The puppy drum in the Cape Fear region are biting more like bulldogs than puppies.

"Our fishing has been really good," said Capt Stu Caulder of Gold Leader Fishing in Wrightsville Beach. "We have had fish in the marsh and creeks where we usually find them and have been catching them mixed with trout and flounder in places we don't usually see them. One of the good things about redfish is when you find them, they are usually hungry and ready to bite."

Caulder (910-264-2674) fishes from Topsail to Southport and has been finding singles and small schools of hungry puppy drum, aka redfish, across the area. He recently ran a trip behind Bald Head Island and found reds in the creeks, plus in flooded sections of the marsh – and it wasn't because of a moon-affected tide. "We are seeing a lot of mullet moving in the creeks, and the redfish usually aren't too far away from them," Caulder said. "We find them on just about any moving tide, but when the tide starts falling and the mullet are streaming out of the smaller creeks, it is like sounding a dinner bell. The redfish come to eat."

Caulder has been catching fish on a combination of MirrOlures, DOA soft baits and Johnson spoons. Early in the morning, they have been hitting Top Dog and Top Dog Juniors walked across the surface. When the sun gets up a little, he switches to DOA shrimp and grubs and fishes along the bottom.


"For those redfish feeding in the flooded grass, I use a quarter-ounce Johnson Silver Minnow spoon in the gold color," Caulder said. "This is a weedless spoon, and it works through the grass well. As a final touch, I add just the tail section of a DOA curltail grub to the hook on the spoon. This gives the spoon a little extra action, even at a slow retrieve. This and adding some Pro Cure scented gel really seals the deal with a fish that is ready to feed." 


Caulder said he stands on his casting deck and scans the flooded sections of the marsh while working down the bank of creeks. He positions the boat at casting distance off the bank and has his clients work their lures all the way back to the boat. This gives them chances at speckled trout and flounder, plus those occasional ladyfish and other summer surprises.


Finding redfish in the grass, especially during the middle of the day, requires looking long and hard at each section of marsh where the grass thins out and there is six inches or more of water. He said there are times the redfish haven't found anything to eat, so they are just slowly moving along and not tailing. However, when the water is shallow, a fish as large as a slot-size redfish will make a wake that is easily spotted if you pay close attention.


Caulder said that wake is often all that gives the redfish's location away until he crashes a crab or mullet minnow that didn't notice him easing through the grass. To catch reds on flooded grass flats, you must be attentive and spot them before they spot you, and then stalk within casting range without spooking them. The fun really begins when one sucks down the bait you just dropped in front of it.