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The drum days of summer

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

Blue sky with popcorn clouds in the distance gives us a temporary break from the rain. High pressure continues to build to our east, stalling low-pressure systems in the Ohio Valley. This pattern has continued to keep the moisture flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, keeping our area wet.
About midweek, the high-pressure system to our east shifted slightly to the west, clearing our weather here on the beach but pushing the weather back toward the midlands of the Carolinas. The good news is the weather has been nice here at the beach. The bad news is that areas inland are still getting lots of rain. All that rainwater is draining into the rivers, which drain into the ocean. I tasted the water in my live well today and it brought back memories of the days I swam in Lake Murray. Our water is black with freshwater runoff and dirty from the silt stirring up from the southwesterly winds beating our beaches. Despite all these adverse conditions, the fish continue to hold in our backwaters.
Here are a few helpful tips to beat the freshwater runoff and put a few fish in the box. Saltwater is more dense than freshwater, making it sink below the freshwater runoff. The deeper holes in the rivers and waterway will hold more salty water, concentrating bait and predator fish needing the right salinity to survive. The dark dirty water will make these deeper pockets a challenge to get the bite. Use bigger live baits to create more vibration in the water. Use the freshest cut bait possible to get the most scent possible in the water. Let your baits soak for some time and be patient waiting for the fish to find your bait. Red drum and black drum locate their food mostly by vibration, smell and lastly by sight. These are the two species that will most likely be in the deeper holes. If you are looking for flounder or speckled trout, you will have to get closer to the inlets. The inlets will provide the highest salinity levels where most flounder and speckled trout will be more comfortable. Tubbs Inlet continues to produce a few flounder and the Little River jetties are providing some action from the speckled trout for those that can handle the wave action. Live mud minnows or mullet minnows on a Carolina rig will catch the flounder. Live shrimp under a popping cork or an adjustable float will get the trout biting.
Jimmy and Susan Yancey joined me for a full day of fishing this past Thursday. We started off warming up with a couple of short flounder. We moved around the corner to find several other folks already hooked up on red drum. We slipped into an open slot to try our luck. We had a live well full of live menhaden and loaded two Carolina rigs with these lively baits. Immediately, the first bait was acting extremely nervous. I would be a little nervous myself if I were a menhaden stuck in the middle of schooling redfish. The rod jumped, the line got tight, rod bending, and the reel started to scream. Fish on! Susan Yancey was holding the rod and she had her hands full. After several good runs and the reorganizing of my tackle box, we landed the brute. After a quick photo, Susan Yancey released her 27-inch trophy to fight another day. Almost immediately after releasing that fish, the other rod went down and line was screaming off the reel.
It was Jimmy Yancey’s turn to do battle. Apparently this was not this redfish’s first fight. The 28-inch brute threw just about every trick he had at us, going under the boat and around the motor. It tried to get in the anchor rope. Jimmy Yancey did an awesome job at angling. He landed the brute for a quick photo and release.
The bite shut down in that area, so we moved on to find more action. Susan Yancey found a 4-pound black drum and a sheepshead on live shrimp. We made several more moves, finding several more upper- and over-the-slot reds to polish off our day. On this outing, large live menhaden seemed to be the bait of choice. Live menhaden have been getting harder and harder to find. I was unable to find any this morning but managed to cast net four large mullet. I cut the mullet into small chunks and this produced four reds for us this morning right out of the gate. We moved around a lot, hitting docks with cut bait and live shrimp. We caught reds from 10 to 29 inches. Cut mullet produced our biggest fish of the day. Live shrimp did produce a 28-incher, but keeping a live shrimp on a hook right now is a chore in itself.
In conclusion to this week’s action, the black drum and red drum continue to provide the most excitement for our trips. I have been chomping at the bit to get out to the jetties for that trout bite but can’t bring myself to fight the uncomfortable wave action. I have flounder fished very little this past week because many of my favorite spots are riddled with dirty freshwater. I may give a few places a try this week as some of the live mullet are getting big enough to provide some action. Mullet minnows are by far my favorite bait to use for flounder. Stay patient, slowing down your presentation to get rewarded with some great fighting 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.