February in Southeast NC is one of the tougher months to get out and fish, the weather windows are much smaller and the temp can be downright cold some days.¬† But it‚Äôs not all doom and gloom, fishing can be great during February especially when we have mild runs of weather.¬† So far this year we‚Äôve had a very up and down weather pattern so when the mild runs are here; that‚Äôs the time to go fishing!¬† Here are a few species I target around Wrightsville Beach other areas of Southeast NC.
Cape Fear River Striped Bass are one of my favorites for winter fishing in our area.¬†¬† I look for the Stripers on drop offs, around pilings and creek mouths.¬† Working baits like Berkley Gulp five and six inch jerkshads and Berkley Havoc grass pigs should get you a bite or two from a Striped Bass.¬† I prefer white and chart pepper neon for the jerkshad and pink, swamp gas and chartreuse silver flake in the Havoc grass pig. I rig my jerkshad and grass pigs on swim bait hooks, in 1/4oz weight.¬† Mid water crank baits work too, try lures that dive from three to eight feet deep for best results, Rapala X-raps work well.¬† If the crank bait starts to hit the bottom let it float up a bit or trust me you‚Äôll lose it to a log!¬† Don‚Äôt forget that the Cape Fear River Striped Bass fishery is a closed fishery and is catch & release only; you must release all Striped Bass.¬† Keep your eyes out for tagged Stripers there are a lot of tagged fish out there.
Another fish that can bite well in the River during the winter months is the Blue Catfish.¬† If you would like to give the Catfish a try, use baits like cut mullet, chicken livers and cut eel.¬† I use heavy Carolina rigs when I fish for catfish.¬† Try a TroKar Circle hook in 4/0 to 7/0 depending on bait size with fifty or sixty pound mono leader to make your carolina rig.¬† Look for the catfish on drop-offs from five to twenty feet of water.¬† We have seen some blue cats over thirty pounds caught in the river so try not to use to light of tackle; these are not always your ‚Äėfarm pond channel cats‚Äô!
There is one fish that can be caught very easily during the winter months; if you find them!¬† This Redfishing can be some of the best of the year for catching numbers of fish; the deal breaker for this fishery is you have got to good weather, clam seas and bright sunny skies for the ocean schools.¬† I use Berkley Gulp Ripple Mullet in colors Pearl/chart tail, New Penny and Rootbeer gold/chart tail; also the Berkley Gulp 2‚ÄĚ & 3‚ÄĚ Shrimp work well too. Also MirrOlure Catch 2000Jr lures work well for winter Redfish.¬† On warmer light wind days you can also find some nice schools of Reds in shallow water oyster flats and rocks.¬† The Reds will sun on these dark colored bottom areas for a little extra warm up; this is also where you‚Äôll see some bait fish doing the same thing (warming up).¬† Work these baits slowly in front of the Redfish schools; not right through the school, all this will do is spook the Reds and will make it very hard to catch them.¬† If the Reds are hungry they break away from the school and eat your bait!
With the late fall we had, water temps are a bit higher this winter than past winters and the Speckled trout bite has been a good pick most of the winter!¬† Here are some ways I like to target Speckled trout into later winter months. A lure that always comes to mind for winter Speckled trout is the MirrOlure in the 52M, 52MR and TT series.¬† MirrOlure color codes I prefer are: 11, 21, 26, 51, 704, CFPR, CH, EC, HP AND Capt. Jot Custom color (only found at Tex‚Äôs Tackle shop).¬† Most any local tackle shop can help you with these color codes (a lot easier than spelling them all out here).¬† 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/ice/snow, give Berkley Gulp 3‚ÄĚ shrimp, fire tail shrimp and Jerkshad a try.¬† Rig the Gulp or Saltwater Assassin Sea shad‚Äôs 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‚Äôt rule out a nice Gray trout mixed in during the winter while speckled trout fishing.¬† Look for the bigger trout to be sitting close to the current, but just off and out of it.¬† Remember these fish are not going to burn calories they don‚Äôt have too swimming against the current.
Tackle run down: PENN Battle II & Clash Spinning reels sizes 2500, 3000 & 4000 for the Redfish, Speckled trout and Striped Bass.¬† Battle II or Clash 5000 & 6000 for Catfish.¬† PENN Battalion in 6‚Äô6‚ÄĚ & 7‚Äô medium and med/hvy action; and Battalion 7‚Äô 15-30 class for catfish; line Spiderwire Ultra-cast in ten, fifth-teen and twenty pound; Berkley Pro Spec Fluorocarbon leader for leaders.
~Capt. Jot‚Äôs Inshore Fishing schools are sold out, but I‚Äôll do them again next year so keep your eye here for the announcement during late November 2017.
Thanks for reading, stay warm or cool and good fishing to ya!
Capt. Jot Owens
PENN Tackle Elite Staff