Get Hooked

BY Skylar Walters

Everyone knows that Wrightsville Beach is the ultimate destination for a fabulous fishing vacation. Perfectly placed on the southern tip of the North Carolina coast the beaches are beautiful the weather is warm the water is wonderful and fortunately for anglers who have traveled several states or merely a few miles the fishing is excellent. Whether you choose to cast your line from a beach or a pier or a boat large or small you’ll soon be hooked on fishing in and around Wrightsville beach.

Our area rivers creeks and ocean arteries offer a wide variety of fishing experiences and an even wider variety of fish to be caught. First-timers and veterans fun-seekers and pros and families and friends of all shapes and sizes arrive in Wrightsville Beach year-round with their rods and reels at the ready. But even if they’ve mistakenly left their gear in the garage at home the Wrightsville Beach fishing community is waiting with open arms baited hooks and a tall fish tale or two to get them going. Deciding for what fish to fish is the first order of business.

If you’re aiming for pompano black drum red drum flounder bluefish croaker spots Virginia mullet and more then surf fishing may be just what the captain ordered. If you don’t have your own equipment you’ll need to invest in a rod and reel which can be purchased for $40 and up at any of our local terrific tackle shops. Talk to the tackle guys in the shop of your choice they’re colorful knowledgeable and happy to do whatever it takes to get you reeling them in. Our local tackle guys are the best in the business and a very valuable resource. Most of them are top-notch fishermen themselves with secrets to share and all of them will treat you right so you’ll be back.

Surf Fishing

If you’re going to be on the beach and fish in the surf count on purchasing a saltwater fishing license. A yearly license is $15 for residents and $30 for non-residents. Ten-day licenses are also available $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents.

With your license and gear in hand try throwing your baited rig just inside the breakers a favorite feeding ground for smaller edible pan-sized fish. A two-hook dropper rig topped with pieces of fresh-cut shrimp will provide many hours of fun fishing activity for you and the family. One word of warning: sunscreen. Don’t forget yours. Wrightsville Beach gets tons of sun not only from above but also reflected off the water. Bring a big bottle and make sure you and your kids are covered front and back.

Pier Fishing

Fishing from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier the only usable pier on Wrightsville Beach – and one of the finest and most famous piers along the southeastern seaboard – will cost you approximately $8 per rod if you bring your own. If you don’t the fishing gurus on the pier have rods and reels to rent at reasonable rates. The pier offers a blanket fishing license for its customers so if you remain on the pier you’re covered.

All of the fish available from the surf can be caught from the pier but since Johnnie Mercer’s stretches 900 feet out into the water additional species of fish are accessible and ready to target. Spanish mackerel king mackerel cobia amberjack and tarpon await your bait. Here’s a tip: though Spanish mackerel can normally be caught with the same type of rod used for surf fishing the other species cannot. King mackerel weighing upwards of 40 pounds and cobia and amberjack tipping the scales at up to 80 pounds require heavier equipment. Choose your target and talk to the pros on the pier. They’ll be happy to show you their rigging techniques and the type of tackle you’ll need to reel in the-one-you’ll-talk-about-for-a-lifetime.

Charter Fishing

Here in Wrightsville we’re famous for boats and the water to float them. Our creeks inlets and marshes are renowned the world over as top-flight fishing destinations. Add the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean to the mix and it’s no wonder that “gone fishin’” is one of our most popular Wrightsville Beach phrases. But boat fishing is a whole wide wonderful world unto itself — what with all the many different types of boats fish and places to fish — and it’s highly recommended that first-timers or seasoned pros visiting for the first time hire one of our local guides or charter boats for a “satisfaction guaranteed” experience.

On a charter boat you’ll be provided with tackle and bait the precise location of the captain’s top-secret fishing holes top-of-the-line transportation to and from and all the fish you can catch. For an additional fee the captain will sometimes provide food and beverages. Be sure to ask when making your reservations.

So many high-quality captains so many cutting-edge boats how should the new fisherman choose? Start with your favorite local tackle shop guys. Their word of mouth is as good as gold. They’ll point you straight-away to the most popular and successful guides and charters. If you’re already at the water cruise the dock and marina where the fishing boats tie up and see for yourself who’s brought home the biggest cooler full of fish.

Inshore Guides

When it comes to guided inshore fishing red drum flounder and speckled trout are some of the more commonly targeted species. But depending on the type of boat you have chartered and what the captain thinks is biting and where you may also be able to head out into the ocean and fish for Spanish mackerel king mackerel cobia tarpon amberjack and other near-shore species. Capacity is usually two to three anglers for a guided inshore charter and a full-day eight-hour trip can cost anywhere from $400-$500 and up. Figure $300-$400 for a half-day four-hour trip. The bottom-line truth is that there’s no better way to learn the area than by hiring a guide for a fun day of fishing.

Gulf Stream

Larger charter boats are equipped for ocean fishing and can target any of the ocean species mentioned above. And while the bigger boats are perfectly able to satisfy your near-shore desires it’s more common to ride them out into the Gulf Stream to target the bigger fish of your dreams. Yellowfin tuna blackfin tuna wahoo dolphin mahi mahi sailfish white marlin and blue marlin are all possible catches when you charter a boat to take you out to the Gulf Stream and its warm water eddies.

But at a distance of 55-65 miles one way these trips last longer and cost more than other types of fishing trips. Luckily these larger boats normally accommodate up to six anglers or more so the cost can be shared and everyone gets a chance to land a big one.

During the spring and summer half-day and full-day charter trips trolling for Spanish and king mackerel are common and can range in price from $400-$900. A Gulf Stream trip can last 12 hours or more and prices start around $1 100 and head up from there. If you think that’s steep you’ve never had a sailfish on the other end of your line.

Ask any fisherman new or old large or small surf or pier near-shore or Gulf Stream and you’ll hear the indisputable truth: fishing is fun. So grab your gear and cast your line in and around Wrightsville Beach where the sun is shining the surf is up and the fish are always biting. Whether it’s you and the gang or you and the family or even just you there’s simply no better way to enjoy your vacation than by fishing the day away at Wrightsville Beach. Come on get hooked!

My Most Memorable Day

By Jackson David

ZZZZZZZZ! That is the sound of a fish pulling the line off the reel of my fishing rod. Hearing that sound always makes me turn around just like I have been smacked in the face. That sound makes my heart race and my hands start to sweat even in the coldest weather. So if you like the sound of peeling line and the feel of rushing salt air in your face then my most vivid memory will be a story that you just have to read.

On chilly fall Saturday mornings there is nothing better than waking up before daylight and going fishing with my dad for large king mackerel in the glassy ocean. On days like that I wish that I could stay on the ocean forever and ever.

When the triple motors crank on our boat it seems like the earth falls silent. As the big engines shift into reverse they slowly pull the long blue missile-like Yellowfin boat into the cold morning. The quiet soothing sound of the big black Verado Mercury motors with the beautiful red and gold pinstripe that runs down the back side of the engines causes my mind to drift across the face of the water as we speed toward our hot fishing spot for the day.

As we fly down the shore at an amazing 62 miles per hour I somehow manage to wrench my head around enough to ask my dad where we are going to stop to catch bait. He looks back at me and in a deep raspy voice he replies “In just a moment.” We suddenly slide to a halt as my dad launches himself toward the front of the boat to cast the bait net. He instructs me to grab the wheel and keep us steady. I obey his command and run to the wheel and shift into reverse as I try to hold us steady on a school of bait fish. My dad quickly gathers the net up and prepares to throw. He hurls the net over the side and I look over the side to see the net floating to the top of the water full of picture perfect bait.

My dad and I bring the bait into the boat and transfer them to the live well to keep them fresh and active until we get to our first fishing spot. Before I can collect my thoughts and get to my seat my dad has shifted into gear and we are off again to fish in the Wrightsville Beach King Mackerel Tournament.

Fishing tournaments with my dad are the one place that I would rather be than any other place on earth. As usual we work as a team – my dad me and several of our friends. Everything is going so perfect that it seems to be a dream a dream that I never want to wake up from.

Suddenly the sound that I love peels in my ears. We all jump in the direction of the noise knowing exactly what it means — a huge smoker king mackerel is on and now comes the delicate precision-like job of bringing him to the boat without cutting the line with his razor sharp teeth or having a shark or barracuda cut into him first.

My dad is the best at reeling the fish in but we all know our jobs. I drive the boat. My dad reels in the fish. One of our friends has the gaff which hooks the fish in the side to bring him in the boat. Another reels in the other lines to make sure that nothing gets in the way.

We all hold our breath as we struggle with this massive fish for what seems like an eternity. Finally we see him — he is real — he is huge — and he is a winner! As he comes into the boat we all sigh with relief but now we have to get him back to the dock for the weigh-in.

As I hop off the boat onto the dock in glorious triumph holding the beastly fish in the cold clutches of my hand I arrive at the weigh-in table and sigh in relief after what seems to be an eternity of a walk.

The table shakes under the weight of the fish. The officials take the fish from me and then there is complete silence as they carry the massive fish to the scales. I stare at the scale until numbers start to appear on the dark cold board. I am shaking but I can’t remember being cold just waiting for the numbers to stop on one weight. Suddenly everything stops and the booming voice over the loud-speaker announces “Reel Justice has caught a fish weighing 34.07 pounds putting them in first place.”

I have always prided myself in being a fast runner but just then my feet will not move fast enough as I race back to our waiting boat and my dad. My dad can’t hear me over the roaring engines of other boats as they pull in and out of the weigh-in area and even if he can hear me my voice is gone in shock and excitement and I can only hold up a single finger to announce the news. No one on the boat can believe that it is true not even me but it is. We have won! We have won our first tournament!

I can still close my eyes even today and remember that feeling just like it was yesterday. Winning the Wrightsville Beach King Mackerel Tournament with my dad will always be the most memorable day in my life.

Hook license & sinker

As of January 1 a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) is required for recreational fishing in North Carolina’s coastal waters.

The license is required for everyone over the age of 16 fishing in the state’s sounds coastal rivers and tributaries – out to three miles offshore. It is similar to a license currently required for recreational fishing in the state’s inland waters.

The licensing process will be a source of data on marine fisheries and will provide revenue for conserving and enhancing the state’s marine resources explained Division of Marine Fisheries director Pres Pate. The funds will be dispersed through a grant process in four main areas: habitat protection public access resource enhancement and public information.

In the past information on recreational fishing has been collected through telephone surveys an inexact science. “The recreational fishing license will help the state obtain data on what is being taken in the different fisheries recreationally ” said Marine Fisheries Commission administrative assistant Kent Cudney. “The state is able to obtain data on fish taken through commercial fishing but has no way to collect data on recreational fishing. The license requirement will help fill that gap.”

Licenses can be purchased through the Wildlife Resources Commission or the Division of Marine Fisheries at an annual cost of $15 for N.C. residents and $30 for out-of-state visitors. Lifetime and 10-day licenses are also available.

The license requirement just like size limits is a means of conserving a finite resource explained an employee at Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier. He also said that the change is one that has been needed for some time given the increase in the area’s population in the last 20 years.

In 2005 North Carolina had more than 2 million recreational anglers fishing from coastal waters and was ranked third in the nation for the amount of recreationally harvested fish according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

In Wrightsville Beach the license will be required for surf fishing and fishing in the channels and waterways. Fishing piers such as Johnnie Mercer’s as well as for-hire fishing vessels will be able to purchase blanket licenses to cover their patrons. — Jules Norwood