Pier fishing has been inconsistent but rewarding

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By Jeffrey Weeks, Fishing Correspondent

Summer fishing in Brunswick County has officially begun, though we have been in a summerlike pattern for a while. Fishing has been generally solid this month with nice catches of redfish, flounder and sheepshead inshore.
Action has been unsteady, however, due to a constantly shifting wind that has blown hard at times.
Anglers like to watch the wind, and most local fishermen dislike it when it blows out of the east. Last week dodging the rain was a big issue, and though this week has been drier, the wind has continued to shift with inshore and pier fishermen looking for periods of a southern and westerly blow to concentrate their efforts.
Fishing is also likely to be better right now in the early morning and late afternoon around sunset.
Redfish action has gotten more dependable as the month has progressed with the possibility of catching red drum anywhere from 16 to 28 inches inshore. Usually redfish school in similar size, though occasionally larger fish will be in the same places as smaller ones and only make themselves known on the right wind and tide.
Redfish are hitting live bait like finger mullet, mud minnows, small pogies and live shrimp. If the pinfish or blue crabs are thick, it is best to keep your bait moving by jigging it slowly but constantly or to switch over to scented soft baits like jerkbaits or swimming minnows. Sometimes the redfish schools are along the grass flats and sometimes they move out toward the open water on a high tide.
One of the most dependable fish this year has been the sheepshead. There are a lot of sheepshead around the pier pilings in the ocean and inshore right on the bridge and dock pilings. Some of them are large fish weighing more than 5 pounds. Not everyone likes sheepshead fishing but those who know what they are doing have caught quite a few using barnacles or fiddler crabs dangled right up against those pilings.
Flounder action has been fast at times followed by slow periods. There are still quite a few throwbacks for those drifting or trolling but those fishing persistently have caught some nice flounder. Flounder hit the same live baits as redfish and will bite the same lures if they are slowly fished on the bottom.
The tide and wind is a big factor in flounder fishing, as heavy winds will muddy the bottom and flounder will have difficulty finding your bait. A wind less than 10 mph coming out of the southwest will not hurt your chances.
One place flounder fishing has been best is at the near-shore artificial reefs. Some guides will fish these areas for black sea bass and the flounder underneath them using live minnows and live shrimp. If the sea bass are really thick and you want flounder, you can shoot a jerkbait like a Gulp down to the flounder on a jig head or bucktail jig.
Elsewhere inshore there have been some nice black drum in the same areas you find sheepshead, and there is some occasionally decent speckled trout action in the mornings off the points, creeks and jetties. The trout bite is not consistent at all, but when you find them live shrimp on a float rig or scented soft lures on jig heads will take them. Trout also vary their activity by tide and wind, and they are the most likely fish to quit biting once midmorning has passed.
Pier fishing has been inconsistent but rewarding at times. The sheepshead action is good for those fishing it (usually using barnacles) and there have been some nice flounder caught along the pilings on mud minnows. Bottom fishermen have had it tough during the heat of the day, although some nice sea mullet are still out there and pompano and snapper bluefish are hitting occasionally. A few spadefish have also been landed off the piers on cut shrimp.
Surf anglers have had some luck with pompano and sea mullet on the rising and falling tides, and there are some flounder in the surf as well if you are fishing live bait. Night fishing on the beach with bait will most likely put a shark on the end of your line.
Everywhere on the beach and inshore you have a chance of running into the usual summer combination of small bottom fish when bait fishing, including pinfish, small croakers, puffers, toadfish, skates, rays and various sharks. Keep an eye out for times of a relatively light wind when the current is running fast, as those will be among the best times to fish for anything, especially if it is early or late in the day.

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.