Fishermen sticking close to downtown Wilmington have had it pretty good over the past week, according to Capt. Stuart Caulder of Gold Leader Fishing, who expects to catch stripers and puppy drum on every trip, and said productive trout waters are just a short boat-ride away.

"My clients have really been doing well with stripers," Caulder said. "I know there is a moratorium in the Cape Fear River and all its tributaries, but it sure is fun catching and releasing them. We've been catching a whole lot of very healthy fish from about seven to 12 pounds and every one of them has a big belly."

The dividing lines for Coastal, Joint and Inland Waters are the mouths of most creeks below the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge (US 421/US 17B/US 76) and everything above the bridge. However, there hasn't been enough rain and runoff to make that area freshwater. Fish are mixing and mingling back and forth across the boundaries.

Caulder said stripers are keying up to spawn; that will take about three weeks, then fish will return down the river even hungrier to feed heavily for a couple of months.

 

"I find the stripers and redfish mix together," said Caulder (910-264-2674). "They will go shallow when the tide is in and move to the edge of the channels when the tide is out. I prefer to fish soft plastics for them as it is a single hook that is easy to remove and get the fish back in the water. I can also quickly change the weight to fish deep or shallow."

 

Caulder said his most-productive bait has been D.O.A.'s new Airhead; he says it's a versatile lure, even when he's fishing it slowly.

 

Trout prefer the creeks south of the bridge and are staging in holes around the mouth of creeks, intercepting any bait that's swept past on the falling tide. He's catching some trout on soft plastics, but MR17 MirrOlures have been deadly. He casts them into the current and lets the current sweep them to the fish while twitching them occasionally.