According to Rick Patterson of Cape Crusader Charters in Cape Carteret, the winter redfish action is about as good it gets right now in the waters around Swansboro.

Patterson (252-342-1513) said he and Jeff Cronk, another area guide, had a day off late last week, and when they fished together in the marshes near Bogue Inlet, they saw redfish in schools that numbered in the hundreds. They were feeding too, as the two guides caught and released more than 50.

“Once you locate a school of redfish, the deal is on,” Patterson said. “They may be moving slowly in the cold water, but they are feeding. We have been using scented soft baits, like Gulp!, and fishing them very slowly so the scent has time to seal the deal and convince the slower moving fish to bite. Several got real active and we even got one to hit a topwater. That’s pretty rare for this time of year.”

Patterson was happy to find redfish in large schools in the marsh creeks. He said they have been thick in the ocean surf, but there are days when you can’t get into the ocean. In the gin-clear marsh waters around Swansboro and Emerald isle, it’s easy to spot schools, and the fish haven’t been particularly spooky, so you can move through the creeks on your trolling motor until you locate them.

“This has been a good winter so far,” Patterson said. “It is getting cold this week, but we’ve had a bunch of afternoons the past few weeks when a sweatshirt or windbreaker has been plenty warm. The trout and reds have both been biting really well and I don’t expect a week of cooler weather to upset that much.” 

Patterson said speckled trout are also biting well, and if you tire of being jerked around by redfish, trout fishing is a lot less demanding – at least until you come tight on a citation speck. 

Patterson said specks are in the creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and in the White Oak River. They have been staging in the holes and in the deeper water of the outside of creek bends, eating when the opportunity presents itself. Patterson said the water is cold and the trout are moving slowly, but easing a scented soft bait in front of them will usually get their attention, and most of the time, they bite. 

“When scented soft baits don’t get the trout feeding, I switch to a MirrOlure MR 27 or MR 17 or a Rapala Shad Rap,” Patterson said. These are suspending baits, and you can stop them, and they will stay at that depth and just hover. This must tear the trout’s nerves up as it usually gets them to bite.”

Patterson said there are also some black drum scattered through the creeks, especially around docks in the creeks. It’s no surprise to catch a black drum on a scented soft-plastic bait, but they really prefer natural baits, with pieces of shrimp fished on Carolina rigs very effective when you locate fish.