Welcome to the fall season, where the weather is generally quite good, with more fishable days than not. This week is shaping up to be particularly promising with sunny days and mild temperatures. The water temperatures are cooling down as well. The upper 60s are being observed along the beaches and inshore waters, while offshore waters remain slightly warmer, with the reporting station near Frying Pan Tower showing temperatures of 77 degrees.
During this transition from summer to fall, we’re seeing a lot of action from fish like Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. The abundance of baitfish is keeping them close to the coast, but as water temperatures continue to drop, some of these fish will start migrating south for the winter, while others will move offshore to feed on other prey.
In terms of the availability of spots from the piers, it seems there’s a difference between the Topsail Island piers, where they are being caught, and the Oak Island piers, where the large schools haven’t shown up yet. The gill net fishermen are catching some spots, but it’s unclear why the big schools haven’t arrived at the Oak Island piers. Hopefully, this will change in the coming weeks.
Remember that hurricane season extends until the end of November, and there’s still some tropical activity to watch. While the tropics have calmed down somewhat, it’s too early to let our guard down. Keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center and sources like Mike’s Weather Page for updates and developments.
There is a unique situation regarding the upcoming mullet season closure in North Carolina. This year, there will be a first-ever closure for mullet season starting on November 7 north of the Highway 58 bridge and November 10 south of the bridge. This closure will last until the end of 2023. However, there are some strict provisions for this closure, including a ban on having North Carolina-caught mullet on your boat during the closed season, even for use as bait. Furthermore, it’s not allowed to sell North Carolina-caught mullet in bait shops, seafood markets, or serve them in restaurants during the closure. Mullet caught out of state are allowed as long as they can be documented.
Gag grouper season recently closed due to changes in allocation, and this closure will extend until the end of April 2024.
The fishing in the Southport/Oak Island area has been excellent, with catches of trout and drum being particularly impressive. Speckled trout have been abundant and are biting well, making it surprising that there are calls to reduce trout catches. The most effective way to catch trout has been suspending a live shrimp under a cork and drifting it in the creek mouth, across points, or along oyster rocks or sandbars.
Other catches include red and black drum, with some sheepshead still biting. Sheepshead fishing has enjoyed a resurgence, and they are usually found near vertical structures such as pilings, bulkheads, and bridge abutments.
For those without boats, there are opportunities to fish from the Oak Island surf, local piers, and public docks. Popular spots include Oak Island Pier, Southport City Pier, and various docks and piers throughout Oak Island.
If you’re interested in outdoor education programs, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission offers various programs suitable for beginners and seasoned experts. The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville hosts numerous fishing programs. Additionally, they offer virtual programs that you can participate in from your home.
All in all, it’s a great time for fishing in the region, with numerous opportunities to enjoy the fall fishing season.