Capt. Allen Jernigan of Breadman Ventures said the fishing in the New River and Intracoastal Waterway around Sneads Ferry isn't as hot as the steamy weather, but it's pretty good and at times really good, with speckled trout and redfish feeding and often hitting topwater baits.
"I really like fishing the bays and creeks off the river, but some days the fish are more active in the marshes and creeks off the waterway and to catch them on topwaters, they need to be actively feeding," Jernigan said. "In the marshes and creeks, you have to work slowly and quietly to sneak through places to get to them, but in the river you can see them busting bait from a long ways away. It gives you time to approach from upwind most days and drift into casting range, before dropping the Power-Pole. They don't know you're there until you hook the first one and pull it out of the school."
Jernigan (910-467-1482) has been having his best luck with smaller topwater baits: Top Dog Juniors, Top Pups and She Pups, which resemble the mullet the specks and reds are eating. When fish aren't feeding on top, Jernigan switches to a combination of MR 17 MirrOdines, gold and copper Flats Intruder weedless spoons, Cajun Sleigh spinner spoons or Salty Bay soft-plastic shrimp and minnows. A big part of getting fish to strike when they aren't aggressive and feeding at the surface is to fish these lures slowly.
"The New River isn't what I consider deep in many places," Jernigan said. "It is typically shallow near the bank, with shelves that run out a ways before dropping into deeper water. The shelves run a foot or two deep and drop into 4 to 6 feet of water. Mullet minnows and small menhaden swim along the shelf thinking they are better protected in the shallow water.
"However, trout are ranging along the edge of the shelf looking for the baitfish," Jernigan said. "When they find a school, they ambush them. Red drum don't mind shallow water and will get up on the shelves and sometimes follow the bait into less than a foot of water before attacking. It isn't uncommon to find trout and red drum mixing while feeding on these bait schools.
Jernigan said the numbers of trout and red drum are down a little this summer. The trout have generally been larger, but there haven't been as many as the past several summers. Red drum numbers are off, too and Jernigan said an entire year-class is under represented. A few upper-slot fish are around, but most of them are under- or lower-slot size or over-slot fish.