Just as many of us were beginning to wonder if this was to be one of those rare “off” years with regards to the coastal fishing, the fish seem to have suddenly arrived in our coastal waters. This is just in time for the Fourth of July Holiday and a good time to take advantage of the “Free Fishing Day” that allows anyone in our state to fish for that one day without having to have a license.
Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and started in 1994, North Carolina’s annual Free Fishing Day always falls on July 4.
“The Wildlife Commission offers a free fishing day to show novice anglers how much fun fishing can be and to remind lapsed anglers how much fun they’ve been missing,” said Robert Curry, chief of the Wildlife Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries. “It’s a great opportunity for anglers of all ages and abilities to experience the incredible fishing that North Carolina has to offer.”
While a fishing license is not required for anglers 15 years and younger, anyone age 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters.
July 4 is your one chance a year to get “Hooked On Fishing” — for free! From 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m., everyone in North Carolina — resident and non-residents alike — can fish in any public body of water, from mountain trout waters to coastal waters, without purchasing a fishing license or additional trout fishing privilege.
Although no fishing license is required to fish on July 4, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds anglers that all other fishing regulations, such as size and creel limits and lure restrictions, still apply.
As if to satisfy the needs of anglers across the coastal waters of the state, the trout, flounder and red drum have begun to show up in good numbers in many of the coastal waters of the state. For a while many of us were beginning to wonder if we were going to have good fishing this summer but a week or so ago something began to show up in our coastal rivers and streams that indicated that good sport fishing might soon be to follow. The mullets began to show up all up and down the coast.
Old Timers have long said that if you wanted to find the trout, flounder or redfish, all you have to do is follow the bait. In this case the bait that they were talking about are the small “finger or corncob mullets” (4-6 inches for fingers and 6 to 10 inches for the corncobs) that the predatory fish feed on. When you start to see these smaller mullets jumping all over our coastal waters, you can bet that the trout and drum are close behind.
As if to illustrate that point, anglers like David Ward and his daughter Katlyn followed the lead of the Old Timers and went in search of live finger mullets to use for bait. Their intended goal was to catch a fine stringer of flounder and speckled trout to have for supper that night.
While David used a kayak to paddle just off the banks of South Creek, daughter Katlyn chose to cast her bait off a small jetty near her dad. Luckily Katlyn knows very well how to throw a cast net and there was a good supply of finger mullet on hand to bait their hooks. In short order dad was hooked up into a nice speckled trout and Katlyn was hooked up into a very nice flounder. By the end of their afternoon’s fishing there were more trout, flounder and several keeper-sized puppy drum in the icebox. They had a good supper that night.
Few question the effectiveness of using live bait for these predatory fish. Dead minnows can also be effective if they’re given a little movement to fool the targeted fish into thinking that the fish they’re about to eat is really alive. Live bait on a hook seem to send out distress vibrations in the water that really turns a predatory fish on and is a far more effective bait.
The tried and proven cast net is the best way to catch live bait such as finger mullets but two or more fishermen can pull a small seine and catch these live baits too.
One of the biggest tricks to keeping these freshly caught bait fish alive is to either have a minnow bucket that is left in the water so that the fresh water can circulate through the bucket and supply oxygenated water to the fish or to have a minnow tank that’s equipped with an aerator that bubbles air up through the water. Don’t over-crowd the minnows in the bucket or they’ll soon use up the dissolved oxygen in the container and literally drown under the water.
The coastal fish have arrived just in time for the Holiday!
Have a happy and safe Forth Of July.