Tagged Striped Bass on the Cape fear

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

I got out on the Cape Fear river over the holiday with a good friend and caught my first two tagged striped bass.

As long as I’ve chased these fish, its amazing these are the first ones with tags I’ve ever come across. And two of them in the same day was quite the treat. I found stripers feeding readily as soon as I arrived at the first location. Shad were breaching the water trying to escape the aggressively feeding fish. I could see the linesiders thrashing the surface of the water, but my first hookup was a big largemouth bass.

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My buddy Scott Kroggel was along for his first river trip in his brand new kayak. Scott is a very talented artist, musician and photographer and he took several beautiful photographs during our outing. Below is a pic I snapped of him a few weeks ago on his maiden voyage with his new yak.

The river was a little high and the water was slightly stained, but I had success at first with a chugbug by jerking it across the surface. Fortunately, there was abundant cloud cover, wind was almost non-existent, and the river water was cool enough for the fish to be active. It was one of those perfect days.

Soon enough, I landed the first striper.

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The fish was quickly released, as they are still protected on the Cape Fear, and after a few more casts I hooked the first tagger, a red tagged fish close to 25″. These fish are worth $100 bucks to the NCWRC.

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After a couple pics it was also returned to the river. And the fish just kept biting; more stripers, a few white bass, a gar and then I caught a few carp for good measure…

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

This guy inhaled a small crankbait, which was a challenge to remove safely for the fish. But he seemed to swim away unharmed. Luckily, the tiny bait hung short of his gills.

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The white bass wanted the little crankbait too.

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The carp prefer sweet corn.

We moved to a different area and I found the yellow tagger. I was fishing directly beneath a spillway and my buddy took a couple really cool pictures. I couldn’t believe my luck. This fish is worth $5 bucks and a NCWRC marine fisheries hat. Once again, after a couple quick photos the striper was returned to the water to go about his business mostly unscathed and a little bit smarter for his trouble.

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

 

 

 

Chasing White Bass

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I’ve been out a few times recently trying to see what the white bass are doing.

With the impossible-to-predict-weather we’ve seen so far this past sprinter and spring, the anadromous fishes have been off from their normal upriver spawning runs.

So I went this past Sunday on the kayak and found striped bass, white bass, crappie and more on Jordan Lake, then I took a stroll through a scenic area on the Haw River earlier this week and searched the pools and eddies for the small-but-ferocious fighters, and finally rushed to meet up with Captain Stu Dill yesterday after work to see if we could find any fish on the main lake before the weather hit.

So Sunday was awesome…

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I found and caught six species. Released all the perch, bream and smaller whites and crappie and largemouth bass, but I did release one big striper…check out the video.

 

I don’t like to keep freshwater stripers over 22″ for the table. So I usually release the bigger fish. And I’d already put a 22″er in the ice box along with the whites and crappie. So that was a great day; probably caught 30ish fish, almost all on jigs and sassy shads trolling in 20′-24′ of water.

Then, I got the itch to seek out the creek dwellers. I walked to a cool spot on the Haw River and took some pics before catching one little male, which was photo’d and quickly sent back to the river…

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The fishing was slow, but the afternoon was priceless.

Then I decided to hit the water yesterday after a half day of work with Captain Stu Dill and we worked as hard as we could. We employed a run-and-gun strategy; knowing we didn’t have a lot of time before storms would hit. Stu drove and I tied and re-tied rigs, trying to see if the fish would eat. But the rain quickly arrived and the air cooled considerably. We figured we were golden; barometer dropping, cloudy and overcast, no wind, blah,blah,blah.

We almost got skunked; if not for the hungriest white bass in the world yesterday, which also hit a small jig with a white sassy shad trailer. (feature photo) It was quickly photo’d and released as well. But the storms ran us off the water less than 2 hours after we launched, so we didn’t even get to fish any prime time.

So the moral of the story is the same as usual with spring fishing. Get out there and do it, but don’t be too disappointed when the sure thing on a spring day turns into a non-starter. Just breathe in that fresh air and enjoy the time afield and afloat.

Yep, I caught Stripers on a Skitterwalk

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So with the nights cooling off I’ve gotten back on the water for stripers a few times over the last few weeks.

Last Saturday morning I hit a lake and found fish eating a ChugBug steady until 9am. The fish were knocking the bait out of the water repeatedly. It was incredible. Literally the best topwater bite on freshwater I’ve ever experienced. Never had so many fish come back to a bait they’d knocked 10″ out of the water so many times. That post with pics is here.

So I went back one day after work and the bite was non-existent in great conditions. It was cloudy, the wind was down and shad came to the surface in many schools a few hours before sunset; but the small baitfish were unmolested. Not a single fish surfaced that afternoon and I finally resorted to a Texas rig to catch one very small largemouth bass. The area was devoid of life. The water is still really warm for striped bass in the afternoons.

So this am I decided to hit the Cape Fear river and try my luck there. This proved to be a great decision.

Literally non stop action til about 8:00am.

I starting catching fish in the dark…

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It’s a little unnerving in a river, by yourself, yanking a topwater bait across the water towards the yak in the dark when a fish unloads on it. The sound was violent and water sprayed me all morning. But that’s what getting up at 5am is for… And they kept hitting the ChugBug. Even some nice ones….Biggest one, the Skitterwalk fish, was almost 26″ and not too skinny for a late summer fish, probably 8 pounds.

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I lost a few too. Last weekend not a single fish came unbuttoned, and there were a lot of bass mixed in. This am no bass at all and I had 1 good fish come unglued at the boat. I couldn’t complain though…When the bite slowed at one point, I remembered I had tied a white Skitterwalk on one rod. I had never hooked a freshwater striped bass on one so I chucked it out in a lull.

First few pops…and this comes on board after quite a tussle…Sometimes a quick change of baits is all you need.

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The bite died at almost exactly 8:00. I tried to find other biting fish but the area closed for business just like that. As often in late Summer you will see fish bite great for about an hour or two but can shut down quickly in shallow water.

I had other things on the agenda for today so I headed out at 9:00.

Man what a morning.

Best Striped Bass Topwater Bite of All Time!

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Striped bass and largemouth bass were slam knocking the chug bug out of the water this morning for almost 3 hours!

It was literally the best topwater bite I’ve ever seen. And I’ve had years of throwing Poprs, Buzzbaits, Jitterbugs etc…you name it. There was sufficient cloud cover and the wind stayed down til I left.

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The fish were so keyed up they were knocking the bait out of the water almost a foot at times, and doing it repeatedly. I’ve never seen anything like it. Then they were coming back for it and engulfing it. I had stripers jumping like largemouth, It was incredible.

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Fish after fish til the clouds broke and the sun came out. I probably caught 10 – 15 bass, biggest around 3 lbs, 8 striped bass (all skinny but 3 at 24″) and 2 white bass. Both whites swiped at the bait and hooked themselves on the outside of their body. It’s a big bait for a white for crying out loud.

I left the lake a little after 9 and was home and cleaned the fish by 11…That’s what I call a meat run.

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Late Spring/Early Summer Report – Lakes & Rivers

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The fishing on area lakes and rivers has really started to heat up.

The days have finally started to feel like NC weather should in June. And with weather trending warmer a few select target species have begun to feed heavily.

Striped bass are schooling on area lakes. Anglers are reporting good catches on Kerr, Gaston, Badin and the rest as well. The fish are shallow early, but move deeper as mornings progress, and the same can be said for the evening in reverse, from deep water in towards shore. Fish are feeding in as shallow as 5 feet of water on top water plugs and small crankbaits early. During the later parts of the early AM hours they will begin moving into deeper water and are taking bucktails readily. I’ve already had multiple doubles and triples consisting of stripers, white bass, catfish, perch and bass.

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These tactics can be used on all the lakes in our state to catch these fish and the action is on fire right now.

If you’d like to know more about the colors and styles I like to use comment after the report on the site and I’ll be happy to help you out with your questions.

Largemouth bass are post-spawn, but they can be caught early with soft plastics and smaller action baits, but the frog bite is still a bit slow from what I’ve seen and heard. It shouldn’t be long though and we should see bass begin feeding heavily again. Of course the river is always a great place to catch bass when our temps rise in NC.

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Catfish and gar are also starting to feed more often. Early and late as well as overnight of course, but they are feeding much better on rivers than lakes at present. And I would expect that trend to continue, at least as far as catching during daytime hours, for the remainder of the season. These fish are taking live and cut bait fished with Carolina-rigs on the bottom, or with floats if the area you fish is rocky. Shad and shiners, as well as livers will work.

Here are some more pics from Friday after work. I stopped counting fish and actually got worn out to the point I left biting fish. And that rarely happens. But I was trolling through heavy boat wake the entire time and for a two-and-a-half hour period I caught at least 1 fish per pass on a point where I found them. It was epic.

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Down East Bass & Alligators for Mother’s Day! (VIDEO)

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So the family decided to get together and fish for Mother’s Day Weekend. We opted to chase largemouth bass but didn’t bargain for the alligators.

Especially those in excess of 10 feet long.

We wanted to hit the grass flats and chase drum and trout, but heavy rains the week prior to our outing and high winds changed those plans. Then we thought we might hit a slow moving black-water river, but the gauges rose all night long the night before, so we again made an audible.

Greenfield Lake it was. It was small, close to us in Wilmington, and would be far more protected from high winds than anything else we could think of. This is a really beautiful place. The fishing pressure it gets is obvious, so I don’t really recommend it for a trip as far as angling, but as far as a place to see some really cool wildlife, both reptilian and avian, it’s a must see.

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There are bass, gar, bowfin, perch, bream, crappie, pickerel and catfish, but they obviously see everything off the Wal-Mart shelf daily. So we caught fish, and some nice ones too, but it was a serious grind. This was my best bass of the day; a 4 pounder that ate a weightless senko.

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As the morning began we drifted slowly and quietly through Cypress trees covered in everything from Bayberry to Poison Ivy. Wax Myrtles and Azaleas surround the lake too, but the Old Man’s Beard hanging from all the Cypress and Sweet Gums is what really catches the eye here.

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We had been told that there were rumors of a big alligator here; like a 14 footer. Let me rephrase that, we figured after what we’d been told; there might be an alligator in these waters, like maybe a small one with an exaggerated size to keep people from the small city lake. But we didn’t expect to see close to 10 alligators with 2 of them around 10 plus feet.

But that’s what we got. Here is the video of an 8 plus foot alligator I saw after a few smaller ones.

Then I encountered a bigger gator. This one was easily in excess of 10 feet! Two videos of him follow…

So yes, I probably did cross a line while filming these alligators. It could be said it wasn’t smart to get so close (even though the videos in no way show how close I really was). But I was ready to get away from them at a moments notice, and I kept them in my sight the entire time I was close. When they submerged I stopped filming and got out of the immediate area. I’ve also kept reptiles, both native to NC (when I was a permitted NC wildlife rehabilitator) and exotics in my lifetime (including large constrictors). I am also keenly aware that the intelligence these prehistoric creatures have far surpasses what science would grant them based on their brain size. I knew when I was filming when they were aware of me, when they were ok with me, and when they were tired of my presence. Body language does reveal a lot in the animal kingdom.

I also knew these gators have been in this location a long time and they have never had an incident, even though there are houses all around the lake, and visitors in the waters on a daily basis (there are even kayaks and pedal boats available for visitors to rent in this small lake loaded with alligators).

So I certainly don’t encourage anyone to get as close as I did to a big alligator; no more than I encourage anyone who doesn’t feel able and comfortable to kayak fish in swift water, or to go rock climbing without experience and knowledge. But I do encourage people to get out there and experience stuff like this at whatever level they happen to feel comfortable with. I know my life was enriched by experiencing this yesterday and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Here a few pics of Mom catching her bass.

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