July is steamy along North Carolina’s coast, and high water temperatures can make fishing a challenging pursuit.
Anglers who want to catch flounder, however, can try a spot with cool, deep water, only a couple of long casts of the Morehead City and Beaufort waterfronts.
“The Port Wall is the best place to have a chance at big flounder,” said Matt Zook of Saltwater Bait & Tackle on the Atlantic Beach Causeway.
Deep-draft, ocean-going vessels off-load cargo at the Port Wall before making a 180-degree turn in the nearby Turning Basin and heading back to Beaufort Inlet and the ocean.
The high-walled facility, part of North Carolina’s State Port complex, covers more than a million square feet, with 220,000 tons of warehouse capacity sitting on top of a concrete base.
From the outside, the Port Wall appears as solid as an Egyptian pyramid, but it’s not.
“Big, concrete pilings underneath hold up the floor,” said Zook (252-222-0670). “Flounder like that structure and hang out at its bottom in summer, where the water’s cool, waiting on baitfish.
“The best place to set up to fish at the Port Wall is the corners during high, falling tides. The rips and swirls at the corners give you a chance to anchor, fish out of the current and drop baits straight down.”
The bottom around the Port Wall is between 45 and 50 feet deep.
“The best baits are fresh cut bait or live finger mullets,” Zook said. “Most people use 11/2- to 2-ounce barrel weights to get their baits to the bottom. Some people use (menhaden) belly strips.
“You have to use a 4000-size (spinning) reels,” he said. “I like Penn Battle reels, but Daiwas and Shimanos also are popular.”
Zook spools his reels with 30-pound braid backing and 3 feet of 30- or 40-pound Ande leaders and ties on 2/0 to 430 Mustad circle hooks.
“I like a high, falling tide, but sometimes you can catch ’em on a slack,” Zook said. “If you’re gonna (cover) the entire Port Wall you only have 30 to 45 minutes (before the tide changes).”
Water from the Newport River marshes, aka the “Haystacks”, North River and Core Creek exchanges with Beaufort Inlet water during each tide, rushing through a narrow passage under the US 70 bridge. That’s why the current is so strong at the Port Wall, restricting fishing its entire length to less than an hour.
Some flounder anglers have success jigging bucktails off the bottom near the wall’s support pilings.