Spring has sprung, but as is typical for our area, summer is already starting to muscle its way in, with temperatures outside having reached the mid to upper 80s as early as mid-April. The warmer weather and water temperatures have triggered increased activity among fish, which is why May, along with September and October, is a favorite among anglers in our area offering a wide range of opportunities inshore and offshore. 


Inshore fishing during this time can be particularly rewarding as various species become more active in shallower waters. From snook and redfish to trout and flounder, there’s often a plethora of species to target, providing anglers with plenty of action and excitement. With water temperatures now in the high 60s to low 70s, we’ve started seeing the first flounder showing up in good numbers. Schools of small (peanut) pogies can be found in places like the marinas, wildlife boat ramp area and in the waterway. A quick cast net should catch you all the bait you need to catch those flounder. 

For those wanting to use artificial bait, a variety of soft plastics rigged on a jib head will net results. Flounder are typically found along the docks on the Southport waterfront as well as holding on points and ledges along area creeks. 

If it’s red drum you’re after, fresh shrimp on a Carolina Rig will produce results. This is also the time of year to catch them on topwater plugs first thing in the morning or late in the evening. Main creek channels that dump into the waterway or river are a good place to start, especially on a falling tide as those red drum will be stacked waiting on bait to get washed towards them. 


Nearshore action is hot and heavy with Spanish mackerel being the predominant catch. We had an exceptional April with an amazing showing of Atlantic bonito. This was one of the better years in recent memory for these delicious little tuna-like catches. If you are looking to catch Spanish mackerel, my recommendation is trolling a #1 or #2 planer with 30-feet of 20-lb fluorocarbon leader. Look for birds working in 10- to 30-feet and you will find the fish. 

The first schools of menhaden (pogies) will show up on the beach in mid-May and with them will come the first beach run of king mackerel. Slow trolling live pogies at 1-3 mph near areas like Yaupon Reef and Ocean Crest Pier will provide some very exciting fishing. This first beach run of King Mackerel generally lasts for a week or two then the fish push out to 55-75 feet where they will remain for the season.


If you are itching to get offshore a few miles, check areas like the Shark Hole, Horseshoe, Jungle and Christinas Ledge for the king mackerel. May 1 also ushers in grouper season. Though we have a bit of a short season for gag groupers this year, there are several other varieties that you can target all season. For the grouper, a great place to look is on ledges, wrecks and rock piles in 90-110 feet. Start by catching some fresh pinfish on a Sabiki rig at the nearshore reefs and putting them down on a grouper rig to yield some exciting action. In those depths, using a 2-hook bottom rig with squid will catch lots of black sea bass and beeliners (vermillion snapper) and as soon as the rig hits the bottom, reel it up 5-8 cranks since they generally suspend above the underwater structures. 

In the Gulf Stream, the warm waters and favorable weather conditions make it an ideal time to venture out for an unforgettable experience. The Gulf Stream is renowned for its rich marine biodiversity and abundance of game fish. The waters are often teeming with activity as various species migrate or gather for spawning. Anglers can expect to encounter prized catches such as mahi-mahi, tuna, marlin, sailfish, and many others. Trolling ballyhoo on skirted rigs will yield bites from all of these fish. Early in the month, I still use wire leaders as there are still quite a few wahoo’s around but as the month progresses, I will generally switch over to fluorocarbon leaders throughout my spread. Blue/white, green/yellow, black/blue, pink/white are some of the colors of the lures I’ve found to be most productive. Toward the end of the month, the mahis will spread out inshore of the Gulf Stream to 100-120 feet. When targeting mahi, don’t be afraid to stop inshore of the normal Gulf Stream spots. Often, I see folks running past the fish in their effort to reach a specific waypoint they are determined to fish. When running offshore, if you see a lot of flying fish, weed lines, and clear blue water, try stopping to fish for a bit and you may find exactly what you are looking for – even 5-10 miles inshore of the “break.” Some of my best days of fishing have been in 120 feet of water. 

Finally, if you’re seeking the ultimate fight, push offshore of the break to 100 fathoms (600-ft) and chase blue marlin. This is about the only time of year these fish are around in big enough numbers to catch. Although a few blue marlin do get caught throughout the summer, May is absolutely the best time for this awesome battle. Trolling plugs with squid chain teasers and dredges out in the deep water will entice these sea monsters to bite and give you the experience of a lifetime. 

So there you have it – I look forward to seeing you on the water and back at the docks with a boatload of fish to show off!

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