The sweat is pouring and your eyes are stinging from the combination of bright sun and sweat. It’s too hot to wear a long sleeve shirt, but the sun is so bright you will be burnt to a crisp if you don’t! Your partner is crying about the frosty beverages getting hot too quick to drink a whole one! The inlet looks like a parking lot, and the point reminds you of the lawn at the Jimmy Buffet concert you went too last week.
It is a full-blown North Carolina summer day.
I suggest trying your hand at night fishing. Fishes are just like us; when it’s 100 degrees outside, we don’t want to do anything but chill. I am not only referring to surf and pier fishing but also offshore fishing. Kings and especially snapper love to feed at night. If you go far enough you might even end up with a swordfish (yes, they are off the coast of North Carolina). Make sure no matter what type of fishing you are doing you proceed with caution. With a little preparation night fishing can be as fun and safe if not more so than day fishing.
Surf fishing at night can be much more productive than day fishing nine times out of 10 in the summer. Remember fish are disturbed by inconsistent lights but attracted to constant ones. Lanterns are ok as long as you do not walk between them and the water (which is hard to do). I suggest using only chem lights. Take large ones for rigging baits, tying lines, Etc. Then have some small 1.5-inch to 3-inch ones to tape on the end of your rod to see if the fish are biting. I have found that surf fishing at night is the best usually at the full moon, especially for red drum. When the moon is full the reds are able to use sight as well as smell to locate your bait. I have even caught Spanish mackerel at night in the surf with spoons on a full moon.
When fishing the sound at night on a boat, make sure your lights are in good working order. This means checking your spotlights as well as bow and stern lights before leaving. Some of the most fun I have had at night is fishing for Ladyfish around the soundside docks. Look for lighted docks and plenty of tidal flow. The south end of Topsail is always a good place to look. If you have ever wondered what that noise was that sounded like someone dropping cinder blocks in the water at night that was ladyfish. Ladyfish arrive here when the water in the sound reaches 76 degrees and pound for pound are some of the toughest fighters in our waters. When hooked they will burn off line then jump a few times just like a small tarpon. I like using large top-water baits when there is some light on the water. Skitter Walk and Top Dawg lures work well. When using live bait I prefer shrimp suspended under a cork by about two feet. They have hard mouths and sharp gills, so a sharp hook and 30-pound leader are suggested.
The all-time No. 1 fishing activity at night is of course flounder gigging. Something magical happens to a flounder at night: They get dumb! You can even flounder gig if you do not have a boat. Some tackle shops sell walking gigs and lights. When walk-gigging, safety is a key issue. You need good strong wading shoes and a backpack to keep the battery in as well as a stringer for your fish. The lights and gigs can be purchased at a local tackle shop like East Coast Sports. Scout out the area during the day and then go back at night. I need not give much instruction as it is just “stick ‘em” when you get the chance. You might happen upon several other species such as speckled trout, jumping mullets and black drum all of which are legal to spear. Keep a big fine-mesh dip net handy for those shrimp that will be buzzing around your flounder lights. Remember that a gigged 12-inch flounder is still illegal so make sure it is legal before gigging. Also remember that red drum (which you will probably see) are protected from gigging or spearing in our waters, so never gig any red drum legal or not.
Offshore fishing is probably the most overlooked night fishing here in North Carolina. King Mackerel, snapper and even swordfish. Ask any old commercial fisherman who has done lots of overnight trips if king fishing in the summer is good he will scream a resounding yes. Most have not caught a king at night because they have not tried. The biggest challenge is keeping the sharks away, which can be fun in itself. I suggest leaving the inlet at sunset so you still have a little light to work with. Then proceed to your favorite fishing hole; 23 Mile Rock has been producing lately. Once at the fishing hole look for a good area to bottom fish. Circle until you mark fish with the depth finder and set up for a night of bottom fishing. Once anchored and catching bottom fish toss a light line out with a Cigar Minnow and a skirt (some reason white works well). Then just relax and feast your eyes on the most beautiful sky full of stars you have ever seen (on a clear night) in N.C. If looking for swordfish contact Capt. Chris Medlin at East Coast Sports for the special rigs and bait needed.
Once the harsh sun has extinguished itself into the sound it is time for the games to begin. As fishermen don their headlamps and glow sticks the fishes quake in the deep at the thought of a non-nocturnal creature invading their space through the dead of night. Just remember, “The night time is the right time” — for fishing in the summer that is.
Tight lines and fair winds.
Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.