Bull redfish are running the border

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

It is time for our kids to wind down from summer vacation and prepare their minds for a new school year. I am saddened a little that vacation season is over. Our foot traffic will decrease significantly and many local shops will have to tighten down on their business hours. On the other hand, this time of year really gets me excited. Cool crisp days on a nearly deserted waterway free of noisy Jet Skis and casual boat riders will give way to a fisherman’s paradise.
The bite at the Little River, S.C., jetties has been pretty steady all year with trout, reds, sheepshead, black drum and many other species sporadically visiting the rocks. I typically only visit the rock jetties during a good trout bite or when the big reds show up. Brunswick County’s backwater offers such great fishing in many areas that it is not always necessary to travel such a long distance to the jetties. In fact, many of the guides from the Little River area invade the backwaters in Brunswick County in search of the great action our area provides. We return the favor each year by invading the jetties this time of year in search of a trophy redfish.  
The old Mercury Optimax is wound out to the max as Dave Schacher, of Atlanta, and I slide around the corner and hit the first rolling wave as we approach the jetties. Where are all the boats? I had a live well packed to its limit with nice healthy mullet minnows. We were prepared to give the local redfish population a sore mouth. I was a bit puzzled to only see a few boats drifting in the inlet and was a little worried that my long ride would be in vain. We eased on out to the mouth of the inlet and deployed two rods with fat mullet minnows on 1-ounce Carolina rigs sporting 1/0 octopus hooks. Our first drift produced a 28-inch red that we quickly released after a few photos. We drifted a few more times with the same result, landing reds close to the 30-inch mark. We started our final drift for the day and, as expected, one of the rods got drilled. The reel seemed to be screaming just a little louder and the rod was bending just a little more than usual. Schacher was holding the rod. He worked the fish for several minutes as I maneuvered the boat in tiny circles, much like yellowfin tuna fishing. The fish was not cooperating and staying close to the bottom, acting like a big ray.
At one point, another boat came over and asked whether we had a big stingray. I replied, “I don’t know, I have not seen it yet.” We continued to work the fish for several more minutes as an audience was starting to form around us. I was starting to doubt that it was a redfish, but stingrays don’t usually hit on the drift. Finally, the line started to rise in the water column, I could see the fluorocarbon leader and the fish wasn’t far away at this point.
There he is! A huge redfish!
I turned toward the boat that asked about the stingray and shouted, “Donkey, Donkey!” with a double fist pump. I am not sure why I used that expression; I was excited. A giant redfish rolled beside the boat and headed straight back toward the bottom. We were all now determined to land this fish knowing it was the more glamorous species we were targeting.
After several more minutes of battling, both the redfish and angler were exhausted. The bull red measured 43 inches and weighed more than 30 pounds. I carefully lifted the magnificent creature and placed it on Dave’s lap for a quick photo and released the monster to fight another day.
This is only the start of the season to catch bull reds near the inlet mouths, near shore structures and the surf zone. We should be able to target these large fish through at least October if the weather will cooperate. The bite comes and goes out there, but there is a much greater chance to catch that redfish of a lifetime right now. If this is the kind of action you are after, now is the time to call your favorite guide and set up a trip.
The conditions are not always suitable to target the bigger reds, but the backwater creeks have provided plenty of action from puppy drum, flounder and speckled trout. The bite should continue to get better with cooler temperatures approaching and the water full of mullet.
It wouldn’t be fair for me not to mention all the rain and freshwater runoff that is creating some challenges for us. It did rain most of last week and it appears we are forecast to get even more rain. We have been dealing with the rain all season and it has become just another obstacle to overcome each day. Don’t let the rain scare you off. As I have said many times before, the fish are already wet and conditions often affect the fishermen more than the fish. I fished several trips last week in the rain. I was very blessed to have such diehard customers willing to put forth the effort in such adverse conditions. Our efforts were rewarded on most trips with some nice redfish action. See ya on the water!    
Capt. Jacob Frick, who has 10 years of knowledge and experience in guiding family, friends, and clients in the backwater surrounding Ocean Isle Beach, is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at 803 315 3310 or jacob@oifc.com for additional information or questions about his articles.