Three main species are providing lifetime opportunities
Right now is prime time for anglers in the Carolinas to catch the biggest fish of their life. A trio of large species is hanging around the inshore waters and around rock jetties, giving anglers access at their fish-of-a-lifetime.
Bull redfish are present throughout the inlets, harbors, and waterways of both Carolinas. They don’t stick around all year, but are expected to stay around for at least the next couple of months.
Tarpon are also heavy in many inshore waters in both states. These fish also only stay around for a short period of time before they head south. These are the most difficult of the three species to catch, but now is the time to do it because they will be gone before you know it.
Numerous species of sharks are also in, including some really big ones. Carolina anglers can catch sharks pretty much year-round, but not in the numbers or variety of species available right now. Once the weather cools down good, they will find other spots to frequent.
Capt. Rod “Ponytail” Thomas of Capt. Ponytail Guide Service has been putting his clients on all three of these species lately in the Winyah Bay area out of Georgetown, S.C. And he said the same fish are in other areas across both North and South Carolina.
Thomas said one day, the bull redfish can be on fire, and the next day, the tarpon will be far more cooperative. The big sharks, he said, are the most consistent bunch, and his clients have caught several well over 8 feet long in the past week or so.
Mullet are inshore in big numbers, which attracts these other species
“If you want to catch bull redfish, you shouldn’t have any problem right now. Some days are better than others, for whatever reason. But by and large, the bull redfish bite has been fairly strong. It’s the right time of year to catch them on inside waters. They are here and hungry,” he said. “And these are really big, old fish. Many are 45+ inches with some being over 50. They definitely qualify for fish-of-a-lifetime status. And one reason for that is that they spend most of their time far offshore and out of reach of most anglers.”
Thomas uses cut mullet for the bulk of his redfishing, but he’s not opposed to using soft plastics under popping corks too. That’s a technique that takes more time and patience, but he said it is one of the most enjoyable ways to catch bull reds.
When it comes to tarpon, Thomas said anglers need to be patient, and realistic.
“Some anglers fish for tarpon for years and never catch one. We have been catching our share, but it’s not a guarantee. And getting one to bite is a challenge in itself. Actually hooking, fighting, and landing one is even tougher, but the thrill of it is worth the challenge. The fact that many anglers never even hook one is enough reason for a diehard angler to try. And like the bull reds, these fish just are not around these waters for very long every year. So when they are here, it’s time to make the most of it and try your luck,” he said.
Catch the biggest fish of your life, then do it again with a different species
For tarpon bait, Thomas uses live mullet that he catches right before fishing.
When it comes to the big sharks, Thomas believes they are here in bigger numbers than he’s ever seen them. We have heard the same from anglers up and down the coast of both Carolinas this year.
“I don’t know what the reason is, but they just seem to be here in bigger numbers than normal. Some days, you really have to weed through them to get on a bull redfish. But these aren’t the little sharks that disappoint you once you’ve fought and reeled them in. These are big sharks that many anglers love to battle with. It’s not uncommon to catch an 8 footer, and some are even bigger,” he said.
“It’s kind of a unique situation right now for anglers. You can catch the biggest fish you’ve ever caught, and then turn around and catch one even bigger. And it might not even be the same species as the first,” he said.
Click here to see the best time to fish the Roanoke River for the hottest striper fishing in the south.