Lower Cape Fear River bays, creeks fill up with inshore targets

fishing

Expansive area offers plenty of fishing options

The Cape Fear River begins spreading out once it passes Wilmington, N.C., with many creeks, bays, islands, spoil islands and other features present that hold fish in the warmer waters away from the main body of the river.

This warming water away from the channel gives fish some range to move and find food and the water temperatures they prefer. A fisherman willing to take his or her time and cover a lot of water should find speckled trout and red drum and may also find black drum, striped bass and an occasional flounder.

The creeks begin immediately downstream from Wilmington and show up all the way to Bald Head Island at the mouth of the river. The bays begin around Snows Cut, with some providing great winter habitat. All can be very productive at any time. But the bays and creeks between Fort Fisher and Bald Head Island stand out.

Three large contained bays — The Basin, Second Bay and Buzzard Bay — are prominent features of this area, plus an abundance of creeks that connect and wander through the marsh. Rennie Clark of Tournament Trail Charters (910-465-8943) fishes this area regularly all year — especially during the winter. He said a lot of fish are present. But they are pressured and will test your patience and abilities.

Find clear water

“The suspended silt falls out of the cooling water, and it gets really clear,” he said. “This makes it great for sight-fishing. But the fish can see you and your equipment better, too. I lighten everything up to help with the presentation. You can get by fishing lighter during the winter. The fish are usually out on oyster rocks or clear bottom, not around grass and stuff that will break you off.

“In addition to lighter line and fluorocarbon leaders, I downsize to 1/8- or 1/16-ounce and sometimes even weightless jigheads and hooks,” Clark said. “The fish are spooky. So I lead them farther and cast upcurrent to let the current sweep the lure to them, rather than making a splash nearby. I like the Manic Minnow from Category 5 Outdoors. These are smaller, like most winter baitfish, and they have one with a green back that looks like the mud minnows the fish are feeding on at this time of year. They also make a blue back version that looks like a small mullet.”

Clark said the keys to success in these areas include approaching quietly, making a subtle presentation and showing them a lure that looks familiar.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1172 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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