North Carolina's Monster Redfish

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.

Coastal North Carolina is rich with fishing opportunities. From flounder and sea trout to tuna and blue marlin, it's all here in impressive numbers.

Ironically, one of the state's best-kept secrets is its annual run of monster red drum. I'm talking about some of the largest red drum on the planet  bruisers so big, you'll freak out when you play one alongside the boat!

I've caught some pretty big redfish  fish in the 30-pound-class  off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, and a few of them were taken on top water plugs, which is quite a feat.

However, I've yet to catch a "super monster," that is, a redfish over 40 pounds. In freshwater terms, that would be the equivalent of catching a largemouth bass over 15 pounds.

The Monster Slayer

Capt. Gary Dubiel operates Spec Fever charters out of Oriental, N.C., and targets a host of inshore and coastal species on light tackle and fly.

I've known Gary for several years, and he is a stand-up guy. When he says he can put you on 40-pound-class redfish, you can take that to the bank.

Gary is one of the very best at catching these trophy red drum, and the reason I sent my Shallow-Water MARC to North Carolina last September to target these fish in the Neuse River.

I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Morehead City and docked at a small marina some 30 minutes away.

The marina was just off a major canal that put us in quick striking-distance of where we planned on fishing in the Neuse River, and about a 30-minute run down a scenic stretch of waterway to the Neuse.

Had Crystal Coast Tourism been given a magic wand, this would be the weather they wished for us: The morning air was crisp, not cold. The sky was blue, not cloudy. The sun was bright, and the wind virtually non-existent. The water was so flat it resembled a huge mirror, reflecting the boat, land and sky.

As we entered the Neuse River, Gary pointed to a stretch of coastline and told me to head that way. I was excited, so I pushed the throttle down even more and picked up a few more mph.

(Who cared if gas was over $3.50 a gallon? We were going fishing!)

Everything seemed to be falling into place  I just hoped the fish would be there.

Gary eventually told me to throttle down and watch the fishfinder until a shallow ledge appeared. Once it showed on the fishfinder, Gary took the wheel, and I readied the anchor.

He said "Right here", and I eased the anchor down. The anchor caught. It was time to fish!

Simple Tactics

Red drum are primarily bottom feeders, so we soaked chunks of fresh mullet on the bottom. Menhaden chunks are also excellent bait, but Gary prefers mullet when this species is migrating through the system.

Each chunk was impaled onto a 10/0 in-line circle hook, rigged with three to five inches of 80-pound test Sufix InvisiLine fluorocarbon leader, and a 3-ounce egg sinker crimped in place. This setup is called the Captain Lupton's Rig and it helps reduce hooking these fish deep.

Our chunking outfits were Penn 650 and 750 SSm (Spinfisher Series Metal) reels, spooled with 20-pound test Sufix Superior line and topped with a 10-foot wind on leader made with 50-pound test Sufix InvisiLine fluorocarbon. The reels were paired with 7-foot Penn Guide Inshore Series rods rated for 15- to 30-pound test.

Gary and I pitched out four baits, set the rods in the gunwale holders, and let the mullet chunks soak on the bottom. It was now a waiting game, where the scent of the freshly caught baits would draw redfish to them.

However, we didn't have time to sit back and relax, as pinfish thick as swarms of bees, along with small bluefish, devoured the chunks within minutes. We continuously replaced baits; Very few times did we actually have all four baits soaking on bottom for long.

The drill paid off about 45 minutes later, when one of the spinning rods bent deeply, and line began leaving the reel. Gary looked over  as if he wanted me to take the fish  but I told him to have fun, at least with the first red. After all, he was the native guide!

Gary went to work as I cleared the remaining lines. Soon, I saw a huge red drum rise to the surface  a real monster!

I scooped the fish up in the landing net and summoned Gary's help to take it out, remove the hook and set it free. Gary guessed the weight at around 45 pounds.
It was the largest red drum I had seen; that is, until the next fish hit!

George's Monster

This time, I grabbed and held on as a powerful fish took line. When the fish ceased running, I pumped the rod and regained line  until the fish charged off again! It was a tough fight  even on heavy spin tackle.

When I eventually caught my first glimpse of the fish, it put me in awe; I led it to Gary's net, and he contained the fish. We removed the hook, put the fish back in the water, admired it a few seconds, and turned it free.

This was by far my largest red drum, a monster we estimated at around 48 pounds!

Gary and I released two more monster drum that morning, including one about 50 pounds. After the bite tapered off, we decided to take a break, knowing we'd be back for the afternoon bite.

After a good lunch at a Morehead City dockside restaurant and some rest, we were back on the Shallow-Water MARC, heading right to the very same area we scored at that morning.

Out went the baits, and son came the hook-ups!

Does It Get Any Better?


Capt. Gary Dubiel operates Spec Fever charters out of Oriental, N.C. For more information, call (252) 249-1520 or visit www.specfever.com.

Comfort Inn at Morehead City. To book, call (800) 422-5404, or visit www.comfortinn.com.

For more information on Morehead City and North Carolina's Crystal Coast, visit www.crystalcoastnc.org.

As the sun was setting and putting a close to our day, Gary and I caught and released three more monster red drum, bringing our one day total to seven fish, ranging from 30 to 50 pounds!

The heart of this monster red drum invasion takes place inside North Carolina's Crystal Coast each August and September, when adult red drum congregate to spawn around the mouth of the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers.

By late September, most of these adult red drum move to the inlets and beaches, where they'll remain through November, before moving well offshore to winter.

North Carolina's Crystal Coast has blossomed into a hot tourist destination and one of the state's fastest growing population centers.

Encompassing the towns of Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Emerald Isle and Harker's Island, the area hosts marina-side shops and restaurants, attractions, eco-tours, beaches, and, of course, fishing charters. Morehead City hosts one of the finest big game charter docks on the east coast.

To say Gary Dubiel and I did well on our red drum excursion would be an understatement. The outing was nothing short of sensational, and I caught my largest red drum on this trip.

And according to Gary, there are way bigger fish swimming through this system every August and September. If you're a redfish fan and yearning to catch and release a career best fish, head up to North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

This is the undisputed kingdom of the monster redfish, and Captain Gary Dubiel knows just where to find them!

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.