Spring Fishing

Spring Fishing for Bluefish

When the spring warms the coastal waters of the south, anglers set their sights on bluefish, a powerful and aggressive species that deserves every bit of its bad reputation. Bluefish seem to be an angry fish, chomping on anything in their path and bullying their way through surf and waterways.

They are so intent on slashing in and imposing their will that they will even eat other bluefish if nothing else happens to be available. That’s why bluefish schools usually contain fish all the same size: smaller ones are afraid to join the roaming packs.

You can catch bluefish in a lot of ways and with a wide variety of bait and lures. Sometimes redfish or speckled trout anglers, who don’t want to catch them at all, have an encounter with a hungry bluefish that decides to chomp on their grub or plug. However, if you want to target bluefish selectively there are some basic strategies you can use to catch them.

Bluefish are called different names at different sizes. Little ones are snappers, large blues are tailors, and big daddy blues are called chopper. As I said, you won’t find the sizes mixed together too often as blues have no problem turning cannibal on their friends.

For catching spring snappers and tailors out in the surf or on an ocean pier you want medium-heavy gear. You need to decide if you want to bottom fish or throw lures at blues. Fishing with lures is more fun when bluefish are biting but it can become a bit of a chore when they aren’t around.

As far as lures go spring bluefish hit anything fast and shiny. Gotcha-style pencil plugs with redhead and white bodies are classic bluefish lures.

For bottom fishing get yourself a good 7 to 8 ft rod and spool it with 12 lb test line. You will be throwing bottom rigs and need something that can handle two or three ounces weight. Many stores will try to sell you wire bottom rigs for bluefish, due to their sharp teeth. But you will get many more hits if you stick with heavy monofilament leaders.

On bottom rigs, fresh bait is best, and bloody cut bait is hard to beat for bluefish. The cut flesh of just about any fish (even bluefish itself) will get those snappers chomping. Blues also hit almost any other natural bait fished on the bottom including cut shrimp, squid, bloodworms or even earthworms.

Spring bluefish will also hit live baits fished on the bottom. A fishfinder rig is better for this type of fishing. Blues love to chomp on finger mullet, pogies, mud minnows, small pinfish or most any live bait you put out there. Bluefish are great fun to catch and spring is a perfect time to go after them. If you want an encounter with a hard-fighting species that will put your fishing skills to the test, then bluefish are the perfect target for you.

Spring Fishing

Spring Fishing for Sea Mullet from the Pier or in the Surf

Sea mullet start hitting in the spring along the southern coast and are one of the most popular targets for anglers fishing off of ocean piers and in the surf. People are often confused about when and where sea mullet are biting because they have so many different regional names that it is difficult to talk about them without getting mixed up.

In reality, three species of this feisty little panfish are caught during the spring along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, but it doesn’t matter what you call them since the point is they area fun pier fish and very tasty on the dinner table.

Sea mullet are not really mullet at all and belong in the drum and croaker family. They go by a host of different names such as kingfish, whiting, roundheads, Virginia mullet (in NC), and sea mullet. Whatever you call them they are a fun fish to catch and eat.

You fish for sea mullet on the bottom with standard high-low rigs and small number 4 or 6 hooks. Sea mullet have small mouths and it’s harder to hook them if you are using big hooks and baits. You don’t need fancy spinners or floats on your rig, just a couple of small hooks above a sinker of about 2 or 3 ounces.

You can catch sea mullet from the pier or from the surf. They go into very shallow water chasing sand fleas, but they also sometimes hold in deeper sloughs out off the beach in holes that local anglers become familiar with quickly.

As far as baits go, sea mullet are in the surf to suck up shellfish and seaworms, so your choice of offerings should reflect their diet. A good choice is a very fresh-cut shrimp. Many piers and tackle shops sell frozen shrimp, but if you obtain local fresh shrimp you will have better luck with sea mullet as fresh shrimp stays on the hook better and puts out a better scent.

Sea mullet can also be caught with pieces of cut squid, cut bloodworms, or small sand fleas that you dig out from the surf at the beach. You can even catch them on regular old earthworms and also on any bit of cut bait.

If you are looking for a mess of sea mullet, however, it is best to give them what they the bait that they are foraging for in the first place. I like to use a small piece of cut artificial bloodworm marketed by brands such as Fishbites and Gulp and then add a bit of fresh-cut shrimp to the hook. The combination is one sea mullet can rarely resist. One thing is for sure, sea mullet won’t disappoint you at the table. They are a delicious fish that is just perfect for pan-frying. So go out to the nearest fishing pier or beach and get in on some nice sea mullet action.

Fall Fishing

Fall Fishing Tips for Red Drum

The Red drum are known by many names along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: redfish, channel bass, spottail bass, puppy drum, and others. One thing is for sure, wherever they roam red drum are one of the most sought after inshore saltwater fish and they are especially targeted in the fall when they are in the move and aggressive.

Red drum range from Virginia down to Texas and are an important sport fish, protected by regulations in every state where they occur. In many states, they are governed by slot limits. Make sure you know the rules before you keep one.

When fishing for fall red drum keep these tips in mind.

Red drum love mullet

Most anglers are familiar with the idea of fishing for red drum in the surf with cut mullet. What they may not know is that it is just as effective (if not more) to target red drum with live finger mullet. Red drum in the fall are cruising the surf and the waterways looking for roaming mullet schools, and if you can cast net yourself some frisky finger mullet you have a great chance of drawing a bite from a red drum.

Fish a finger mullet on a fishfinder rig for red drum, using only enough weight (an egg sinker) to get your bait to the bottom. Hook the finger mullet through the eyes and they’ll live longer. When fishing live bait for red drum don’t worry about anchoring your rig to the bottom. Cast out, move it around…just go slow and cover as much ground as possible. The red drum will tell you where they are.

Red drum get up early and stay up late

Red drum are a nocturnal fish that will feed throughout the night under the fall moon. You will often find serious drum anglers showing up for action only after the sun goes down. They also are prone to stage a bite just around sunrise, when schools of mullet and other baitfish are particularly active.

It’s often more profitable to fish your drum hole early in the morning and then return as the sun goes down and let others soak there baits during the heat of the day. Tides play a role in this, and an outgoing tide in the morning will often send red drum into a feeding frenzy as minnows and shrimp are forced out of their hiding places.

Don’t forget about lures

Red drum will readily bite artificial lures in the fall. Jigs with soft plastic and synthetic tails (like the Gulp line of lures) as well as hard plugs that imitate mullet and pogies will work. Cast out and work your lure slowly for red drum, as they won’t chase your offering like bluefish or speckled trout might. Just keep up a slow retrieve with a few flashes to get their attention. The scented baits of the Gulp line are terrific at drawing in red drum since drum feed equally by scent and sight. You shouldn’t need a leader in these situations as red drum won’t bite you off.