Fall fishing has begun with a bang in the waters around Oak Island, according to Mark Patterson of Brigadoon Guide Service, who said fishermen have been catching a variety of species from just beyond the breakers out to the Yaupon and McGlammery reefs.

“Flounder, red drum and trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are biting,” said Patterson (336-210-9861). “There are lots of fishermen after them from the beach, but I like a kayak to get just beyond the breakers and a little farther off the beach than most fishermen can cast.”

Patterson said the hot bait has been mullet minnows, which are easily caught as they stream down the beach. They aren’t as thick as they were a few weeks ago,  but there are schools passing every minute or so, and it’s easy to load a bait tank in just a few minutes with a few accurate tosses of a cast net.

Patterson has been drifting with two baits, one mullet minnow on the bottom on a Carolina rig and the other is suspended a few feet under the surface, fished below a slotted cork added to the line above the sinker and swivel.

“The action at Yaupon Reef has almost been spectacular,” Patterson said. “Everyone has been catching king mackerel and citation-size red drum, but the kayakers paddling out from the beach have had the best time. They go for an Oak Island sleigh ride with every hookup. There are also flounder and trout, both speckled and gray, at the reef.”

At the reefs, menhaden has been the bait of choice for kings and big red drum. He slow-trolls the menhaden high in the water column to try and avoid having a big drum hooked on the tiny treble hooks that make up a king rig. He switches to a heavy Carolina rig for drum but still slow-trolls the bait near the bottom. Heavy gear is required to keep drum from breaking you off in the reef.

“Spanish mackerel haven’t been picky,” Patterson said. “Some have hit finger mullet and some have hit the larger menhaden intended for king macks and big redfish. One of the fishermen in the Oak Island Classic caught a 24.5-inch Spanish mack, and another fisherman on one of the boats landed one that surpassed eight pounds. The fish are definitely biting.”