Trophy redfish bite is on fire
Fall brings cooling water temperatures. And that kicks off the fall run of trophy redfish in the waters off North Carolina’s Brunswick County, aka Long Bay. The cooling water triggers schools of mullet to surge through the inlets and migrate down the beach. And schools of menhaden are already there, just off the beach.
The two baitfish species create a buffet for hungry fish, and the big drum also receive notice of the impending winter. So they begin feeding seriously to bulk up for leaner times.
The baitfish may be just beyond the breakers or a bit farther offshore, and it doesn’t matter to the drum. Fishing can be unbelievably good. Most of these fall drum exceed the upper limits of the 18- to 27-inch slot and must be released. Those exceeding 40 inches are eligible for a release citation. Take a quick picture to prove your catches.
This run of large red drum began about 15 years ago, and it continues to improve. A few are around all year, but the best push and best action comes from mid-September through October. They are a primary target for fishermen in boats, kayaks, pier anglers and even surf fishermen.
Stay alert for bait, and stay prepared for a big fight
Mark Patterson, founder and president of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association, targets the big redfish in the surf and from his kayak. He said they can almost always be found between the beach and the nearshore artificial reefs, with Yaupon Reef (AR 425) being the closest.
“Pogies and mullet are the best baits whether fishing the surf or farther off the beach,” Patterson said. “We use chunks of them on fish-finder rigs when fishing the surf and whole ones fished live on heavy duty Carolina rigs when fishing farther off — which many times isn’t far. Every school of baitfish moving down the beach is a potential hotspot. To cover more ground around a large bait school, we cast and retrieve live baits or 6-inch curlytail grubs on 1- or 2-ounce bucktails.”
Patterson said big reds may be anywhere along the beach. But he likes to surf-fish the area inshore of the Hot Hole at Caswell Beach. It is near the Cape Fear River Inlet, and lots of baitfish move by close to the beach. He prefers to launch his kayak at the SE 49th Street beach access on Oak Island.
“Once beyond the breakers, we typically head in the general direction of Yaupon Reef. But we are constantly looking for bait schools and diving seagulls feeding on bait,” Patterson said. “If you find bait schools, stop and fish. Yaupon Reef is huge and almost always has a school of feeding drum. But many days we don’t have to go that far, and that energy is better spent fighting fish.”