Numerous offshore species await anglers headed to the Gulf Stream in April
The run from the southern N.C. inlets to the Gulf Stream is long. But beginning in April, the fishing heats up faster than the water and a lot of fishermen look for weather windows to make the trip.
Several well-known locations offshore of the end of Frying Pan Shoals are great places to start the day. Their consistent productivity is evidenced by the fact they sometimes gather small crowds despite being more than 50 miles from the inlets. The positive side of these crowds is they are there because the fish are biting.
The most well-known spot is the Steeples, which is located between 30 and 100 fathoms on the upper edge of the break along the Continental Shelf approximately 20 miles south-southeast of Frying Pan Tower. Other well-known locations are the Same Ole, approximately 15 miles up the break to the northeast, the Blackjack Hole and 100/400 approximately 10 and 15 miles down the break to the southwest.
However, the best fishing may not be directly over these bottom areas, but a little off them where the Gulf Stream currents they interrupt create eddies and upwellings that carry grass and baitfish to the surface.
Look for temperature breaks
The first April fish are wahoo and blackfin tuna, which are followed by dolphin and occasionally yellowfin tuna.
Capt. Shane Kellett of Underdog Sportfishing Charters (www.facebook.com/underdogsportfishing, 910-617-0735) in Southport said he looks forward to this time of year when the ocean is warming and more fish are traveling the edges and breaks along the Gulf Stream. He said fishing is usually very good, with good numbers of wahoo and lots of blackfin tuna early, then adding dolphin later in the month.
Kellett said a growing number of yellowfin tuna have appeared in the catch for the past two years and he is hopeful even more will show up this year.
“I check the offshore analysis websites and look for temperature breaks as they usually hold fish,” Kellett said. “My records show we have been doing better in areas with higher chlorophyll, so I check that too. Once on site, color changes and the grass lines that form later in the month are also good places to find feeding fish.
“We begin trolling somewhere around 100-120 feet, once the water is 70 degrees or warmer. We troll 10-11 knots while headed out,” Kellett said. “And we catch some nice fish, especially wahoo, doing this. Once we find the temp break we’re looking for, we slow to 5-6 knots and switch over to mostly sea witches rigged with ballyhoo, plus a couple of naked ballyhoo, on the surface and a planer line. I like to pull an Ilander behind the planer, but sometimes switch that out for a spoon and have caught a little of everything on it.