September has arrived and we are finally starting to see a few days of cool breezes here and there. I hate to admit it, but Summer will be coming to an end soon. The coming change of seasons has me both looking forward to new opportunities, and looking back fondly on some great trips over the past months.
The big flood tides have been some of my favorite times to pursue fish this year. There's not much that I love more than a Redfish crawling along and tailing in inches of water. We've had a few floods that were weaker than forecasted, but we've also had some that were killer with lots of shots at happy tailing fish. I spent a few flood tides photographing them when I wasn't running a charter, and I can tell you that capturing a tailing Redfish with a camera is way more challenging than capturing one with a fly.
Although Summer is coming to a close, we still have a solid month of tailing Redfish ahead of us. September is my favorite month to pursue these skinny water Reds, before they turn their focus from Fiddler Crabs to schools of Mullet. We don't have any of what I would consider extremely high tailing tides this month, but we have several moderate tailing tides, a few of which I still have available. I'm looking forward to spending as much time as possible pursuing these fish before the month is over.
As of right now, I still have a handful of dates open in September for flood tide sessions in the grass. I also have days open for normal non-tailing Redfish trips. After September, I have some early October and some late November Albacore dates available...and I have just a couple prime time dates left open right in the middle of the season. Give me a shout if you have questions about any of the opportunities coming up in the next few months. Hope you all are doing well and I'll catch you on the water. John
Hey everyone! Just wanted to drop a quick update on the inshore fishing the last few weeks. Like the temperature, the fishing has been hot most days. The topwater bite has been really good on early morning high tides. We have had a couple days where we found schools of several hundred Reds in less than a foot of water! Other days, we've been able to locate singles along the bays and creeks.
Low tide Redfish has been pretty good some days too. As hot as its been, mid-day is not a great time to target low tide fish, but an early morning or evening low tide can be quite productive. We've had a some days that were a grind, but most were pretty good. On a couple trips, we had to fish live or cut bait to get the mid day bite, but most days we could get the bite on artificials or fly.
We've done some exploring and found a couple great new fishing spots. Not just for Reds, but for Speckled Trout too.
We have endured a lot of rain in August which has really muddied and stained the water. That doesn't affect conventional anglers or tailing tides, but it can make it a struggle bus for sight-casting on fly. Fortunately, the water has been really clearing up the last few days, and we've had some locations with crystal clear sightfishing.
If the water is dirty, we've been able to throw some flashy flies to get their attention.
Most days, it's much more about the presentation than the fly, but some days we've been able to cure a tough bite by digging through the fly selection.
Love the slick calm topwater bite!
Had a few very special mornings with some fly anglers over the last few weeks.
When it's good, it's real good...I'll leave it at that.
Love that blue on copper!
Popper fly for the win...
I love fishing topwater flies when we are trying to locate fish or are unable to sightcast to them.
Thanks for visiting...catch you later.
Enough rambling...enjoy the pics and let me know if I can help you in anyway. Thanks!!!
I recently did a podcast with Eastern Current discussing sightfishing Redfish on the Carolina coast, and a bunch of other fun stuff. Hope you enjoy.
Hey everyone, just wanted to give you a quick update on the fishing here on the Crystal Coast over the last few weeks. It's July, and that means one thing...it's hot, hot, hot! I'm sweating just thinking about it. It's been a pretty normal July so far, great topwater bite, fish that refuse to bite, beautiful sunrises, afternoon thunderstorms, tailing redfish, jumping spanish, dead calm, windy as heck, bluebird skies, cloudy skies, beautiful clean water, super muddy water...the weather has been all over the map. We've done a few trips out in the ocean, and a bunch of trips inshore.
I got tired enough of poling my spinning rod anglers into 20mph winds, that I finally broke down and bought a top of the line trolling motor this month. Don't worry fly anglers, I'll still be poling you around...I just realized I was getting too old to pole the skiff in 4ft deep water when a trolling motor would do the same thing with less back aches. A powerpole is next on the list, as soon as dig myself out from cost of the trolling motor cost.
We've had some really pretty mornings with some great topwater eats when we line up with a sunrise high tide. I know I'm a fly guy, but man I really love those topwater explosions on a skitterwalk!
Been fishing a few new holes and that's been paying off for us with some happy fish on most days.
Managing expectations is really important to me. So I don't want to make you think that everyday is epic. We've had a few days where we really had to grind it out to make it happen. Especially after TS Elsa came through and dumped a bunch of rain and wind on us. We went from feast to famine for a few days. Luckily things have turned back around. I can tell you that no matter if the bite is on fire or barely lit, I'm going to work extremely hard to give you the best shots possible at fish. I'm constantly working on different lures/baits/techniques to figure out those stubborn redfish. That's what I love about guiding and actually really like about the hard days...it really forces you to push forward as a guide and grow your abilities. Plus those tough days keep you in check and make you really appreciate the great days. No matter what though, we have a great time, every time.
I've been off the beach a few times in the Parker this month chasing Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish. I love Redfish in the summertime, but I love it when an angler wants to slip out the inlet on a nice day and run the beaches for busting fish. It's a nice change of pace. Plus, there just might be a few Albies around if you're lucky...hint, hint.
Well that's about it. I really want to thank all my repeat anglers who have fished with me this month, and all the new faces I've had on the boat. It's been a blast.
I've got a busy week this coming week, but have some openings the following week and I'd love to take you fishing, nearshore or inshore. Give me a shout if you want to look at any certain dates.
Summer is in full swing here on the Crystal Coast. That means Redfish, Redfish, Redfish. Well, there's a bunch of other stuff going on too, like Flounder, Mackerel, Bluefish, Sharks, Amberjack, etc, but everyone has been asking for Reds lately, so who am I to disagree.
We've got tailing redfish, crawling redfish, mudding redfish, waking redfish, hiding redfish, pushing redfish, sneaking redfish, feeding redfish, lockjaw redfish, early morning redfish, mid-day redfish, redfish gumbo, fried redfish, blackened redfish, redfish pie...just kidding we let most of them go (with a tracking device attached).
It's been good, sometimes great...weather dependant. Seems like we either have a drought or a monsoon here depending on what week it is. Even if the runoff from rain dirties up the water, we have still been able to sight redfish as they crawl with their backs right below the surface. When the tide brings in clean water, it's been a blast sightfishing these fish. And tailing Redfish have been pretty special so far this year. Looking forward to hitting some floods for them again this week.
I've had the pleasure of seeing repeat anglers this month and meeting new anglers too. I love seeing a new client casting at these fish for the first time, and I also love seeing if we can top our last trip with a repeat client.
I've been out exploring new spots too. Sometimes just to stay ahead of the game, and sometimes completely out of necessity due to weather or water conditions. That time put in exploring has paid off and given me a few new spots under my belt. I'm looking forward to seeing how these spots fish through the coming seasons.
"When skill and preperation meet face to face with a hungry Redfish."
Topwater has continued to be great. Although I really love an early morning high tide for throwing a plug, we're even getting some great topwater bites mid-day.
The fly bite has been really good the past week too. We've had a lot of really close quarter shots at fish lately, to the point where the fish appear closer than the length of the fly rod. How would you make a cast to a fish that pops up 4ft in front of your feet with only seconds before they look up and see you? We've had to play that game a lot lately.
I'm happy to let someone keep a fish for dinner, but I love that a lot of my clients are very conservation minded and choose to practice catch and release. I think of the Redfish as my "business partner" so I love watching them swim off to do battle again another day.
I've been blessed to have stayed booked most of this month, but I have dates open starting 4th of July week. So if you want to get out here, let me know. It definitely doesn't have to be Redfish, and I'm happy to discuss all the options available to you. Feel free to give me a call and pick my brain.
Thanks for the support and allowing me to chase the dream.....
Our excellent winter Redfish fishery from a few months ago, has transitioned into a really solid spring Redfish fishery. In the short time since I returned from the Roanoke, the fishing has been excellent most days with lots of Redfish around.
Some days have been really epic, and other days we have had to put some work in to make it happen. That has nothing to do with lack of fish, as we are getting plenty of opportunities each trip. Some days the Reds will eat anything that crosses their path, and some days we have had to switch offerings and tactics to "crack the code" on them. Every day is different, and I love the challenge.
Redfish aren't the only game in town, as there have been lots of Flounder around. Not just small and medium flounder scooting around the flats, but quite a few doormats way back in the marsh. We don't even have to target them specifically, as any fly or subsurface lure designed for Redfish will get inhaled when it comes within reach of a Flounder.
Early mornings have been great for the topwater Reds. Rapala Skitterwalks are my topwater of choice, but Zara Spooks, Top Dogs or anything similar will do the trick. It's all in the way you walk it, and if you can "walk the dog" properly, it's hard for an aggressive Redfish to resist. And as much as I love fly fishing, there's not much that's more exciting than watching a Redfish explode on the surface knocking the lure clear out of the water.
When they aren't eating on the surface, I have a few go to subsurface lures that we can put into action. Gold Spoons have always been a favorite, but these Z-Man Chatterbaits are quickly becoming a favorite search lure. I have a few other "secrets", but these two lures are responsible for a lot of the fish that come visit my skiff for a photo.
When it comes to flies, there have been a variety of patterns that have worked for us lately. Everything from crabs, to shrimp, to baitfish patterns have worked in certain circumstances. Although fly pattern is important, this time of year it's more about seeing the fish and putting the fly in his sights before he looks up and realizes you are there. It's a challenge, but that's what makes this type of fishing so fun.
So far we've had a fantastic spring, and June is just around the corner. We just fished our first few "tailing tides" the last couple nights and I'll fill you in on that on the next report. If you'd like to get out on the water and chase Reds, Flounder, or some nearshore fish like Spanish and Blues, get in touch and we'll get you out there. Thanks as always! John
I just got back from the upper Roanoke River a few days ago and wanted to share some photos and info from the trip. I was up there for a week this year and had a blast fishing mornings and evenings with a bunch of awesome anglers. We had a few trips where we had to work for them, and we had several days that were just pure epic. No matter the number of fish, every single trip was a bunch of fun, and I already miss being up there.
I arrived on the last day of keeper season to scout the river and set up for my first trip the following day. After checking into the hotel, I dropped the skiff in the river and made my way down stream watching the fish finder. On the third cast of my first drift, I hooked up to my first Rockfish of the year, and followed up with a second fish a few casts later. Everything was shaping up for an awesome trip the next morning. We had a water temp of about 66 deg that evening and the fish were schooled up about a mile downstream of the boat ramp.
The next morning I met my first anglers of the week and we were off. We had a major temperature drop over night and the air was chilly that morning and the water temps were down to 63. We worked our way downstream and started marking fish a few miles downriver. The fishing was alright but definitely not on fire. We worked our way upstream to the rapids and decided that 8000CFS was just enough to safely shoot the rapids and fish upstream. Upstream around the railroad tressles we found willing fish and started putting some Stripers in the boat.
The next day we were back with more pieces to the puzzle which allowed us to get on fish quicker and start bending some fly rods. The water temps were a little higher that morning which helped too (they were about 70 deg by the end of the week). The next few days we spent an equal amount of time fishing above and below the rapids.
A few days later they dropped the river flow from 8000CFS down to 6500CFS, which didn't slow the bite, but kept us fishing downstream of the rapids. We also started having some killer evening spawns. One night we had a half mile of spawning Stripers, boiling on the surface fertilizing eggs, in every direction you looked.
Although the main quarry on the Roanoke near Weldon, NC is Striped Bass, there are several other species to be caught. While targeting Stripers we also caught Common Carp, Bullhead Catfish, Channel Catfish and Largemouth Bass. We also witnessed an angler go to battle with a seven foot 300lb Atlantic Sturgeon...something that no one had ever seen on the upper Roanoke.
Not only can you catch a variety of fish, you can also watch a variety of wildlife on the river. We saw everything from Bald Eagles and Ospreys to Muskrats and Otters to Warblers and Tanagers. This river is wild, and one of the prettiest places to fish in North Carolina in May.
Although I love my Redfish, I'm definitely missing the mighty Roanoke. I'm already making plans for next spring and planning to book mornings and evenings on the Roanoke for 2 weeks straight next year. If you've never experienced this fishery or if it's been a while since you have, then you should really consider spending a day or two up there next year...I highly doubt you'll regret it.
We've spent much of April exploring the nearshore waters from Cape Lookout down to North Topsail. I love the month of April, as you never know what you'll run into as the water temps climb into the 60's. Bonito, Albacore, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, Grey Trout, Reds, Sharks, the list goes on...
There's no guarantee on any certain species, but being prepared for what may pop up, will pay off most days. We've had some awesome opportunities, like sight-casting to schools of a few hundred Bull Reds.
Atlantic Bonito are one of our favorite early spring targets. Sometimes they are deep and we need to jig for them or use a sinking fly line, but other times they are busting on the surface on spraying bait. Those fish are a blast to cast to with fly or spin. This is usually an early morning bite, but getting on the water before sunrise is worth it, when you get into a pile of these tasty tunas.
Sharks have been plentiful and are happy to play ball. These fish are bruisers, and will give a workout to both tackle and angler. If you've ever wanted to catch a fish bigger than you are, this is a good time to do it.
I'm a strong believer that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll just let you take this in for a second. Imagine the results of casting a lure or fly into this mayhem.
I'll be fishing the Crystal Coast another 8 days before I head up to the Roanoke to target Striped Bass with clients.
If you'd like to slip out next week and chase any of the above, give me a shout and we'll look at open dates. Thanks! John
In a couple weeks I will be packing my gear and trailering my skiff up to Weldon NC for the Roanoke River Striper Run. A few fish are starting to show up now, and it should really pick up in the next few weeks. This year the keeper season on the upper Roanoke is April 24th -30th and catch and release season will start again on May 1. I’ll be running trips starting May 1st and fishing until I run out of anglers or fish.
"If you have never experienced the “Rockfish” run on the upper Roanoke at Weldon,
you are missing out."
You aren’t guaranteed a 100 fish day (not that it’s not possible), but you can be guaranteed that all but the slowest day at Weldon is usually better than a good day anywhere else.
The conditions on the Roanoke can change on a daily basis, so be ready to adjust your gear and techniques. If you are interested in fishing the Striper run this Spring, here is a rundown of fly and spin gear that will get you a little closer to having one of those legendary fishing trips.
Let’s talk about fly gear first:
Rods: 7-9wt. Generally, you will be fishing either a heavily weighted line or bulky flies or poppers, so I usually stick with 8wts as a general rule. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have the extra backbone if a big fish decides to eat your fly. I've been fishing my Mauser Waterman 8wts the last few seasons, but I'm looking forward to putting the Osmosis to work next month.
Lines: Floating lines are useful for topwater flies that will be fished at first light and right before sunset. I always keep a rod rigged up with a floating line and topwater fly. I generally fish the same Redfish lines that I use on the coast, something like a Scientific Anglers Redfish Taper or Grand Slam Taper. Sinking lines will see the most usage on the upper Roanoke. Once it gets bright enough to slide on your sunglasses, the stripers usually slide on down in the water column. I generally rig my rods with 300-400 grain full sinking lines. My personal preference is a Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Coldwater 350gr line. It loads great on an 8wt, and quickly cuts through the current and gets your fly 10-20ft down where the fish are hiding.
Leaders: Really basic stuff. On the sinking lines I usually use about 3ft of straight 20lb mono. That is really all you need, no reason to go fancy. You want that leader to act as a short “leash” on your fly, so that it behaves and sinks the same depth as the fly line. For the floating lines, I can usually get away with a stiff 7 to 8ft leader, which helps turn over heavy poppers. A section of 40lb, 30lb and 20lb hard mono blood knotted together works well for me.
Reels: Fly Reel selection is not nearly as important on the Roanoke, as most of the time you’re hand stripping the line in vs fighting the fish on the reel. I’ll have my standard Hatch Finatic 5plus and 7plus reels on the skiff.
Flies: Fly selection is pretty basic. I go through a lot of flies on the Roanoke, so I like to tie whatever is the easiest and fastest to tie. I rarely fish anything other than Clouser Minnows on the sinking lines. There’s probably nothing that you can tie faster, or that fishes more effectively than the good ol’ Clouser. Chartreuse over White is usually the ticket, but it never hurts to bring some in variations of yellow, green, pink, white…anything that will show up well in dark water. 3 to 4 inches long, on a #2 hook is perfect. Remember to pinch the barbs down on any fly before you fish it, so that you are staying legal on the Roanoke. For topwater, try a variety of poppers and gurglers. I generally will fish a pencil popper or one of Flymen Fishing Company’s Double Barrel or Howitzer poppers.
Time to talk about conventional gear.
Rods: For tossing poppers and weighted plastics, I generally use a 7ft ML or M action spinning rod. My go to rods are the TFO Inshore 7’ ML rated for 1/8 to ½ oz lures…but anything similar will work fine.
Reels: A 2500 or 3000 series spinning reel is the standard size most anglers use on the Roanoke. Again, I have my preference (Florida Fishing Products Ospreys) but all but the cheapest spinning reels will do fine on the Roanoke.
Line: I generally keep all my reels spooled up with 20lb Power Pro braid. It casts well, untangles well and it plenty strong enough to deal with the multitudes of underwater snags along the bottom of the river.
Leader: A few feet of 15lb or 20lb mono or fluoro leader attached to the braid with a double uni knot does the trick for me. I like keeping the leader as the weaker link on my setup so that I can break the lure off when (not if) we get snagged.
Lures: The two most important factors for lures on the Roanoke are (1) pinch the barbs and (2) bring a bunch. These stripers hold deep on structure during the day. If you are not getting hung, then you are fishing in the wrong spots. So, bring a couple dozen baits for a day of fishing. Keep it simple and affordable, no need for high dollar hard plastics (they won’t last long). I generally keep a bunch of packs of 4-5” soft plastic finesse baits and paddle tail baits in white or chartreuse. I rig these baits on lead head jigs ranging from 3/8 to ½ oz…with the occasional ¾ oz when the river is blown out and raging. Again, keep it cheap, no need for the fancy redfish jig heads…I like the old school Sea Striker style jigs due to affordability. For topwater baits, you can’t beat the old Rapala Pop-R lures but anything from Chug Bugs to Zara Spooks work well. Just remember, the rule on the Roanoke during the spawning run is single barbless hooks on lures. So, remove both trebles, and add one single hook on the back split ring, and pinch the barb down. I have started using the VMC Inline Single Large Ring hooks as replacements for my trebles and they are fantastic. A VMC size 3/0 works well for a popper or spook style lure.
Well, that about sums it up for gear on the upper Roanoke during the Spring Striped Bass run. If you have any questions about gear or tactics, or would like to book a trip, give me shout. Good luck!
We kicked off our spring nearshore season last weekend on the Crystal Coast. I wanted to hit some nearshore structure and see if we could find a few False Albacore or Atlantic Bonito. Every spring as water temps rise into the 60's, the Onslow Bay area becomes a hunting ground for Bonito, Albies, Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel.
We found water temps between 57 and 60 degrees, but the Bonito didn't show for us. The Albies on the other hand, were all over and more than willing to play, if you could keep up with them as they blitzed after schools of bait.
There are a few Bonito around right now, but it should really kick off in the coming week. The Albies should hopefully stay around for a few more weeks too.
Looking forward to getting off the beaches as much as possible in April and playing with all of these hard pulling speedsters.
I've got spots open through April, so give me a shout if you'd like to go look for Albies, Bonito, Blues and/or Spanish Mackerel on fly or spin before we head to the Roanoke in May.