Many of those who read my columns or books know I am a big proponent of using artificial lures for Carolina inshore saltwater fishing. The advances in lures, both in their life-like appearance and their scents, have made them almost as effective as live bait. Lures are more efficient to fish, less messy, and you don’t have to wait to set the hook on a fish.
At times during the hot Carolina summer, though, I must admit that live and fresh bait are better at catching saltwater fish. We are going through one of those times right now. You can still catch fish on lures, of course, especially Spanish mackerel and bluefish on Gotcha-type plugs at the end of the pier, but right now bait is hard to beat.
Three very good and available live baits right now are small pogies, live shrimp and finger mullet as Captain Jacob Frick of J & J Inshore Charters out of Ocean Isle Beach, NC (803-315-3310, 56 Wilmington St., Ocean Isle Beach) points out.
“It has been an awesome redfish bite, with a few black drum and flounder in the mix,” says Captain Frick. “Live pogies have been easy to catch in the canals and have been getting hammered by the red drum and flounder. Live shrimp are getting eaten by both red drum and black drum.”
“The mullet minnows are steadily growing and plenty of good size ones are hanging in the cement canals,” says Captain Frick. “Deeper holes along the ICW have been producing most of the bites. The Little River Jetties has also been a hot spot when weather cooperates.”
Captain Frick does point out that keeping live shrimp away from baitstealers is sometimes a problem.
“Catching plenty of shrimp to feed to the pinfish has gotten a little tough lately,” he says.
The southern North Carolina surf is also holding a few more desirable fish now than was the case at the beginning of the month. Pier anglers are catching some shallow water pompano that are feeding on sand fleas.
If you are fishing for pompano in the surf or on the pier use fresh cut shrimp or (even better) live sand fleas and don’t cast out too deep. Pompano are running into the whitewater to eat the sand fleas, and sometimes surprisingly large ones will be in just a few feet of water. Gold hooks don’t hurt either.
Just remember that for summer time inshore saltwater fishing live or fresh bait is most often the key to success.