Paul Genovese caught this black drum while fishing beneath a bridge. He used a fiddler crab as bait.Putting a fiddler crab on a hook involves more than most people expect. Catching the fiddler crab first, is the time-consuming part. Walking into a marsh during low tide, an angler sees armies of them with males waving one outsized claw to attract attention from females.

Fiddler crabs are nothing to fiddle around with. That big claw can draw blood from a fingertip during the catching or the hooking. Using rubber gloves makes capturing them safe, but makes impaling one with a fishhook impossible.

I usually remove the big claw before hooking a male fiddler so a fish will not bite it and take off, missing the body of the crab that has the hook. Yet, here I was, beneath a bridge, preparing to make a cast with a claw pricking my thumb and it hurt. My revenge was sending the clawless crab beneath the surface, weighted by a bank sinker.

Sheepshead were the target, but when the fiddler hit bottom another fish gobbled it down. It attempted to wrap the line around the bridge piling. But the braided line defeated the barnacled concrete.

Doug Shores with a nice flounder from Kure BeachDoug Shores caught this flounder at Kure Beach Fishing Pier.

All area piers have seen good catches of flounder, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and bluefish. King mackerel should be biting any day and continue the rest of the summer.

Flounder fishermen should use live mud minnows or mullet. Keep them alive in aerated buckets, which can be purchased at tackle shops and discount stores. Many piers have mud minnows for sale and the small baitfish will stay lively for a long time in a Styrofoam minnow pail, even without an aerator.

Use a "Carolina rig" if you are a sweet-water bass angler or "flounder rig" if you are a dyed-in-the-brine saltwater angler. The rig's the same. An egg sinker, leader and Kahle or wide bend hook. You will need a hoop net to land the fish, so bring your own or make sure a buddy has one, out on the pier before you begin fishing.

Some of the biggest flounder of the year will be caught in July and August, so head for the piers, right now.

Pender County Commissioner George Brown, State Rep. Carolyn Justice, Pender County Commissioner David Williams, State Sen. Bill Rabon, Former NCWRC Chairman Steve Windham, Pender County Commissioner F.D. Rivenbark, Juston Bell, Robert Earl Best, and Walter Bell cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Hampstead Boating Access Area.

Fresh concrete gleamed as though bleached beneath the feet of dozens of people at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Hampstead Boating Access Area. Fourteen-year-old Walter Bell, 13-year-old Juston Bell and 13-year-old Robert Earl Best waited patiently to be first to launch as visiting dignitaries and fans of the ramp attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, May 18.

The North Carolina Public Access Foundation donated $500 to the construction of the new ramp.

Mark Hamlett, the Commission’s Design Services Section Chief, kicked off the ceremony. He said the ramp culminated two years’ effort.

“The Wrightsville Beach Ramp is 17 miles away and is the busiest in the state,” he said. “The Surf City Ramp is five miles away. In 2009, we came across this property and worked with Pender County Manager Rick Benton and County Commissioner David Williams to acquire it,” he said. “It took nine months for permits and six months for construction. The land cost was $2.8 million and it cost $650,000 for construction of the three ramps, docks and the parking area. $40,000 came from the state’s WAMI fund (Waterfront and Marine Industry Fund) and $250,000 came from coastal fishing licenses. The rest came from boat registration fees. It was paid for by its users and is a great partnership between local and state governments and agencies.”

Land acquisition took 18 months and construction took six months. People had been begging for a boat ramp in the area more than a decade.

“I’ve been a county commissioner for ten year and its something I’ve been promoting and hearing about all of that time,” said David Williams. “There have been highs and lows.”

Rep. Carolyn Justice said she had taken heat over supporting a recreational saltwater fishing license in the legislature.

“I’ve been hearing about the need for a ramp in this area throughout my 10 years as a legislator,” she said. “Along the way, I got beat up over a coastal fishing license. But revenue from the fishing license helped pay for this ramp.”

The ramp is located in an area with an astounding amount of boating, fishing and hunting activity according to Master Wildlife Officer Doug Jones, who lives two miles away. His 21-foot Parker center console with its green and gold Commission decal was in the launching lane.

“This ramp is between Wrightsville Beach and Surf City, but it’s the only ramp on the mainland side of the waterway,” Jones said. “We anticipate it will be just as busy as the Wrightsville Ramp. We enforce any laws regarding boating safety, as well as anything pertaining to Commission ramps. This ramp will be another place to focus our law enforcement efforts.”

The teenager trio waited until the host of dignitaries to cut a green ribbon to pieces. As it fell, the elder Walter Bell backed the boat toward the water. His sons had paid for the 14-foot johnboat, but it was registered in his name because they were too young to have technical ownership. Walter and Juston Bell had saved $400 money to buy boat.

“They blew up their first engine on Saturday,” he said. “I helped them buy the used 15 horsepower Evinrude that’s on it today so they could be first to use the ramp. I make them stay between certain navigation markers in case they get into trouble. That way, all it takes is a cell phone call and I can come out to help them in my boat.”

The teenage trio had been using a nearby ramp owned by Best’s grandfather. They said they enjoyed going fishing, but were just going to go for a ride today.

“We like catching drum, trout and flounder,” Best said. “We’ve been fishing together for so long, we feel like we’re all brothers.”

Fish N MateWhen Jim Cheek entered the Johnnie Mercer’s Pier Dogfish Tournament back in January he did not catch a winning fish. However, he bought a raffle ticket that later won a Fish-N-Mate Power Cart. The winning ticket was drawn on Sunday, March 18 at theCape Fear Wildlife Expo in Wilmington.

“I’m thrilled,” said Cheek, an angler from Newport, N.C.” I saw the power cart at the tournament and thought it was a really great idea. I bought five tickets for $20 and I was happy to help a worthwhile cause.”

Cheek can now move his gear to the pier with ease, thanks to William Clardy, who invented the Power Cart and demonstrated the cart at the tournament and at the Expo. Clardy also drew the winning ticket. Aaron Ramsey, owner of Angler’s Fish-N-Mate, donated the cart. The cart has an electric motor that allows it to move easily cart over soft sand with ease.

The raffle netted $835 for the North Carolina Access Foundation, Inc. The Foundation is dedicated to increasing and enhancing all forms of public access, with an emphasis on saving boat ramps and ocean fishing piers. NCPAF, Inc. has now raised nearly $8,000 and has donated funds for preserving the Oak Island Fishing Pier, repairing the boat ramps at Oak Island and building the North Carolina Wildlife Commission’s Lewis Road Boating Access Area in Pender County. The foundation has also restored the Commissions Adopt-A-Boat Ramp program. NCPAF, Inc. is a (501) (c) non-profit organization.

To learn more about the North Carolina Fishing Pier Society, For information about Fish-N-Mate pier carts and Power Carts, visit

William Clardy of Porter's Neck invented a self-propelled pier and surf cart, which can also be used as a yard cart or kayak carrier with an add-on boat carrier. The manufacturer is Angler's Fish-N-Mate and the cart is called the Fish-N-Mate Power Cart. It is excellent for getting ice chests, tackle and gear to the ocean and with an optional accessory outlet powers a cell phone charger, spotlight or anything else that has a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter. I've seen it in action and it is amazing! No more making several trips for camping and fishing gear when going across the sand!

Aaron Ramsey of Angler's Fish-N-Mate has graciously agreed to donate a Power Cart ($499 retail value) as a raffle item for the North Carolina Public Access Foundation, Inc., with the drawing to be held at the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo on March 18, 2012 at the Wilmington Convention Center. The cart will be on display at the NCPAF, Inc. booth at the Expo as wall as at the North Carolina Fishing Pier Society Dogfish Tournament at Johnnie Mercer's Pier on Jan. 28, 2012. Tickets can be purchased by making an online donation at Tickets cost $5 each or 5 for $20. Or, send cash, check or MO to Mike Marsh, 1502 Ebb Drive, Wilmington, NC 28409.

Power Cart

William Clardy uses his Power Cart to fish at Topsail Beach. An amazing assist for anglers who want to carry all their gear to the beach quickly and efficiently with only one trip! For handicapped sportsmen, it is one of the best inventions ever devised because getting an ice chest down the pier is no longer a challenge.

For more information about thePower Cart or to find out where to buy one, visit

Sea Ducks at Green Bay, Wisconsin

I've been unable to shoot a drake long-tailed duck in North Carolina, although I've taken several hens and immature drakes. So I headed to Lake Michigan and hunted with Dean Crom at Big Water Outdoors and shot these six drakes (a limit of sea ducks for Wisconsin). Layout boat hunting at its finest at Big Water Outdoors.

*Click the small images for a larger view*

Mike with a 42-inch red drum caught while fishing the Neuse River near Oriental with Gary Dubiel.Gary Dubiel has been fishing for the giant red drum in the Neuse River during the daytime. No longer do anglers have to feel like they need to head out in late afternoon, fishing into the night, and navigating home in the dark.

Capt. Gary and Capt. Dave Stewart and I caught one red drum each, fishing with chunks of mullet on the bottom. The action was fast, with a fish striking immediately following the previous fish until we decided to sight fish for them. Heading into the shallows, I soon hooked a big redfish while sight-casting the oil slicks created by the big reds eating menhaden. We could easily have caught fish all morning. But I had to head home to prepare some houses and my newly-thinned tree farm for Hurricane Irene's landfall (yes, Wilmington is in the bulls eye again) and even a big strong guy like Gary was thankful. He had been running two trips a day, lifting red drum to the tune of as many as 18 a day for client photos. The fish typically exceed the 40-inch citation size, so multiple citation fish can be released in one day. Anglers should be thankful to catch ONE red drum weighing at least 40 pounds, or a pound to the inch, in any trip, or in fact, a lifetime! In no other type of fishing can anglers earn so many citations in one day, according to Capt. Gary.

Gary took a break after I left at 10:30 after the aborted trip. He had another charter that afternoon and if the morning was any indication, they would all the action they could want waiting just offshore of Oriental, and Gary would get his "exercise" with red drum barbells again.

Speck Fever Guide Service - Gary Dubiel, 252-249-1520. Kneedeep Custom Charters - Capt. Dave Stewart 252-249-1786.