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Old 11-29-2017, 02:42 PM   #21
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Fishing the waterway on a weekend (especially a warm one this time of year) can be a giant waste of time. Too many boats buzzing back and forth.


Saltwater fishing truly isn't that much different than freshwater fishing. Think about it this way, a red drum isn't very much different than a large mouth. They are both predatory fish that tend to school up and they prefer having a bit of cover rather than just hanging out in the open.

I won't even try to call myself an expert, but I did go through the same process you are going through now and asking these questions every trip has really helped me find fish much more consistently

Where is the food?... A red drum's main diet this time of year is going to consist of mud minnows, small crabs, and shrimp.. where can you consistently find those things? (docks, mud/grass flats, deep marsh holes)

What is the tide doing?... If it is super high and all the bait is hiding in the grass, those fish are going to be spread out all over the place (generally). If it is low, it concentrates both the bait and the drum, normally into deep holes that are overlooked during high tide. I like to fish deep holes that are formed by water flowing out of big marsh bays behind masonboro. These bays are far too large to effectively fish during high tide, but the fish have to go somewhere at low tide, and these holes are the first place they end up (and they will stay there until something spooks them out like a boat or a dolphin).

High tide can still be productive, this is a good time to work back into marsh areas you haven't been before. Reds will patrol marsh/grass banks at high tide because they know that eventually a mud minnow or shrimp will pop out of that impenetrable grass.

Where is the clean water?... If the water is the color of chocolate milk you are going to have a difficult time catching much of anything on jerk baits. Would you be able to find a cheeseburger if you could only see 3" in front of you? Possibly, but what if I kept moving it around?

Reds have an incredible sense of "smell", that's why gulp is so effective, but if you keep moving that bait around, they have a hard time finding it. On slow days I like to fish chunks of crab on a Carolina rig. I find that the reds can sniff it out a bit better. It may not be as exciting as pitching plastics, but its better than getting skunked.

What is the water temp?... As the water cools your larger over slot drum are going to move offshore to spawn, your smaller slot and puppy drum are going to stay inshore and school up. Finding reds in the summer can be "easier" because the schools are much smaller. Normally 3-5 fish max. However, in the winter, the schools can be 50-200 fish. That means that all of those fish that were scattered throughout the marsh in the summer are now in one place. So if you aren't where they are, you simply will not catch them. (think having all of the bird seed in a feeder vs throwing it in a broadcast spreader and you'll have a good idea of the winter vs summer schooling habits)

Another thing about temp is stability. You wouldn't be very comfortable walking through your house if every room was a different temperature, neither would a redfish. Winter fish tend to be found in deep areas where the water temperature is relatively stable (this is especially true of trout). Of course there are exceptions to this, think about a mud flat that gets a lot of sun in the middle of the day, that's a prime spot to catch drum trying to warm up.
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Old 11-29-2017, 05:48 PM   #22
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Fishing the waterway on a weekend (especially a warm one this time of year) can be a giant waste of time. Too many boats buzzing back and forth.


Saltwater fishing truly isn't that much different than freshwater fishing. Think about it this way, a red drum isn't very much different than a large mouth. They are both predatory fish that tend to school up and they prefer having a bit of cover rather than just hanging out in the open.

I won't even try to call myself an expert, but I did go through the same process you are going through now and asking these questions every trip has really helped me find fish much more consistently

Where is the food?... A red drum's main diet this time of year is going to consist of mud minnows, small crabs, and shrimp.. where can you consistently find those things? (docks, mud/grass flats, deep marsh holes)

What is the tide doing?... If it is super high and all the bait is hiding in the grass, those fish are going to be spread out all over the place (generally). If it is low, it concentrates both the bait and the drum, normally into deep holes that are overlooked during high tide. I like to fish deep holes that are formed by water flowing out of big marsh bays behind masonboro. These bays are far too large to effectively fish during high tide, but the fish have to go somewhere at low tide, and these holes are the first place they end up (and they will stay there until something spooks them out like a boat or a dolphin).

High tide can still be productive, this is a good time to work back into marsh areas you haven't been before. Reds will patrol marsh/grass banks at high tide because they know that eventually a mud minnow or shrimp will pop out of that impenetrable grass.

Where is the clean water?... If the water is the color of chocolate milk you are going to have a difficult time catching much of anything on jerk baits. Would you be able to find a cheeseburger if you could only see 3" in front of you? Possibly, but what if I kept moving it around?

Reds have an incredible sense of "smell", that's why gulp is so effective, but if you keep moving that bait around, they have a hard time finding it. On slow days I like to fish chunks of crab on a Carolina rig. I find that the reds can sniff it out a bit better. It may not be as exciting as pitching plastics, but its better than getting skunked.

What is the water temp?... As the water cools your larger over slot drum are going to move offshore to spawn, your smaller slot and puppy drum are going to stay inshore and school up. Finding reds in the summer can be "easier" because the schools are much smaller. Normally 3-5 fish max. However, in the winter, the schools can be 50-200 fish. That means that all of those fish that were scattered throughout the marsh in the summer are now in one place. So if you aren't where they are, you simply will not catch them. (think having all of the bird seed in a feeder vs throwing it in a broadcast spreader and you'll have a good idea of the winter vs summer schooling habits)

Another thing about temp is stability. You wouldn't be very comfortable walking through your house if every room was a different temperature, neither would a redfish. Winter fish tend to be found in deep areas where the water temperature is relatively stable (this is especially true of trout). Of course there are exceptions to this, think about a mud flat that gets a lot of sun in the middle of the day, that's a prime spot to catch drum trying to warm up.
Wow! Thank you so much for all the information! I'll for sure apply that on my next trip, I hope to get back down to the beach in February.

Do you feel that you gravitate more towards the intercoastal or the river? I like the intercoastal better just because in any kind of wind the river can really stir up some chop. Finding the structure that you mentioned can by pretty easy in either.
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Old 11-29-2017, 08:14 PM   #23
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Wow! Thank you so much for all the information! I'll for sure apply that on my next trip, I hope to get back down to the beach in February.

Do you feel that you gravitate more towards the intercoastal or the river? I like the intercoastal better just because in any kind of wind the river can really stir up some chop. Finding the structure that you mentioned can by pretty easy in either.

Personally, I like fishing marshes off of the intracoastal more than I like fishing the river. I find that's it is more accessible more often. Like you said, the river can get nasty and it isn't as friendly for a flat bottom boat or a kayak, since I fish out of both.

If I were you I would go poke around the buzzards bay area on a rising tide....
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Old 11-30-2017, 03:46 AM   #24
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Personally, I like fishing marshes off of the intracoastal more than I like fishing the river. I find that's it is more accessible more often. Like you said, the river can get nasty and it isn't as friendly for a flat bottom boat or a kayak, since I fish out of both.

If I were you I would go poke around the buzzards bay area on a rising tide....
I'm for sure going to put the boat in down at Kure beach for a all day of fishing in Buzzard bay and the creek surrounding it.

I do need to find ways to get back into the marshes behind Masonboro like you do. I have a couple of spots that I can get 400-500 yards back into but from there I just don't know how to get further unless it's high tide, my 1910 drafts 10". I wish my Navionics would show depth of the tidal flats so I could plot routes around.
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Old 11-30-2017, 07:07 AM   #25
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I'm for sure going to put the boat in down at Kure beach for a all day of fishing in Buzzard bay and the creek surrounding it.

I do need to find ways to get back into the marshes behind Masonboro like you do. I have a couple of spots that I can get 400-500 yards back into but from there I just don't know how to get further unless it's high tide, my 1910 drafts 10". I wish my Navionics would show depth of the tidal flats so I could plot routes around.

It really wouldn't do you any good of it did. Most of the areas behind masonboro have 2' of water at high tide and are bone dry at low tide.

You're just gonna have to put in the time and get a seatow membership for when you get stuck.

Find a local surfer and ask them how they get to the back of masonboro..
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Old 11-30-2017, 08:15 AM   #26
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It really wouldn't do you any good of it did. Most of the areas behind masonboro have 2' of water at high tide and are bone dry at low tide.

You're just gonna have to put in the time and get a seatow membership for when you get stuck.

Find a local surfer and ask them how they get to the back of masonboro..
If the chart would list low tide numbers in the flats (even a 0 would be helpful) I could trace a route while sitting on the dock drinking a beer!

Oh I already have a seatow membership.

I already asked a paddleboarder how he gets back behind masonoboro one day and he said he wasn't going to tell me. Guess I hit close to one of his fishing holes. haha. I'll just have to go for along weekend and explore the waterway and creeks.
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Old 12-01-2017, 11:01 AM   #27
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Accept the facts that you have a boat that limits it's access to certain types of fishing.
Play in the developed creeks that have houses with docks. Just as many fish in them there are in marsh creeks this time of year.
Yesterday we followed a school of slot Reds & rats sunning themselves on the oyster bars next to a navigable channel.

Ended the day with 3 slams of mini fish...... ICM
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Old 12-02-2017, 07:22 PM   #28
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I've always had the best Red Drum luck in and around docks. This one was caught at a VERY busy area about a week ago. Around Wrightsville. Out going tide, closer to low.

All good things come to those who wait....
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Old 12-04-2017, 03:58 AM   #29
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I've always had the best Red Drum luck in and around docks. This one was caught at a VERY busy area about a week ago. Around Wrightsville. Out going tide, closer to low.

All good things come to those who wait....
Nice catch! I've had a lot of good advice from this thread.
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Old 12-06-2017, 02:31 PM   #30
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Accept the facts that you have a boat that limits it's access to certain types of fishing.
I would agree - at least until you know the area really well and can run on plane. The only places that I've had any real success with slots has been accessed almost exclusively with a poling skiff running on plane in inches of water (mostly Buzzards Bay). I draw less than the OP and I probably would only put in at Ft Fisher during dead low tide and keep one eye on my watch at all times. If you get stuck back there, you're in for a long day or night.

I really suck at this but my only consistent experience has taught me that local knowledge accounts for a lot and it's really hard to predict where the slot reds are going to be on any given day. The fact that I've been skunked with really good, experienced guides just reinforces that.
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:39 PM   #31
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I would agree - at least until you know the area really well and can run on plane. The only places that I've had any real success with slots has been accessed almost exclusively with a poling skiff running on plane in inches of water (mostly Buzzards Bay). I draw less than the OP and I probably would only put in at Ft Fisher during dead low tide and keep one eye on my watch at all times. If you get stuck back there, you're in for a long day or night.

I really suck at this but my only consistent experience has taught me that local knowledge accounts for a lot and it's really hard to predict where the slot reds are going to be on any given day. The fact that I've been skunked with really good, experienced guides just reinforces that.
So you don't recommend me making a trip to Buzzards Bay at all? About 1-2 months ago a buddy and I made the long drive down the river to the creeks behind bald head and didn't have a single issue even during dead low tide. The trolling motor lets me take it slow while navigating the creeks.
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Old 12-06-2017, 08:34 PM   #32
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Make a trip to Buzzards with an experienced charter captain. PM me for recommendations if interested.

Buzzards is just one of 3 bays with lots of shallow water hazards before you leave the ramp or first bay.
It needs to be respected & you need to run full throttle at times just to make it thru some cuts that are ever changing..... ICM

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Old 12-07-2017, 06:41 AM   #33
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So you don't recommend me making a trip to Buzzards Bay at all? About 1-2 months ago a buddy and I made the long drive down the river to the creeks behind bald head and didn't have a single issue even during dead low tide. The trolling motor lets me take it slow while navigating the creeks.
Lows vary depending on moon stage, spring-neap tide. That ramp and even the river entrance to muddy slough can be un-accessible on the right moon. Like said, you'll want the option to plane out wide open accompanied with a jack plate to tool around down there successfully.
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Old 12-07-2017, 06:50 AM   #34
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Make a trip to Buzzards with an experienced charter captain. PM me for recommendations if interested.
That won't happen. The wife would never approve of me spending $500 on a fishing charter when I have a perfectly good boat and can explore on my own.

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Lows vary depending on moon stage, spring-neap tide. That ramp and even the river entrance to muddy slough can be un-accessible on the right moon. Like said, you'll want the option to plane out wide open accompanied with a jack plate to tool around down there successfully.
Sounds like I won't be making any trips to Buzzards Bay then. I don't have a jack plate right now. I'll stick with making the drive down the river and fishing the creeks feeding into the bays behind Bald Head.
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Old 12-07-2017, 08:05 AM   #35
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.....you don't need a jack plate.

I have a boat with similar draft to you, realistically I need about a foot and a half to run on plane, and maybe 8" to float and I can get around down there just fine. Now I know my limitations and I don't run full speed the whole time, but I can put-put around at low tide and get pretty much wherever I want to.

Just take your time. Hell, I've spent a ton of time standing on the bow running the trolling motor while I pick my way through a new area.

There's no doubt the place is tricky and that there is an oyster bed around every corner, but you don't need a flats skiff with a jack plate and 3" of draft to get through it.. just some patience and a good memory.
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Old 12-07-2017, 08:10 AM   #36
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.....you don't need a jack plate.

I have a boat with similar draft to you, realistically I need about a foot and a half to run on plane, and maybe 8" to float and I can get around down there just fine. Now I know my limitations and I don't run full speed the whole time, but I can put-put around at low tide and get pretty much wherever I want to.

Just take your time. Hell, I've spent a ton of time standing on the bow running the trolling motor while I pick my way through a new area.

There's no doubt the place is tricky and that there is an oyster bed around every corner, but you don't need a flats skiff with a jack plate and 3" of draft to get through it.. just some patience and a good memory.
Maybe I'll go down to the beach house this late spring/early summer with a couple buddies and go explore all day down in Buzzards Bay area. I don't have the best sense of direction but I do have a Raymarine Chartplotter/fishfinder that I can mark my route and retrace my steps to get in and out of areas.
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Old 12-07-2017, 10:27 AM   #37
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I have a boat with similar draft to you, realistically I need about a foot and a half to run on plane, and maybe 8" to float and I can get around down there just fine. Now I know my limitations and I don't run full speed the whole time, but I can put-put around at low tide and get pretty much wherever I want to.

Just take your time. Hell, I've spent a ton of time standing on the bow running the trolling motor while I pick my way through a new area.

There's no doubt the place is tricky and that there is an oyster bed around every corner, but you don't need a flats skiff with a jack plate and 3" of draft to get through it.. just some patience and a good memory.
A jack plate makes a world of difference down there, especially on low tide. Is it needed on every tide ? No but I also don't like being stranded waiting on enough water to get back in. On certain low tides, you won't get back to the ramp in that sled.
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Old 12-07-2017, 11:34 AM   #38
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What does the hull draft really matter anyway? I've always wondered why we talk about that so much. A TM or a trimmed up outdrive is going to draw more. So the only way you're moving around in 8" of water is with a push pole or a jack plate, right?
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Old 12-07-2017, 11:50 AM   #39
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What does the hull draft really matter anyway? I've always wondered why we talk about that so much. A TM or a trimmed up outdrive is going to draw more. So the only way you're moving around in 8" of water is with a push pole or a jack plate, right?
Agreed, the only way to truly fish the super skinny stuff is in a kayak.

I think we're getting off topic though guys. We're not discussing boating situations and load-outs. This thread is about patterns and helping a Bass fisherman understand the ways of the Red Drum.

Are the drum back in Buzzards Bay area year round or is it only in the colder months when they're cruising the super skinny waters trying to warm up? I understand that my boat is going to limit me if I put in at Ft. Fisher, however, if the waters back there are really productive I won't mind cruising down the river and fishing the feeder creeks behind Bald Head. I would end up burning A LOT of fuel making the drive down and back in the boat but it could be worth it for a really good days of fishing.

I would still need to figure out places to go that are closer on days I don't feel like going so far. It sounds like I really need to explore the creeks and flats behind masonboro better. Also, I probably should hit the docks a lot harder in the area around where my beach house is.
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Old 12-07-2017, 12:11 PM   #40
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Agreed, the only way to truly fish the super skinny stuff is in a kayak.

I think we're getting off topic though guys. We're not discussing boating situations and load-outs. This thread is about patterns and helping a Bass fisherman understand the ways of the Red Drum.

Are the drum back in Buzzards Bay area year round or is it only in the colder months when they're cruising the super skinny waters trying to warm up? I understand that my boat is going to limit me if I put in at Ft. Fisher, however, if the waters back there are really productive I won't mind cruising down the river and fishing the feeder creeks behind Bald Head. I would end up burning A LOT of fuel making the drive down and back in the boat but it could be worth it for a really good days of fishing.

I would still need to figure out places to go that are closer on days I don't feel like going so far. It sounds like I really need to explore the creeks and flats behind masonboro better. Also, I probably should hit the docks a lot harder in the area around where my beach house is.
Not off topic. Type boat and the stealthyness of, are all relative to fishing buzzards bay. Iíll let the experts on the thread finish it off. Maybe Iíll learn something too.
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