It’s a long run to the Gulf Stream from inlets along North Carolina’s southern coast, but by April, there is a flotilla headed to a handful of spots every day. There might be a little hangover of March winds early in the month, but by mid-April, calm days are more prevalent.
April fishing begins with wahoo and blackfin tuna, but as schools of baitfish tracking along the edge of the Gulf Stream continue to grow, so do the numbers of dolphin. Larger dolphin begin arriving later in the month, and fishing continues to improve.
The most-prominent underwater structure off Cape Fear is the Steeples, 20 miles south-southeast of Frying Pan Tower. It gets its name from a formation of tall, rock spires that rise from the bottom. These structures disrupt the flow of the Gulf Stream and push eddies, rips and upwellings with grass and lots of bait to the surface. Fish follow the bait, and the bite heats up. There are other outcroppings a few miles north (the Same Ole) and south (the Blackjack Hole) of that also interact with the Gulf Stream and attract fish.
As Gulf Stream waters are pushed to the surface, they interact with area currents and form hard edges with rips, color changes and temperature breaks. The rips help form grass or weed lines that attract dolphin. Many small baitfish use the grass lines for cover and dolphin prowl the edges looking for food.
Butch Foster of Yeah Right Charters in Oak Island, N.C., fishes this area often. He said dolphin like bright colors and are usually hungry. He rigs small and medium ballyhoo with sea witches and small plastic skirts and trolls the edge of the weed and grass lines.
When the grass is broken up, dolphin tend to gather along the edges of rips, temperature breaks and color changes. They are often on the warm or bluewater side of a change but will be on the other side if that’s where the bait is.
Dolphin are a primary offshore fish during the spring, but wahoo and blackfin tuna are also in the mix.