The calendar says it’s August, with fall a month away, but Jimmy Price at Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport said fish are already acting like it’s fall.
“I know the weather hasn't cooled but a few degrees, but the fish are responding," Price said. “This has been a strange-enough year, I know I shouldn't question anything, but in the past week the fish have been acting like it is fall, not the last week of August. We've been seeing some occasional good flounder catches, but the red drum have picked up, and a few trout are biting.
"Bait is moving around, and I think that might be the big key to the extra activity," Price said. "The last few days, everyone that has come in is talking about the mullet minnows running down the beach. They're saying the line of minnows in the surf is almost never ending. Several fishermen said there were lines of bait running through Lockwood Folly Inlet. Mullet minnows have also been running through the creeks and down the (Intracoastal) waterway, plus the waterway has also been loaded up with schools of small pogies. All that bait has to have the fish excited."
Price said the bait is thick enough that anyone who can throw a cast net can catch plenty, but the fish are fired up enough you don't really need live bait. He said fishermen that can work curlytail or paddletail grubs should catch a lot of fish too.
When the bait is this thick, the fish will be feeding heavily and let their guard down some, Price said. As more fish key in on the bait and the feeding activity builds, the fish become competitive, and the deal is on. This is when fishing crosses the line and becomes catching.
Price (910-457-9903) said he had two customers come in after fishing earlier this week and reported they had released 20 or more drum, then kept their one slot drum apiece, a couple of flounder and a half dozen trout. They said they moved a few times before they found the fish, but when they found them, they didn't move again.
"They were fishing their live baits on basic Carolina rigs," Price said. "The rig uses a 15 to 18-inch leader of 20-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon that runs from the hook to a barrel swivel. I prefer an Eagle Claw 042 wide-bend hook in size No. 4, but some fishermen like larger hooks or different styles. The Carolina rig uses an egg sinker above the barrel swivel on the line running to the reel. All you need is enough weight to hold the bait down and that could be as light as a half-ounce in the creeks.
"While there seem to be good numbers of most fish around, they aren't everywhere," Price said. "The place to find puppy drum, flounder and trout is where there is structure that concentrates the bait. Flounder and red drum will be shallow most of the time while trout like a little deeper water, but will move into shallower water to feed. Oyster rocks, sand bars, points and other things that concentrate bait with deeper water nearby have good potential to hold fish."
Points around the area where a small creek enters a larger creek have been a great spot this week, Price said.