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Inshore fishing is still solidly in a summertime pattern, with anglers battling the heat and the possibility of showers in the afternoon. Despite that, fishing has been strong for redfish and decent for several other species.
“The redfish bite remains the best action for me,” said Capt. Jacob Frick of J & J Inshore Charters in Ocean Isle Beach. “Black drum, trout and flounder have also been in the mix this week. The plan for action remains the same as last week, floating live shrimp under a cork or live minnows on a Carolina rig. The speckled trout bite has been early in the morning and the drum bite has been in the deeper holes along the ICW and Little River Jetties.”
The redfish are following pogy and mullet schools and both small pogy and finger mullet are the best live baits for them. Red drum are hitting on the rising tide in deep water around structures like bridge pilings, docks and the jetties, as well as at the creek mouths.
Most anglers use Carolina (fishfinder) rigs to target the redfish, but another fun way to fish for them is to impale a live finger mullet on a jig head and fish it in the holes on a moving tide. This is a flashy bait that you can fish the same way you would a scented artificial, jigging it slowly and letting the flash of the minnow attract drum.
The speckled trout bite of the past two weeks has been the strongest of the summer, although they are tricky to find. Fishing a moving tide in the morning is by far the best way to target them, using live shrimp under a popping cork or other float and moving from spot to spot until you locate a school.
Anglers fishing for flounder and redfish with finger mullet may land a surprise trout as well, and these are more likely to be the larger female fish, which are loners. The schooling specks will get larger and more active as we approach fall.
Flounder are still being caught in the inlets and cuts by those drifting live bait. You can also target them around the same structure as redfish with mud minnows or finger mullet on a Carolina rig or a jig head.
Fish the bottom slowly for flounder, but keep the bait moving to avoid blue crabs for as long as you can. When using live bait or scented grubs on a jig head, flounder (as well as trout and drum) will hit as the lure falls back to the bottom, so keep the line tight.
Anglers fishing for flounder over the near-shore artificial reefs and wrecks are finding fish. Live mullet minnows are the best bait for them because they are feeding on mullet schools. These flounder tend to be keepers and larger overall than the ones being caught inshore.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are still chasing pogy schools off the beach, but sometimes they come close enough for the pier and surf anglers to catch a few. Live pogies are the best live bait, and those plugging Gotcha-type lures off the piers have caught some Spanish on the moving tides. If Spanish are in the area, it is worth jigging a gold hook rig off the bottom.
The piers have also seen a few nice pompano and some sea mullet, but fishing is slow during the day. Cut bait may catch some bluefish in the surf, along with the usual small sharks, rays and skates. Trout are a possibility from the piers but impossible to predict.
Black drum and sheepshead are still a possibility around inshore structure. Black drum have been active at times. Sheepshead hit barnacles and fiddler crabs, but drum are more accommodating and will strike cut shrimp if you can get it past the pinfish.
Mullet schools are increasing, and they will only get more prevalent as we move to fall with everything trying to eat them. A frisky live finger mullet will catch about anything right now if the tide is moving. As we get closer to fall, the fish will become more active and lures that imitate mullet and other baitfish will be worth fishing again.
Jeffrey Weeks, author of “Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow updated fishing reports at www.saltyweeks.com.