By: Steve Fifer
The cold snap we’re currently experiencing has slowed the fishing, but hasn’t stopped it. The ocean has continued to be too choppy for small boats to venture out but if you can get to the live bottoms, ledges, wrecks, and rocks 15-25 miles out you’ll find some good bottom fishing and jigging. Triggerfish, sea bass, groupers, and ground fish like snappers and porgies are still biting and should continue to do so well into the new year. Inshore, redfish are active but very spooky as they have moved into the shallows of the Newport River and the marshes behind Bear and Brown’s Inlets near Swansboro. The clear shallow water over dark oyster rocks and mud warms quicker than the deeper creeks and the reds will school up on those flats around high tide. The best artificial you can throw at them is a 4” Gulp shrimp pinned on a very light jighead. The key is to barely move the bait along the bottom. As the water temps get around 50 degrees or less, the fish get very sluggish and just won’t expend their energy chasing a fast moving bait or lure. Consider changing to a carolina rig with a light egg sinker and short leader and use fresh shrimp or cut bait. The creeks along the ICW are still holding reds, black drum, and speckled trout and fresh bait is easy and effective right now. One fish that remains active in cold water is the striped bass (striper or rockfish). They’ve been biting around New Bern in the Neuse and Trent Rivers. The hi-rise bridge and the artificial reef just downstream from it are popular spots. Try soft plastic swimbaits, jerk shads or flukes on a 1/8 to ¼ ounce jighead. White is a good color choice. There are some speckled trout mixed in with them too. If you are going to cast artificials, especially hardbaits like 17MR’s here are some things to consider when trying to figure out which colors to buy and use: water clarity (clear or stained), light level (bright or cloudy, early morning or mid-day), and prevalent forage in the area you’re fishing. Generally speaking, clearer water calls for lighter colors while bright colors show up better in cloudy or stained water. Traditionally, silver is better on bright days while gold is the choice in low-light conditions. Where menhaden or finger mullet are the prevalent baitfish, dark back/light side lures best imitates them while if there are mud minnows or pinfish around colorful combinations can be the best choice. It cannot be overstated that a slow retrieve is essential; a typical cast with a 17MR should take several minutes to complete!