Capt. Butch Foster of Southport hasn’t been able to get to Frying Pan Tower where the king mackerel and bottomfish are biting because of the wind the past few days, so he’s stayed inshore and found a nice concentration of whiting around the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
Foster, of Yeah Right Charters, said the whiting, aka sea mullet or Virginia mullet, are holding in 23 to 25 feet of water along the edge of the shipping channel between Battery Island and Bald Head Island, and although they’re hitting any time there’s current, the action has been better on the falling tide.
“There isn’t a finer eating fish in the water than a whiting,” Foster said. “They are the only fish I personally keep to freeze. On our last day off, (we) caught about a hundred. Once we got positioned, we didn’t have to move, either. We caught them in singles, doubles and even a few triples. It was a good day, and they shouldn’t go anywhere for a while.
“Whiting are a cousin in the drum and croaker family that also grubs along the bottom for food,” Foster said. “They locate a lot of their food by smell, and the fresher your bait the better. They will bite cut bait and older shrimp occasionally, but they prefer the freshest shrimp possible. We joke about it when we spend more money for fresher shrimp and say at least we can go home and eat the shrimp if the whiting aren’t biting.”
Foster ties his whiting rig with three feet of 20-pound mono, ending with a 4-ounce sinker. Using surgeon’s loops, he makes there evenly spaced loops for long-shanked Eagle Claw Series 66 or 72 hooks in Nos. 4 or 6. The top end of the leader is tied to a swivel on the end of the running line.
Once the hooks are baited with small pieces of fresh shrimp, the rigs can be dropped to the bottom. Be ready for action when you put the baits over. Foster said whiting aren’t bashful, and if you find them, they will begin biting as soon as they find the baits.
Foster said that most years, when whiting gang up just inside the river’s mouth, fishermen catch an occasional gray trout in with them, but the grays haven’t moved in this year.