If last week’s excuses didn’t provide enough cover to whine a way your poor fishing success, here are a few more.
Hopefully there will be some to meet your needs. Of course, extra stuff in the water is never good either. For example, red tide … bad, very bad. Weeds, such as sargassum imported from the Gulf Stream, beach grass imported from recently washed away beach dunes, snot weed, turd weed, eelgrass, sea oats … all bad. Docks and beach walkways floating in the surf ... bad. Too many boats, SeaDoos, surfers or bathers ... bad too. And there’s still Hurricane Florence to blame as well.
We’ve all been there, fishing the creeks, White Oak River, or the surf, stop-netters, gill-netters, pound nets and shrimp trawls ... not a good sign, too much competition.
Speaking of stuff in the water, how about critters? We know the havoc that can be caused by too many hungry pinfish, lizards, spiny dogfish, stingrays and the ever-present clearnose skates in the surf or around piers. You can’t even get your bait to the bottom to give a self-respecting mullet, spot or drum a chance to find your hook. And on top of that, you spend half your time taking these bait-pilfering critters off your hook, often risking life and limb.
Then there are top predators like “Flipper,” the bottlenose dolphin. Fun to watch, but eating everything in sight and chasing everything they don’t eat away into the deep-blue yonder. Ditto for gator Hatteras blues, barracudas and sharks. Even if you catch something, you may have to share your catch with one of these denizens of the deep, and they don’t ever ask please, may I?
Jellyfish? I’m not sure, but in a pinch, I’d use it as an excuse with conviction and without a wink, blink, sigh or smirk. Then there are those Portuguese Man of War … ouch!
Now there are some natural conditions that we might not have gotten quite right. When did you ever get the tide just right? What is the right tide? High tide, low tide, slack tide, moving or not, so many choices, so many ways to go wrong.
Then there are days the tide or wind is so strong you can’t hold bottom, and it’s not your fault. Sometimes the bite is early like at zero-dark-thirty, but you’re not an early riser. Sometimes the bite is great at night, but this day, to your dismay, you watched the sunrise when the moonlight angling would have filled your cooler with sea mullet or spot.
So what about the moon? Full moon or no moon, half-moon or crescent, moon above your head, or moon below your feet? I guess you’ll just have to check those famous Knight’s Solunar Tables. Do they really work? And do fish check the signs of the zodiac too? How about Pisces?
Of course, you’ll need bait to catch fish. A rule of thumb with natural baits is that “fresh is better, but live is best.” Maybe today you had the wrong bait, or some refrozen old and mushy and stinky bait, or shrimp that was sitting in the sun on the pier railing too long and now resembles shrimp jerky. Remember, if you won’t eat the shrimp you’re using for bait, the fish may stick up their noses at it too. And yes, they have noses. Always buy “people” shrimp at the shrimp stand, that is, unless you need the excuse “My bait was bad” or “I had the wrong bait,” and both are as believable as any.
Bait not only includes the bait you use, whether natural or artificial, but the bait available to the targeted fish swimming around in the water. However, NO bait in the water is never a good sign, making “matching the hatch” a moot point.
If you are having a bad year, not just a bad day or two, you’ll need to invoke more global excuses. Try blaming beach nourishment, inlet relocation, or it’s a bad year for ... (fill in the blank). Then there’s global warming. That’s really in vogue these days. If you are having a bad decade, just throw up your hands and exclaim, “Bad luck, always happens to ME.”
Excuses, excuses, so maybe you just should have been there yesterday!
My excuse of the week
So what can I use as my excuse of the week.
I have fished Schoolhouse Creek along Highway 24, which was full of bait but no fish or even birds feeding on the abundance of peanut pogies, baby pinfish, or the nearly cast-net-able finger mullet. There were even corn cob-sized striped mullet. By the way, finger mullet are NOT juvenile striped mullet, so get over it.
One day last week, I also fished the cycle. No, not caught the cycle, just fished it. At the point in Emerald Isle, I worked the Coast Guard Channel. It was full of bait, but like Schoolhouse Creek, devoid of predators.
Then I worked my way from the CG Channel west to Bogue Inlet, avoiding dive-bombing terns, fishing my Kastmaster for blues or Spanish, but nothing. Switching to a bucktail, I hit pay dirt with a honker lizard fish. Hm-m-m-m!
Glowing in my success, I worked my way south to the ocean surf with some of the most beautiful fishy water rolling over a big sweeping, white-water bar and with nice holes behind the bar. Three weeks ago, we had drum. This week, nothing but disappointment. Bottom line, the surf is slow.
Drum and sheepshead
Drum? Try the marshes behind Bear Island. They are holding reds.
Sheepshead fishing has picked up nicely on fiddlers and sea urchins for the really big ones. One angler I talked with, who has already caught over 150 sheepshead so far this season, says the bite is excellent right now. His go-to rig is 60-pound mono with a very sharp, stout No. 2 J-hook with an egg sinker and a split-shot-below-the-egg sinker to adjust the length of free line between the sinker and the baited hook. He likes fiddlers, but for the 8- to 10-pounders he uses sea urchins.
Where? pick a bridge, any bridge from Morehead City/Atlantic Beach to Emerald Isle and Swansboro, and when the water is clear, try your favorite pier. I know there were some at Bogue Inlet Pier recently.
We continue to see photos of big specks and hear of great early morning topwater action, and that’s still in the Neuse River and New River around Sneads Ferry.
Live shrimp on a cork and soft plastics are also getting fish. There are some specks around the Newport River, but the best bite has been at night at the Core Creek/Sea Gate/Adams Creek area while fishing the lighted docks. Fish are plentiful, but lots are smaller.
How about pier fishing?
Oceanana Pier reports lots of Spanish, keeper flounder and a 6.5-pound red drum.
Bogue Inlet Pier had a slow week with some keeper sheepshead, Spanish to 5-plus pounds, blues, some small flounder and sea mullet, but not the size or numbers or earlier in the spring. There were even a few specks caught close to the surf on shrimp and soft plastics. There were some kings and tarpon out there but none caught. The crabs are also showing up with people getting a couple dozen during their stay.
Seaview Pier reports Spanish and blues, sea mullet and some good catches of speckled trout.
Surf City Pier reports no kings but a crevalle jack, along with Spanish and blues.
When I called Jolly Roger Pier, they were getting slammed with upper-slot and above-slot red drum. There were also croakers, spots and flounder.
Beaches and nearshore
Near the beach, we have had great Spanish action that has recently cooled off a bit.
The king action has also been good from 2 to 8 miles out with many teens and a few 20s, while the bigger 30- and 40-pounders are east of Lookout Shoals.
Then there are the shoulder-damaging amberjacks, which are all over the natural and unnatural structures, like Northwest Places, Big-10/Little-10 over to the 13-Buoy and the Hutton. Most fish have been in the 25- to 30-pound range.
Offshore bite great
Offshore, the bottom bite is still great, but the best triggerfish are pretty far out, 35 to 40 miles.
Grouper catches are holding up well east of the shoals.
Dolphin catches are some of the best in years from the 14-Buoy out, but already as the water warms, we are starting to see some inside 20 miles, and this trend should continue.
Flounder harvest closure
Finally, get ready for the closure of the flounder harvest, which will likely come on or about Aug. 23.
Regulations are to restore the decimated southern flounder stocks, but all flounder harvest, including summer and Gulf, our ocean-going flounder, will be shut down too. For more information, check the web at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=29540849&name=DLFE-140729.pdf.
And it’s probably time to get acquainted with “Let Them Spawn” HB 483 as well. For more info, go to https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H483.
2) “Ask Dr. Bogus” is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.