May fishing action unmatched in the Carolinas

I have killed a few turkey gobblers in May, caught my share of May bass, crappie, rainbow trout and stripers. But there’s little question that the fifth page on the calendar seems a little bit brighter because outdoorsmen in the Carolinas have so many options on their plates. It’s almost tough to do it all.

The moderating weather has left all hints of winter well behind, and most of the time, the heat that portends summer won’t arrive until the end of the month. It’s that kind of weather that really makes fishermen of all suits happy beyond belief.

The website for a real-estate company that handles vacation rentals at a particular beach refers to spring and fall as “shoulder seasons.” I haven’t quite figured out the analogy, but I know that May and October are quite similar — the weather is just heading in opposite directions.

The big draw for me in May is the opportunity to head for the coast. I know, there is a good speckled trout bite in April in a lot of places; it’s a great time to go offshore and catch tuna. But in my household, April is for turkey gobblers. My affection for the sport is so complete that I can’t remember the last time I caught a bass on a spinnerbait. I remember taking a day off in April 1994 and instead sitting in a bass boat on Jordan Lake outside of Pittsboro, N.C. I caught a 7-8 and a 6-13 on the same little crankbait, 300 yards apart, on different pieces of riprap. I thought, “I’ve got to do this more often.” I haven’t. There are gobblers to work.

Mason Rackley, 7, from Wilmington, N.C., killed his first turkey on opening day of North Carolina’s youth season last month. Twenty-two pounds, 10-inch beard. Wow!

In May, after turkey season ends, my attention turns to speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Well, scratch the flounder, unless I’m fishing in South Carolina. In the next few days, I’ll be planning a trip down there to fish topwater for speckled trout, maybe mud minnows under a float for flounder, a spinnerbait or a jig and swimbait for redfish. The numbers of gamefish are about equal to October, but the big advantage is, the amount of bait isn’t. Inshore saltwater fish have to be a lot more aggressive in May than October, because the bait buffet isn’t as complete.

Spanish mackerel are another draw. My wife can do wonders with one on a broiling pan, with just a hint of lemon juice. They’re my favorite oily fish. Along some parts of the coast, king mackerel move in close enough that plenty are caught by the denizens on the ends of ocean fishing piers. Bull reds are moving in from their nearshore winter haunts. Offshore, it’s big dolphin time, and about the only time you have a chance to catch a yellowfin tuna anymore, at least south of Cape Hatteras. Last but not least, it’s when cobia make their way up the coast from Florida, just like the snowbirds heading north in spring, except the snowbirds are in big yachts and sailboats on the ICW, and cobia taste better.

I wish May lasted longer than 31 days. Try and wring every ounce of fishing fun out of it — after you fill that last gobbler tag.

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Dan Kibler
About Dan Kibler 849 Articles
Dan Kibler is managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.

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