The early December’s weather here in eastern North Carolina has been as pretty as I’ve ever seen for the past week or so and the fishing is about as good as anglers would wish for. Both speckled trout and flounder are here and seem to have grown a good bit over the past summer. Most of the trout and flounder catches seem to be weighted toward the legal keeping size.
A recent trip with my son led us into one of Beaufort County’s fabled speckled trout waters where an enjoyable afternoon produced some fine trout and flounder fishing and supplied us with good eating sized fish for a good family meal. As usual, the younger of us out fished the “old Man.”
Of course, the fact that the younger angler was fishing from the bow position usually produces the better fishing but there may be other factors at work here. While I stubbornly stuck to one of my favorite lures he started to catch flounder and trout in about a four-to-one ratio over my old standby lure.
One of the best things about fishing two (or more) anglers in a boat is that the fishermen have a good chance to use different lures and techniques to determine which strategy is the best choice on any given day. Once it’s determined that one certain lure or strategy is more productive than the other, a switch to using the more successful strategy is a smart move.
I remember one afternoon many years ago when a couple of us were trolling for large bluefish out of Indian River Inlet up in Delaware. The fishing reports were that the big blues were running and being caught on large saltwater Rapala lures of a certain design and color. I’d gone to the local tackle store to buy some and found that the specific color of the “hot” lure was sold out. Luckily they had several of lures of the recommended type but the color was just a shade lighter than the “hot” lure’s. I bought a couple of those lures thinking that the small color difference between the two wouldn’t make any difference to the notoriously hungry bluefish. How wrong I was.
We were trolling alongside another boat that was trolling at the exact speed we were. We were using the exactly the same trolling gear. They were using the same Rapala lure but of the recommended color. They caught bluefish after bluefish weighing around ten pounds each while we caught just one fish.
While bluefish aren’t very picky about what they eat when they’re on a “blitz”, these fish saw some subtle difference in the two lures we were using that afternoon. We yelled over to their boat and asked if they just might have a spare lure of the correct color and they did. We picked it up and tied it on one of our lines and proceeded to load the boat with fish. That very subtle color difference in the two lures made all the difference in the world to those bluefish.
Not too long after Harris Lake near Fuquay-Varina was open to fishing I was fishing on the upper end of the lake after you pass under the bridge. Most of this part of the lake is very shallow (good for duck hunting but not always good for fishing). I wasn’t having much luck until I found the old creek channel that ran through this part of the lake. I started catching small bass on about every cast until I lost the spinner bait that apparently those fish loved. I tried every color, retrieve rate and anything else that was in my limited tackle box but even those smaller bass didn’t want any other lure.
I got in my car and went to a nearby tackle store that had a few of the exact spinnerbait that I’d used with so much success, bought two (always buy two, if you lose one you have a back-up) returned to that same creek channel and caught bass until I was tired of it. Even though the fish were small (all released) on ultra light spinning gear, they were a blast.
One of my favorite lures for local trout, flounder and redfish is one that used to be called a “Mr. Whiffle.” I’d stockpiled several packs of this soft plastic, curly tail lure that you fish with a saltwater jig head of the appropriate size. For years this lure has produced a lot of fish for me. (The original Mr. Whiffle is not made as such anymore but apparently has been sold and now is marketed as the “Scented MrWhiffleLure”). By experimenting with various colors, lengths, weight of jig head, speed of retrieve and other variables to match the changing water and lighting conditions to find out what the fish I was after wanted, you could usually catch fish to take home. If you had another angler on board to aid in determining the desired combination of factors that worked best, you could usually work out a winning combination.
Depending on the water clarity and the depth of the lure you operate the lure on, color can be very important. For instance what appears to be red color out of the water could appear to be black depending on how clear the water is at a certain depth.
Rate of retrieve can also play a large part on the success or failure of a lure and by sharing the fishing with a buddy you can “shop” around with retrieve rates until you hit that magic rate. Along with the weight of the jig head the rate of the retrieve can make a big difference.
If you should be alone in the boat and aren’t having as much success with the fishing as you’d like, observing anglers in nearby boats with their fishing methods and equipment then copying what they’re having success with can be a big help in catching a limit of fish. Their successes may really be the result of some very small differences in their methods from what you’re doing but that small difference can be the difference in success and failure.
Don’t be hard-headed like I often am and stick to fishing tackle and methods that have been successful in the past just because you hate to re-tie knots and switch lures or methods. If you’re not being as successful as you’d like to be, try something new and it may be just what the fish might be wanting that day. That tiny difference in color, retrieve rate, depth of retrieve and lure size could be more important than you realize.