Fish On

Captain Alan Beasley is a lifelong resident of the area, familiar with the waters and the fish that swim them. Last June he caught a nine-pound flounder using Berkley Gulp bait, his preferred option when not using live bait. Courtesy photo

Captain Alan Beasley is a lifelong resident of the area, familiar with the waters and the fish that swim them. Last June he caught a nine-pound flounder using Berkley Gulp bait, his preferred option when not using live bait. Courtesy photo

There is no doubt that everyone infected with the saltwater fishing bug is more than ready for the first bite as the weather starts to warm up. When you start to see the trees and flowers budding and the insects and wildlife indicate that spring has sprung, it gives us the urge to get on the water.

Spring fishing can be the most challenging of seasons for saltwater fishing if you don’t have lots of experience at it—and especially if you’re not familiar with this area and its fishing challenges. You can spend some cash on hiring a local fishing guide that has a good reputation for the area; there are many who do and that is a great way to get a good idea of what to do. However, that can be expensive, and you may actually need to do that several times to get the lowdown, as many of the guides are trying to figure out what’s happening where during the start of the season as well. They may have a slow day on the water any given day—and it might be the one you booked.

Rather, here are several ideas that can help the learning fisherman for springtime saltwater fishing in the Southport area.

First and foremost, you should always target a certain type of fish, and you should know the ideal water temperature for that species. If you want to catch flounder, for example, you need to be in water temperatures that they will tolerate or they just won’t be there. Here, flounder are most active when the water is 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, make sure you are in the right places for early season fishing. Again, for flounder you need to be where they are hanging out to find food. In early spring, most flounder have begun to migrate inshore from offshore, and they will stop along the way as they find food and comfortable water temperatures. The best places for early spring flounder fishing is near shore structures in the ocean and at inlets.

The last, but a very important item, is bait choice. You can’t just take the old squid or shrimp from the freezer from last year. Yes, the fish are hungry, but chances are they are targeting something alive and maybe plentiful, such as glass minnows. To increase your chances at catching a fish, you should be using bait that closely resembles the glass minnow—or whatever the fish are feeding on. In most cases you can use fresh or fresh-frozen cut bait that is cut in the form of the glass minnow. A thin strip of a mullet filet works well. I like using the white portion of the filet first.

Keep in mind that everything down there will want to join in on eating that bait, so keep it moving if you’re getting lots of bites but not catching. Flounder are very aggressive, especially in early spring because they are extremely hungry, so they will violently go after that piece of strip bait but there are many other hungry little fish down there.

There is no doubt in my mind that a great second choice for bait is the Berkley Gulp Bait. It is actually on the top of my list as bait for any time of the year. That stuff is like magic, and I have proven it to “outperform” live bait many times. For instance, I caught a nine-pound flounder from the shore using Berkley Gulp early last summer. Certainly a lucky fishing day for me—but that flounder hit that Gulp bait like it was the first meal of the season. He nailed it!

Remember this if nothing else, use bait that resembles what the fish is after in early spring, and be patient if there are no bites at all. They are still cold and moving slow, so you have to help them out a little with the presentation of the bait. If your bait is getting pecked by little fish, move the bait a little faster—but stop often to let that flounder catch up if she’s moving slow.

Don’t worry so much if you don’t have a boat—just go to the beach at the nearest inlet or points closest to inlets from the ocean. By all means, if you’re near Southport, go to the waterfront there. That’s a great place to fish spring through fall—and you never know what you might catch there or how big it can be!

Remember, the more you go the more you learn and the better your chances are at catching fish. So don’t give up if at first you don’t succeed—keep going.

As well, think of our local tackle shops for buying your gear and for getting great fishing tips! They need our support and supporting our local economy is always the best idea. Most of our local tackle shops have been around for a long time and they will also give you good advice on “what, where and how” to catch fish. They are a great resource that must be supported year-round.

Until next time, good luck and good fishing to all!

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