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By Capt. Jacob Frick
Backwater Fishing Report
The first week of April has again been challenging for anglers with cool weather, strong winds and plenty of rain showers. As spring breaks wind down and almost everyone has to head back to school, springlike weather is finally in the forecast. As you read this article, it will be near 80 degrees outside here at the beach. The weather has finally made its turn and things are surely to improve on the fishing grounds.
Redfish have been the main target so far this spring, as they seem to adjust and tolerate most weather conditions better than any other species. Black drum also have been biting in a few places on warmer afternoons. Speckled trout are scattered all around, and anglers working hard at it can catch a few.
Capt. Jeff Williamson, owner of Get Busy charters, sent me a picture of his first flounder of the year. As the warmer temperatures forecast this week warm our waters, the flounder should get more active. Look for Hoggs Inlet in Cherry Grove, S.C., and Tubbs Inlet in Sunset Beach to be the first hot spots for the flounder bite. If you are a saltwater angler, now is the time to dust off the gear and get on the water looking for that first good bite of spring. Here is a story and some tips on what we found last week.
The text message comes through, Capt. Brant McMullan writes, “Half day Ellis a.m. confirm.” I respond back, “Yes sir, Thx!”
As always, I immediately start researching tide and weather conditions to prepare for the fishing trip. I call Chris Ellis the night before our trip and discuss that I have located some redfish, but the weather conditions are not looking favorable. Ellis said if we could just get his son Jack fishing for a couple of hours, it would be great.
We pulled away from the docks behind the Ocean Isle Fishing Center at 7 a.m. The east wind hit us hard as we rounded the corner approaching the Intracoastal Waterway. Rain showers were fast approaching from just on the other side of Interstate I-95. It looks as if we are going to have just a couple of hours before things really get miserable.
We slipped into our first spot and I barely got two lines in the water. Chris Ellis and Jack Ellis were both hooked up with redfish. We continued to pick away at under-the-slot reds around 17 inches for an hour and a half before the rain and wind ran us off the water. Chris Ellis was extremely happy with the short trip, but I felt we left some time on the table.
Chris Ellis called me back later in the week and we scheduled a couple more hours for Thursday morning. Mother Nature was brutal in her assault, showing her wrath of strong east winds and horizontal rain on Thursday morning as well. We were scheduled to leave the dock around 8 o’clock, but I called Chris Ellis around 7:30. I was for sure they didn’t want to go out in this weather. Chris Ellis said they could handle it for a couple of hours if I thought there was a chance we would catch a fish.
Well, I had gotten my hands on some live shrimp and I was eager to put them to work. Live shrimp are hard to beat even in the worst conditions. We managed to make our 8 o’clock departure time and were determined to take the conditions by the horns.
We pulled up to a dock along the waterway and deployed a cork with a live shrimp about 2 feet under the surface. As the cork passed the first piling, it disappeared. Jack Ellis was hooked up with a 24-inch red, and the weather conditions did not exist at that point. We floated the cork again and picked up a short red. The third time the cork passed several pilings, getting all the way under the dock clear on the other side. If he hits on that last piling, we are in for a fight to get him out of that gauntlet. It never fails: The cork disappeared and the fight was well on its way. The monster upper slot red went from one piling to another, back and forth. (Don’t force him, easy does it, slow and steady.)
We managed to get that fish to our side of the dock and I told Jack Ellis to put a hurt on him now. Jack landed the 26-and-quarter-inch upper-slot red from way back in the pilings. Awesome. We caught a few more small reds before we let the conditions run us back to our warm recliners. What a way for a father and son to spend some time together.
Often, life brings us conditions we don’t think we can handle. I learned something from this trip more important than tactics, techniques or any kind of fishing knowledge for that matter. A loving father-and-son team staying positive and spending time together will overcome any conditions.
In closing, I will share one tactic that has helped me put a few fish in the boat on every trip this past week. Live mud minnows have been the most likely choice for bait this past week. Fishing them on a light Carolina rig under docks and little potholes along the marshes has produced many bites. I have never really liked fishing with mud minnows, but the cool water has made it difficult to find any other bait.
Mud minnows are lazy and bury themselves into structure, hiding from predators. I have found that putting two minnows on the same hook seems to aggravate the minnows, keeping them more active. The redfish have been hammering them. Try it on your next outing. I bet you will catch more fish.
Capt. Jacob Frick, who has 10 years of knowledge and experience in guiding family, friends, and clients in the backwater surrounding Ocean Isle Beach, is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at (803) 315 3310 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information or questions about his articles.