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Water temperatures are rising slowly and early spring season anglers are finding the redfish just as active and willing to bite as they have been all winter. The amazingly strong and consistent red drum bite has been the big (and really, the only) inshore fishing story in lower North Carolina all winter and they are off and running for spring.
Meanwhile, most of the piers have opened and seen some early sea mullet (whiting) action while a few trout and even some sparse flounder have been caught inshore. However, it is the redfish that early anglers are turning to for solid day-to-day action.
As they have been all winter, redfish are holding in the shallow backwaters and feeding in the creeks and on the dark banks when the shallow water warms up a little during the day. Guides and anglers with boats are push poling back into shallow waters to sight cast for them.
The best baits now for shallow redfish are mud minnows or synthetic scented soft baits on jig heads of 3/8 or ¼ ounce. Scented baits that are popular are the fluke styles and the scented shrimp. Popular jig head colors are red, black and white, but when the redfish are feeding it doesn’t really matter. More important is that you are quiet and don’t spook the large redfish schools even when you play and land your fish.
Some speckled trout have been caught but most have been small and not as numerous as is usual for early March. Low country officials and anglers in both North Carolina and South Carolina have expressed concern over what the frigid temperatures this winter did to the speck population. Trout are less tolerant than redfish to the cold, and scattered kills were reported.
Right now North Carolina is in a closed recreational season for trout and the only fishing is catch and release. Officials and fishermen will be watching the speckled trout population closely this spring.
Meanwhile, the piers have opened and the early action is on the dependable whiting (sea mullet). You can catch them in relatively shallow water with fresh cut shrimp, Fishbites artificial bloodworms or cut squid.
The surf is holding mostly dogfish and skates with a few flounder possible. Surf fishermen are anxiously awaiting the arrival of bluefish, probably later this month.