Capt. Stuart Caulder of Gold Leader Fishing in Wrightsville Beach said the early morning trout bite in the Cape Fear River has been so good he’d never believe it if he hadn’t experienced it. He said trout are hitting topwaters and soft plastics with abandon, and there have been some really nice fish in the mix.
"This is unusual and totally unexpected, but no one is complaining," Caulder said. "We often have some topwater trout action in early June, but this is a better bite than most years, and it has lasted longer. It's as good as I've seen in a long time, and no one was expecting it. We are releasing most of our fish, so I don't have actual weights, but several days in the past week we caught trout I'm sure were citation-size fish."
Caulder said the bite begins with the first traces of light and is usually slowing down by 8:30. He has been having the best success with smaller topwater lures: a MirrOlure Top Pup in red/white or chartreuse/gold sides.
"Most of the fish have been hitting aggressively and getting hooked well, but occasionally one makes a pass and doesn't get hooked," Caulder said. "Some immediately come back and hit again, but sometimes they feel the hooks or something and won't come back. I keep another rod rigged with a half-ounce D.O.A. shrimp, chunk that in right where he missed and it usually gets whacked hard."
Caulder (910-264-2674) uses the heavier D.O.A. shrimp because he can cast it as far as he can a Top Pup and not risk getting too close and spooking the trout. Clear with red glitter has been the hot color in the shrimp.
The river has been full of bait, and Caulder believes that’s what’s keeping the trout so active in the hot water. He said the bite has been on every morning, but mornings when the tide is rising have been noticeably better. The rising tide brings cooler water in from the ocean, and it seems to really intensify the bite.
Caulder said to look around the spoil islands and especially places with riprap or something else that breaks up the current, giving the trout a place to wait in ambush.
"While I'm a little surprised to have this good of topwater trout action in this heat, I really like it and the early morning timing," Caulder said. "This heat and humidity is bad enough for folks from here who are somewhat used to it, but it can be brutal on fishermen from elsewhere who aren't used to it. I'm getting my clients underway as soon after 5 a.m. as I can, and we're usually fishing well before 6. We can be off the water before the heat peaks if they want."