Yaupon Reef (AR 425) is arguably the most popular of North Carolina's artificial reefs, in part because it's only 1 ½ miles off of Oak Island and 5 miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The main reason for the popularity, however, is all of the fish that are caught there.

Yaupon Reef kicks off its early season with gray trout in March, and many species visit before the season slows in December. Some black sea bass stay around all winter and the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association (LBARA) has documented sheepshead all winter, also. From spring to fall, sheepshead, spadefish, flounder, gray trout, cobia, king mackerel, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, several species of sharks and more are caught from Yaupon Reef.

The two species that get most fishermen's attention are flounder and king mackerel, and August is a month to target both. The buoy at Yaupon Reef is approximately in the middle of the structure, which is placed in roughly a 1-mile circle around the buoy.

In the case of Yaupon Reef, reef materials have been placed over almost all of the area. The LBARA administers the reef and is constantly stockpiling and placing approved reef materials. Every time there is a break in its other duties, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries sends one of its landing craft to help carry material offshore to the LBARA reefs, and there are eight. While some materials are intended for Yaupon Reef, it sometimes becomes the lucky beneficiary of materials intended for elsewhere - when the weather is rough and won't allow going to more distant reefs.

A diagram of Yaupon Reef and all N.C. artificial reefs is available at www.ncdmf.net. Detailed information on Yaupon Reef and the other seven LBARA artificial reefs is also available at www.lbara.com. The LBARA website lists 53 different pieces of structure at Yaupon Reef.

August is a great time to visit Yaupon Reef. On the ride from the launching ramp, catch a cast net of mullet minnows or small menhaden for flounder bait and a cast net of larger baits for the kings. Once at the reef, find a section of structure that is holding bait and anchor. Send a mullet minnow to the bottom on a Carolina rig and drift a large menhaden back in the current on a live-bait rig and get ready.

Flounder, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel are expected catches at Yaupon Reef this month. Many tournament anglers feel this is the prime place to go most of the season, but especially during August. There are some surprises too. Two fish that are quickly becoming regular surprises are bull red drum and tarpon.