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Fishing Forecast

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Fishing forecast: Dolphin, cobia hitting well off Carolinas coast

By Tom Higgins
Correspondent
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Craig Price - Courtesy of Craig Price
Former Duke basketball star Seth Curry of Charlotte with a 7 1/2-pound hybrid he caught a few days ago at Lake Norman. Unofficially, it’s the largest of the fish, a striper/white bass cross, caught at Norman. The fish were first secretly stocked against regulations a few years ago by a group of Iredell County fishermen. Now, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is releasing 160,000 hybrid fingerlings into Norman annually. Curry was fishing in the lake’s Reed Creek section with his father, Dell, an original member of the Charlotte Hornets, and guide Craig Price of Denver, N.C. They also caught largemouth bass, catfish and white perch.

Angling action off the Carolinas coast continues good to exceptional, especially for dolphin, or mahi mahi, and now cobia.

Fine catches of both were reported this week from Oregon Inlet southward to the S.C. Grand. Black and yellowfin tuna also are plentiful, and billfish are showing increasingly.

The Morehead City area seems to be the best. Reds in the 27-inch range are hitting in the marshes, and surf fishing is yielding black drum up to 70 pounds. Inshore, bottom fishing for cobia in the 25-pound class is “especially hot right now,” said veteran guide Joe Shute of Atlantic Beach. Shute noted that Spanish mackerel and Atlantic bonito also are hitting well.

“Offshore, the larger gaffer dolphin have been pretty plentiful,” Shute added. “Dolphin up to 40 pounds have been common. Plus, there are still good numbers of blackfin tuna and wahoo showing up, along with yellowfin and blue marlin.”

Lake Norman : Continuing good for crappie, although the fish have moved to cover somewhat deeper, generally around 20-30 feet, where they’re taking minnows best. Fair to good for largemouth and spotted bass during very early morning on surface lures and swim baits cast to the shoreline and piers. White perch, moving into the creeks, are hitting minnows, small spoons and jigs worked 12-20 feet deep. Small hybrids are mixed in with the perch. Catfish on cut baits at depths from 5-to-30 feet.

Lake Wylie: Good for largemouth bass around schools of spawning shad on lures that simulate the forage species, as well as on floating artificial worms, jigs, swimbaits and topwater lures. Crappie around deep cover on minnows. Very good for bream, still in the shallows after the recent full moon, on crickets, earthworms and small Beetlespin lures.

Mountain Island Lake : Continuing good for crappie on minnows fished deep. Catfish on traditional baits, with night fishing producing best. Very good for bream along the banks.

Rankin Lake, Gastonia: Good to excellent for bream on crickets and earthworms. Catfish on crawlers and other traditional baits, such as chicken livers.

Union County Lakes: Good to excellent for crappie at Cane Creek Park near Waxhaw, hitting minnows and small Gulp! artificials in a shad pattern. Very good for bream and fair to good for largemouth bass at all lakes, including Lee, Monroe and Twitty.

Yadkin-Pee Dee River Lakes: Continuing excellent throughout the chain from High Rock through Tuckertown, Badin, Tillery and Blewett Falls for bream and good for crappie. Fair for bass at all reservoirs, hitting a variety of lures cast to the shoreline and docks. Spawning American shad to 4 pounds in the tailrace at Blewett Falls Dam on grubs and Sabiki rigs. Blue catfish in the Dee River below Blewett Falls.

Lakes James, Rhodhiss, Hickory : Fair to good for crappie in deep cover at all three. Walleye at James on crawlers, especially at night. Fair to good for largemouth at Rhodhiss and Hickory on lures cast to the shoreline. Picking up for catfish on traditional baits at all three lakes. Striped bass in the tailrace at Oxford Dam, which forms Lake Hickory, on Zara Spook lures.

Fontana Lake : Good to excellent for bass – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted – on shiners cast to clay and rocky points. The extreme clarity of the water is making it difficult to have the bass hit lures, but topwater action is fair to good at dawn and for a bit afterward. Smallmouth are making up the bulk of the catch. A few walleye on crawlers worked in and around shoreline pockets with discolored water and clogs of floating limbs and pollen.

Lake Wateree : Striped bass in the 3-4 pound range in surface-feeding schools. Catfish in the upper portion of the reservoir on drift-fished cut shad. Only fair for crappie because of muddy conditions, although a few are being caught around bridge pilings and brush on minnows and Fish Stalker jigs.

Lake Thurmond: Excellent for shellcrackers along the shoreline on crawlers and crickets. Good for channel and flathead catfish around rip-rap near bridges on cut herring retrieved like bass anglers work artificial worms.

Lake Murray : Very good for shellcrackers 5-6 feet deep around boat docks and brush. Fair to good for catfish around the islands on cut herring. Inconsistent for largemouth, with the few being caught hitting shakey head artificial worms cast to points.

Santee Cooper Lakes : Fair to good for bream around cover 8-14 feet deep.

Lake Hartwell : Good for crappie in the shoreline grass that grew while the lake was at a lower level, taking both jigs and minnows. Long-line trolling also is producing crappie. Good for channel catfish 1-8 feet deep, mainly on stink baits and cut herring.

Lake Keowee: Very good for largemouth and spotted bass along the shoreline on soft plastic lures, swim baits. Bream around grass beds.

Lake Jocassee : Good to very good for trout in the main lake on trolled spoons. Bream around grass beds.

Outer Banks : Nags Head area: Good for large whiting at Nags Head Pier. Blues in the surf and at all piers. Good to excellent in the sound for red drum by boat; Oregon Inlet: Continuing excellent for limits of dolphin. Bigeye tuna, billfish, wahoo and yellowfin tuna also are showing in the catch offshore. Blues and Spanish mackerel inshore, along with flounder and puppy drum by boat; Hatteras Island: Excellent off Hatteras Village for large gaffer dolphin, plus bigeye tuna, billfish, blackfin tuna, yellowfin to 50 pounds and wahoo. Bottom species such as grouper are plentiful, too. Scattered black drum, blues, gray trout, false albacore, small spots and whiting in the surf. A few big red drum at night at Cape Point near Buxton. Also, red drum by boat in Pamlico Sound; Ocracoke Island: Blues and whiting in the surf; Morehead City area: Blues to 10 pounds at piers, along with black drum, flounder, pompano, puppy drum, Spanish mackerel and whiting.

Southeast Coast : Very good to excellent offshore for dolphin, with billfish, blackfin tuna and wahoo also being boated. Blues and Spanish inshore. Cobia, flounder, reds and speckled trout in the surf and at piers. The trout must be released for the time being.

S.C. Coast : Little River area: No report; Grand Strand area: Excellent offshore of Garden City, Georgetown and North Myrtle Beach for gaffer-sized dolphin, with billfish showing increasingly in the catch along with blackfin tuna and wahoo. Good to excellent for black drum at the Pawleys Island artificial reef and Georgetown jetties. Red drum in the creeks and at jetties. Blues and Spanish mackerel at piers on jigged gold hooks and Gotcha plugs. Also, scattered pompano, sheepshead, spots, whiting and a few trout at piers; Charleston area: Good to very good for blues, Spanish mackerel inshore on Diamond jigs and Gotcha lures. Reds, flounder in the backwaters; Beaufort/Hilton Head area: Good for cobia while sight-casting live eels to the fish. Good for reds, tailing to feed in the marsh grass and being targeted by sight-casters. Some anglers reported catching a dozen or so reds per trip using either gold spoons, flies and/or Gulp! lures. At low tide, when the water is out of the grass, the reds are taking mud minnows.

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