We are all familiar with the fly-fishing aphorism “match the hatch,” which is especially critical in matching the seasonal insect hatches when selecting your imitation fly in freshwater fly fishing.
But it is in general a good adage when targeting saltwater fish too, that is, what fish am I trying to catch and what does it eat? When asked, “What are you trying to catch?” the correct answer is never, “Anything that will bite.”
This approach dooms you to a lifetime of majoring in catching pinfish, lizard fish and their like. Remember, almost everything out there eats shrimp. It is one of the most nonselective of baits. So, each time you go fishing, you should have a plan, a flexible plan for sure, but a plan that has a target, location, time of day, water conditions and bait that your desired fish will likely savor.
So, what are classes of fish food for thought? What do fish, any fish or specifically your target actually eat? If we start at the bottom of the food chain, we think of fish like finger and striped mullet, and mud minnows that forage on detritus, bits and pieces of organic matter floating in the water or settled to the bottom. Then there are the filter feeders like menhaden and bay anchovies that, swimming with open mouths, filter tiny plankton (phyto- and zoo-plankton) from the water. Menhaden and anchovies are diminutive fish but fish as monstrous as basking sharks, and many whale species are also filter feeders.
There are families of munchers and crunchers that are meat eaters out there that primarily feed on crustaceans, that is, crabs (blue, calico, fiddler and moles), shrimp and the like, and also crunch on shellfish like clams, mussels and barnacles. This group is highlighted by the likes of sheepshead, tautog, red and black drum. These fish have dental grinders either in the mouth like sheepshead or so-called crushers in their gullet that turn shells and other crunchies into shell dust to extract the good stuff inside.
There are also a group of smaller sciaenids: croakers, sea mullet and spots that love sand fleas (mole crabs) and feed along the surf line along with pompano. And yes, there are even flounder, that when the fleas are abundant in the spring, can be caught on sand fleas. Many of the smaller sciaenids also feast on a variety of sea worms and other creepy crawlers like bloodworms, sandworms, and in their spring bloom in April, the cinder worms. Other fish also join in the spring feast, like bluefish for example.
There are other crustacean feeders that are more “oligoniverous” (my term). They have a varied diet, feeding freely on crustaceans, particularly blue crabs, as well as many smaller fish. This group includes cobia, aka crab eater, and tarpon. They aren’t toothy in the mouth or have the grinder gullet of the drums but have powerful jaws and smoosh their prey. Stripers are also known and coinsurers of the beautiful blue crab.
Then there are the very toothy critters that mostly eat other fish. In this group, I include Spanish and king mackerel and bluefish, flounder, the trouts and ladyfish, inshore and nearshore. In the spring, we also see the Atlantic bonito and false albacore feasting on glass minnows, which is a generic term for either bay anchovies or Atlantic silversides. And in the fall, there is the return of false albacore porking up on glass minnows for the winter. Offshore, of course, there are “pescitiverous” billfish, tuna, wahoo and mahi-mahi.
And did I mention sharks?
Over the next couple of weeks, I will go over some details on specific species of forage fish and crabs that are locally found and used as baits.
I mentioned sharks above. Please keep in mind that shark fishing is banned on Bogue Inlet Pier. This has been an ongoing problem that owner Mike Stanley has tried to eliminate, due to the obvious safety considerations and the problem of sharks biting off anglers’ catches.
So how is fishing?
We are a bit in hot, summer mode, and the heat will continue to build throughout the week.
Last week, I had my diminutive summer slam. The fish were there in Schoolhouse Creek, where I caught a speckled trout, red drum and a couple flounder. The bad news was that these were all zero-year fish. If I had claimed these fish were even 12 inches in length, it would have been a typical fisherman’s exaggeration, a fabrication, a lie.
The feisty rat-red was the most fun though. However, if you can find out where they are, the trout and drum bite, especially the early morning top-water bite, is great with big trout and slot reds. The heat may slow this activity.
Again, the fish are in the New and Neuse rivers somewhere and the Swansboro marshes and in the Haystacks. The best bite to the east has been Core Creek in the creek along the docks, north and south of the Highway 101 bridge for both big trout and upper-slot reds. The nighttime fishing has been on fire with live shrimp, live finger mullet and Z-Man soft plastics, Gulp! baits and Vudu Shrimp. I’ve had good success with both the Z-Man Trout Tricks and Vudu Shrimp.
There are also early reports of old drum already being landed in the Neuse River/Pamlico Sound area, one of their spawning grounds. These fish can also be targeted in New River, another spawning location.
Inside, I have also heard reports of good fishing at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries docks, including trout, Spanish and ladyfish. It’s time for the ladies to appear, and they are a fun fish to hook and try to catch. With their vigorous legendary leaps, my landing to hook-up ratio is no better hat 1 in 10!
Spanish close to the beach slowed a bit with the dirty water, but with the clear and calm water, they should come back to the beaches and inlets. There are blues and ladies in the mix too from Cape Lookout inward.
Red snapper opening
This past weekend, there was a temporary opening for American red snapper.
The season will also open July 19-20. Check out the web at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/bulletin/noaa-fisheries-announces-limited-openings-recreational-and-commercial-red-snapper.
Also don’t forget the N.C. Carcass Collection program. They would love red snapper carcasses. There have been good catches of the American red snappers, particularly on structures east of Cape Lookout Shoals, along with AJs, triggers and blackfin tuna. On the east side, there are mahi, blackfin tuna and wahoo as close as 14 Buoy and 90 foot drop.
On the piers
How about pier fishing? We are in summer-slow mode!
Oceanana Pier reports speckled trout, spots, and yes, pinfish.
Bogue Inlet Pier had a 35-pound king landed last week, along with a few Spanish and blues and some specks on gold hook rigs. There were also some spots, croakers, pigfish and small flounder.
Seaview Pier reports sea mullet, blues and some croakers.
Surf City Pier reports several big Spanish to 6.5 pounds, some doormat flounder at 6 and 7 pounds, sea mullet and spots early in the morning.
Jolly Roger Pier reports slow fishing with some blues, black drum, croakers and spots.
Sea turtle nesting
Sea turtle nesting season is on the verge of a record-breaking year, locally and along the Atlantic Coast.
We already have had over 30 nests here in Emerald Isle and seemingly closing in on the 2016 exceptional numbers.
Ditto for Topsail Island.
Nesting season usually ends at the close of August, and of course, there will be those frantic hatching nights coming up.
Mullet blow soon?
This past week, I started to see very large schools of good-size finger mullet as I am getting my Bogue Sound water temperatures.
Getting ready for our first mullet blow? Maybe!
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.