All reports aren't good
I spent most of the time up around New Bern within 3 or 4 miles either side of the bridge. I threw a spook-like walk the dog topwater bait for about 4 solid hours. I had 6 very lazy bites from what looked like decent fish, probably stripers or perhaps a trout, but only caught one 17 inch striper. Brett caught a puppy drum on a rattle trap.
I was blown away by the amount of bait. Despite what has been generally good water quality this year, the menhaden were having a hard time of it. There were school after school of little 2-4 inch menhaden from one side of the river to the other and spanning several miles. It was dead calm, so O2 may have been a little low, but a lot of these menhaden also had sores, something that we have not seen in a long time.
Unlike catostrophic fish kills of years past, these were not all turning belly up at the same time and there were almost zero dead, rotten floating menhaden. As soon as one would go into a death spiral a gull would plop down and pluck him up. There were plenty of menhaden falling out of formation and going into a circle and there were thousands upon thousands of sea gulls on top of them at the first sign of struggle.
The menhaden schools were pretty tight and balled on the surface. Sometimes would be 30 or 40 gulls hovering and plucking weak and injured. What was oddly missing is sign of fish frenzy chasing and feeding on menhaden. We got a bite about everywhere we went and would see an occassional slow swril as a striper or trout sipped one down, but nothing crazy. Almost everywhere we went, there was the same story.
It was mid day before we got out there and I have heard that the morning and late afternoon bite were completely different, but I thought we would get more bites than we did......just way too much bait and the fish were full, hence the lazy bites.
On a positive side, there was a lot of bait, good to see that. Also there were a lot of very healthy looking mullet around, of all sizes. We did see some finger mullet get showered on the shoreline a couple of times, also close to where I missed a couple on the spook. There were no signs of dead or distressed fish other than these little menhaden. I'm sure there were plenty of fish around cleaning up from below at the right time of day and the gulls were doing a good job of keeping things cleaned up on top.
Since I'm semi-retired from the guiding thing, I can really appreciate those who are out there fishing on their days off to stay on the bite, "prefishing" before trips and keeping a pulse on what's going on. My efforts today don't reflect the good fishing that those guides have been experiencing because they are spending time on the water. That's what it's all about. On my next trip, I think I'm going to save some time hunting around and just hire one of the guides.