In the summer heat, count on red drum and flounder

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By Jeffrey Weeks, Fishing Correspondent

Summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms continue to drive inshore fishing, as the best action is being had in the early morning. Fishing a rising tide, or even just a moving one, in the time around dawn and before 10 a.m. is giving anglers their best chances right now.
The two most dependable species inside continue to be red drum and flounder. Flounder fishing is best on days when the wind is slower than 10 mph and before the afternoon storms hit.
Fishermen drifting live baits like mud minnows through the inlets and cuts are having the most success.
Redfish are most active inshore around hard structures like bridges and docks. Live bait is also the best ticket for them, with finger mullet, pogies and mud minnows all working. A lot of the anglers drawing redfish strikes are jigging their baits slowly in the morning, working them up and down in the water column (and especially near the bottom) on the rising tide.
Right now, red drum sizes are mixed and variable, so it is important to keep a light drag. A 16-inch under-slot fish will hit hard, but a big redfish in the slot (18 to 27 inches) or bigger will really nail your live bait. Remember, the red drum limit is one a day per angler.
You can also target both redfish and flounder with scented soft baits like Gulp and Bass Assassin and you won’t have to worry about pinfish or blue crabs grabbing your bait.
These baits are great for casting under docks, vertical jigging or retrieving along the bridges slowly with or against the tide. The best body shapes can vary, with the swimming minnow and pogie bodies, shad tails and long jerkbaits being very popular and successful.
Some folks are fishing live shrimp or finger mullet under floats and doing well. A few speckled trout have been mixed in with the redfish and flounder.
There are pogie schools off the beaches and around areas like Shallotte Inlet, and at times this is producing a nice Spanish mackerel and king mackerel bite. The key is locating the bait in order to find the fish.
Surf and pier action has been slow during the day, with most catches coming early in the morning or at night. Black drum and sheepshead are still around the pilings and there are occasional bluefish and Spanish mackerel schools running around at the end of the pier chasing pogies and mullet schools through the water.
The surf has some sea mullet and pompano and a few puffers (blowfish), but mostly the surf is holding small sharks, rays and skates right now. If you are pier or surf fishing, get up early to get your action in.
Your best bet inshore right now is to go with live bait and fish it during the faster currents, keeping it moving slowly. Keep your hardware down to a minimum and don’t use a lot of swivels and snaps. The simpler the rig, the better the rig 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.