Temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning colors and the fishing is HOT. These are sure signs that autumn has started in the Topsail Island area.
That and those little yellow butterflies we see dotting the landscape.
Old timers will tell you when the yellow butterflies show up, so do the fish, especially spots. Ask local fishermen about their favorite fishing season and you likely will hear the word fall mentioned more often than not.
It certainly is the busiest time of year for our ocean fishing piers. Our sounds, creeks and river have a lot of visitors this time of year too, from near and far away. As the catches of Spanish mackerel, bluefish and pompano begin to taper off, the Spot, Speckled trout and Red Drum bite picks-up.
Spot is one of the area’s favorite catches this time of year. Fishermen (and fisherwomen) line the pier rails and waterways. They come armed with fresh shrimp pieces, blood worms and similar baits. So grab your best rod for pier fishing and get to it.
Many use a typical two-hook bottom rig. When the bite is hot, you’ll hear that Spot are being caught “two at a time”, meaning both hooks come up with fish on. Some will fill their coolers with this tasty little fish in just a few hours.
Others are more interested in the Speckled Sea Trout, commonly called “specks” in these parts. This prized fish is caught year round in our area. However fall is one of the best times of year to catch them. They can be found not only in the inshore marshes and creeks but in the surf and from the ocean piers.
Specks are a prized catch and good eating too! Live bait such as shrimp or finger sized mullet and large minnows are good baits. Many anglers prefer using artificial baits like Mirrolures or soft plastics on jigheads.
The live baits are often fished under a popping cork and are retrieved using a jerking motion. The hard baits and soft plastics are most often retrieved using a zig-zag or jerking pattern and allowing the baits to drop a bit between retrieves.
Speaking of good eating, another prized fish in these parts is the flounder. These flat fish are often found in the same places as Specks. Many of the same baits can be used to target both. Flounder lie on the bottom and ambush prey when they pass close by .
My favorite way to target flounder is with a Berkley Gulp! ® shrimp on a jighead. I’ll “bounce” it along the bottom with frequent, short pauses. If there is a hungry flounder around this will get its attention.
Topsail Island is blessed with three ocean fishing piers. These piers offer good access for ocean fishing and amenities such as bait, tackle, rest rooms and even a restaurant. Most will even cook your catch for you, adding the sides and a drink for a very reasonable price. This is fishing’s version of the “EASY” button. Not that catching is guaranteed but it sure is nice trying from one of our piers.
Each of our three towns has a pier. So no matter which section of the island you visit or live near, there’s a pier close by. Seaview Pier is located in North Topsail Beach, (910) 328-3172. Near the south end of the island in Topsail Beach Township is Jolly Roger Pier, (910) 328-4616. And last but not least, smack dab in the middle of the island is Surf City Pier, (910) 328-3521.
And don’t forget about winter fishing. Our mild winter season provides some of the most serene fishing you will find anywhere. I love to wet a line on a nice clear, crisp winter day. There are fewer folks around but still fish to be caught.
Inshore is your best bet this time of year. The marshes and creeks are the best places to try for catches of flounder, specks and red drum. Yes, some of each of the species stays here year round. Not in the numbers found in the fall, but still some to catch for the avid angler. Just remember a s-l-o-w retrieve is key when the water temperatures are below 60 degrees.
So go get ya some.
Tight lines to all!