January…when most anglers think of this month they think of cold weather, wind and slow fishing, but I see a month full of some great fishing opportunities! You just have to pick your days to go fishing. Some of the biggest number days catching redfish come in January; also some of the biggest speckled trout come in the month of January! I see lots of nice Cape Fear River striped bass caught in January. You never know what you might find when you go fishing during January…just dress right, pick the right days for weather and you’ll catch some very nice fish!
Large winter redfish schools are one of my favorite fish to look for during winter mouths. On calm, light wind days you can find these reds on dark mud flats and oyster rocks. Also, you can find large schools around inlets and sand bars just off the local beaches. When you find these schools approach very slowly and quietly, for they spook very easily. Most of the time the winter school reds will bite pretty easily, but one thing that will help is using scented baits like Berkley Gulp! I prefer Berkley Gulp Ripple Mullet in colors Pearl/Chart Tail, New Penny and Rootbeer Gold/Chart Tail; also the Berkley Gulp 3” Shrimp in Sugar Spice Glow. Sometimes you may need to work the bait a little slower during colder months, so try using a light jig head; this will allow you to work the bait slower.
During January you can find some of the biggest speckled trout of the year. You’re not going to find big numbers, but the big ones will bite when it gets cold! Work the lure slower and know that you’ll be fishing for hours, but the payoff can be great!
One lure that always comes to mind for winter speckled trout is the MirrOlure in the 52M, 52MR and TT series. Working MirrOlures slowly in deeper water breaks and drop-offs can produces some very nice trout. If the water gets a bit dirty due to winds or rain, give Berkley Gulp 3” Shrimp, Firetail Shrimp and Jerkshad a try. Rig the Gulp baits on lighter jig heads here, too, for the trout so you can work them just a bit slower due to the colder water temps. Don’t rule out a nice gray trout mixed in during the winter while speckled trout fishing.
Not to far from Wrightsville Beach in historic downtown Wilmington runs the Cape Fear River, and in the Cape Fear there are some cold weather biting striped bass. These fish are not the easiest to catch, but they fight very well, even in cold water. Working drop-offs on the edge of the river is where you can find the stripers. Using swimbait lures like Berkley Power Baits and Berkley Gulp Jerkshad should put a few Cape Fear stripers on your line. Mid-water diving crank-baits work too, just be careful around pilings to not get hang-ups and lose your lures. You can catch these stripers on any tide, as long as it’s moving. Don’t forget that the Cape Fear River striped bass fishery is closed. It is catch and release only!
Tackle run down: PENN Battle & Conflict Spinning reels sizes 2000, 2500, 3000 for the redfish, speckled trout and striped bass. Rods: PENN Legion and Regiment in 6’6” and 7’ med/light and medium action. Line: Spiderwire Ultra-cast in 8-, 10- and 15-pound. Use Berkley Pro Spec Fluorocarbon leader material.
Announcing the Second annual Southeast North Carolina Inshore Fishing School! It will be presented by PENN Fishing Tackle and Capt. Jot Owens in Wilmington on Saturday March 8, 2014 and again in Raleigh on Saturday April 5, 2014.
The class will cover detailed info on fishing for redfish, flounder and speckled trout, including:
-How to locate fish; time of year, position of tides and current flow.
-How to pick which artificial lures, hard and soft baits more
effectively (water depth, water color, current flow and water clarity).
-What lines, leaders and knots work best with these baits.
-The best live and cut bait to use in Southeast NC for inshore fishing.
-How to rig live and cut baits for inshore fishing (shallow and deeper
-What rods, reels and tackle are best suited for Southeast NC inshore
The tuition fee is only $65. This is a hands-on, small classroom format. Wilmington is limited to 32 anglers and Raleigh will be limited to 25 anglers.
This school sold out in less than two hours last year! Tickets will go on sale on January 1, 2014. For more info check Facebook: Capt. Jot Owens.
Thanks for reading Coastal Angler Magazine and good winter fishing to you.
Capt. Jot Owens
PENN Reels Elite Staff
Ranger Boats Pro Staff