I hope all of you had a good New Years and a great start to your 2023! I'm gearing up for the next 12 months of fishing and planning out all of the different seasons and opportunities. I thought this would be a good time to give everyone a run down of all of the things we have coming up this year.
School's in Session - Winter sightfishing for Redfish is in full swing right now. As long as we have decent weather, a day on the water during the winter usually provides countless shots at schooling fish. We are usually fishing in 6-12 inches of crystal clear water and sight casting to groups of 10 to well over 100 fish. We have seen schools of over 500 fish in inches of water at times. This is finesse fishing at its finest, where you have to mind your approach to these weary fish and lead the schools with your fly or plastic, but the results can be awesome. We will be focussing on these schooled winter Redfish from now through the end of March. Some years these fish will stay schooled in clear water until early April, but January, February and March are the most consistent.
Winter Bull Reds - During the right weather windows we can go out searching for schools of these big Bull Redfish. These fish can be found now through early April. There is no guarantee that we'll locate them on any particular day (it's a big ocean) but when we do, its worth the time and effort. Often these fish are schooled down deep so we spend a lot of time watching our sonar, but sometimes these large schools of fish will rise to the surface on bait and all heck breaks loose. Although a big heavy jig might be the best tool for getting to these fish quick, we also get opportunities to catch them on fly rods too. Depending on the dates we fish, you can sometimes combine the search for these fish with other types of fishing like Bonito, Albies, Bluefish and Sharks. Again, this is weather dependant because of the amount of water we have to cover to find these fish, so be flexible and you just might get your hands on some monster Bull Reds.
Fishing Schools - Our Saltwater Fly Fishing School will be March 25 and 26 this year. Come join us and learn what it takes to be successful pursuing saltwater fish on the fly in the South East. Myself and the other instructors love sharing all of our saltwater fly fishing knowledge and experience with our students to help them excellerate their growth and skills. We will also be following up with our fall Saltwater Fly Fishing School in September (dates to be announced).
I'll also be teaching at the "Get Hooked" Fishing School at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores on March 11th.
Get Hooked Fishing School
March 16th I'll be in Richmond doing presentations with the Fly Fishers of Richmond.
Stay tuned for more school/seminar announcements.
Roanoke River Shad Season - I've fly fished for Hickory Shad on the Roanoke River for over 15 years. This is some of the most fun I've had with a fly rod. We fish 4 or 5wts with sinking lines and bright colored flies, resulting in bunches of Shad that pull and jump and put a big smile on your face. We also fish them with light spin rods and small jigs and catch a bunch that way too. This is a really fun fishery for adults, but it's also an absolute blast for kids because it's such an easy fishery. It's been a few years since I've run Shad charters, but this year I'd like to start them up again. I would like to do a mini-season up in Weldon, just like I do for the Striper run later in the spring. I am going to reserve March 30, 31, April 1, 2 for Shad charters on the Roanoke. I'll be staying in Weldon and offering half and full day charters for Shad on that Thursday - Sunday. I need to fill those 4 days for it to be worth my time to go up there, and if those four days book up, then I will extend my stay and offer more dates. Give me a shout if you are interested in catching Shad with me in 2023.
Spring Nearshore Fishery - In March as the nearshore waters begin to rise in temperature, False Albacore and Bluefish return to feed on baitfish. By the time the water temps reach the upper 50s and lower 60's the Atlantic Bonito show up on the nearshore reefs and wrecks. By late April or early May the Spanish Mackerel will join the party. I plan to spend most of my time off our beaches in April, focussing on the Atlantic Bonito, but taking advantage of the Albies, Spanish and Blues that are in the same locations. Once the Bonito bite slows, we can also run the beaches and look for Bull Reds or go check the Shrimp Trawlers for hungry Sharks.
Spring Striped Bass run on the Roanoke - I love this fishery! For me it's a great break from the salt, and for my anglers it's a great opportunity to play with a bunch of hard fighting fish. Last year we did have a few slow trips (that's fishing), but we also had many fast and furious days of hungry Stripers. I love dredging the water column for these fish on fly or jig, but my favorite is the early morning and late evening topwater bites. Every day is different and I make no guarantees, but we had several evenings last year that easily produced 100 Striped Bass on topwater. Last year, I called Weldon my home for 2 weeks, but this year I plan to stay up there for 3 weeks. Right now, I'm booking April 20th through May 10th on the upper Roanoke. These dates are subject to change depedning on bookings. I already have some of these dates booked so don't wait too late to get on the calendar.
Those Other Gold Fish - The last few springs up on the Roanoke, I've started to work out some nearby opportunities to sight fish for Common Carp. This is sightfishing for Carp on mud flats, rocky outcrops, stump fields, etc. Similar to sight fishing Redfish or Bonefish, where you will be poled along the shoreline looking for Carp in shallow water. This is a very cool fishery that I have been playing with on my days off from Striper trips, but one that I would like to start bringing some clients on. If you've ever been interested in sight fishing Carp, consider joining me while I'm up on the Roanoke late April to early May. You might want to think about combining this with a Striper trip since the two fisheries are only a half hour away from each other. I'd love to discuss this awesome fishery with you if you want more details.
Back Home to the Land of Redfish - After my Striper Season, I'll be back home on the Crystal Coast chasing the fish that built my business. I never get tired of stalking Redfish, I think because it's a game that you never perfect, you just keep learning and getting better, but you never finish the "game". Low tide, high tide, rising tide, falling tide, dead calm, breezy, sunny, cloudy, we'll be out there chasing them. And I really love fly fishing for these fish, I really do...but I can't wait for those ridiculous topwater explosions on surface plugs. I'm so ready to "walk the dog" past a hungry Redfish sitting off a grass point.
Tailing Redfish - I've got my tailing dates sorted out so give me a shout if you want to get up in the flooded grass and sightfish Reds. We'll be doing this type of fishing on the biggest tides of the month May through September. Unfortunately it doesn't look like an amazing year for big flood tides, a lot of them are minimal (but fishable) or late in the day (a lot of the big ones peak right around sunset). Basically what I'm saying is that yes we do have tailing tides, just not as many great ones as I want. We'll make the best of the ones that are available to us. I'm happy to send you my tailing dates if you are interested.
Kid Trips - I'll be offering shorter length Kid Friendly Trips throughout the Summer to help inspire the love of fishing in your children. We can go for some constant pullage while bottom fishing for Pinfish, Spot, Croaker, Black Sea Bass, Puffers, the list goes on forever...or we can put in the work and get them something big like a nice Redfish. You are always welcome to bring your children on your serious fishing trips, but if you want to put all the focus on their fishing success, then these trips are perfect for that. I try to make these trips as simple and fun as possible, and yes there's plenty of time for breaks for lunchables and juice boxes.
Summer Nearshore Fishery - We have plenty of Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish all summer long. Most people want to come chase Redfish with me in the summer, but don't forget about the great nearshore and inlet fishery for these guys.
Getting Wrecked this Summer - I really want to do more wreck fishing on fly and spin this year. I'm talking about running 5-20 miles out the inlet to some of our shipwrecks and hardbottom ledges to fish for Amberjack, Almaco Jack, Cobia, Barracuda, Mahi...whatever shows up under our boat. We can do this type of fishing from May through October and the fish species vary through the seasons. We are running out of my 23' Parker so obviously there is some weather dependancy with these trips, but if you have a little flexiblity, these can be very fun trips. I'll bring the 12wts, you bring the Ibuprofen.
Shark Attack - Sharks often get forgotten as most anglers jump at the chance for the glamour species like Redfish and Albacore, but they are always an option April through October. We do 100% catch and release with these fish, and we release the big ones in the water boatside, but it's still a super cool experience to hook up with 100lbs of pure muscle and teeth. We don't just fish for big sharks either, we also have the option to pole shallow flats in the summer and sight cast to Bonnethead sharks with fly or spin. That is a very cool fishery that is often overlooked.
Eco Tours - I'm a biology dork. I spent almost a 20 year career as a Marine Biologist before becoming a full time guide. I'm also an avid Wildlife Photographer and Birder. I love my home state of North Carolina because there is so much to experience, beyond just the fish. Want to go collect sharks teeth, Sand Dollars and sea shells? Cast Net and ID fish and invertebrate species? How about a birding trip through Hammocks Beach State Park for shorebirds and songbirds (want to see a Painted Bunting, I've got you covered)? How about a float down the White Oak River for Warblers and Tanagers (I'll throw in a few Alligators for free)? Dolphin watching? Yes please! I love doing Eco Tours and we can do these with your family and friends any time through the year. We are flexible and can lay out a plan to meet your needs.
Albie Darned! - By September my mind will be on the False Albacore that are starting to arrive along our beaches. On a good day, the Albie fishery on the Crystal Coast can be as good as it gets anywhere in the world. Some years the fishing is solid by mid September, some years its early October. They are hard to predict, heck last year we caugh big numbers of them during the first week of September. By October and November these fish are in full force all along the Crystal Coast. For 2023, I'll be booking Sept 23 through November 22 for Albie trips. Early season, there is a small chance that the fish won't be here in great numbers, but we will also have Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, small Jacks, etc to fill the gaps. I'm already about 1/3 booked up for Albie Season so give me a shout if you'd like to talk about whats available and what I think will be most productive.
Seeing Spots - Come November, the Speckled Trout and Grey Trout will have arrived. I don't run too many straight trout trips, but we definitely have the option to catch some trout while fishing inshore for Reds or while fishing nearshore for Albies.
Back on the Platform - I'll probably take a few days off for Thanksgiving, but then I'll be right back on the poling platform chasing schooled up Redfish in the marsh. The circle remains unbroken.
Boy...now you've got me all worked up to go fishing! We really are fortunate to have such a varied fishery here in North Carolina. It never gets boring. I'm excited to share it with all of you over the next 12 months!