Wanna step outside? The bull red fishery is upon us

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2023

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By Dan Kibler

The recent success of a local fisherman at the coast reminded me on Monday that we’re approaching the peak months of one of the most exciting fisheries in North Carolina: big drum in the Neuse River.

An old hunting buddy was fishing for tarpon with a guide out of Oriental the other day, and they stopped on a spot to catch some slot-sized reds on the way back to port. On about the third cast with a standard medium-action spinning rod, my buddy hooked a monster.

The big red almost spooled his 3000 class spinning reel twice, and finally, after two hours, the guide was slipping the huge fish’s head into the landing net, grabbing its tail and lifting it into the boat. The fish was 49 inches long — which usually indicates about a 50-pound bull red. It was quickly revived and released.

North Carolina probably has no better fishery, salt or fresh, than the catch-and-release fishery for giant reds in August and September near the mouth of the Neuse and across the Pamlico Sound. Big fish are moving back into their spawning areas, where they will remain for several months before the water cools and they make their way back to the ocean through North Carolina’s many inlets. That’s when the surf fishermen who line Buxton’s Cape Point do battle with big reds on huge, heavy surf rods.

Most bull reds will be caught this month and next, especially around the full moons, by anglers fishing live or cut bait on the bottom around shoals and sandbars in the sound and river after dark, but some will be caught on heavier tackle under big popping-cork rigs using soft-plastic artificials. Since fish longer than 27 inches can’t be kept, anglers fishing in the Pamlico are required to use a single, barbless circle hook on a short leader. An Owen Lupton rig is required when fishing in the Pamlico Sound with a hook larger than 4/0 between July 1 and Sept. 30, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The short leader is tied to a barrel swivel, and a big egg sinker is threaded onto the running line above the swivel. That allows the baitfish to move a bit – or the chunk of cut bait to sway in the water, putting off scent. The big drum generally picks the bait up, and the circle hook usually catches the red in the corner of the mouth, making him easier to handle during the fight and easier to release in good shape when the fight’s over.

State offers novice hunters instructional webinars

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has put a lot of emphasis over the past 10 or so years on recruiting new sportsmen to hunting and fishing.

But the Commission doesn’t stop when they sell you a license. Staff members also want you to do things correctly, and to that end, the Commission is offering six free hunting-related webinars this fall to help individuals who have never hunted, are new to hunting or lack social support for hunting.

Preregistration is required through GoOutdoorsNorthCarolina.com for these webinars:

  • Sept 5 – Deer hunting
  • Sept. 7 – Deer processing
  • Sept. 19 – Squirrel hunting
  • Sept. 26 – Ducks Unlimited/waterfowl hunting
  • Oct. 10 – Delta Waterfowl/waterfowl hunting
  • Dec. 8 – Upland game hunting

All webinars will be held from 7-8 p.m. and will conclude with a 30-minute question and answer session. When you preregister, you will be sent an email containing information on how to join the webinar.

“The webinars are intended to assist both novice and experienced hunters alike,” said Walter “Deet” James, a Commission biologist. “They are especially valuable for those who may not have access to an existing hunting community of family members or friends.”

A recording of each presentation will be available the week after each webinar on WRC’s YouTube channel.