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Fort Macon Secrets

Fishing from the rocks in this North Carolina State Park


The air was crisp as we walked down the beach, crisp enough to more than hint at the coming of fall weather. Oh for some good fall weather to turn on the fish on the North Carolina shore!

The sign on the beach indicated we were entering Fort Macon State Park on the tip of the Atlantic Beach barrier island protecting Morehead City and Beaufort. The Newport River enters here from the ocean, and the inlet forms a natural fish migration path. Flounder, trout, bluefish, stripers, virtually all of the coastal species will swim this cut during this time of year.

We had parked in the Coast Guard Base parking lot just before the State Park, and were making the trek down the beach to the jetties. One of our party was a Marine from Cherry Point and the parking sticker let us in. We parked and walked the beach because the gate to the State Park did not open until 8AM and that’s a good 2 hours later than we needed to get the early bite.

Carrying a bucket of finger mullet we had caught with our cast net on the bay side of the inlet, we made our way out on the large rock slabs that make up the jetties. Some of the slabs are at such an angle that they can’t be walked on easily, and that made the trip to the end even more difficult.Once on the end, we took up our places on the flattest rocks and began rigging our rods. As I looked down the beach, I could see the huge cloud of birds working the surf and moving our direction. They were gulls, about 100 strong, and they were over a huge school of false albacore. The albacore were gorging themselves as they moved toward the jetties, following an equally huge school of bait fish.

They were about a half mile away and moving in by the time we were ready for them. I had an old freshwater topwater bait – a creek chub darter as I remember – tied to six feet of wire leader on a 7 foot spinning outfit.. No fish was going to get off on this trip! Our last two trips to the jetties found us with the same situation – a morning surf feed of Albies and us with small light tackle. We lost literally every bait in our tackle boxes to these 20 pounders as they moved through. This time would be different. We had spent the previous evening tying long wire leaders and spooling 20 and 30 pound test line on much larger gear. So here we were – ready for the onslaught!

As the school moved closer, our hearts raced. Everywhere in every direction, blue and white 20 pound bullets were leaping in the air. Baitfish were jumping everywhere! Birds were screaming and diving, and it appeared as if even the birds would be taken by one of the leaping eating machines! And the closer they came, the louder the noise became.

We waited. We waited for the fish to get into casting range. We knew we would have only about 15 minutes of fishing, because at the end of that time, the school would have moved on, as they had the previous three days. And so we waited still.

And then, when it seemed as if we were going to burst with anticipation, one of us made the first cast. Zing went the silver spoon across the top of the water. The plunking sound of the spoon entering the water reached us at the same time the sound of the screaming drag did. And for John, the fight was on. Zing went another cast, this one from Richard, and bzzzz went the drag. 

And then it was my turn. I cast my bucktail across the top of the water, and it never hit the surface. A blur of blue streaked out of the water from 5 feet away and grabbed the bucktail in mid-air! What a fight! My fish headed for parts unknown and ran almost half the line from my reel. A small piece of weed dangled on my line right at the point of water entry, moving up and down and in and out of the water with every head shake of my fish. That movement was all it took. In a split second another blur of blue came down on the dangling weed, mistaking it for something live. And immediately I realized we would be hard pressed to keep up with these fish.

In what seemed like only a few seconds, fifteen minutes had passed and the school had moved on. Between the three of us we had one fish. Mine got cut off by another fish, and John's pulled free from what we considered to be too much drag. But, oh what a thrill! We would make this trip several more mornings before the fish decided to migrate on, and we would loose most of our tackle. But we also caught some other fish off those jetties. In Part 2, I'll tell you about the flounder and seatrout we caught when the Albies left!

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