Sneads Ferry is in a unique place at the junction of the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway. It's an area that doesn't experience significant tide changes, and that affects the way fish feed. It doesn't stop them from feeding, as some would think, but makes them much more likely to feed while the tide isn't moving strongly.
Capt. Allen Jernigan of Breadman Ventures grew up fishing the New River and knows where the fish are, especially flounder. He is on the river all day and most nights, and when something causes the fish to relocate, he knows it.
He also knows what they feed on and how they like it presented.
"We have better flounder fishing than most people think we would with the slow tidal currents in the New River," Jernigan said. "This year has been even better than usual with the warm winter. The water never got really cold, so most of the flounder didn't leave, and fishing has been good to excellent at times. We caught flounder all winter and through the spring, and it has been getting better all summer."
Jernigan (910-467-1482) said he occasionally fishes live bait, but he always begins with a white Gulp! shrimp on Prototype Bucktails and Blue Water Candy jigheads. He prefers to put the bait on the hook upside down; whether it's superstition or whatever, it works for him and that's what matters.
"I target any place a flounder can hide," Jernigan said. "There aren't any bad places. Under docks is a favorite place, but there are some bulkheads and rocky areas and some sandbars and oyster rocks that drop off into deeper water. The flounder congregate around these places, and when they do, they compete for food. When they are competing for food, they get aggressive and strike quick and hard. It makes them easy to catch."
Camp Lejeune is on one side of the New River, and New River Air Station is on the other, so there aren't many docks along the New River except around Jacksonville and Sneads Ferry. There are plenty of docks in the Intracoastal Waterway south of Sneads Ferry and in the bays off the waterway at Sneads Ferry, but Camp Lejeune is to the north, and there are only a few on base.
Jernigan said some of the best flounder fishing is along bridge bulkheads and around the turnstiles of the drawbridges. He said tidal movement is exaggerated in these areas, and many species gather there to feed. In a system as slow-moving as in the New River, Jernigan said it's possible to catch numerous species grouped together. He expects to catch flounder and red drum on every outing, but he isn't surprised when a black drum or trout crashes the party.
"One good thing about fishing with soft plastics is not having to wait to set the hook," Jernigan said. "The flounder gets the bait in his mouth when he picks it up, and you can pop him as soon as you feel him. That makes it easier for inexperienced fishermen."
When fish are fat, it means they are feeding regularly and often. Flounder in the New River appear to be doing both. That makes them easier to catch and invite home for dinner.