- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Fall fishing continues to be strong almost everywhere. Large red drum continue to be landed in the surf and at the jetties while are plenty of flounder, including some big ones, hitting inshore.
The ocean-side piers continue to be streaky, having not yet experienced the solid runs of spot seen to the north of Brunswick County. That action could still occur as the spot haven’t shown up in South Carolina in any numbers yet.
Otherwise, the piers are still seeing a good many pompano, as well as some spot, sea mullet (whiting), black drum, flounder and a few bluefish. Notably, the Sunset Beach Pier has had some large red drum landed and released including several 25-26 pounds. There is still plenty of bait in the water inshore for your cast net or for purchase at the tackle store. The best inshore action is on flounder, redfish, black drum and speckled trout.
Here are some of the top live baits used locally for inshore fishing in the fall:
Earthworms: That’s right, plain old garden variety earthworms make a fine saltwater bait for panfish like spot, croaker, sea mullet and pigfish and will even catch the occasional redfish or flounder. You can cut them up if they are nightcrawlers, but whole redworms work best as they continue to move for a bit. Earthworms are one of the oldest and best pier baits used during the fall for spot.
Fiddler crabs: Fiddlers are easy to gather and make a strong, cheap bait when fished near pilings for sheepshead. Hook them any old way, and use just enough lead to get the fiddler in the sheepshead-feeding zone, which is usually from the bottom to halfway up the water column.
The bite of a sheepshead is one of the most difficult of all fish to detect, so if you feel anything, like vibrations on the line, set the hook. Fiddle crabs will also catch the occasional redfish, black drum or flounder.
Sand fleas: Sand fleas will continue to be around until things get a little colder. The little surf-line diggers are beloved by kids who like to gather them on the beach. If you have some youngsters, get them out there with a bucket, because sand fleas make great baits for the roaming pompano.
If you don’t have kids around they sand fleas can be gathered up with special rakes available in coastal tackle shops. Fish them right in the white-water surf or just beyond. In addition to pompano, sand fleas will also take black drum, sea mullet and the occasional flounder.
Pogies: Actually little menhaden, these numerous, delicate baitfish don’t live long in a bucket or live well, but they are a top bait for slashing bluefish and big flounder. Just remember to add some action to the bait, since pogies die quickly once they’re cast out. Hook them through the eyes and they’ll live a little longer. Large ones are great chopper bluefish and king mackerel bait.
Pinfish: These pesky little bait-stealing critters actually make excellent live bait for inshore fish like flounder and trout. They can be fished under a cork for trophy speckled trout, but their best use is on a bottom rig. Big doormat flounder just love a flashing little pinfish. Hook them around the tail for maximum action or through the eyes to drift or retrieve.
Mud minnows: There are a lot of little shallow-water baitfish that fall under the catch-all category of mud minnow, including killifish.
One of the big advantages of mud minnows is that you can buy them at coastal tackle shops and pier houses, in case you can’t find any bait in your cast net or don’t know how to use one, although tiger-sided mud minnows you can catch in your cast net are hardy and active.
Mud minnows will outlive most critters in your bait bucket, as well as surviving in freshwater. They are a top bait for the bottom dwelling flounder and will also take loads of redfish and speckled trout.
Finger mullet: Everything wants to eat the frisky, jumping finger mullet. The smallest version of the striped mullet, these little vegetarians at the bottom of the food chain are loved by roaming game fish, bottom-dwelling crabs and high flying birds.
Right now, hordes of jumping finger mullet schools are whisking through our inland waterways and the surf line. Hook one just above the eyes and toss it out on a simple rig (with no wire, spinners or floats). There’s no better bait for roaming redfish, bluefish and flounder.
Live shrimp: Nothing beats a live shrimp fished under a float or popping cork for speckled trout. Make sure to avoid the dark “brain” area around the horns when you hook them. In addition to specks, live shrimp take tons of redfish, gray trout, sea mullet and pompano. They can also be fished on the bottom for black drum, flounder and sheepshead.
Fall fishing will continue to be strong for a while, and the larger red drum should be around for a few more weeks. The piers will continue to hope for the same action on spot that has occurred to the north, which could happen anytime.
Jeffrey Weeks, author of “Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at email@example.com or follow updated fishing reports at www.saltyweeks.com.