Still in beach nourishment mode as backwaters, offshore produce fish

Article Image

Posted February 12, 2020

Remember Florence and more recently Dorian? Well, they redistributed a great deal of sand, especially Florence.

We have been in nourishment mode since last winter with phase I of the sand replacement project which was completed in April, replacing about 1 million cubic yards of sand on beaches in eastern Emerald Isle, most of Salter Path and all of Indian Beach.

As part of the project, dunes have been rebuilt and grassed with mainly sea oats being planted to stabilize barrier dunes. If you have checked out the beach recently, you can tell that the replaced sand has not washed away and the newly planted grass is flourishing.

Phase II is now underway and started last week as I watched the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company unloading their giant dredging pipes in Pine Knoll Shores at the Iron Steamer Pier access.

This phase II will focus on sand replacement in Atlantic Beach, all of Pine Knoll Shores, a small part of Salter Path and western portions of Emerald Isle. This involves nine miles of beach and about 2 million cubic yards of sand. This phase is expected to end by April 30 just as the turtle nesting season starts on May 1. As with phase I, grass planting is an integral part of the nourishment and will be carried out after the sand pumping has been completed.

Next year, phase III nourishment is scheduled which will complete the project, covering the remainder of Emerald Isle.

To follow the progress of the beach restoration, check out


This time of year, fishing info is sparse and hard to get. Nobody is on the piers and only a rare angler on the beach, but there are some reports from the backwaters and offshore.

We are also recovering from gale-force winds and inches of rain from last Thursday and Friday’s fearsome storms. I even had a hard time getting my water temperatures for those couple of days, having to walk hatless and carefully braving Bogue Inlet Pier and a sound-side pier, holding on for dear life!

The shad run has gotten off to a great start in the Neuse and Tar rivers, although the deluge had caused the water to muddy, and still some flooding needs to subside to normal levels. But fish are reported In Greenville, Kinston, Goldsboro, New Bern … well, you get the picture. I’m still waiting to hear about action on the Roanoke, which may still be a few weeks away.

Trout are still going strong but spottier than earlier in the season. Hot spots do not include the Newport River or Haystacks, but up toward Core Creek, Adams Creek and the Neuse, there are good numbers of fish. Ditto with the New River and its creeks. The Highway 24 creeks along Bogue Sound have noticeably slacked off, and the bait in the creeks is down as well. It’s probably related!

I have found a few rat reds but not many specks recently, although I’ve heard of a few caught while floating live mud minnows. The White Oak River bite is also slowed, but there are some undersized rat reds still around if they can avoid the gill nets.

As for reds, this is the time of year when they are found in the surf off of Bear Island, Shackleford Banks and the east-facing beaches of Cape Lookout where the bite is currently off the charts. Cinch up your waders really tight and plan to get wet, but the fish are there. Also, this time of year, you an often find the old drum feeding on menhaden around Lookout Shoals.

Speaking of the shoals, the bluefin tuna action has been moving north toward Oregon Inlet. But there were some nice hookups in 60-degree water in the general vicinity of the Atlas Tanker while pulling live menhaden baits. In the warm waters east of the shoals, it’s not uncommon to find some king mackerel there, even this late in the winter.

Closer to home, there are still reports of sea mullet in Beaufort Inlet from the 18 Buoy into the port area. As you get into the Morehead City Port and port wall, there are some sheepshead, and yes, even some tautog.

Remember them? The ’tog bite is off the charts north in the Delaware area, where the fish are big and hungry. These are really a great eating fish that feed on mollusks and crabs and have sweet white flaky meat.