisher and Bald Head Island and the ocean for those folks seeking a little more adventure.
"I can take a change of clothes to work and be fishing in less than an hour after I leave or, when the time and tide are right, I can get in an early trip and then head to work. It's especially nice during Daylight Savings Time, when we have that extra hour of sunshine in the afternoon. Plus, I've got a great job situation; lots of fishermen come by the store and talk about fishing, so I have great information to plan a fishing trip."
Huffine said of the numerous places in the area that are open doors to really good kayak-fishing possibilities, three stand out: the N.C. Wildlife Ramp at Fort Fisher's Federal Point, the New Hanover County/Wildlife Ramp at Trails End Rd. and the New Hanover County Ramp at River Road Park. The waters around the two New Hanover County Ramps are rarely crowded, he said, but the bays at the Federal Point Ramp occasionally get crowded, especially on weekends.
Huffine fishes from his kayak year-round. After the cold winter, the water has been a little slower to warm this year, but fish should be active enough to be readily hitting topwater baits this month.
"I really like fishing inshore with topwater lures," Huffine said. "You just walk the bait along grass edges or oyster bars, and suddenly the water explodes, and you're hooked up. Trout will come up from the deeper water and reds charge off the bank and explode on the lure. Heck, the drum miss it about as much as they get it, but you don't care. The excitement is in seeing them blow up on it."
If topwater isn't your thing, Huffine suggested using soft-plastic jerkbaits or paddletail grubs like a D.O.A. or Saltwater Assassin jerkbait on a 3/0 Mustad Power Point Power Lock Plus hook with the 1/16th-ounce weight for fishing the shallow areas. Retrieving it slowly and twitching it occasionally should bring strikes if redfish, speckled trout and flounder are feeding.
Years of experience fishing in his kayak have led Huffines to his setup. He prefers a longer rod - a 7-foot-6, fast-taper Star Stellar Lite spinning rod in light or medium-light action - for better casting distance. He mates it with a 2500 or 3000 Shimano spinning reel filled with 15-pound test Power Pro superbraid.
For ease of handling fish near the boat, he uses a longer-than-normal leader (three to six feet) of 15-pound fluorocarbon. With the longer leader, he is handling the flourocarbon instead of the much-thinner braid when leading a fish the last few feet the boat, and it is easier to grip and less likely to cut his fingers should a fish make a late surge. It also allows changing lures several times without having to add a new leader.
"All of these areas are tidal, and that will affect how you should fish them," Huffine said. "On the rising tide, I concentrate on working the edges of the grass and along oyster beds. The fish will be working up into these areas as soon as the rising tide allows. On the falling tide, I move out a little deeper and work the edges of the channels and any deeper holes. The fish fall back to these places and feed on bait that has to abandon the safety of the grass and structure."
Huffine stressed the importance of knowing the tides and using them to help push your kayak to and from fishing spots, rather than having to paddle against them. He also pointed out some of these spots are well inshore of the inlets, where the tides will arrive later than near the inlets. For instance, the tide tables published at www.ncsmag.com, cover from mouth of the Cape Fear River to Wilmington and show a difference of 2½ to three hours, depending on the mon phase. Huffine suggested finding a tide table that covers these areas or spending some time to calculate the difference on your own.
While tidal, these three areas are different. The bays between Fort Fisher and Bald Head Island are mostly very shallow, with a few channels. Except for water that flows through a few cracked sections in the rocky seawall that protects the bays from the river - known locally as "The Rocks" - the area is fed by tides that flow through the creeks behind Bald Head. The Rocks also keep wakes from ships and yachts in the Cape Fear River from reaching kayakers, so it is very protected water.
The waters around the Trails End Ramp are varied. A pair of mainland side creeks have channels and flats and plenty, plus there are all the flats and pockets between Masonboro Island and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Some parts of the area are subject to swells from boat traffic on the ICW, but there are also areas that are very protected. Being only a couple of miles from Masonboro Inlet and between Masonboro and Carolina Beach Inlets, the water is very salty.
The waters accessed from River Road Park are different still. It is far enough up the river to see the influence of freshwater, and many times it has the reddish tint that indicates a lot of freshwater. These waters hold reds, specks and flounder, plus occasionally give up stripers, gar, catfish and even a largemouth bass or two. The park is separated from the main channel of the Cape Fear by a series of spoil islands created from dredging the channel; they offer many fishing opportunities, as does the bank and Mott Creek. While mostly protected from wakes, this is a large open area, and wind can make it choppy at times.
The Cape Fear area has lots of opportunities for excellent kayak fishing. These three are enough to whet an appetite and get someone exploring for more. Numerous areas are not easily accessible to larger boats, and kayaks are a great way to access them and find those secret fishing hotspots.