By: Steve Fifer
As the first cold snap of the winter heads our way, there is still plenty of good inshore/nearshore fishing around. Small speckled trout are the big story. Most of them are sub-legal 13 ½ inchers but you can pick through them and come up with a limit. The sheer numbers of these fish is very encouraging and they are easily accessible to both the shore-bound anglers as well as the small boaters. Check out the local creeks first; all the ones that cross Hwy. 24 heading west towards Swansboro and all the ones passing under Hwy. 70 down east. No need to use live bait to catch them. They’ll strike hardbaits like Mirrolure 17MR and 18MR, as well as the old standby 52’s, slow sinking plastic shrimp like Storm, Betts, and DOA, and soft plastic grubs, swimbaits or Gulp pinned behind a jighead. For the small boat gang, if there’s a jetty nearby, it holds specks right now; Radio Island, Ft. Macon, and Shackleford are good places to find them but the Cape Lookout rock jetty is the #1 place. Out there, fishing the previously mentioned lures work well but fresh bait shrimp on a carolina rig will get you some bonus sheepshead, black drum, and redfish. Two other fisheries are producing well right now, too. The marshes behind the barrier islands between Bear and Brown’s inlets have schools of redfish and trout cruising the deeper channels and cuts and Adams Creek from the Neuse down to Beaufort offer more specks and reds. Among the best eating fish you’ll find anywhere is the puffer and they are biting right now. Try a 2-hook bottom rig anchored by a 1 to 3 ounce pyramid sinker and baited with small pieces of shrimp or Fishbites bloodworm as you walk the beach along Radio Island. If the weather allows it, the nearshore wrecks, live bottoms, and ledges have some terrific bottom fishing. Northwest Places, Big 10/Little 10 and the 30 Minute and 1700 Rocks on the east side hold black sea bass, triggerfish, porgies, and snappers and the nice thing is the little nuisance bait stealers aren’t as plentiful. Any sort of cut bait will work but squid seems to stay on the hook a little better.