And the rollercoaster of winter is almost here, it’s called February! February can be a 50/50 kind of month. Some years good, some years bad; I prefer a normal to a bit milder kind of February myself! Most years you need to pick the best days to go fishing around the Cape Fear area waters; warmer days with less wind are the keys to better winter fishing trips; “pick your days” and the fishing will be better!
Cape Fear River Striped Bass are one of my favorites for winter fishing in our area. I look for the Stripers on drop offs, around pilings and creek mouths. Working baits like Berkley Gulp five and six inch jerkshads and Berkley Havoc grass pigs should get you a bite or two from a Striped Bass. I prefer white and chart pepper neon for the jerkshad and pink, swamp gas and black in the Havoc grass pig. I rig my jerkshad and grass pigs on Moaner Stroker swim bait hooks, in 1/4oz weight; check out Moaner.com for great hooks at great prices! Mid water crank baits work too, try lures that dive from three to eight feet deep for best results. If the crank bait starts to hit the bottom let it float up a bit or trust me you’ll lose it to a log! Don’t forget that the Cape Fear River Striped Bass fishery is a closed fishery and is catch & release only; you must release all Striped Bass.
Another fish that can bite well in the River during the winter months is the Blue Catfish. If you would like to give the Catfish a try, use baits like cut mullet, chicken livers and cut eel. I use heavy Carolina rigs when I fish for catfish. Try a TroKar Circle hook in 4/0 to 7/0 depending on bait size with fifty or sixty pound mono leader to make your carolina rig. Look for the catfish on drop-offs from five to twenty feet of water. We have seen some blue cats over thirty pounds caught in the river so try not to use to light of tackle; these are not always your ‘farm pond channel cats’!
There is one fish that can be caught very easily during the winter months; if you find them! This Redfishing can be some of the best of the year for catching numbers of fish; the deal breaker for this fishery is you have got to good weather, clam seas and bright sunny skies for the ocean schools. I use Berkley Gulp Ripple Mullet in colors Pearl/chart tail, New Penny and Rootbeer gold/chart tail; also the Berkley Gulp 2” & 3” Shrimp work well too. On warmer light wind days you can also find some nice schools of Reds in shallow water oyster flats and rocks. The Reds will sun on these dark colored bottom areas for a little extra warm up; this is also where you’ll see some bait fish doing the same thing (warming up). Work these baits slowly in front of the Redfish schools; not right through the school, all this will do is spook the Reds and will make it very hard to catch them. If the Reds are hungry they break away from the school and eat your bait!
With the late fall we had, water temps are a bit higher this winter than past winters and the Speckled trout bite has been a good pick most of the winter! Here are some ways I like to target Speckled trout into later winter months. A lure that always comes to mind for winter Speckled trout is the MirrOlure in the 52M, 52MR and TT series. MirrOlure color codes I prefer are: 11, 21, 26, 51, 704, CFPR, CH, EC, HP AND Capt. Jot Custom color (only found at Tex’s Tackle shop). Most any local tackle shop can help you with these color codes (a lot easier than spelling them all out here).
Working MirrOlures slowly in deeper water breaks and drop offs can produces some very nice trout. If the water gets a bit dirty due to winds or rain/ice/snow, give Berkley Gulp 3” shrimp, fire tail shrimp and Jerkshad a try. Rig the Gulp or Saltwater Assassin Sea shad’s on lighter jig heads, here too for the trout so you can work them just a bit slower due to the colder water temps. Don’t rule out a nice Gray trout mixed in during the winter while speckled trout fishing. Look for the bigger trout to be sitting close to the current, but just off and out of it. Remember these fish are not going to burn calories they don’t have too swimming against the current.
Tackle run down: PENN Battle II & Clash Spinning reels sizes 2500, 3000 & 4000 for the Redfish, Speckled trout and Striped Bass. Battle II or Clash 5000 & 6000 for Catfish. PENN Battalion in 6’6” & 7’ medium and med/hvy action; and Battalion 7’ 15-30 class for catfish; line Spiderwire Ultra-cast in ten, fifth-teen and twenty pound; Berkley Pro Spec Fluorocarbon leader for leaders.
Here is the winter seminars, tackle sales and meet & greets I’ll be attending:
~I’ll be speaking at the Angler Academy in Charleston, SC on Saturday January 30th. The Angler Academy is held during the great Charleston boat show location Charleston Convention Center 5001 Coliseum Drive North Charleston, SC You are invited to learn the latest in techniques and tackle from the region’s leading fishing guides. www.angleracademy.fish
~Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series in Savannah, GA on February 6th A strong lineup of the region’s guides and Captains from offshore to inshore we cover it here.
~Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic in Cary, NC February 20th & 21st This is Bass Pro’s Big Spring fishing tackle and sale. I’ll be at the Cary, NC store for meet & greet also to help you find the tackle you need for your spring fishing adventure! www.basspro.com
~Capt. Jot’s Inshore Fishing schools March and April are sold out, but I’ll do them again next year so keep your eye here for the announcement during late November 2016.
Thanks for reading, stay warm and good fishing to ya!
Capt. Jot Owens
PENN Tackle Elite Staff
Ranger Boats Pro Staff