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Season for spot has been hit-and-miss so far

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Halloween is upon us, and folks are still out there trying to scare up some spot for dinner. They are fishing in increasingly colder weather, as everyone hopes to arrive at the water just when the spot run really kicks into gear. So far it has been another hit and miss season for spot, something becoming familiar to anglers on the southeastern coast.

Spot are a small and always hungry member of the prestigious drum family, which also gives us larger sport fish, such as speckled trout and the mighty red drum. Smaller panfish-size drum include whiting and croaker, as well as spot. Some of these fish can actually be found here year-round in all but the most extreme cold. In fact, the last few years I have caught some spot straight on through the winter.

Fall is the season people descend upon the piers and inlets, however, since huge schools of spot are running south and west down the coast headed for warmer waters. The attraction of catching spot is traditionally the biggest money-maker for our local fishing piers, where numbers swell in the autumn months.

Some spot are small, slim and silvery, while the bigger spot sport bright yellow fins reflecting their racing hormones. These fall “yellowbellies” are what everyone is after, but they are also in the minority of the catch so far this year. Even those who manage to fill up a cooler seem to be doing so with the smaller-sized fish.

The colder the weather the more hardy and determined the anglers become. Timing is everything in spot fishing, and it is also one of the things that anglers have the least control over.

No one can predict when the spot will start and stop biting, although plenty of folks give it a shot anyway. People talk about the effect of the tide, the moon, the water temps and the rise and fall of the stock market on spot fishing. From everything I have ever seen, it is better to have fewer theories and more luck.

Spot are a fish that hits as well at night as during the day, and although night fishing is now becoming a cold proposition it can also be rewarding. Local inshore anglers are also aware that spot fishing around structure at night can also yield catches of black drum, a very tasty drum itself, which comes in a larger size than spot and can put a real bend in your light-tackle rod.

Those trying to hedge their bets use fresh cut shrimp instead of bloodworms or earthworms, since black drum are more likely to hit some sort of shellfish. Using the same theory, some surf and pier anglers go with shrimp to catch more pompano while waiting for the spot to bite. Black-drum fishing will only get better as most of the spot depart, but the warm-water loving pompano will soon totally disappear from our area until later spring rolls around.

Outside the continuing spot watch, fishing seems to be good but not great. Flounder, specks and red drum continue to be caught, and some in large sizes, but the fishing everywhere is rather unpredictable. One fish that has not been too hard to find are the reliable bluefish, which has been giving pier and surf anglers something fun to do before they, too, head to warmer waters.

One good thing about colder weather is the pinfish will soon disappear as well. Some anglers who fish for spot and black drum at the same time actually favor November and December, since at other times of the year some of the best inshore areas are unfishable due to pinfish stripping the baits off so quickly.

This is also the time of year when dedicated speckled trout anglers begin to feel the itch to get out there and target that sleek and tasty species. Meanwhile, the crowds trying for spot remain dedicated, and sometimes happy. Colder winds blow around them as they pile on layers and await that urgent tug on the end of their lines.

JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at saltyweeks@gmail.com.