Types of Fish

Spot

Spot is one of the most popular types of fish to catch along the coast, namely because anglers can reel them in all year long. Though they are most common in the late summer and early fall, pier fishermen have been known to land spot throughout the fishing season. Named for the distinctive "spot" located above the base of the fin, these fish are typically between 6"-10", though in the fall, a larger version called the Yellow Belly, which weighs up to a pound, can be found.

Spots usually travel in schools, so if a fisherman catches one spot, (or, more often than not, multiple spots the same line), it won't be long before lots of spots are being reeled in from the same school. To catch one (or more), try using a two hook bottom rig, with hooks ranging from a size 6 to a size 2, due to the spots' small mouths. For bait, bloodworms tend to work best, and only a small portion is needed.

Sea Mullet

Sea mullet are common in Coastal North Carolina, and can be found in all sorts of saltwater environments, from the sound, to saltwater canals, to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea mullet swarm in shallow areas, and are very easy to catch while pier or surf fishing. You may also hear them called by their other names, kingfish or whiting. The weight of the fish can vary from .75 to 11.5 pounds. Sea mullets make an appearance in early spring, and stick around for the remainder of the fishing season. Because they feed of the material on the sandy bottom, good way to lure them is to sift through the muddy water, which separates and lifts up the food at the bottom.

Bloodworms work best as bait, although sea mullet can be caught off of shrimp and cut bait as well. Use a two hook bottom rig, with a medium weight rod and reel for your best chances of landing them.

Croaker

Another fish that can be caught during the entire fishing season is the croaker, also called a hardhead. Like the Sea Mullet, the croacker is also a bottom feeder, typically utilizing the small shellfish that crawl along the bottom as their main source of sustenance. Weighing between .5 and 11.5 pounds, croakers start showing up in the spring when the water starts to slowly warm up.

You can use a variety of bait to catch a croaker, and because croakers swim in schools, it's easy to catch multiple croakers at one - sometimes with two or more on the same rig. You can also scoop them up in a fishing net off of a boat. It is recommended that you use #1 or #1/0 hooks attached to a two hook bottom rig, and medium weight tackle works well to catch them as it's the best type of tackle to use for any bottom feeding species of fish.

Flounder

One of the tastiest catches, the flounder, makes its appearance in the cooler fall months of October and November. The flounder weighs between 1 and 3 pounds, and hides itself in the sandy bottom of the ocean floor, where it feeds on any attractive food that might float by. The best way to catch a flounder is to very slowly drag your bait across the ocean floor, in hopes that the flounder recognizes the bait as food. The flounder will then start to nibble and it's important to wait until tis eaten the bulk of the bait before setting your hook to ensure a catch.

A rig for catching flounder has a long shank hook that varies in size, and can range from #2 to 3/0. It's recommended to place a torpedo float ahead of the hook, with a light sinker on the rod to feel the initial bite of the flounder when it discovers the bait. As for the bait itself, you can use minnows, squid, mullet, shark, and even the white belly section of a flounder to catch one.

Gray Trout

Like a number of North Carolina's most popular species, gray trout are common throughout the fishing season. The best time to catch them, however, is in the late spring when the water temperatures begin to increase. Many fishermen refer to this species as a "weakfish" because of their delicate mouths - a hook can easily tear through the mouth of a gray trout, and as such, many fishermen find that a small net is the best way to catch them. Gray trout typically weigh just between 1 and 3 pounds, but trout as large as 10 pounds have been caught off the coast of North Carolina.

The best way to catch gray trout is with two hook bottom rigs, with squid or shrimp as bait attached. Many fishermen find that they have the best luck when they are boat fishing, as casting a lure out into the ocean can result in a lot of grey trout. Using a lantern to place near the water's surface is a handy trick as well, as the fish are drawn to light. In terms of lures, a pink and white Sting Ray stub seems to work well.

Most fishermen use two hook bottom rigs to catch the trout. Usually shrimp or squid are attached to these types of hooks.

Speckled Trout

The speckled trout, also commonly referred to as the spotted weakfish or spotted trout, is widely considered one of the best tasting and most attractive fish caught along the North Carolina Coast. The speckled trout can be best caught while fishing from a boat, during the fall months, especially October. The trout usually weighs just between 1 and 2 pounds. Many fishermen like to use leadhead lures with plastic tails, and try to catch them just as the tides are changing, and the ocean water is nice and clear. Early birds have the best luck, and fishermen who go out in the morning have the best chance at reeling one in.

Pompano

The Florida Pompano shows up along North Carolina in the late summer, a welcome arrival as the pompano is considered a very tasty catch. Ranging between 1 and 2.5 pounds, they can best be caught by surf fishermen, or pier fishermen who stick to the waters close to the shore. The feed on small crustaceans called sand fleas, which are common in the wet sand along the beach, and fishermen usually collect and use sand fleas as bait on shiny golden hooks that are between #4 and 1/0, on a two-hook bottom rig.

A simple walk to the beach with a fishing rod may result in a successful pompano catch, since these fish like to stay close to the beach, and sand fleas can be caught in the summer and fall by digging into the sand at the ocean wash.

Spanish Mackerel

The Spanish Mackerel is a distinctive fish with golden and rusty spots that can be found along the coast from June until late October, and typically weighs in at about 2 pounds or so.

Clear ocean water presents the best conditions for landing mackerel, and these species usually travel in schools as they search for and munch on minnows and small silversides. They have excellent vision, and will pursue and attack these shiny fish with gusto. Because of this, a fisherman has the best luck with a small shiny lure to attract the mackerels' attention.

Bluefish

The bluefish is a popular species for fishermen, mainly because their extreme aggression makes them a challenging catch. Caution should be used when handling the bluefish, as their mouths are filled with tiny, but razor sharp teeth. There are actually three categories of this fish, which varies by size. Smaller bluefish, at a pound or less, are called Smaller blues. Bluefish that weigh in between 1 and 3 pounds are called Tailor blues, and the largest species, the Big Blues, can weigh anywhere from 8 to a whopping 20 pounds. These fish create a frenzy for bluefish anglers, and they usually show up for a brief period during April and / or May.

Fishermen can use a wide variety of bait for bluefish, depending on the size. For the smaller Snapper Blues and Tailor Blues, artificial bait can work nicely, and when the Big Blues arrive, freshly cut mullet tends to reel them in.

Striped Bass

The Striped bass is making a comeback, and is appearing more and more frequently along coastal Carolina waters, thanks in part to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries regulations. The population has swelled, and anglers couldn't be happier.

The striped bass is a tasty fish that migrates along the North Carolina coast during the Spring and Fall, and can sometimes even be spotted in the wintertime. The big striped bass start to show up in large numbers when the temperatures start to drop, in late fall or early winter. The smaller varieties reach 18 inches long and can weigh in at 4 pounds, and the older ones can clock in at 15 pounds and 32 inches long.

For bait, live eels are a popular option to reel in these large and popular fish.

Red Drum

Red Drum are one of the most popular catches in North Carolina, and it's easy to see why. Reeling in a drum can be a thrilling experience for any angler, as while a puppy drum may clock in at around 10 pounds, the larger varieties can weigh between 30 and 60 pounds.

Big drum can also be reeled in from the shore, and are spotted along the beach during the early spring months of April or May. Many anglers love to visit the waters surrounding the Outer Banks, especially Hatteras Island, as many record catches have been recorded in these areas.

To find a good spot, Fishermen typically look for "sloughs," or holes in the sand. These are areas where drum look for fish and shellfish to feed on. The best time of day to fish for drum is during the early evening after the holes have been located in the daylight.

You will need to use heavy duty tackle when fishing for drum. A 9 to 11 foot rod is needed to cast several ounces of lead and bait. Anglers also should use large spinning reels to catch the fish. Fresh cut mullet steaks make excellent bait for red drum, as the drum is attracted by the smell of blood.

King Mackerel

King mackerel can usually be caught by offshore fishermen in the peak fall season of late September and October. They typically weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, but king mackerel as large as 40 pounds have been reported.

You will most likely need to rods to catch a king mackerel. One has a sinker that is needed to hold the bait rig in the fishing area, and the second rod has live bait, like fresh small spot, attached.

Cobia

Dirng the summer months, anglers up and down the North Carolina coast can reel in Cobia. Weighing at an average of 30 pounds, lucky fishermen consider cobia a prize catch, as a cobia can reach as large as 40 or even 60 pounds.

To catch one, try using a rig with live bait attacheded, or throw a jogging lure to a cobia that has been spotted in the water. Large reels will be needed due to both the size, and the fact that cobia tend to fight as they are being pulled in.

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