Capt. Butch Foster of Yeah Right Charters in Southport said he hasn’t been able to get to the bottomfish off Cape Fear until he caught a calm, warm day recently and found that the fish were where they were supposed to be – and hungry, too. He filled his cooler with a mixture of black sea bass, grunts and porgies, and he caught plenty of grouper and red snapper that he had to release because seasons are closed.

“We were almost 40 miles off, and the water was still only in the low 50s,” Foster said. “At about 100 feet, the water started warming a little, and in five or six miles had warmed to 65 or 66 degrees. Once we found this, I headed over to a nearby rock to see who was home and was pleasantly surprised to find lots of hungry fish just waiting on us. Usually in the cooler water like this, it takes a while to get the bite going, but these fish were on fire from the first drop.” 

Foster (910-845-2004) said there was enough current that it took a little extra maneuvering to get his boat and positioned over the structure, but that once in place, the fish really bit. The only problem was sharks. 

“There was no shortage of hungry sharks, either,” Foster said. “On one hand, they are aggravating because you want to catch the bottomfish. However, most clients are really intrigued by sharks and like to catch them – at least until they get tired. The sharks were so bad we had to move often to get away from them, and I’m not talking about just a short move. If we didn’t move a pretty good distance, they were there as soon as we started fishing again, almost like they had followed us.” 

Foster said many species of bottomfish are mixed in the same locations. He fishes squid on a double-drop bottom rig with 10/0 Mustad 29960 D circle hooks – small enough hto catch black sea bass, grunts and porgies, but strong enough to hold sharks and the grouper that will be available when the season reopens May 1.

Foster said rocks and ledges are prime spots for these offshore bottomfish, and the bite should continue and only improve, because as the water warms, fish will become more aggressive, and other species will arrive in better numbers.