Happy Independence Day Weekend to my American Readers! #Brexit1776.
Given the long weekend, Dan and I decided to head down near Wilmington Beach and try our hand at surf fishing. We had previously attempted saltwater fishing off a pier/structure over at Wangpal’s Restaurant on Jeju island, but this would be our first try on good ole American soil. First order of business, of course, was to find a dog friendly beach with fishing. It actually sounds harder to find than it was!
Cannot go anywhere without that goofy face.
Topsail Island is about 30 minutes to the Northeast of Wilmington Beach in North Carolina, and consists of a few miles of both ocean front and inlet front. The entire island is inhabited with what looks like summer homes, and a few stores/bars/restaurants. The whole thing is only about three streets wide! You can see water on both sides while driving down. We headed toward Topsail Beach– it was advertised as dog friendly as well as a “lesser travelled” beach location, both of which appealed to us. Stunningly beautiful! During the off season, apparently you can drive your car right onto the beach.
We did have a little bit of trouble finding a bait shop, however. It would have been wise to pick up bait in Surf City, which is the neighboring town, but after asking around we managed to find a place: Jolly Roger’s Inn and Pier. It’s about halfway to the end of the island,on the left side travelling toward the end, and the only large fishing pier. You can get some food, limited fishing supplies, beer, and your choice of shrimp, sand fleas, squid, and an assortment of minnows/mullets. We picked up a pound of shrimp, a half pound of squid, and a quarter pound of sand fleas. Not knowing much about the local fish, the shopkeepers let us know that drum were pounding the fleas, and squid/shrimp generally are an all around good bet. For a price, Jolly Roger’s lets you use their pier to fish, but no animals allowed, so that was a no-go for us. Instead, we made our way to the right-most road, all the way to the end of the island where there was a small parking lot. We ditched the truck, loaded up our gear and trekked down the beach on the inlet side. Side note, we also picked up some sandwiches and meat (for Brook) at a small Deli toward the town center.
No kidding, as soon as we got our umbrella stood up, and Brook tied down (dogs must be leashed during the on-season), we heard thunder. Planted down our rod stand, got the first rod set up… cue enormous downpour. Not talking about a light rain. Talking about flash flood, crashing thunder, lightning and high winds. All three of us huddled under our umbrella (it was basically a half-dome tent style umbrella– protected us surprisingly well) and just prayed that it would pass. No way we spent all this time and money getting down here for nothing. We were going to fish, damnit! People at this point were legitimately fleeing the beach– coolers and towels in tow, running back to their cars. After maybe 20 minutes, it started to clear up, so we quickly rigged up our rods.
We used our Korean carp rods which double as saltwater rods. Rigged up was 20lb braided line, with 6-inch 50lb test wire leaders. Attached to that were two size 8 baitholder hooks, with a 2.5oz weight at the bottom. To be honest, the weight was probably too light for the current we were fighting. We ended up losing quite a few rigs that got stuck on a wooden structure about 50 yards out. We experimented with the bait usage. Dan was definitely favoring the squid, and for good reason.
His first cast got a huge hit!
That’s an Atlantic Croaker, a member of the Drum family. Apparently, it was a common food source for Native Americans. This one was about 18 inches long.
Not bad at all for a first cast! It was fun to watch the rods twitch on the stand with each bite. I had trouble setting the hook, for sure, but Dan was having a lot better luck.
His next catch was a tiny Black Sea bass. They’re recognizable by the coloring, and large scales on the body, while naked on the head. Sea bass are a highly sought after recreational fish, though this fella was a little juvenile. Back to the sea he went! And finally, it was my turn.
After losing what seemed like countless potential catches, at last, I pulled up this little beauty. Hilariously enough, this turned out to be a Surf Bream. Basically, the saltwater equivalent of a sunfish or bluegill. It had these creepy little teeth though.
Darkness crept up on us pretty quick, and before we knew it, the crabbers were moving in, and it was time for us to head back. For a first experience surf fishing, I’m very glad we were able to pull up a few fish and I am excited for next time. Something about having your feet in the ocean, waves lapping up onto shore, and casting out, not knowing what sort of interesting fish you’re going to pull up… it’s just amazing. The view was worth it alone!