08/11/17 — OUTDOORS -- Marsh column

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OUTDOORS -- Marsh column

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 11, 2017 5:53 AM

Mark Twain said everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. However, there is something anglers can do about it and that is to simply keep fishing despite it. The act of fishing is what brings joy. If catching fish were the only goal, it would be more expedient and less expensive to eat in a seafood restaurant.

Where I live, which is between Wilmington and Carolina Beach, the inshore and near shore fishing is influenced substantially by the Cape Fear River in all of its moods. I have seen its angry waves and soothing smoothness. This summer, the repeated rains have turned it into a sourpuss. Just when the water clears a bit after the last rain, along comes another storm and the river grows dark and brooding again.

When the water falls far inland as well, the releases from the Lake Jordan Dam increase the river's turbidity, making the water look as cloudy as iced tea that has been sitting in the refrigerator too long. You think perhaps you might give it a try, but then something tells you shouldn't.

I had met my deadlines and had two days to go fishing. The first day, I headed south and caught nothing in the dark water. The next day, I headed north to Wrightsville Beach, where I finally found the water as blue and refreshing as the ice mints on the counter of a fancy restaurant.

I wanted to catch a flounder. But, I would settle for anything that was of legal size to take home for supper. I filled the live well with mullet caught in a cast net. Hooking one in a flounder rig, I cast it to the rocks at the base of the south jetty at Masonboro Inlet.

The tide was falling and a tide line had formed at the end of the rocks, where the clear water of the Atlantic butted heads with the dark water of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Falling tide usually spells flatfish this time of year. Nevertheless, all I caught were undersized black sea bass. The size limit is now 13 inches and I thought back to the days when I first moved to the coast and there were no size or bag limits on any saltwater fish. Carol and I often made supper out of the sea bass the size of which I was now catching that ran from eight inches to 11 inches long.

The tide turned and I was hoping it would bring the red drum with it. The fish usually swim along the edge of the tide line, where dead fish and crustaceans concentrate at the wall created by the clashing currents. When that did not pan out, I headed to another spot on the jetty where the rocks were shallow on one side and a deep hole formed at the other side from the scouring current.

Normally, the spot is a good one for catching flounder as long as you don't mind sacrificing a lot of hooks, leaders and sinkers to the rocks. As the saying goes, if you aren't losing some tackle, you aren't fishing in a good spot.

A fish struck a mullet as I was reeling it back to the boat. I did not hook the fish and the teeth marks on the baitfish appeared to have been made by an inshore lizardfish. Lizardfish are usually feeding with speckled trout, so it gave me some hope.

The next cast resulted in another strike. This time, the hook stuck fast and I reeled in a ribbonfish. Also called a cutlassfish for its mirror-like shine shape, the fish are good for king mackerel bait. I knew one person who ate them, but they have little meat and a bony skeleton like that of an eel, which to me does not appeal.

I caught several ribbonfish, until I cast out a mullet and hooked a fish that bit through the leader. I made another cast and it happened again. Tying on a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader did the trick, but just barely. The next cast brought big bluefish into the boat. Its teeth frayed the leader line, but it held.

Fortunately, the bluefish weighed about two pounds, which means it was large enough to make dinner for two. Some people say they don't like bluefish, but I enjoy eating them when they are fresh from the water.

It wasn't a lot to show for two days of fishing, but it was a fish that we could eat and not catching anything for two days had given me the blues. I was only too happy to drop it into the ice chest, fired the engine and head for home.


To contact Mike Marsh or order his books, visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com for credit card orders.