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The expectation for this time of year is cooler temperatures and red-hot fishing action. It appears the dog days of August are lingering into September.
The red drum fishing has been pretty steady with the most dependable bite coming from schools in the 20-inch range. Large schools of mullet have moved into the area, bringing the larger reds in and out of the inlets at times. The inlets can be red-hot one day and ice cold the next. I think the water temperature and clarity are still a bit off, keeping the majority of our fish in the surf zone. We can only remain patient as we all know the cold fronts are coming that will turn on the bite.
The bait has been so thick at times you could catch it blindfolded. Large mullet schools are running right down the middle of the waterway in most places. Peanut menhaden are starting to show up again in the back of the creeks. The white shrimp/green trail are showing up in good numbers around the creek mouths. The dinner table is set.
Robin Ilardi, Tony Ilardi and Spencer Cole joined me for an afternoon trip this past Sunday. We worked several creeks around the Sunset Beach area, trying to pick up a flounder. We caught a couple of shorts and even a little speckled trout, but the bite just wasn’t going to develop for us in that area.
We slid on down to the next creek and started picking away at the redfish in the lower slot around 20 inches. The redfish bite slowed and the pinfish started to get too aggressive for us to hang around.
It was getting late in the trip, so we eased on back closer to home around the Ocean Isle Beach area. I decided to give a few docks a try. Our first live shrimp in the water got hammered by a black drum. Every shrimp after that got hammered by the pinfish. We made a few adjustments and changed bait over to live mullet. I staggered several lines around the dock, going from shallow to deep.
The shallow bait was getting nervous and then the water erupted as the predator pounced on the mullet. It was the kind of bite we had been looking for all afternoon. Cole was holding the rod and the drag was screaming for mercy. He managed to get the fish out of the pilings and into the middle of the waterway for a moment. The fish then made another hard run toward the docks.
I was coaching hard, probably a little too hard. I was afraid the drag was set a little light as the fish was having its way too easily. We tightened down on the drag just a little and got the fish turned back toward the boat. The over-the-slot redfish rolled just outside of netting distance and made one more final break for deep water. This particular redfish was a little camera shy and pulled the hook before we could get his photo.
I quickly reloaded, staggering baits all along the dock. The crew took turns on landing a few more reds in the lower slot, around 22 inches. Finally, one of the rods got hammered, rattling the rod holder. You could hear the line slicing through the water as Tony Ilardi tried to catch up to the fish. He was able to catch up with the fish and when the line came tight, the reel started screaming.
Here was our second chance at landing a good one. Tony Ilardi continued to work the redfish back and forth from shallow to deep water. He did a great job at powdering this redfish’s nose and posing for the camera. The over-the-slot 28-inch redfish was our best for the day and there is no better way to wrap up a day on the water.
Live mullet on a Carolina rig continues to be the best bait to present to the fish right now. I am sure live shrimp will work great, too, but weeding through the pinfish can be a pain. As the water cools, the pinfish action should slow and live shrimp will be the go-to bait.
I would grade this past week as slow and steady. I look for more fast and furious days this coming week as the moon is back in its growing phase. Let a cold front pass our way and the action will be on fire. Save those sick days and be ready when the action gets hot. Follow the latest fishing reports on my Facebook page J&J Inshore Charters or www.oifc.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information or questions about his columns.