Dove season and college football arrive in early September, and fall fishing follows soon thereafter along the North Carolina-South Carolina border. The big news is, the first run of bull reds usually shows up towards the end of the month.
Big, adult redfish, aka spot-tail bass, channel bass or puppy drum, gather up every fall, leave inshore areas and travel south along the eastern seaboard, using the abundant mullet and menhaden behind the breakers to fuel their engines.
Greg Holmes of Fish Skinny Charters out of Little River, S.C., steers his boat to the beachfront along the state line to intercept these oversized bronzed beasts.
“The big reds pile in hard towards the end of the month, but they can show up any time when the big schools of bait show up along the beaches,” said Holmes (843-241-0594). “The mullet run begins in September with the flood tides, and the bull reds will generally show up about the same time.”
Holmes keeps his ear to the ground to see when he needs to start looking for reds.
“They show up just below Cape Fear along the beaches first. Watch the reports up north and know they will be here soon,” he said.
Big schools of menhaden are also pushing down the beach this time of year, giving the old drum plenty of groceries to from which to choose. But, anglers can quickly get a pull down from a big, ol’ drum when they are hovering around schools of menhaden.
Holmes leaves Little River Inlet, making either a right-hand or left-hand turn depending on where the most action is.. He typically fishes between 8 and 17 feet deep; that’s where most of the bait is located in September.
“I run the beach looking for bait pods,” he said. “There can be a lot of bait out there this time of year and the fish will be on one or several pods of bait. We stop and fish one for 10 minutes and then move along to the next one if we don’t get hit. If the fish are on the bait, they will eat.”
For Holmes, live menhaden on a Carolina rig is tough to beat, but he will also use artificial lures, too.
“We throw 1 to 1.5-ounce white bucktail jigs tipped with Gulp curlytail trailers,” he said. “Toss it out and hop it off the bottom just like you would a 1.4-ounce trout jig in the creek. If he sees it, he will let you know pretty quickly,” he said.
The bull red bite can be a barrel of fun for anglers, especially when the catch is pushing 50 inches and weighs more than 40 pounds. However, these fish are the breeders that re-populate the local population. Anglers are encouraged to use 5000-series spinning reels and 40-pound line to get these fish to the boat and back in the water quickly.