Sign of fall is yellow-bellied spot

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By Jeffrey Weeks, Fishing Correspondent

It’s officially fall and spot are biting at our local Brunswick County piers. Reports have been coming in for the last two weeks of “yellow-bellied” spot runs up and down the coast.
Spot are the most popular saltwater panfish in the Carolinas and hordes of them show up on Brunswick County piers each autumn around this time. Already reports are much better than the last two years, when spot fishing was slow.
Spot are little bottom-feeder cousins of the larger redfish and speckled trout. They show up in big numbers in the fall as they run south and west down the coast toward warmer waters. They are most often caught on regular two-hook bottom rigs and often two at the time when they are running.
Fishermen look for the arrival of the larger “yellow-bellied” spot this time of the year, because spot bulk up and their hormones turn their bottom fins yellow. The rest of the year, spot are silvery and smaller, but fall spot are often larger—just right for the frying pan.
Spot will run off and on during the fall, and there is always a lot of debate about which tide, moon or wind brings them in. They can be unpredictable, but when they begin to really hit, they can fill up your cooler quickly. It is often hard to predict exactly when the spot will run, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.
When they do begin hitting, you’d better be quick to get a spot at the pier, as anglers line up along the left side to catch them running down the coast. Spot won’t be caught this time of the year on the lonely right side because they won’t run under the pier.
The classic spot bait is a bit of cut bloodworm. Bloodworms are expensive, however, and when fall arrives the price for just one bag of live bloodworms can be outrageous. Luckily, in the last few years spot anglers have discovered Fishbites artificial bloodworms, which work just as well as the real thing and save you a lot of money because they last for fish after fish.
Fishbites have made spot fishing a lot more affordable than it used to be. Other baits that can be used are plain old earthworms and really fresh cut shrimp.
When you are done fishing, spot are terrific fried up in the usual Carolina style.
Also this season, in partnership with the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, we have the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) Oak Island Classic tournament Oct. 8 at Oak Island.
In only its second year, this is the largest kayak fishing tournament in the state and one of the largest along the Atlantic Seaboard. It is a saltwater tournament, with divisions for flounder, redfish, speckled trout, slam (one of each of trout, red and flounder) and king mackerel.
As best we can document, it was the first kayak tourney on the Atlantic Coast with a king mackerel division. The proceeds from the tournament go to the Oak Island Sea Turtle Preservation Program. The manufacturers are supporting this and the winner of each division will receive a new kayak. Second and third places are other kayak gear and fishing prizes.
The founder of the NCKFA and the 2011 tournament director is Mark Patterson, of Greensboro. His phone number is (336) 210-9861 and his email is mark@nckfa.com.  The organization website is www.nckfa.com and there are more than 800 members.
While waiting for the kayak tourney, get over to your local pier for some spot fishing. Now is a great time for fall Brunswick County fishing.