From the Locks to the Rocks

By Capt. Craig Hensel

What’s going on guys? Captain Craig here with AWOL Fishing Charters. I apologize for not having an article in the last month’s edition. I am currently traveling and doing fishing expos at the moment. We have been all over from Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and to finish up the season I will be attending the Greensboro NC show running the Bass Tub and helping at the Deep Creek Lures Booth. I will be doing doing a couple of seminars at Greensboro and also be at Lake Lanier and Canton Georgia in the month of March. If you guys are in the area feel free to come join us and talk fishing. I always look forward to meeting new anglers from all over and sharing tips and tricks of the trade. Visit and reach out to me that way or shoot me a message on Facebook at AWOL Fishing Charters if you’re interested in attending or doing a meet and greet.

Now down to business. I have had a little time to run a few trips between traveling for shows. The weather here in the Sandhills of Carolina has been funky. We have had below freezing temps and above average warm days all in the same week. The fish have been as confused as the National Weather Service. The crappie have not slowed down at all. We have been boating lots of 2lb crappie on just about every trip. We have been dragging live baits as well as vertical jigging on the Livescope to target the bigger crappie. The crappie on some days were suspended in about 8-10 feet of water but most of them have been 15-20ft down. Dragging live bait over those fish that are down 15-20ft can be hit or miss.

The winds we have had have not been in our favor, but we find ways to make it work. I have found that throwing a drift sock to slow the boat while slow trolling in 10-15kt winds has been effective so long as you have a good trolling motor and a little skill to keep that boat from getting blown around side to side. We can’t pick the weather for the fishing trips as you know, so if you’re out fishing and things start to frustrate you don’t give up, stay in those fish. It typically pays off. Now if conditions become unsafe obviously get back to the ramp. But don’t get discouraged due to the changing weather patterns. I see a lot of people around me pack it in and leave when the wind starts to pick up.

So let’s talk a little bit about the catfishing recently. I have only run a handful of catfishing trips this past month due to traveling but let me tell you they have been on fire. We boated several nice blue catfish on those days. We are still in winter patterns but the transition in my opinion is going to be a little early. The American shad have already started making their way up the Cape Fear River for their yearly spawn and the striped bass and catfish are hot on their tails. We have been fishing fairly shallow anchoring the boat in anywhere between 2-15ft of water with rods topped with fresh cut gizzard shad on slider rigs. There have been a few flatheads caught this winter with a little size to them, but wintertime blues are more targeted than the flatheads here in Feb., although picking one or two up is not uncommon.

If you’re interested in a catfish, crappie, striped bass, American shad trip give us a holler. I will have my feet planted back in NC by the end of March to get back on the grind as the fishing expo and show season comes to an end. Visit us online or give us a call anytime. Until next time, keep those lines tight and those drags set. We will see you on the next one!

Captain Craig Hensel, AWOL Fishing Charters with Capt. Craig Inc. – 910-916-3138