Rennie Clark of Tournament Trail Charters in Carolina Beach said that despite cooler water and air temperatures, fishing around Carolina Beach continues to be pretty hot.

Clark said the action ranges from stripers, redfish and speckled trout up the Cape Fear River to big red drum and gray trout on nearshore rocks, wrecks and reefs outside the inlet.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Clark said. “I expected the fall and early winter fishing to be good once all the rain stopped, and it’s even a little better than I expected. We are seeing specks all the way to the Brunswick River and lots of stripers and reds in the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear,” said Clark (910-465-8943).

Clark said in the early morning and on cloudy days, stripers are hitting topwaters, and watching them whack one is a treat. The action, he said, is usually best right after the tide changes and the water is moving slowly. He’s doing most of his damage with Rapala Skitterwalks in the SW8 and SSW 11 sizes, concentrating on points with current rips, pilings and cypress knots – but a big school of skittish or suspended baitfish trumps everything. 

“We are catching redfish mixed with the stripers in many places,” Clark said. “The reds like shallower spots, and there aren’t as many of them in the deeper holes, but don’t be surprised. We’ve caught some reds mixed with stripers in the deeper holes by slowly bouncing soft plastics through them.”

Clark said specks are usually holding in deeper water but sometimes move shallow to feed. He said they are in the holes off the flats in the Brunswick River and are often also on the slow sides of current rips trailing off the spoil islands that line the Cape Fear River channel. Clark said trout are hitting Suicide Croakers or the slightly smaller Manic Minnows.

Gray trout are thick on most of the nearshore rocks from Johns Creek Rock to Sheepshead Rock, he said. They are also on the artificial reefs and many of the wrecks. He is mainly using Maria Jigs and Stingsilvers.

“There are also some big red drum still wandering around the nearshore rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs,” Clark said. “We don’t catch one every trip, but we catch several a week. They are a handful, especially when you hook them on an outfit you are using to jig for gray trout. It takes a while to tire one enough to get it to the boat to be released and you’ll know you’ve fought a big fish. In the cold water, they recover quickly and swim off, apparently only a little tired from the encounter.”