There is a saying around here; “Everything’s alive at 65”. When the water temperature reaches 65 degrees it usually signals to anglers that it is finally time to start seeing the fishing pick up. There’s a very awkward stage in the fishing in between the stellar winter bite and the summer patterns. Because the water temps in the spring season are in a constant “up and down” fluctuation, the bite is just hard to pin down. Once we see 65 degrees, we know that the water is likely to be in a constant state of warming without the worry of a sudden cold snap and the fish can start to make themselves at home.
On April 12 Capt. Jeff and I went out to do some Tripletail scouting during a day off. While we were out we noted that the water temp had dipped from 63 degrees back down to 60. This was due to some very cool night time temperatures that brought the temperature down followed by some cooler days that did little to bring the temps back up.
On April 15 we experienced the first of what I call “summer pattern thunderstorms” where a clear line of storms moves from the west to the east with a very defined eastern edge. This, coupled with some warmer days, leads me to think that we should see the magic number of 65 within the next couple of days.
Now let’s get to the fishing report with that context in mind…
The Trout fishing has been a little hit and miss but will growing increasingly consistent over the next few weeks. We always expect May to bring the Trout run on Cumberland beach but that won’t be the only show in town. There should be plenty of Trout to be caught in the usual shallow water areas around shell bars and creek mouths. Don’t overlook the edges of sandbars where current is redirected. The presence of clean water, a current change, and bait is a sure sign for there to be Trout lurking. This is an excellent time to break out your popping cork with a 2.5 foot leader and a DOA shrimp so that you can search a lot of water quickly. As long as you’re staying in 6 feet of water or less you shouldn’t have to worry about depth adjustments on your rig. Just clack that sucker till it sinks!
During the winter the water gets very clear on the flats and makes sight fishing for Redfish a lot easier and a lot of fun. Now that it’s warming up, the water won’t get quite as clear but that doesn’t mean that the fish aren’t there. You just have to look for signs like “nervous” water, pushes, mud puffs, etc. You’ll also want to look around shell bars that extend all the way into the water even when the tide is out as this will be something of an “Alamo” for Redfish looking for a protected place to forage. Dead shrimp on a jig head dead-sticked around the shells, Gulp baits rigged on a swim bait hook, and live shrimp under a popping cork should get the party started.
Flounder will begin to become more and more frequent bycatch and as it get warmer you can expect them to be an expected catch on most trips. Shallow banks with broken shell bottoms, dock legs, and creek mouths will all be viable locations to begin your search. Try a Carolina rigged mud minnow, a Gulp swimming mullet on a jig head, or finger mullet nose hooked on a jig head. Don’t forget to set the hook! Flounder will feel like you’ve snag a clump of oysters sometimes and you’ll get them right to the boat only to watch them let go of the hook. I watched this happen last year with the biggest flounder I’ve ever seen in person and it haunts my dreams!
Tripletail are here now and if you want to get a big one, now is the time to go. The biggest fish always show up first but as it warms up we’ll start to see more and more small Tripletail and the bigger ones will grow more weary. In two hours of fishing on the 12th, Jeff and I saw about 10 fish, 8 of which were in a 30 minute period. Of those we got about 5 shot, 2 eats, and 1 fish to the boat. As the season moves along we’ll have days where we see 50 fish but the BIG ONES ARE HERE NOW. Popping corks with a 6 to 8 inch leader and live shrimp are the deadliest rig there is but Tripletail will eagerly take anything that imitates a shrimp or bait fish if presented correctly.
Sharks will start to be very reliable at the end of April and certainly at the beginning of May. Similar to Tripletail, the first batch of Sharks that we find are usually the biggest of the year. The Black Tip and Spinner Sharks that we catch in May are usually hyper aggressive gorillas that have a tendency for acrobatics. While the shrimping season is temporarily shut down we won’t have the opportunity to drift the shrimp boats but there is nothing stopping us from making our own chum slicks and doing things the old fashion way. The down side is that it takes a few minutes to get the chum working. The upside is that you never know what might respond. We could see anything from Spanish Mackerel and Kingfish to Cobia. You have to be ready for anything!
Speaking of Cobia, unless I’ve missed something Cobia season is still open and we can expect to start finding them offshore right now. As we approach Memorial Day we’ll see the fish get closer to land and we’ll find them around wrecks in the 10 mile range. Any time you venture to the artificial reefs from this point forward you should definitely be rigged and ready with a pitch rod for Cobia. While they’ll gladly respond to a live bait, it’s best to have a jig ready because there isn’t always time to get to a live bait. Just put the jig in his face!
The whiting bite is still strong and if you’re interested in putting some fish in the cooler and having a chance at something big we can do some Whiting and Bull Redfish combo trips right now. The big redfish won’t be plentiful like they are in the fall season but your chances are pretty good for the next few weeks.
If you want to get on the water just give us a call. We have openings for April and May. If you’re hitting the water on your own soon, I hope this report helps you out. Keep coming back and we’ll do our best to keep you informed.
Capt. TJ Cheek