Finally, the sweltering summer is over and saltwater fishing is firing up. October begins of some of the best fishing of the year, with a huge variety of species to target. For anglers looking for a trip to remember, it’s time to lift a few bull reds over the gunwales. It’s prime month for catching bull reds along the beach, and if anglers aren’t catching enough to get sore arms and back; they aren’t in the right spot.
Mark Stacy of Ocean Isle Fishing Charters doesn’t miss the run along the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.
“When the bulls show up and we have a nice calm day along the beach, it makes it an easy choice,” said Stacy (910-279-0119). “It is not uncommon for us to bring in more than a dozen fish this time of year.”
Bull reds show up, filling their bellies on the abundant menhaden schools that are traveling south, sticking tight along the beaches. Stacy first begins seeing fish in late September off the beaches of Oak Island, N.C., near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. As fall progresses and water temperatures drop, they begin to show up in good numbers off Ocean Isle, N.C., and then South Carolina’s Grand Strand.
Falling water temperatures drive the large bait schools south; they have nowhere to hide and must stay tight to the beaches in relatively shallow water. The big reds, many of which weigh more than 30 pounds, move in for the kill and take advantage of the conditions.
“Occasionally, we find them in water as deep as 18 feet, but the sweet spot is 6 to 12 feet during the fall run,” he said.
Sometimes, the bait and bull reds will hold up around an irregularity.
“Typically, the bait is migrating and drifting down the coast, but sometimes, you can find them concentrated on a ledge or hard bottom area,” he said.
Anglers with knowledge of the local topography or equipped with a good chart can get an edge in picking a good spot to look for a group of fish.
Regardless, anglers must find a pod of bait to get down to business. Stacy cruises the beachfront looking big pods of bait.
“(The) great thing about fishing for big reds this way is you can catch your bait right where you are fishing,” said Stacy, who hooks live menhaden on a Carolina rig with 11/2 to 2 ounces of lead, a 21/2-foot, 50-pound monofilament leader, and an 8/0 to 9/0 hook. He will toss the live bait right in the middle of the bait pod and give it 20 minutes or so. If there are no takers, he’ll motor down the beach to the next school of bait and repeat.
“Just keep moving until you find one,” said Stacy, whose favorite artificial is a white bucktail with a white Gulp jerk shad trailer.
The popping-cork rig for bull reds made famous in the Pamlico Sound is also a good choice in this type of situation. A ½-ounce jighead paired with a 4 to 5-inch soft-plastic trailer fished 24 to 36 inches below a standard popping cork is all that is needed.