From the Locks to the Rocks

By Capt. Craig Hensel

What’s going on everyone? Capt. Craig here, with AWOL Fishing Charters. First off, I want to apologize for missing last month’s issue. I have been wide open none stop fishing. We ran a total of 28 trips straight. Some day trips and a few nighttime trips also. But I finally have a rainy day to play catchup on calls and write this article. But guys, please forgive me. I look forward to this every month; writing a story and reading what’s going on everywhere is exciting for me. The Angler, and The Coastal Angler Magazine has helped me plan trips, book trips, and meet like-minded individuals in several states. So I just want to give a huge shout out to my boss, Joe Woody, for making this all possible. Thank you for letting me continue to be a part of this community and publishing my stories. You have been so easy to work with and have made this so easy for all of us. So without further ado. Let’s jump into what’s been going on in my neck of the woods.

Well things have definitely started to cool off, FINALLY!! I am so excited for these cool nights and brisk mornings, the days are still hit or miss with temps flirting with 80 degrees or so but that is ok, it’s better than 90-100 degree temps. Am I right? These temperatures have been keeping our water temperatures at a steady downfall as opposed to a fast drop. And let me tell you the fishing has been on fire.

We are seeing big numbers of crappie starting to post up on that fall pattern, the bass and catfish are staging up as well. I have run several bass trips this month, and most of them have still been shallow and tight to structure on the River. The crappie have been suspended in about 14 feet of water over submerged structure. My last trip boated over 200. A lot of 8-10” but we had a bunch of 12-14” crappie. Things are really starting to fire up for sure. We have seen a few gar here and there but this time of year you won’t find them in numbers like in the springtime.

We have been seeing low numbers of catfish being caught. With the water levels down the catfish aren’t moving around as much. Here on the Cape Fear River we have very little current right now and you know what that means for the catfish. You have to have current to produce some good numbers. I have had many calls about catfish trips and I’m not the charter business to go out and take people’s money just to go fishing. I like to catch and be out there at the right time to produce numbers. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I know the right times to be there and right now the catfish are slow. Tonight I’m going out by myself. They’re calling for rain tomorrow, so we will see what happens.

I want to take a minute and mention a trip that I took out this past month with 3 kids that have never been fishing. Or so they say. I think they have ‘cause they were little pro’s for sure! I want to say their ages were 5, 6, and 8, I can’t remember exactly. But these kids were beyond amazing and had the time of their lives. A day they will remember forever. When you guys see the pictures you will understand why I wake up every morning and do what I love to do. Their faces speak a million words. If you guys get a chance to get a kid involved in fishing do not pass up that opportunity. It is life changing.

So, I had a guy call me on Saturday, October 7th wanting to book a trip for Sunday, October 8th. Well that Sunday morning the temps were supposed to be in the 40’s, I had planned on having a maintenance day on the boat and truck and to take that day off to make some calls and get some more trips booked. Well, when he told me he wanted to take his 3 kids fishing, I literally stopped what I was doing and made arrangements for these kids to be on the boat. These were the youngest I have had on the boat yet. So I wanted everything to be in line to accommodate his trip. I went to Academy Sports and got all new tackle, rods, and reels for them and bought them little tackle box’s to take with them after the trip. I always try to give kids something to take home with them. Everyone loves free stuff right!

So I told the father, let’s do an afternoon trip when the temps warm up a little. The highs were going to be in the 60’s, a cold front came through, and I didn’t want those kids going to school with a runny nose after their trip. So fast forward a bit, we get to our first spot, and I teach them how to use their rods and reels and show them how to bait their hooks, how to cast, where to cast and let me tell you guys, these kids never got hung up once. Other than picking up a stick off the bottom every once in a while, which happens, they were casting like professionals. They boated around 60-70 fish in totality. They ran me around the boat taking fish off the hooks left and right. I’d be taking a fish off of one kids hook and look up and two more were in the boat, lol. I needed a first mate on board that day for sure.

These kids paid attention to every move I made and by the first hour they were basically doing everything on their own. I was beyond amazed. Words cannot describe the laughs, the smiles, and the joy these kids had fishing that day. I don’t know who had more fun, to be honest, me or the kids. I love days when the fishing is like this. Back to back rod bending action, and the competitiveness between all of them was hilarious. There were a few times where it slowed down for a few mins, but you can expect that when fishing. But they stayed with the fish. They started learning their patterns. If they weren’t catching them close to the bank they would move those baits a little deeper. It was amazing watching them learn so quickly and watching them figure these fish out.

All in all it was an amazing trip. I hope that when they see this they will remember this forever and keep this Magazine so they can one day show their kids. Mr. Carter, I just want to thank you for booking your trip with us, and I hope to see you guys again. I will never forget you all. You guys are welcome onboard any time! So guys, I will have a few pictures tagged with this article. Check them out!

If you’re interested in booking a trip with AWOL Fishing Charters, give us a call at (910) 916-3138, or visit us online at Follow us on Facebook at AWOL Fishing Charters. On Tik Tok, check us out at AWOL Fishing Charters and don’t forget to hit that follow button.

Thank you for reading my article, I look forward to seeing y’all on the water. Until next time, keep those lines tight, drags set, and catch a BIG ONE!!
We will see you on the next one, Capt. Craig

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