Black Sea Bass – February 2018
If you’re like us, after a few months of being cooped up inside the house you’re in desperate need of an adventure to break the cabin fever. Luckily for us, Black Sea Bass fishing in South East North Carolina is at its peak in the dead of winter. Not only are these beauties fun to catch, they are easily one of the best fish to eat on our coast. And with our mild winters, you can pick a calm 75 degree day in February (we ended up in our t-shirts on this trip!).
To really get into the best action, at least 70 feet of depth is preferred. This ledge where we got on ’em last winter was about 20 miles due east Wrightsville Beach. This area has TONS of live bottom so be sure to keep moving around until you find the best bite. This is a great opportunity to utilize the split zoom feature on the sonar (see below) and learn how to really get dialed in on a ledge. You’ll also have little to no other boats around making this the perfect chance to explore and mark a dozen or more waypoints to come back to all year long. It’s important to note that activity on ledges can change from year to year, so don’t get hung up and waste too much time trying to catch last year’s fish!
Light Tackle! Music to any fisherman’s ears, nothing beats seeing a rod doubled over bringing in fish after fish. While heavy gear is usually required for offshore bottom fishing, winter Sea Bass allow you to use spinning gear with light line for superior sensitivity. We prefer medium – medium heavy rods (Shakespeare Ugly Sticks are great!) with Penn fierce reels but any higher quality gear with suffice. 30-40 lb braid is a good choice because you can put heavier test line on light tackle because of its small diameter. Braid will also increase your success rate because it is vastly superior to monofilament in sensitivity and doesn’t stretch allowing for a much faster and harder hook set. Just don’t go too light on the tackle as there are still grouper (catch and release this time of year) down there! Standard bottom rigs with a 4/0 or 5/0 hook will work just fine. Conditions will determine how much lead weight to use, but typically a spread of 4oz to 8oz bank sinkers will do.
The Black Sea Bass are also incredibly aggressive this time of year so bait choice isn’t too incredibly important. They LOVE squid which is a win – win because it’s inexpensive and stays on the hook better than anything else, giving you at least a couple opportunities to hook the fish before your bait is taken. You can also never go wrong with Spanish Sardines. It really shouldn’t matter too much, be sure to have a variety a bait to choose from but there’s no need to go for the higher end baits (cigar minnows, ballyhoo, etc). 15 or so lbs of total bait should be enough to get you through the day.