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Important Crystal Coast GPS (N latitude/W longitude)


BIG ROCK: (34 09.94/76 10.79, 34 18.31/76 11.05, 34 10.62/76 08.40) It is located 39 mi.  SE of Beaufort Inlet at a heading of 161 degrees.  Less crowded is the Swansboro Hole 16 mi.  SW of the Big Rock (34 00.461/76 16.085)

The Rise: N 34 00 80        W 076 22 72

The 90-ft. drop area is located about 34 miles SE of Beaufort Inlet between the 14-Buoy (WR 14) and the Big Rock.  It is a 3-tier drop where the bottom drops from 90ft to 180 ft in the space of a few miles.  Warm water eddies from the gulf stream are directed into this area after being deflected from the Big Rock and because of this, plus the underwater ledges, this can be a productive fishing area at times for all sorts of game fish.  This area is marked on most charts of the area and Loran numbers are 27007.2/39572.4 and GPS numbers are 34 12.65/76 15.27.

Other offshore locations out of Beaufort Inlet: Certainly, the West Rock is approx. 22 miles out of Beaufort Inlet on a heading 180 degrees at loran 27072.1/39521.5 and GPS 34 17.86/76 35.06. This is in the general area of the 240 rock, 210 rock, and AR 305.  The West Rock is listed on all of the charts for the area and is really productive for kings, dolphin later in the summer, and bottom fishing year round.  It has been the experience that the West Rock sees less traffic than some of the surrounding reefs which is fine since this reef is as productive as any in the area and you don’t have to a lot of boat traffic.

Other inshore locations out of Beaufort Inlet: Dead Tree Hole (34 39.24/76 38.06), 1.5 miles South of Shackleford Banks, 3-mi. East of Beaufort Inlet.  Barge, North of the Trawler Buoy off of Cape Lookout.  Dump Site Buoy, just West of the old sea buoy at Beaufort Inlet.  This is marked with a yellow marker.  AR 315, 320 etc.  Check the NC-DMF site for info on location and structure of these AR’s. ( ) AR 315 is great for deep jigging for Spanish and grays and live minnows for flounder.

Out of Bogue Inlet 45 min. Rock, Keypost Rocks, AR 340, 342, 345 are productive. Keypost Rocks KP1: 34 38.18/77 01.90, KP2 34 37.75/77 01.76. SE Bottoms: Head S/E out of Bogue Inlet for 10 miles and you will be on SEB, they extend out another 2 miles. GPS-34 30.357/76 59.972. It is just over from Charley “C”, buoy.


AR315 – BUOY (ATLANTIC BEACH)  48′         N 34 40.200         W 76 44.400

AR320 – BUOY (CLIFTON MOSS)     48′         N 34 39.320      W 76 48.250

Dead Tree Hole Area (off Shackleford Banks) N 34 38.748     W 76 35.559

Bogue Inlet Sea Buoy N 34 37.596 W 77 06.124

30 min rock: 34 32.69, 76 24.09, 45 min rock: 34 33.06, 77 03.31

Honey Hole/Sponge Rock 34 26.300, 77 01.300

Christmas Rock: 34 24.00, 77 08.78

Diver’s Rock: 34 29.42, 77 16.37

45-Minute Rock:     N 34 33.06           W 77 03.31

Bear Inlet Rock:     N 34 35.14  W 77 08.71

East Rock (Bogue):          N 34 35.33           W 76 56.75

Honey Hole/Sponge Rock:     N 34 26.30           W 77 01.30

Honeymoon Rock:   N 34 27.65           W 77 08.78

Keypost Rock: KP1: N 34 38.18   W77 01.90, KP2:  N 34 37.75   W 77 01.76

Lost Rock:            N 34 32.00           W 77 06.06

Southeast Bottoms:        SEB1:     N 34 29.42   W 77 01.62, SEB2: N 34 30.10   W76 59.74, SEB3: N 34 29.18   W76 58.34

Station Rock:  N 34 35.27               W 77 04.11

AR 330 N 34 33.380         W 76 51.160

AR342   N 34 36.320         W 77 02.110

AR340                   N 34 34.210         W 76 58.180

AR345   N 34 32.180         W 76 58.280

AR350   N 34 29.900         W 77 21.300

AR355   N 34 21.110         W 77 20.000

Jerry’s Reef        N 34 28.970         W 76 53.190

Rock South of 13              N 34 28.510         W 76 54.260



Alphabet Buoys out of Bogue Inlet

A- Buoy                N 34 36.348                        W 077 05.508           46 ft.

B- Buoy                N 34 35.467                        W 077 01.590            49 ft.

C- Buoy                N 34 30.056                        W 077 02.086            60 ft.

D- Buoy                N 34 25.538                        W 077 05.737             70 ft.

E- Buoy                 N 34 22.601                       W 077 10.951              68 ft.

F- Buoy                 N 34 21.930                       W 077 17.515              60 ft.

G- Buoy                N 34 23.656                       W 077 23.645               51 ft.

H- Buoy                N 34 27.938                       W 077 21.164               44 ft.



D Wreck-34 36.37/76 18.88

Summerlin Reef (AR 285 buoy)-34 33.37/76 26.24

30 Min Rock-34 32.69/76 24.09

East Rock (Beaufort)-34 30.61/76 21.38

1700 Rock-34 33.34/76 20.12


Liberty Ship/Tug Boat/AR364 (Wrightsville Beach) 34 14.80, 77 42.95


Wreck Name                      Latitude               Longitude

Caribe Sea                           34 35.580             76 18.050

Hutton                                  34 39.461             76 48.434

Suloide                 34 32.694             76 53.729

Sub (U-352)                        34 13.655             76 33.893

Atlas Tanker                       34 31.685             76 14.457

LST Indra                              34 33.753             76 51.091

*Buoy 7(Home)                34 40.599             76 40.236

Aeolus                                  34 16.695             76 38.576

**Liberty Ship                   34 40.200             76 44.410

Amagansett                       34 32.218             76 14.866

Fenwick Isle                       34 26.240             76 29.410

Naeco                                   34 01.530             76 38.900

Schurtz                 34 11.268             76 36.121

Hardee                                 34 18.510             76 24.130

Papoose                              34 08.670             76 39.120

*Home Buoy can be safely reached from anywhere on the west side

**May not be correct

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for March 2016

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 54-degrees to a low of 44-degrees with an average of 49.9-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a high of 60-degrees and a low of 35-degrees with an average of 49.6-degrees (red squares). Last Feb. average for the surf was 45.3, sound 42.0. Much more moderate this year.

Fullscreen capture 432016 113310 AM.bmp

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Braided line, why, how and trouble free usage! by Dr. Bogus


  • What are super-braid fishing lines?
    1. Remember the original braided fishing line? Dacron polyester by DuPont.
    2. Today’s gel-spun polyethylene fibers make up the NEW braided fishing lines
      1. Fireline, PowerPro, Tuf Line, Sufix etc.
      2. Not for casual user, took me 2-years to get comfortable with use and knots.
  • Alternatives, low stretch mono lines-coated/copolymers/fluorocarbon
  1. Advantages (why?)
    1. Smaller diameter for equivalent strength of mono lines
      • 30/12, 20/6, 15/4, 10/2, 8/1 (250/80)
      • Use of smaller lighter reels with same line capacity (extra line capacity)
      • Less water resistance, less weight needed for getting line to bottom or trolling
      • Better casting distance
      • Little or no line memory, good for cold weather use
      • Extra strength and abrasion resistance Easier to pull fish away from pilings etc.
    2. Little or no line stretch (vs. rubber band stretch of mono lines)
      • 0 to 5% vs. 15 to 25% (20 feet/100 feet of line!)
      • Sensitivity, feel hat fish is doing, feel light hits (e.g. winter trout bump)
        • Original instant messaging (IM) system!
      • Quick hook sets (line moves the same distance as your rod tip)
        • Feel faster, hook faster, equals more hookups
  1. Disadvantages (why not?) WIND KNOTS are a MYTH…OPERATOR ERROR!
    1. Slippery: need backing on reels or will slip, knots may slip (two-sided tape)
      • Palomar, uni; Albright (20 turn), surgeon’s (four turns), uni to uni knot
    2. Soft, limp and thin: wind loops/knotting, wrapping of guides, hard to untangle knots and backlashes and snarls (hard to “pick” out tangle). Some are coated or fused.
      • Fuji guide design helps minimize looping/wind knots
  • Cutting, line is difficult, need special scissors, also I burn off end to a bead, to stop fraying
  1. Will cut through mono lines of neighboring anglers and your fingers too!
  2. May slip through eyes, split rings, snaps and other small gaps
  1. Tips
    1. Careful to not overmatch your rod with higher strength line that rated (breaks)
      • Lighten drag to compensate for non-stretch (set to mono you would have used)
      • Use gentler hook-set, gentle sweep or wrist snap, don’t try to set hook and land fish in one motion!!
      • If hung-up, pull from spool to pull free or break off, NOT your rod or hands
    2. Under fill spool (minimize snarls from loose line/coils, good for mono too)
  • Close bail manually to eliminate loose coils and place line in bail roller
    • Raise rod tip to tighten line and remove loops.
    • Look for loose coils and cast and rewind tightly periodically through finger tips
    • If loop gets caught under line, pull line through roller do not open the bail and pull off of the top!!! Don’t cast to get rid of the loop or it will make a mess.
    • If you still get a know (you didn’t do what I said), but rub some ChapStick on the knot and it will be easier to get out.
  1. Use mono or fluorocarbon leader, braided lines are very visible (red braid???)
  2. 20-pound test braid will tangle less than 10-pound test

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The lore and names behind the Rocks of the Crystal Coast,

By Dr. Bogus and many thanks to Capt. Lee Manning.

There’s an old adage good fishing and structure go hand-in-hand. Food and shelter beget little fish, which beget bigger fish and so on to the biggest of fish. This goes for freshwater, saltwater, inshore, offshore and any shore you want to mention. North Carolina, appropriately known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, is awash in structure with wrecks, reefs and rocks that dot our coast from north to south. The central Crystal Coast region of the Old North State is particularly notable due to the proximity of natural near shore rocks and reefs readily accessible to the weekend small boater. Near shore rocks like Lost Rock, Christmas Rock and Honeymoon Rock are local fish havens and popular and productive fishing locations, but did you ever wonder how they got their names? I certainly have!

To demystify this lore of the sea, I consulted Capt. Lee Manning; a former schoolteacher turned charter captain over 30 years ago. Capt. Manning currently operates the Nancy Lee Fishing Center in Swansboro and his experience not only holds the key to finding fish, but a long resident of the area, he has absorbed much of the local lore of the rocks and reefs as well.

Highlighting the accessibility of these fishing structures, Manning said, “Well, we’re fortunate, out of Bogue Inlet that we have a lot of rocks that are close to our inlet, probably more than most areas around here. We have probably six or seven that are within four, five, or six-miles of the inlet and most of them are rocky bottom and most of them have coral on them.”

When asked how close is close, Manning said “The closest rocks are probably Station Rock and Keypost within just two or three-miles from the Bogue Inlet. Super fishing, all kinds of fish like flounder, sea bass and a little bit of everything and of course in the spring and fall we have the king mackerel that come in along with other fish along the shoreline too.”

As fisherman, we’re always interested in what the bottom really looks like. In response, Manning said that “I’m not a diver, so I have my own imagination. I imagine what it looks like. Over the years, we catch pieces and it looks like rock. Some of it looks like shell rock, like it’s cemented together, when you pull it up, some is coral. Most all the ledges drop of five, six maybe seven-feet, at different points of the rock areas.”

So how did some of these rocks get their names? “First of all, Station Rock,” said Manning, “got its name years ago before we had the Lorans and GPSs and all the sophisticated equipment. You would use the Swansboro Coast Guard Station; it had a tower on it, a lookout tower. You lined the tower up with the Swansboro water tower and you go straight out. With your “paper machine” which we had then, you would mark the bottom, plus you could use the line up with Bogue Pier and one of the houses on the beach (there was not so many houses on the beach back at that time), and you could find Station Rock real easy. So it was named because of the station lookout on the Coast Guard Station.” Sure makes sense.

Speaking of making sense, how about 45-Minute Rock? “Forty five-Minute Rock”, said Manning, “ of course back years ago most of the boats that went out, with the speeds they ran, it took about 45-minutes to get there. They timed it and they would check the bottom with either wax or pitch from pine tree resin on a drop line and check the bottom and find it where it was shelly or bring up little pieces of rock on it, and of course they would start fishing in that area.”

Not all the names of the rocks are agreed upon by all. For example, “the Honey Hole and Sponge Rock,” said Manning, “are really the same rock.” “Over the years, it’s kind of changed. We always called it the Honey Hole. It’s the first section you get to when you go past 45-Minute Rock in a southerly direction. The divers started diving on it and found lots of sponge around the area and they started calling it Sponge Rock, and now the Honey Hole seems like it’s moved a little to the next set of rocks, and people started calling that the Honey Hole. But, Honey Hole and Sponge Rock were the same rock in the beginning,” said Manning.

“Farther out is the South East Bottoms, but it is the same thing,” said Manning, “it’s generally the first set of rocks to the southeast after you leave 45-Minute Rock.” When asked about the area, Manning responded, “Southeast Bottoms is a big area, a real big area with a lot of rocks, just to the east, southeast of Charlie (“C”) Buoy.” When asked about the fishing the bottoms, Manning smiled and said, “In the summertime you have all kinds of fish there. You have sailfish, dolphin (mahi), there’s even been wahoo caught out there. There is some of everything caught out in that area. It’s really a super good area and a super good king mackerel area too.” And it’s less than ten-miles out of Bogue Inlet, just set a southeasterly course.

With the rock locations well known, most people make the mistake to fish right on top of them, but as Manning was quick to point out, “Most of the rocks, if you go around them and fish them a lot, you’ll find little outcroppings all around the area in any direction and over the years, as I fish more, I fish were the ledges play out and the bottoms play out and the fish seem to congregate there more than the main part of the rocks. Maybe it’s because everybody fishes on the main part of the rock and the fish have moved out around the edges.”

Since it’s presumed that the rock locations were well know, how did Lost Rock get its name? “Well,” said Manning, “Lost Rock, is a rock that the biggest part of the rock runs perpendicular to the shore and was always very, very hard to find. You could be real close to it but ride right by it, and it was located in such a place that it was hard to look at the shoreline and find line-ups. We would fish on it once or twice a year when we would happen to stumble across it. And of course, once we got the Lorans and GPSs we finally got numbers on it, it wasn’t lost anymore. But we called it Lost Rock, because we couldn’t ever find it.”

One of the best close-in fishing rocks is Keypost, which is found directly out from the end of Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle. Describing the Keypost manning said, “It is really a long rock. They call it Inner Keypost, Outer Keypost, there’s a middle part of it too, and it’s a real long rock that probably runs a mile, mile and a half, maybe two miles offshore. We caught flounder on all the Keypost Rocks this past summer, sometimes as many as 30 flounder a day fishing there, and the biggest one was over 7-pounds.”

But to unearth the name, you’ll have to go all the way back to World War II (WWII) when our coast was threatened by German U-boats. “Back there in WWII,” said Manning, “the people that were watching the shoreline walked down the beach, and there was a post down there with a key in it and a lock box and they had to go down when they walked the beach, they had to unlock it and had to initial the card that was in there and lock it back up to verify that they had made the trip down the beach. That was the “keypost” and out from there was the Keypost Rock!”

Some of the rocks have a bit of a personal touch in the name. “Right down the beach, past the Keypost is Tom Smith’s Rock,” said Manning. “Tom Smith was a shrimper years ago and he stayed tangled up in the rocks all the time with his net, so they called it Tom Smith’s Rock.” Definitely a local joke.

“There are some other rocks, said Manning, “like East Rock, which is just the direction we have to go out of Bogue Inlet to get to it.”

With Valentine’s Day recently passed, with all the romance, there is one name that comes up, Honeymoon Rock. Yes it’s what you might guess,” said Manning, “Honeymoon Rock came from…well, one of our captains, many years ago got married and that’s where he spent his honeymoon. He took the boat out with his new wife, anchored up…and that was Honeymoon Rock.” One wonders if there is a Divorce Rock too!

As we can see, some of the rocks are named by direction, location, landmarks and even tongue and cheek after “notable” fisherman, others from use. That includes Christmas Rock, but it may not be what you might think. “Christmas Rock, “ said Manning, “you have to go back years ago. The boys out of Sneads Ferry, when it would start getting to Christmastime, they needed money for Christmas, they went out with their fish pots and catch some sea bass and sell them. There caught lots of sea bass out there, and they always called it Christmas Rock.” And now it’s on the charts and we all know it as Christmas Rock.

Another set of rocks just out of Bear Inlet is the Bear Inlet Rocks. No mystery what they were named for, but there are actually two sets of rocks. “There inshore Bear Inlet Rock, and there’s the offshore Bear Inlet Rock,” Manning pointed out, “and both of those rock areas are very, very good. Inshore Bear Inlet has a lot more rough bottom and there is one place with pretty steep ledges. The offshore Bear Inlet Rock has a really good ledge that runs right through the middle of it and is easy to find. Both areas are really good fishing.”

There are not only rocks out there that hold and sustain our local fishery, but the marked and maintained artificial reefs and the to numerous wrecks too. However, Manning mainly sticks to fishing the rocks. Why? Manning was emphatic and noted that, “I very seldom fish the wrecks unless I’m trolling because so many people know where the wrecks are and they troll on them. Usually the wrecks hold barracuda and so you catch lots of half-a-fish! “Mainly the divers like to go there and recreational folks go there,” he said. “There are so other many placers that I can go, but if I’m going by there I’ll troll across it,” said Manning.

Now that we have demystified some of the history and lore of some of your favorite nearshore fishing rocks of the Crystal Coast, and with spring fast approaching, can a great season of fishing be far behind? After the trials and tribulations of last season, I certainly hope that 2004 is a good one. Then there is the BIG ROCK! You’ve heard of it, it’s a ROCK and it’s very BIG, enough said.

   1)  45-Minute Rock: N 34 33.06      W 77 03.31
2)  Bear Inlet Rock: N 34 35.14      W 77 08.71
3) Christmas Rock: N 34 23.54     W 77 09.52
4)  East Rock (Bogue): N 34 35.33      W 76 56.75
5)  Honey Hole/Sponge Rock: N 34 26.30      W 77 01.30
6)  Honeymoon Rock: N 34 27.65      W 77 08.78
7)  Keypost Rock: KP1: N 34 38.18   W77 01.90, KP2: N 34 37.75   W 77 01.76
8)  Lost Rock: N 34 32.00      W 77 06.06
9) Southeast Bottoms: SEB1: N 34 29.42   W 77 01.62, SEB2: N 34 30.10   W76 59.74, SEB3: N 34 29.18   W76 58.34
10) Station Rock: N 34 35.27 W 77 04.11     


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Alphabet Soup; Fishing by the Letters by Dr. Bogus

National security, the sounds of freedom Camp Lejeune, the Marines, and the “alphabet buoys”, what do they all have in common? The so-called alphabet buoys in Onslow Bay off the shores of Camp Lejeune run along an arc sector roughly from outside of Bogue Inlet to New River Inlet on a radius of approximately 12-miles. They provide a demarcation danger zone that subtends the military restricted area between Bear and Brown’s Inlets. Specifically they designate the Camp Lejeune firing range, an area that is restricted when live firing exercises are conducted or when the military requires access to that part of the ocean for carrying out maneuvers. Locally, we refer to the firing range maneuvers as the “sounds of freedom”, which has taken on even more significance since the tragedy of “9-11”. But then the question is what does all this have to do with fishing?

Well, as Capt. Bob Townsend (Sea Dancer, Swansboro) was quick to point out, “I think they’ve been here for about 12 years,” remarked Townsend, “and the thing is the presence of the buoy, the anchor chain and the adjoining weight that holds the buoy there. They attract the small fish, and of course the larger baitfish get there and the predators come after that.”

So basically we got ourselves attractors, and a food chain is established, in fact a stable food chain for each of the buoys “A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H” and an abundance of bait fishes.

How abundant? “Normally we could find cigar minnows, greenies, Spanish sardines, and chub mackerel there,” said Townsend, “in addition obviously to your pinfish and small black bass and that kind of thing too.”

With the great variety of baits available, everyone has their own favorites. When asked, Townsend said, “For me, the primo bait for king mackerel and most striking fish is what I call a chub mackerel. It’s a Boston mackerel, probably seven to eight inches long, and it’s very lively and pulls real well, it doesn’t weaken as bad as the cigar minnows do.”

For many others including Capt. Shane Brafford (Second to None, Swansboro), the cigar minnow is top of the bait food chain. Why? There are lots of cigar minnows out there,” said Brafford, “and they’re good for just about anything you want to catch.”

If you motor over the Charley Buoy for example and turn on your sounder, what you’ll often see is massive balls of bait, sometimes on the surface often somewhere there and the bottom, which for Charlie Buoy is around 60-feet give or take a few lumps and bumps. But seeing all those potential bait doesn’t make it your bait, it’s the Sabiki or bait catcher rigs that make them bait, a string of maybe six or so tiny gold, laser sharp hooks that are jigged up and down just looking for bait to bite! Typical gear for using the Sabiki rig is simple, as Brafford pointed out, “I use real light line spinning tackle, said Brafford, “that is eight to ten-pound test (line) so if I have to break it off I can do it without ruining a whole bunch and I have a heavy egg sinker on the bottom which I paint them black.” Why I asked? “Otherwise they get eaten off,” snickered Brafford.

Getting the weights eaten off isn’t the only problem however a Townsend quickly pointed out. “Quite often when we’re jigging, we’ll have our Sabiki rig cut off on the way up,” said Townsend. “It seems like the attraction of those baitfish hooked on the Sabiki attracts strikes from the kings as we’re bring them up. They’re eating the fish even before we can get them up and rigged.” “That’s not so bad of course,” Townsend explained, “we like to have that sign, because it means that there are kings present, so if we can get a couple of baits up and get them on the light line even while we are jigging, we’ll get a fish on while we’re still jigging bait.”

Getting those baits off the Sabiki rig is the next problem. Sharp hooks, squirming fish on a thin line, but not to worry as Brafford picked up a special tool. “I got a little a little de-hooker or two,” said Brafford, “or a long nose pliers works well too, and you just shake them off right into the live bait well.”

Obviously you have to be more considerate of live bait than dead bait, so how do you rig your live bait? “Like most live baiters,” said Townsend, “I try to go light; I use a small nose hook, where it doesn’t cause too much trauma to the bait when you hook him up. I hook him through the lips or sideways across the nostrils. Then normally I have a stinger hook with a little heavier wire that I put a treble hook and normally I imbed that stinger hook on the top of the back, up in front of the tail so it doesn’t interfere with the swimming of the bait.”

So you really want to keep it naturally looking and swimming in the water to be most successful I asked? “Absolutely,” exclaimed Townsend, “if you hook your treble hook or stinger hook too far to the stern of the fish, it interferes with his ability to swim in a natural way.”

Brafford goes light and short too. “I use a small number-six treble hook, noted Brafford, “and number-six solid steel wire, I personally prefer it over the stranded wire. Most time when I live-bait, I use only about a foot of wire, which is tied directly to my 20 or 30-pound mono fighting line. The less (wire) you set; the more you hook up with them.”

A natural looking bait is one key to successful live baiting, which includes trolling speed. So how slow do you go? “Just a very slow troll, just as slow as I can go,” said Brafford.

Just like baits, everyone has a favorite buoy to fish. Charley Buoy is by far the favorite of many anglers. Why? More bait? More fish? Why? Townsend speculated on one possibility. “I think one of the things, it’s a coincidental thing,” said Townsend, “there wasn’t an intention there but the Charlie Buoy, which is one of the most popular ones to fish because of the proximity to the inlet is right on the edge of Southeast Bottoms, and it’s a good live bottom area. So not only does it provide structure but it’s also on a good hard bottom also.”

Bait in the bucket, or the live well and rigs in hand, where is the best place to fish? Brafford prefers to stay close to the bait. “I do most of my fishing around the C-buoy,” said Brafford, “you’ve got Southeast Bottoms, and AR-345 very close, and there is just a lot of good bottom around C-buoy, it’s just a good hard uneven rocky bottom.”

Townsend uses plan “D”. “I normally don’t fish the “C” or Charlie Buoy that much,” explained Townsend, “if I get there and I’m jigging bait and we’re drifting, I’ll put some light lines out so I’ll fish there some, but unless there is a presence of fish I won’t fish there because it’s fairly crowded, it’s just hard to fish. Some people fish the “D” Buoy, and it’s just offshore of a really good out-cropping of rock, so it gives you the buoy to fish around and the rock just inshore of it maybe three-quarters of a mile.”

There are many other good locations nearby those buoys to fish too, that’s another reason that makes them popular fishing destinations. What are some of them, and which ones do you like to fish? When you get your bait, where do you go? The most popular place to fish of course to fish is Southeast Bottoms,” said Townsend, “and then to Honey Hole, the 50’s-Bottom and Sponge Rock area, which are all within two or three miles of the Charlie Buoy. So you have pretty much a real good choice on which way you want to go on that particular day. Get your bait at Charlie Buoy; you don’t have more that a mile or two run before you can start fishing pretty good structure.”

Good baiting and fishing are important, but another aspect is the convenience, closeness and accessibility of these inshore locations so how far out are some of those buoys? I know I can see Alpha buoy from the beach at Bogue Inlet. “Well the Charlie Buoy I think is only about eight-miles,” calculated Townsend, “and the Alpha Buoy and the Bravo Buoy are only within two or three miles of the beach. And of course, the Bravo Buoy is just offshore of the Keypost Rocks and AR 342, so that makes a convenient place where you normally can count on getting bait and go right on to fish on the structure you choose there.”

So this is really available to some not very big boats, boats that don’t or shouldn’t go very far offshore? “Absolutely,” Townsend remarked, “the inshore reefs and the artificial reefs that are in there, in conjunction with those alphabet buoys as you call them, are a real god-send for the 21-foot boats that really don’t care to go out of sight of land. There are certain days when they can go where they want to, but the average day here with the southwest wind two to three-foot sea, the 21-footer needs to stay fairly close to shore.”

Bait in hand, rigs made the night before and ready to go, now what kind of fish can you expect? “Well,” said Townsend, “I think in the early spring you would count on catching flounder and the bottom feeders there, but as the water warms up in the early summer the smaller kings are the first thing to show up there. And anytime during the summer or in the fall you are subject to catch a big king there. All those buoys are somewhat around an inlet, and my personal opinion is that most of the big female kings that are tournament grade fish are caught somewhere around an inlet as a rule, in 60-foot or less of water.”

But what other kinds of game fish do you find in the summer, some of the big stuff, dolphin, wahoo, sails? Townsend goes down the list. “I have caught dolphin, I have caught wahoo at the alphabet buoys, primarily the “C” and “D” buoy. In the years past, there’s been some days when the “C” and the “D” buoy both were excellent, where you had excellent catches of average kings, teenagers…in the teens as far as weight goes, and very large numbers of them too. I’ve even caught a dolphin or two in on the “A” or “B” buoy, and the “F” buoy way off of Sneads Ferry, is really more prevalent for dolphin, with the “E” and the “F” being the best for them. And you’re always going to have you share of amberjack and barracuda around those buoys too.”

Quite a list indeed, some for sport, some great on the dinner table, but are there even some surprises? “Well,” exclaimed Brafford, “I’ve caught sailfish at Charlie Buoy and I’ve caught them as close as the B-buoy before too!”

How much fun is that? “I’ll tell you,” said Brafford, “it’s a whole lot of fun on 20-pound test! They jump, and they put on a real good show. It can last 35 or 40-minutes trying to get him in.”

When you get him in, what do you do? How do you release a fish like that? “With a sailfish,” said Brafford in a serious voice, “we never put him in the boat, if I have to we’ll cut the wire, but we try to get the hook out first! We’ll take some pictures beside the boat, and we’ll put a hand on the bill and one on his tail and drag him and revive him until he’s good. When he’s good, you can tell when he is revived and you let him go. And we use bronzed hooks so they rust out fast, no stainless steel around here, just number-6 4X (4-strong) bronzed hooks, that’s all we use.”

So the next time you hear the sounds of freedom booming in the distance, think of Camp Lejeune and our Marines first and then how lucky we are to go fish by the letters of the alphabet buoys. Recite and hum after me: A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H…, you know the children’s alphabet song!

Specific information about the rules of Navigation in these restricted areas can be gotten from “Coast Pilot 4, Chapter 2, Navigation Regulations” ( and warnings of impending military use of the area will be contained in the weekly “Notice to Mariners-District 5” (


Alphabet Buoys: GPS Coordinates and Water Depths.

    Buoy             Longitude                     Latitude               Depth
A- Buoy          N 34 36.348                W 077 05.508             46
B- Buoy          N 34 35.467                W 077 01.590             49
C- Buoy          N 34 30.056                W 077 02.086             60
D- Buoy          N 34 25.538                W 077 05.737             70
E- Buoy           N 34 22.601                W 077 10.951             68
F- Buoy           N 34 21.930                W 077 17.515             60
G- Buoy          N 34 23.656                W 077 23.645             51
H- Buoy          N 34 27.938                W 077 21.164             44


45-Minute Rock: N 34 33.06      W 77 03.31
Bear Inlet Rock: N 34 35.14      W 77 08.71
Christmas Rock: N 34 23.54    W 77 09.52
East Rock (Bogue): N 34 35.33      W 76 56.75
Honey Hole/Sponge Rock: N 34 26.30      W 77 01.30
Honeymoon Rock: N 34 27.65      W 77 08.78
Keypost Rocks: KP1: N 34 38.18   W77 01.90, KP2: N 34 37.75   W 77 01.76
Lost Rock: N 34 32.00      W 77 06.06
Southeast Bottoms: SEB1: N 34 29.42   W 77 01.62, SEB2: N 34 30.10     W76 59.74, SEB3: N 34 29.18   W76 58.34
Station Rock: N 34 35.27 W 77 04.11
AR342 N 34 36.320    W 77 02.110
AR340 N 34 34.210    W 76 58.180
AR345 N 34 32.180    W 76 58.280
AR350 N 34 29.900    W 77 21.300
AR355 N 34 21.110    W 77 20.000
Hutton N 34 39.461    W 76 48.434
Suloide N 34 32.694    W 76 53.729
Jerry’s Reef   N 34 28.970    W 76 53.190
Rock South of 13      N 34 28.510    W 76 54.260

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for February 2016

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 54-degrees to a low of 44-degrees with an average of 49.9-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a high of 60-degrees and a low of 35-degrees with an average of 49.6-degrees (red squares). Last Feb. average for the surf was 45.3, sound 42.0. Much more moderate this year.

Fullscreen capture 322016 15553 PM.bmpBelow is the comparison of surf temperatures for 2015 (blue)  and 2016 (red). Plots are 4th order polynomial fits to the data.

Fullscreen capture 322016 20330 PM.bmp

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Roanoke River Spring Shad and Stripers (5/10/01). Recorded, transcribed and slightly edited by Dr. Bogus with thanks to Fletcher Johnston and of course Capt. “Fly” Gordon Churchill. This was a chat while Capt. Gordon Churchill and I gently drifted down the Roanoke River looking for rockfish, a.k.a., stripers.

Dr. B: Good morning, this is Dr. Bogus and Capt. Gordon Churchill on another excellent fishing adventure here on the Roanoke River in Weldon, NC.

Capt G: Hi everybody, how are you doing today?

Dr. B: Hello Gordon, What I’d like to do today Gordon … this is May 10th, the top of the striped bass season here up on the Roanoke River and what I’d like to do is start off .. Oh, oh fish on, fish on. Fish alert (hahahaha). What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about the Roanoke River itself and about the shad and striped bass fishery in the spring here. Where does the Roanoke originate from … Do you need a net there Gordon?

Capt. G: Pretty big fish on here.

Dr. B: Pretty big fish on here.

Dr. B: I’ll get the net.

Capt. G: He’s not that big.

Dr. B: He’s a little big little bad fish! Hahahahah! (Net in the water sounds-gurgles) He’s one of
the smallest fish we’ve caught all day.

Capt. G: Thought he was big though.

Dr. B: I know, I know. Okay, release that critter.

Dr. B: All right, we’ve had fish up to about ten pounds today.

Capt. G: That’s right, ten-six.

Dr. B: Ten-six is the big one.

Capt. G: On scale.

Dr. B: On scale. Not guesstimated, but actually on scale. Give us a little information about the Roanoke River Gordon.

Capt. G: It originates up there in Virginia. Up there is small mouth bass and most people fish it at Smith Mountain Reservoir up there in Virginia, where they catch some big stripers trolling with live bait, just like you would king mackerel fish. And then the river continues on down. It’s
pretty heavily utilized for irrigation, and there are reservoirs the whole way down. You’ve got Kerr Lake, Gaston Lake and then as you get to Roanoke rapids you’ve got Roanoke Rapids Lake.

Dr. B: Now there’s a dam not too far up the river from us. What’s that all about?

Capt. G: That is the dam, the last dam on the river at Roanoke Rapids Lake, controlled by the (Army) Corp of Engineers. And that’s a power lake but it’s also a flow-controlled lake to keep the valley down here from flooding. Back in the bad old days they had some serious flooding
problems here. So they built those reservoirs. During hurricane Floyd, you didn’t hear of the Roanoke River flooding. Some of the creeks that run into it flooded, but the Roanoke River itself won’t flood because of all the flow controlled reservoirs.

Dr. B: When you fish the Roanoke River, there really are two areas, you fish up above the rocks, then down here where we are today. Right?

Capt. G: Right. From Weldon, which is where most people when they come up here, is where they fish. When you put the boat in at Weldon, you can look up stream and see lots of rocks visible pretty much at any water level. As you look downstream from Weldon there are a few
rocks but as you get down the river bottom turns to a muddy coastal river. Upstream from Weldon, it’s rocky there’s more gradient, that means it drops off more in less amount of time, the rocks are sticking out. Weldon is what they call the fall line, where it changes from a muddy bottom coastal river to a rocky bottom upland river.

Dr. B: Is that why people usually use aluminum hull boats up that way?

Capt. G: When you go up stream from Weldon, you’re going to want, unless the water is really high, like (a flow rate) above 15,000-cu. ft./sec., you really don’t want to go up there without an aluminum boat and a short shaft outboard if you have a prop, or there are a lot of guys that really specialize in that kind of fishing and have a jet-drive outboards.

Dr. B: We were up for a little bit yesterday near where the dam empties in that big deep slough area. What’s that? Did they actually cut that through for the river?

Capt. G: Right, if you ever put a boat in Gaston, at the town of Gaston, or if you ever drive
across the bridge on Highway-48 across the Roanoke River in Gaston, from Roanoke Rapids to Gaston, you look up stream and there’s a big gorge, and that was actually blasted and cut back when they built that dam … As we saw yesterday, we saw big piles of rubble up along the
shoreline up above. You’ll be riding there in 40-feet of water and there’s another 25 to 30-feet of rock above you over your head. It’s kind of cool.

Dr. B: It’s like a big cavern and reminds me of some of the western New York state deep cuts they have through there.

Capt. G: Gorgeous!

Dr. B: Exactly. Let’s talk a little bit about fishing now. Early in the spring, in March is it, is that when the hickory shad come up rivers.

Capt. G: Yes, March. This year they had a good blast of them in right from the first week in March, all the way up into the first or second week in April. A lot of people will go into Weldon and put their Jon boats in, and fish right there at Weldon. The last couple of years, they really
held the water back in March, because they have flow requirements we need to satisfy for the striped bass here in May. So they really hold the water back in March, so when you put your boat in at Weldon, there’s really not a lot of room for you to go. You can’t really go up stream
because there’s no water. And you can’t go down stream, because it really gets shallow there as well. There will be a big pool right below the falls at Weldon, and it actually looks like water falls. And the guys in the Jon boats really can’t go anywhere else. What I will do is I use an inflatable drift boat and launch my boat up above Gaston and we drift on down from Gaston to Weldon in the drift boat. We take two guys out and catch a lot of shad. Just like floating in a river for trout out west somewhere. You can use a fly rod. We use a 4-wt. fly rod, ultra-light spinning rod. Little shad darts work real well on them, any little streamer fly you can think of, you’ll catch them. When you hook them in that shallow water, looking at the bottom, they just come out of the water.

Dr. B: Little baby tarpon?

Capt G: Exactly what they look like, little tarpon. The mouth turns up, the eyes are on top and I pretty much figure out that if your fly is above their head, they’ll come up and hit it. If it’s below it, they won’t eat it, because their eyes are up high.

Dr. B: Does color matter at all?

Capt G: I usually tie my streamer flies with three different colors in them, because I have found a kind of a color preference. Pink is usually a good color here, for whatever odd reason and chartreuse and orange. Basically I tie my streamer flies that I use for shad, the same color
combinations they sell the shad darts with. Nungesser shad darts are the ones that I use and whatever color combinations those are in is what I tie my streamers in.

Dr. B: How big are those fish in general? What’s a standard size nice fish that you can catch here in the spring?

Capt G: Two feet long, they’re about 20-24 inches. They’re nice size fish, two to three pounds. They’re nice and slender, forked tail, they swim fast and jump high. You’ll hook then and they’ll come right out of the water. Like I said especially in the shallow water, fishing up river in a Jon boat.

Dr. B: Nowhere to go but up.

Capt G: That’s pretty much it.

Dr. B: We’re here in May, that fishery stops early April. Is that about when that cuts oft’?

Capt G: Exactly, and then beginning about of the first or second week of April the shad fishing will start to wear down and the striped bass run really hasn’t started yet and as the shad starts to really to run out the shad just vanish and all of a sudden you start to see more and more rockfish. By the middle of the second or third week in April you’re pretty much full up with striped bass all the way up to Weldon.

Dr. B: For both these fish, it’s not just a vacation trip up here; this is a spawning event for both the striped bass and shad as well.

Capt G: Right, we’ve actually watched shad spawn up the river, up near 1-95. It’s pretty impressive, they boil and thrash around on the surface and it’s pretty impressive. They’re fast and very strong fish for their size. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Dr. B: We’ve seen some boiling surface action here, some of that is feeding, some spawning activity, some of it is fighting activity. How can you tell what’s going on with all the splashing?

Capt G: Well fighting and spawning are the same thing. The fighting is just what the local people around here call it. When the striped bass are spawning, really that’s a good name for it. Really what’s happening is that the male stripers are fighting with each other to be the closest to the female when she releases her eggs so they can fertilize them. It’s classic Darwin theory in its most visible. The very strongest male fish gets to be the one that fertilizes the eggs and passes his DNA on to the next generation.

Dr. B: This time of year, right now we’re in early May, we’re in the catch-and-release season, but there’s also actually a catch season for the stripers up here.

Capt G: Yes, up until around the end of April, the very beginning of May, there were four days (during the week) we could keep fish, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and they increased the limit from two to three this year and they increased the total poundage of fish that
could be kept before they closed the season. I’m not going to really get into what I feel about that right here. Suffice it to say … There goes an eagle; a young bald eagle flew out of a tree alongside of us. But the guys come out here, and you can keep them from 18 to 22 inches and then again above 27 inches. When you measure those fish, make sure you have an extremely accurate ruler and don’t keep any close.

Dr. B: No guesstimates!!

Capt G: So if it’s 18-22 I tell people they got to be between 19-21, because you don’t want to mess around. They check every single little boat that come out and measure every fish that’s in your live well, if you got one.

Dr. B: We’re in the catch-and-release season now. How is that different? What do we need to do? How specialized is that as far as equipment and the lures that we use?

Capt G: Well you can use all the same stuff that you would have used during the keeper season, however the guys that fish bait … the bait continues to be extremely effective, but during the catch-and-release days these fish eat a shad or herring extremely well and they will suck that hook all the way down and if you’re not using circle hooks, you need to. And if the fish does get hooked down in there, I would say just cut the line and leave the hook rather than trying to ditch it out of them.

Dr. B: Okay, we’re using a variety of artificials that I want to tell us about. Ours are single hooks, that’s the requirement with the barb crushed down. Right?

Capt G: Right, no barbs, just single hooks. If you come up here throwing swimming plugs like Rat-L-Traps and Redfins, you need to take all the hooks off and just have one single hook. We’ve found a long-shank hook that extends off the tail of the bait attached on the forward hook
holder of the lure seems to be the best option for us.

Dr. B: I like that with the little chartreuse bucktail on it. I think that added a little bit.

Capt G: Obviously that comes from my fly-fishing background. I can’t have a hook hanging off a lure without tying a little something on there. I tie … , I can’t even tell you how many flies I tie. I go through so many hooks in a year so I figure if I’m going to stick a single hook on a Zara
Spook I might as well tie a little calf tailor bucktail on it.

Dr. B: Depending on the time of day often, it really sort of dictates, if you are using artificials, if you’re fishing surface plugs or surface flies, or if you’re working it fairly deep. Why don’t you tell us about that?

Capt G: Ok, during the middle part of the day you’re going to have your lures or flies down near the bottom. For fly-fishing I prefer a 30-ft. shooting head of LC-13, Courtland lead core line, and a 100-ft. of braided monofilament running line. Or what also works is the Depth Charge or Teeny lines of 350 to 250-grain sinking lines that sink pretty fast and they work pretty well. What I like to tie is a bucktail streamer with a lot of flash in the tail. Count your fly down; count your line as it sinks …

Dr. B: How do you know, how long do you count to get it down near the bottom?

Capt G: There will usually be a sink rate, like if you buy an Orvis Depth Charge 250-grain sinking line, there will be a sink rate right on the package and you want to count down, it will be so many inches per second, usually it’s like 0.6 or 0.7-inches per second, say about a half-inch per second, you want to count it down until you think it’s just a bit above the bottom. You want your fly to be just scooting just above the bottom, that’s where the fish are going to hit it. For spin fishing, or gear fishing using a bait casting rod, middle part of the day, jigs, jigging spoons, things like that will get down to the bottom. Experiment with your retrieve. I’ve seen all kinds of things work for different people where sometimes we’re catching fish on jigs and other guys are not or other times other guys are catching fish on jigs and we’re not. Again my experience is mainly with a fly rod, so I’m not as good with a jig in my hand as a lot of other guys. But I find that I can catch them pretty good. Just keep the thing down near the bottom.

Dr. B: One of the things I like to do when fishing is to use all the senses. Right? Sight, sound, feel, hearing, everything and that’s why we like do some of the surface fishing. Can you describe that to us?

 Capt G: I’m using another sense right now, that’s the sense of smell. It’s May 10th and there’s honeysuckle on the vine all around us. It really fills the air and adds to the experience out here. We like to do a lot of top water fishing. In the evening you can come out here throw a Zara
Spook on a spinning rod or a popper on a fly rod with a floating line and really have a blast. As it gets later and darker the fish get more and more aggressive and they really come up and smack it. You talk about adding all the senses to it, the sound as they slap it with their tails and hit it with their dorsal spines; we caught one that was hooked right in the gill cover. They have very sharp gill covers; this fish came up and tried to kill the lure with his gill cover. You know he knows that he’s got a little switch blade there and he’s going to try to whack it on there.

Dr. B: Well one of the other things is when we see those poppers and the Zara Spooks corning in, can actually see sometimes a half a dozen or ten fish come and give it a whack.

Capt G: Right and that’s a lot of fun. The main thing that people don’t realize it that’s how I catch my biggest fish. All the biggest fish I’ve caught on this river have come on top-water lures in that nigh time period on Zara Spooks and Rebel Pop-R’s. I haven’t got any, because they’re really expensive for me and I don’t have anybody to get them for me, but the MirrOlure Top Dogs and the Storm Chug-Bugs with the saltwater series they have more durable hooks and hook holders and they’re probably a little better lures than the other two I just mentioned. And the Cotton Cordell Redfin as my buddy here Dr. Bogus found out is a very, very good lure to use.

Dr. B: Yes, that’s a nice one too, it’s a floater and stays right on the top and is very bright so you can see both the lure and the fish as they come up under it to take the lure. That’s really something special out here. Several times we had dual hook ups, two fish on and two fish in the net at the same time. Doesn’t get much better than that Gordon.

Capt G: I don’t think so; I love that stuff especially when it’s on top water.

Dr. B: Ok, just to finalize here, when does the striped bass fishery quiet down here? When is the spawn over?

Capt G: Well, the big thing is, what’s been told to me … right now the water temperature is about 63 to 62-degrees, the lead biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission told me when that water temperature starts to get touching 70 (degrees) the catch-and-release
mortality with bass is phenomenal, even if you hook them just in the side of the mouth with a single hook, chances are there’s a good chance that fish isn’t going to make it. So I don’t like to fish out here when the water gets too warm. So I’m not taking any charters after that third week
in May. I’m out of here; I’m not out here around Memorial Day, because I just don’t think it’s good for the fish.

Dr. B: I also see that you use one of these rubber nets, does that make a difference?

Capt G: Yes, I have a rubberized landing net with a real elastic net mesh and that I feel really contributes to the safe handling of the fish. I can put the fish in that net and he flips around in there and his slime doesn’t come off. The net doesn’t get slimy and it doesn’t smell like fish.

Dr. B: Handling is sort of a misnomer. One of the things you try to do is actually NOT handle the fish.

Capt G: Yes, I see people come out here with bass boats with carpeted decks, they have pretty heavy line and I see this all the time. They catch a striper, get him up near the side of the boat, they grab the line and just drop the fish on the deck and step on it or kneel on it or something. I’ll tell you what, that’s not too conducive to the fish keeping it’s slime coating. I’m sure you can explain it better that I can Richard, but those fish need that slime coating, because it keeps bacteria out of their body.

Dr. B: You’re absolutely right! Well this is our third year we have been up here Gordon. I’ve had three great trips with you. Thank you very much.

Capt G: Hey, if s my pleasure.

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Spring shad on the Roanoke River, By Dr. Bogus (March 8, 2006)

That ding, ding, ding, off in the distance is a clanging bell chiming in the start of the spring fishing season. To some, that sound rings in the wakening of the redfish up in the marshes, to others, early season blowfish and sea mullet from the surf and piers. For the big tackle angler it ushers in their first trips to Gulf Stream and The Big Rock for yellowfin tuna and for us light at heart, the visions of streaking hickory shad at our other “Big Rock” on the Roanoke River, on all but the lightest of tackle.

With this in mind, last week I met Capt. Dean Lamont (Raleigh) at the Wildlife boat ramp in Weldon, along the Roanoke River, to give these feisty fish, the poor man’s tarpon, a try. As a guide, Lamont has been making this yearly spring pilgrimage to the Roanoke for migrating shad and later in the spring, transient spawning stripers too.

“Of course the reason the shad come up the river,” Lamont reminded me, “is that they are one of these fish that spawn in freshwater even though they live in saltwater. The shad in the Roanoke River as an example, travel about 160-miles from the ocean all the way here to Weldon where they spawn.” “We’re really blessed in NC,” explained Lamont, “we have a number of rivers where shad come in. We have the Cape Fear River, Northeast Cape Fear River, the Neuse, the Cashie, actually they come up nearly every one of our rivers.”

Of these rivers, the Roanoke is special geographically speaking. “It’s at the fall line of the Piedmont and the coastal plain,” said Lamont, “and especially when it’s low water, you basically cannot go up river boat ramp at all, because the river is just filled with boulders and rocks, so you put your boat in and you go VERY carefully down river.”

Taking this hazard warning seriously, many anglers prefer inflatable boats or aluminum hull boats. “That way if you bounce off a rock,” said Lamont, “you don’t put a hole in your gel-coat, or worse, you just put a dent in your aluminum and you can pound it out!” “That’s the nice thing about the Neuse River, explained Lamont, the Neuse River can be a lot muddier, but at least you don’t have to worry about the rocks.”

We got on the river at about 10:00 AM with more spinning gear and fly rods darts, garishly colored flies and spoons than two shad fishermen should need. Lamont eased his 17-ft flats boat gingerly around the group of “bank” anglers and into the streaming river.

The shad are a small but real sporty fish and a lot of fun on lightweight rods. “You can either fly-fish or spin-fish,” explains Lamont, “normally what I use is a six-weight fly rod. Early in the season, the shad are down deep in the water column, so when you are fly fishing, you need to use a sinking line with about a 200 to 250- grain line.” “Of course it depends on the river flow, how fast the river is flowing and how deep the water is,” Lamont said perusing the river.

For us coastal anglers, Lamont suggests that a light-weight speckled trout rod would maximize our fun, so I pulled out the trout rod I had with me, actually a 6-weight fly rod at birth, now transformed into my favorite spin trout rod and equipped with a 2000-class spinning reel, 10-pound braided line and 8-pound test leader. Perfect, I was ready for shad.


The river is still very cold, it would never get above 49-degrees today and the river level was very low as well. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the river as low as this before during shad season,” observed Lamont. Although this means more rocks to contend with, it perfect for shad fishing. “The lower the river level normally, the better the shad fishing,” said Lamont, “because the shad are more concentrated in the river compared to being way up into the banks or the side creeks.”

Watching for submerged rocks, we eased across and a little down river not far from where we had launched. We were already marking fish on our fish-finder in about six to eight-feet of water, so we anchored up. Lamont rigged his fly rod with a tandem fly rig, consisting of two small brightly chartreuse flies and started to cast back and then forward finally letting his fly sink in the current. I rigged with a standard shad-rig, consisting of a shocking pink shad dart trailed by a very small silver spoon. Gold colored spoons are fine too.

“The best way to do it, either for fly or spin-fishing,” demonstrated Lamont “is to cast perpendicular (to the boat) across the river and current flow and let your line sink as it’s swinging around with the current. Normally by the time it gets straight out behind you or down along the bank a little bit if you are bank fishing, when you start reeling in that’s when the fish will hit.” That’s the theory anyway. We got hung on the bottom a couple times, and lost some gear, but didn’t entice any shad to eat our colorful baits.

Interestingly, shad are not supposed to feed during spawning season, but they clearly will take these artificial baits. So I asked Lamont, why to they eat (hit) them? “That’s a good question,” smirked Lamont, “what I hear from a lot of people is that you really need a lot of shad in the river to catch shad, and mainly because they aren’t really feeding.” “I think they just sort of strike out at the lure, maybe you are invading their space or something like that,” said Lamont. “So when we are talking about the lures and flies, I think it is important to mention that the gaudier and brighter, the better off you are,” emphasized Lamont, “you want that shad to be able to see these flies and for whatever reason for them to strike out and hit it.”

Well, they weren’t striking here, but just upstream of us, closer to the fall-line, on the seam of some white water and a back eddy current, we saw another angler, Chuck Laughridge, a longtime local from Roanoke Rapids, hauling in one shad after another on the fly. He waved us on, so we eased upstream of him, no more than two or three boat lengths away and anchored up front and back with a couple of mushroom anchors to stabilize the boat. With Laughridge still landing fish, we tried both flies and shad rigs to no avail, really pointing out the importance of location, location, location, and how critical just a small difference of position, missing the flow seam was in catching or not catching fussy, cold shad.

The shad bite slowed a bit even for Laughridge, so we all moved down stream only a mile or less from the ramp and anchored at what is known as “The Big Rock”. You can’t miss it, it’s pile of rocks and big to boot. There is also an aromatic discharge from a water treatment plant and the rocky granite remnants of an old bridge on each side of the bank as well as submerged mid river. The big rocks provide some calmer water, out of the fast moving current. As Laughridge would point out, resting places for cold, tired fish.

Again marking fish, we anchored again front and back to keep the boat from moving side-to-side. We could see Laughridge landing fish, as he held up his hand indicating he had already caught five shad. We could also see a fisherman along the muddy clay bank hauling two in quick succession, from along the shore. Encouraged, we started to work the pooled and protected areas near the rocks. Finally success, Lamont hooked and landed one on a fly, followed mere moments later by my first success of the day. We could actually see them rise up from the bottom and hit our lures and flies, then jump into the air, go back down and jump again. The poor man’s tarpon maybe, but at the very least the light-tackle angler’s dream for sure, jump and run, run and leap. What a blast!

By three o’clock the water temperature nudged to almost 49-degrees, the highest it would get today and the fish were biting as good as they had all day, and now we were finally having fun. We probably landed a dozen fish or more, mostly visual strikes…the best.DSC02397

It was getting late in the afternoon so we decided to work back up to near the fall-line to once more try our luck. Again we marked lots of fish, without any strikes. Too cold, too lazy, wrong seam, who knows. Lamont says, “one more cast and we have to get out of here.” He casts his fly into a nice seam along the eddy current and yells, “There’s one, get your camera, feels like a big one, a good one a real good one…it’s…it’s a catfish,” exclaimed Lamont, as it came up to the surface. A nice sized catfish indeed, and on the last cast of the day! “I guess you never know what you’re going to catch, even a catfish! I knew it was a big one!” I took the picture and we released the catfish.


We pulled up the anchors, and as we approached the “bankers”, the bank fishing anglers, who numbered at least 10 by now, we could see each of them continue to pull in leaping shad from the shoreline. At the ramp, there is a nice current and eddy seam that holds the shad close to the bank, easily reachable from the shore and you don’t need a boat. It was undoubtedly the hot spot for the day. Although you don’t need a boat, like all of us who fish the Roanoke for shad, stripers, or whatever, you do need a fishing license, and be warned, the Weldon area is a frequent stop by NC Wildlife officers. Count your fish, and have your license ready.

Although we marked scads of shads today on our sounder today, the early season cold river water provided only a slow and sporadic hickory bite. Forecasts for the next week are more spring-like, with temperatures soaring into the 70 or even 80s. As spring takes hold, the warming water should get the shad to explode both figuratively and literally, since they are already there.

How long will the bite last? “It normally depends on the water temperature,” explains Lamont. “Once the water temperature gets to about 60-degrees, the fish will spawn and then they will immediately start heading back down river, back to the saltwater. One of the reasons I think they head back down river right away is because the striped bass will then be coming up the river and they don’t want the stripers to eat them,” smiled Lamont. The food chain in action.