Surf off Bear Island is full of big, hungry redfish

redfish
Upper-slot and over-slot red drum school just off the breakers along Bear Island in the fall.

Topwater action fantastic on days without big swell

Capt. Rick Patterson of Cape Crusader Charters said fishing in the Swansboro area is really interesting this time of year. The stars of the show are the schools of red drum that begin gathering in the surf along Bear Island.

“It really is hard to believe how many red drum you might see in a day of fishing along the ocean beach between Bogue Inlet and Bear Inlet,” Patterson said. “You may see some smaller schools, but many schools reach and surpass a thousand fish.

“You are running down the beach looking. And first you see a dark spot in the water. As you get closer that spot begins to have a reddish hue. Then, when you get up to it, you can see hundreds of reds swimming in every wave that rolls in. If that won’t get your adrenaline going, something is wrong with you. Or you’re not really a fisherman.”

Patterson (252-342-1513) said the schools of reds first show up when the mullet minnows begin streaming out the inlets and heading south. Some of the fish may be slot-size. But most redfish don’t move to the ocean until they are upper- to just over-slot in size. And these fish make up most of the schools.

Schooling redfish feed aggressively

“When drum are in schools that large, they are real aggressive and super competitive for food,” Patterson said. “As the water continues to cool and baitfish get scarce, they are even more competitive. Anything that lands in the middle of them and bears even the slightest resemblance to food is quickly eaten.”

Patterson said with the water temperature still in the 60s and the fish super-aggressive, it’s the time to catch them on topwaters. He likes to throw Zara Spooks to the surf reds and watch them explode on them.

“The ideal conditions are no swell at all, but that is rare,” Patterson said. “When there is a little swell, you ease up as close as you can to the breakers and cast into the fish. Sometimes a fish is already on by the time the bail is closed and any slack reeled out of the line. On the slow days, you may have to walk the bait a few times to draw a strike, but it won’t take much. If you make a pair of casts and don’t get a strike, the school has shifted up or down the beach. So you need to move a little to be casting into them again.”

Patterson emphasized that someone has to be in charge of the boat and always on the lookout in case a larger wave that might catch the boat sneaks in.

Click here to read about catching fall redfish on cut blue crabs.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1171 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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