Capt. Rick Patterson of Cape Crusader Charters said fishing in the Swansboro area is really interesting. Some flounder are still around docks between the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean, some on the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs out Bogue Inlet and some reds and specks in the creeks and marshes. But the stars of the show are the schools of red drum that have begun gathering in the surf along Bear Island.

“It really is hard to believe how many red drum you might see in a day of fishing along the ocean beach between Bogue Inlet and Bear Inlet,” Patterson said. “There may be some smaller schools, but many times the schools reach and surpass a thousand fish.

“You are running down the beach looking and first see a dark spot in the water. As you get closer that spot begins to have a reddish hue. Then, when you get up to it, you can see hundreds of reds swimming in every wave that rolls in. It that won’t get your adrenaline going, there is something wrong with you or you’re not really a fisherman.” 

Patterson (252-342-1513) said the schools of reds first showed up when the mullet minnows begin streaming out the inlets and heading south. While some of the fish may be slot-size, most redfish don’t move to the ocean until they are upper- to just over-slot in size, and they make up most of the schools.

“When drum are in schools that large, they are real aggressive and super competitive for food,” Patterson said. “As the water continues to cool and baitfish get scarce, they are even more competitive. Anything that lands in the middle of them and bears even the slightest resemblance to food is quickly eaten.” 

Patterson said with the water temperature still in the 60s and the fish super- aggressive, it’s the time to catch them on topwaters. Patterson likes to throw Zara Spooks to the surf reds and watch them explode on them. 

“The ideal conditions are no swell at all, but that is rare,” Patterson said. “When there is a little swell, you ease up as close as you can to the breakers and cast into the fish. Sometimes there is already a fish on by the time the bail is closed and any slack reeled out of the line. On the slow days, you may have to walk the bait a few times to draw a strike, but it won’t take much. If you make a pair of casts and don’t have a strike, the school has shifted up or down the beach, and you need to move a little to be casting into them again.” 

Patterson emphasized that someone has to be in charge of the boat and always on the lookout in case a larger wave that might catch the boat sneaks in.