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It’s been a less-than-spectacular fall season so far for most inshore fishermen. After a good year overall, I had high hopes, but the fishing season has not really kicked into gear. The lack of a protracted spot run has been the biggest worry, although fishing for everything else has been unusually hit-and-miss for autumn in southern North Carolina.
The best fishing has probably been for red drum in the shallow areas or bluefish wherever you find them. The blues won’t last much longer as they aren’t a cold-weather fish, but the drum will stay around all year.
Some anglers have scored on the short water puppy drum with artificial lures, usually jigs and some grub combination, or live finger mullet. Cut bait and shrimp, both live and dead, will also take these fish. The drum are in scattered pockets, though, so if the first spot you try isn’t producing don’t be hesitant to move along.
The same applies for speckled trout, which are also out there but sprinkled around pretty good. Anglers who are still able to acquire live shrimp and fish them under a float have a big advantage going after these fish, but the shrimp will disappear soon themselves and trout fanatics will turn to the many various lures they love to throw at specks.
One thing many folks are talking about is the water temperature is still unusually high for this time of the year. Some fish that generally come alive in October just weren’t active. That is also why some people hold out hope for a late spot run.
Spot fishing in the waterway and near inshore structures is still difficult, because the water temperatures have kept the pinfish hanging around. The same problem applies to fishing for black drum. Once the pinfish move on both spot and black drum, fishing may get better in inshore areas.
On the piers, whiting and black drum have hit occasionally, but the bite is very dependent on weather and water conditions. If you happen to be on a pier and the spot start hitting, don’t stop fishing until they stop biting, because you might not get another chance.
The other big mystery of the fall season is flounder. There have been some flounder caught, on the piers and in the usual inshore haunts, and some of them have been very big. The numbers, however, have not been great. It is hard to say whether this fishery is just a bit slow right now like the others, or a product of the continuing heavy stress on the southern flounder, which is the major flounder species caught in the waterways, rivers, and inlets.
Hopefully, spot will stage a late run and flounder will come around. Regardless of that, many anglers’ attention will soon turn to the traditionally cold-water fish: the two drums and specks. It will be interesting to see how this strange year ends for inshore anglers. Certainly, after proclaiming that we were likely headed for a great fall, I’m not going to try to predict anything.
JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.