Hatteras, Ocracoke inlets fill with reds
When July gets hot, the fishing gets even hotter inside Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets. Bull redfish up to 50 inches are all around, and there’s no more exciting way to catch them then chunking jigs and spoons to schools of 300 to 400 fish.
Rom Whitaker III, who runs Sound Bound Charters out of Hatteras, specializes in sight-fishing and prefers sunny days between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for maximum visibility. Mounting the custom tower on his skiff, he takes a bird’s-eye vantage point that allows him to see the masses of bronze fish long before they see him.
“I’m searching in mainly 2 to 7 feet of water, because I can’t see them when they’re in the back of the sound in the deep water,” said Whitaker (252-305-5229). “They’ll come up on these shallow flats when they’re feeding. I’m seeing them from 1 to 3 miles inside the inlets and back along the reefs.”
Once in sight, Whitaker positions the boat to intercept the school’s movement, cuts the motor and keeps it as far away from the fish as possible, while still allowing his anglers to reach the target with a long cast, usually around 150 feet. Then, it’s in the angler’s hands to place the bait.
“I won’t chunk a bucktail right in the middle of them,” said Whitaker. “I will go past them, ahead of them or behind them. A bucktail will freak them out because it sinks quick. I’ve been using a 2- to 3-ounce, white Meat Hog bucktail jig with a scalloped head. With that scalloped head, I can keep it up to 1 to 2 feet below the surface. If it needs to be a little deeper, I can slow down my retrieve. I put a 6-inch Z-Man paddletail or curlytail soft plastic in white or lime-green on it.”
Whitaker also uses a gold Johnson Silver Minnow spoon. He ties on a traditional ¾-ounce when targeting slot fish, but opts for a 11/8-ounce spoon for the bigger fish.
“I can cast it far, and it has good action,” said Whitaker. “If the fish are cooperating, I’ll throw it right into the middle of the school, and it won’t bother them. I put a No. 4 or No. 5 split ring on it with a 75-pound ball-bearing swivel, and it works great.”
Whitaker fishes both offerings on a 7- to 7½-foot, medium-heavy spinning outfit spooled with 30-pound braid and a 40- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. Lighter tackle is an option, but Whitaker likes the heavier gear so he can bring the big fish to the boat more easily, release them as required, and get the bait out again as quickly as possible to get more shots at fish in the school.