Jetties retain heat, attracting gamefish this time of year
December usually is a tough month for inshore saltwater anglers. With lower water temperatures the normal situation, most baitfish have fled south or into the ocean seeking warmer habitats. And gamefish, with an almost empty pantry in skinny waters, follow them.
However, Noah Lynk of Noah’s Ark Fishing Charters, knows one place near his Harkers Island, N.C., home base that continues to produce some great inshore fishing while other anglers migrate south or opt for charters to the Gulf Stream.
“The water’s usually clear (near inlets), so I go to the Cape Lookout rock jetty,” he said. “Clear water means sunlight can warm up the jetty rocks. And that difference in the water’s relative heat attracts baitfish.”
Lynk said the jetty waters will be 4 or 5 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. So it holds baitfish such as mud minnows and croakers. The 2,500-foot jetty, built in 1914, is a few hundred yards southwest from the Cape Lookout Lighthouse near the tip of South Core Banks. The jetty is a mass of jagged, jumbled, barnacle-covered chunk rocks, almost invisible during high-tide periods and a couple of hundred yards uncovered at low tide.
Live bait, artificial lures can both work well
“Live baits work best if you can find them,” said Lynk, who is partial to mud minnows.
Some anglers use shrimp pieces or artificial fish bites if they can’t find mud minnows.
“Artificial lures will work, too, for drum and trout,” said Lynk (252-342-6911). “The normal drum sizes can be dinks to slot fish to 30-plus inches.”
The weather and water temperature affects the numbers and sizes of both species available to anglers.
“If it’s mild weather — which we have a good bit of in late November — fishing can be really good,” said Lynk. His tackle includes 7- to 7 ½-foot Star rods with 12-pound braid backing and P-line fluorocarbon leaders. He prefers a surgeon’s knot to tie fluorocarbon to the braid main line.
“I like to fish mud minnows on float rigs at the jetty,” Lynk said. “I think they get more bites, especially from drum.”
Float-rig leaders vary from 2 to 4 feet, depending upon how close an angler wants to risk casting a bait near the rocks.
“Soft-plastic lures such as Fishbites scented curlytails, paddletails, jerkbaits or Fightin’ Shrimp will catch trout and drum,” he said. “The problem is leadhead jigs often hang in the rocks, and you’ll lose a lot of ’em.”
When the big trout bite is hot, Lynk likes to throw MirrOlures and has caught some giant specks at the jetty in winter.