The unusual weather at the end of September has had some impact on the fishing along the North Carolina Coast. The combination of heavy rains and northeast winds has produced an effect similar to, but to a much lesser degree, the conditions that existed after Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd last year. So far there has not been the "super flush" of the rivers and sounds but there has been an abundance of fresh water moving downstream and it has carried baitfish and effluent with it. The northerly winds actually had a positive effect of rushing that dirty water offshore.
Good inshore fishing continues even with the heavy rains and excess fresh water. Red drum are being caught along the entire coast. The conservation efforts of the past few years are paying off as several year classes are heavily included in most catches. The drum have been responding well to natural bait, live bait, hard lures, spoons, and a variety of soft plastics. Remember that red drum under 18 inches and over 27 inches are for the fun of catching and photo opportunities only. If you must have a drum for dinner, you may keep 1 per day, between 18 and 27 inches total length.
Flounder are still in pretty good supply also. There are good numbers of fish and some true doormats. While mullet minnows and mud minnows work well in most situations, a larger mullet, croaker, menhaden, or even a pinfish is the ticket for attracting the attention of one of the big boys.
Speckled trout are getting more aggressive with the cooling water temperatures. They are still around the marshes but should be moving to deeper holes as the water temperatures fall below 70. Mirrolures, Yo-Zuri's, and soft plastics should all be effective.
Striper are biting in the waters around Manns Harbor, Manteo, and Oregon Inlet. They are not thick yet but will continue getting better as the water cools. Many locals say to use any color bucktail and worm or grub combination as long as it is green. White, yellow, and chartreuse usually will also work.
SURF & PIER
In the southern and central coast, spots are king right now. This should continue for another few weeks. A 2 or 3 drop bottom rig and shrimp or bloodworms is the ticket. When the bite is hot, either bait works well. When the bite slows, bloodworms are the food of choice.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are still falling for jerk jiggers. Shiny lures and a slower retrieve are the ticket for bluefish. A white or chartreuse lure with a red or chartreuse head and gold hooks, is the lure for spanish. Reel it fast, you can't reel fast enough to get it away from a spanish that wants it.
Some puppy drum are moving through the surf right now. A nice chunk of fresh natural bait will get their attention. If they appear finicky, switch to a fish finder rig so the fish can pick it up and move without feeling the resistance of the sinker.
Flounder are also moving in the surf. Live mud or mullet minnows are your best bait.
Kings have followed the spots and mullets inshore. They should be caught in good numbers over the next few weeks. Unlike trolling, where menhaden is a preferred bait, mullet or bluefish both make excellent pier king baits.
Kings, spanish, and blues are the main trolling catches. While the kings will hit larger spoons, swimming plugs and live baits will usually produce better. For the spanish and blues 2/0, 0, and 1 size Clarkspoons and Drone spoons are excellent choices. troll them fast for spanish and slower for blues.
False Albacore are starting to show up in some numbers. These little cousins of the tunas are great sport on light spinning or baitcasting tackle and fly gear. There are some along the whole coast, but the waters around Cape Lookout will hold the greatest concentration. Small lures or flies moved fast will get the best results.
There are still a few sailfish that are terrorizing the baitfish at many favorite inshore rocks and wrecks. Buddy Grooms 100 pound State Record Sailfish was caught during the US Open about 10 years ago. Several surprises jump up almost every week.
The bottom bouncers should soon be catching sea mullet (whiting) in good numbers. There have been a few in many locations, like the Dead Tree hole already. Speck rigs tipped with fresh shrimp should catch them well.
There are still good numbers of dolphin around, but they are schooling up more as the water cools. Once you locate a school, they should not be too hard to catch. Any floating debris or weeds should be checked out. It is amazing how many dolphin can congregate under even the smallest floating object.
More wahoo have been being caught over the past few weeks. They are moving along the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream and its eddys. A few are even farther inshore, chasing bait with the king mackerel.
The fall tuna fishing has not yet fired up off the central and southern coast. There are a few yellowfins being caught but no concentration has been found. The best tuna fishing right now is north of Cape Hatteras. There are yellowfins and should soon be some big eyes.