• Volume 19 Number 5 - May 2012

    Features

    Take a look this month and find Cape Lookout cobia action. Here’s how.

    Nothing breaks the ice for saltwater anglers seeking big fish like the spring cobia run. The fish swarm the Crystal Coast in May, with the epicenter of the action being Morehead City.

    While the majority of fishermen soak either live or cut baits on the bottom, Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service has taken the action to a higher level, figuratively and literally speaking. He boasts nearly 100-percent success on days when the weather is calm enough to sight-fish.

    Despite what you might have heard, Badin Lake stripers are still alive and ready to dance.

    In the eyes of a striped bass fisherman, there is no more repulsive sight than to be out on the water and find the floating carcasses of your favorite quarry.

    Fish kills strike a variety of species for a variety of reasons, but they seem to afflict landlocked striped bass more than most. Lacking disease or parasitic invasions, striped bass are more susceptible to kills due to their high demand for oxygenated water and low tolerance for high water temperatures.

    The Outer Banks has some of the best marlin fishing on the planet, and May is a great month for the big blue ones and the white acrobats.

    At the edge of the Gulf Stream, 30 miles out of Oregon Inlet, Jimmy Hillsman struggled to fit the last dolphin into the fishbox. With a limit of gaffers under their belt and the whole day ahead, Hillsman looked up at Jason Snead on the bridge and yelled, “Let’s go look for something bigger!”

    Snead smiled and nodded, then spun the wheel to turn Dream Girl, a 60-foot turquoise sportfisher away from the matted weedline and into clear water. Hillsman pulled in the light “bailing” rods and deployed a spread of sea witches and Ilanders on 50- and 80-pound tackle.

    It’s a sound idea to target the spring run of these great fish in the waters that separate Hilton Head Island from the mainland.

    One of the most-anticipated events for fisherman in the Lowcountry is the annual spring cobia migration. Cobia start to show up in mid-April and hang around through most of June. May is undoubtedly the most-productive month; Hilton Head Island is literally surrounded by cobia in the Calibogue Sound to the west and the Port Royal Sound and Broad River to the north and east.

    Of those waters, the Calibogue Sound receives the least attention from anglers.

    This Roanoke River impoundment may have the region’s healthiest bass population.

    Lake Gaston may be the premier largemouth bass lake shared by North Carolina and Virginia.

    That’s a bold statement about a body of water just downstream of massive John H. Kerr Reservoir and about half its size.

    But Gaston’s 20,300 acres have more aquatic grasses than Kerr — aka Buggs Island Lake — to concentrate baitfish and bass; it contains plenty of threadfin and gizzard shad; it has good shoreline structure, stump and rock fields and spawning flats; and by law, its water levels can’t fluctuate more than 18 inches, making for a more-consistent spawn; its waters are 98-percent from the Largemouth Bass Virus that infected about 40 percent of the bass population at Kerr; and well, Gaston is just a prettier lake, too, if you prefer well-manicured lawns, magnificent homes and usually clear water because of summer “grass.”

    May brings out the best in this Columbia-area reservoir. Here’s your guide to spots for everything from largemouth bass to channel catfish.

    Folks who fully embrace a mindset of “You can’t have you cake and eat it, too” haven’t spent time fishing at Lake Murray. This 50,000-acre impoundment of the Saluda River offers fishermen “best of both worlds” opportunities. While Murray has definite highland impoundment characteristics — clear water, a structure-rich deep lower main body and plenty of steep banks — it also offers outstanding-shallow water fishing in a complex network of creeks and coves.

    Michael Murphy of Gilbert also likes the fact that Murray offers excellent fishing for a variety of species. Although he earns his living a tournament bass angler and by doing marketing work for tackle companies that cater mostly to bass fishermen, Murphy also enjoys catching stripers, bluegills, crappie and even catfish, and when he’s free, he will take clients on guided fishing trips.

    The Tar River Reservior has produced the last two state-record white crappie. Here’s how to mine its finny riches.

    Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but the old adage apparently doesn’t apply to crappie fishing. Over a period of less than four weeks two springs ago, two Nashville anglers caught state-record white crappie at the relatively small Tar River Reservoir that supplies drinking water for the city of Rocky Mount, rather than one of the bigger lakes considered North Carolina’s best crappie fisheries.

    Catching a mess of crabs is as easy as any saltwater assignment, and it has a tasty result.

    Gourmets the world around salivate over its unique taste and texture and pay astonishing prices for the choicest jumbo lumps of body meat or the seasonal soft-shelled “peelers.”

    Yes, our own local blue crab is one of the finest delicacies in the seafood world but, in spite of its revered reputation, any residents and visitors in South Carolina’s Lowcountry with a string and a chicken neck can catch a bucketful and enjoy them for free. Just walk down to a public dock or shoreline at the right time and catch your own.

    Two periods of sparse gobbling each spring worry some North Carolina hunters, but one expert offers tips to tag a wild turkey.

    Being enraptured by the pursuit of wild turkeys is akin to enslavement by alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, gambling, golf or strange women.

    The main advantage turkey hunting has over these other activities is it isn’t quite as hurtful to the pocketbook, although with the price of gasoline lifting off like a Saturn V rocket, it might put a ballpark-figure dent in one’s pocketbook.

    Other benefits are that if successful, a gobbler chaser’s reputation will soar among his buddies, plus, a wild bird provides an unmatched feast for the palate compared to bland, grocery-store-bought butterballs.

    When the ‘prince’ mackerel arrive off Little River, fishermen on both sides of the state line can have plenty of fun.

    It’s a long run from Little River Inlet to the bluewater where the tuna, dolphin, wahoo and billfish swim, and with fuel prices moving into the $4 neighborhood, you can’t blame a lot of fishermen for choosing to stay closer to port.

    Capt. David Cutler doesn’t have to be convinced that he saves money by sticking close to his home port of Little River along the South Carolina-North Carolina border. In fact, it’s like B’rer Rabbit and the briar patch. Tell him to stay within a few miles of the beach, and he’s right at home – especially this month, when Spanish mackerel invade the waters close to the state line.

    When the ‘prince’ mackerel arrive off Little River, fishermen on both sides of the state line can have plenty of fun.

    It’s a long run from Little River Inlet to the bluewater where the tuna, dolphin, wahoo and billfish swim, and with fuel prices moving into the $4 neighborhood, you can’t blame a lot of fishermen for choosing to stay closer to port.

    Capt. David Cutler doesn’t have to be convinced that he saves money by sticking close to his home port of Little River along the South Carolina-North Carolina border. In fact, it’s like B’rer Rabbit and the briar patch. Tell him to stay within a few miles of the beach, and he’s right at home – especially this month, when Spanish mackerel invade the waters close to the state line.

    These streams offer Palmetto State fishermen different opportunities to catch browns, brookies and rainbows.

    With turkey season in its final days, it’s a perfect time to plan some great trout fishing. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is actively stocking streams, and areas with natural reproduction are also beginning show some activity. The warmer-than-usual winter seems to be sparking some good early fishing.

    SCDNR manages 34 coldwater streams, covering 200 miles of trout water. Some are too small to fish, and some are on private property, but we do have several good streams to enjoy.

    Top Clarks Hill guides don’t understand spring movements of stripers and hybrids, they just catch them.

    William Sasser, a veteran fishing guide on Clarks Hill Lake, just shrugged his shoulders and remained pretty much speechless.

    The list of items that Sasser doesn’t have much to say about is definitely a short one, but ask him why May is such a good time to catch striped bass and their hybridized cousins on the sprawling, 70,000-acre reservoir, and the instantly likeable angler goes silent.