Coastal North Carolina Fall Fishing Report
Fall Fishing Report for Wilmington, NC
Thankfully, the weather in Coastal North Carolina is starting to slightly cool off, especially in the evenings. These crisp days have us at Blackbird Guide Services dreaming about wearing pants and a sweatshirt on the boat. To get us all ready for the upcoming autumn season, keep reading for our Coastal Carolina Fall Fishing Report.
Targeted Fall Species
This is my favorite time of year, not just because of the moderate weather but also because of the migratory fish that start to push into the Wilmington area. Fall gives the inshore and nearshore angler a lot of different options. These options include targeting species such as:
- False albacore
- Speckled trout
- Red drum
- Bull reds
- Spanish mackerel
For this report, we will break it down by the species I have focused on mostly in years past to try and give as much guidance as possible.
As of October 5th, 2021, trout fishing has just started to begin. By that, I mean the migratory trout, to my knowledge, have not quite made their way down to us yet.
Still, I do believe that these slightly cooler temperatures have turned those residential trout from being lock-jawed over summer to more likely to eat bait when it floats past their strike zone. For the early-season trout, I have always found the most luck fishing the same spots where I had success in the early summer. Targeting those same spots when there is some decent current in the early morning or late in the afternoon will be your best bet.
If those spots don’t end up working for you, I would start to target areas around inlets as the mullet run is in full swing. With all those big schools of bait getting washed out in the ocean, it’s always a good bet that predatory fish will be close. Not to mention that when the migratory trout do show up, it’s generally in the inlet areas, and it’s always nice to get on them early before everyone starts to find out.
As far as lures are concerned, a few of my favorites include:
False Albacore Fishing
False Albacore [Albies] have just started to show up and should continue to get better and better as the ocean temperatures cool. If you are looking for a drag screaming fish on light tackle, this is what you want to go target.
There is not much science to Albie fishing, which can be refreshing as they are thick here; and are generally easy to find. I generally focus my efforts on inlets for these fish when the bait is getting pushed in and out with the tides. This is most likely where the fish are going and will want to hang out.
If they are not around the inlets, it’s a good idea to start to push off the beach a couple more miles to see if they are somewhere a bit further off. The main clues to look for when fishing for Albies are birds diving or hovering over the water and Albies busting above the surface.
I try my best to approach these fish without spooking them. Keep in mind that a change in motor pitch can send them down, so the slower you can approach them (within reason), the better; if they are thick drifting with the motor off is the way to go. If you are spin fishing, the jigs are slim and sometimes heavy, which means you can throw them a country mile, so there is no need to run right into them.
This is never a wrong time of year if you are out Albie fishing, and it’s going slow to run right up on the beach to see if there are any big schools of reds right in the breakers. There will still be plenty of fish in the marsh, but they are not entirely locked into a spot like they do in the winter.
That is not to say you can’t find a solid school in the marsh right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were there one day and gone the next. It is still productive to fish for them how many of us do in the summertime, throwing top waters over oyster beds, grass points, and scalloped out areas in the marsh.
Albies are a great fish to target on the fly if you are itching to give your fly rod a proper workout. For Albies, my favorite spinning rod lures include the Hogy Epoxy Jigs, Albie Snax, and Clarkspoon Stick Jig. For flies, I am generally going to throw Clousers and Surf Candy Flys.
Red Drum Fishing
I will finally touch on Red Drum. Luckily Red Drum are around all year, but their habits, movements, and places they want to be can change drastically. This time of year, they can be tricky to nail down, and I think there are various reasons for that. I believe some redfish will follow those bait schools out into the main waterway, the inlets, and even the ocean during the mullet run.
Fishing live mullet on Carolina rigs and under floats is always productive, although the bait might become harder and harder to find as the mullet make their way into the ocean and head south. Also, using soft plastics like Zman paddle tails to power fish your way through areas to try and find where they want to hang out that day.
Lastly, if they have not already, big Bull Reds should start to make an appearance around the inlets and nearshore structure. I have only ever used cut bait and live bait for these fish, as generally, that is the most productive way to get your hands on one.
That said, there is the rare opportunity to sight fish one as well. I have only experienced this a couple of times in my life but if you are heading out fishing, try to never leave the dock without at least one rod rigged up to sight fish a bull red.
If you are fortunate, you may run into a school of bulls on the surface or busting bait, and it always pays off to be prepared for that if it happens. For this, I would typically have a bucktail jig on a heavier rod. The fishing in coastal Wilmington North Carolina has been amazing this summer and should continue well into fall. If you would like to have a superior fishing experience out on the water, check out our fishing charters for the Wilmington, NC area.
I hope some of this information helps and you enjoyed reading our Coastal North Carolina Fall Fishing Report. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’d love to take you out on the water to catch the species in this report!