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Fishing should remain moderate until cooler weather

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By Jeffrey Weeks, Fishing Correspondent

Local catches of flounder, redfish and speckled trout remain decent though the heat, wind and rain mean you have to work a little bit and time your fishing.
Early morning fishing is by far the best bet right now, especially if you can time a moving tide in the morning. Fishing should remain moderate inshore until the weather starts to cool with the coming of fall and the fish become more active.
Flounder fishing is best on days when the wind has been calmer, as a wind more than 10 miles per hour can push sand into the cuts, diminishing the ability of the flounder to see your bait. Most anglers use mud minnows when drifting or slowly trolling for flounder, but finger mullet, small pinfish and pogies are all good flounder baits.
Redfish in the slot and over it have been hitting at the Little River Jetty and around the inshore bridges and docks. Schools of pogies have been running in and out of the jetty area, and a live one is a solid redfish bait. Early August usually produces a run of even larger red drum in the area as they come in from deeper water.
Some nice pompano have been caught in the surf, mixed in with smaller pomps and the sharks and rays. The best bait for the pompano are live sand fleas on golden hooks, but fresh cut shrimp will take them as well. A few sea mullet and blowfish are also in the surf.
There has been some scattered speckled trout action, as there has been all summer, almost always occurring early in the morning when the tide is running strong. During these summer months, live shrimp is almost a necessity to get in on this bite. That isn’t to say minnows or lures won’t still catch trout, but since predicting when the trout will hit is a dicey proposition at best, having live shrimp on hand is a wise move.
Live shrimp is one of the best saltwater baits when fished at the jetties, off the pier or around inshore structure or creek mouths early in the morning. It will catch those early-rising speckled trout and also entice those cruising redfish. Keep your drag light, because if one of the larger red drum wanders by, they will gladly smash a frisky live shrimp.
You can catch live shrimp in your cast net or buy it at many tackle stores and some piers. The problem with fishing live shrimp is that everything eats it, so you have to choose your spots, times and tactics to avoid just feeding small bait stealers your precious shrimp.
Pinfish are everywhere inshore during these summer months, and they will likely devour any live shrimp that gets near the bottom. Most anglers use a float rig to keep the shrimp in the feeding column for speckled trout and larger fish and away from most of the pinfish activity. Float rigs are usually adjustable so you can quickly change the depth of the shrimp as the tide comes in and out and to keep the shrimp from becoming pinfish food.
Never hook a live shrimp in the dark area near the head, which is a shrimp’s brain. Hook through the head but avoid the dark spot. The shrimp should still be active and trying to jump in your hand after hooked. Some folks hook a shrimp in the back, and that works, too, and may keep the critter more active (depending on which ‘Old Salt’ you believe).
Float your live shrimp near the rocks at the jetties or just away from the pier. When inshore, float near the mouths of the creeks, near docks and bridges and off points. Let the tide do your work for you, as the natural movement of the water will carry the rig to feeding trout. Specks often stay in slightly deeper water, waiting to ambush unwary shrimp that come too close.
If you are using a popping cork, don’t ‘pop’ the float rig too often. Once the float is in the water, pop it hard one time and then leave it alone for a minute. This more closely resembles the activity of a live shrimp, and in most cases if a trout is around, it will hit as the shrimp is falling back from the first pop.
Jerking the shrimp around too much won’t help, and the first ‘pop’ should be all you need if speckled trout are active in the area. If a trout takes your shrimp, the float will simply disappear.
Anglers fishing live shrimp off the piers are sometimes surprised when a nice Spanish mackerel takes their float under. Spanish are more than happy to eat shrimp if you float it out far enough.
Speaking of it, the Spanish and bluefish action has not been the best as far as summers go, but there are some of both around. A few have been landed on the piers but the action has been better off the beach and around the inlets and near-shore spots, where some boats trolling through pogy schools have done well on Spanish.
Moderate to severe thunderstorms continue to be a big issue in our weather pattern, so keep them in mind when venturing out on the water. Fishing after a storm is likely to be difficult since the water will be stirred up, which is another reason why morning fishing is the best way to get in on the action right now.
Jeffrey Weeks, author of “Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at saltyweeks@gmail.com or follow updated fishing reports at www.saltyweeks.com.