Saltwater Fishing Tips

Fall Fishing Tips: Inshore Saltwater Fishing

Capt. Noah Lynk with Trout

Cool autumn temperatures signal hot saltwater fishing in the Southeast. Fall is one of the best times of the year for intense inshore and nearshore fishing action. Coastal waters are filled with a variety of prized saltwater game fish. Fishermen can tangle with monster bluefish and hard-charging false albacore, and fill their coolers with Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout and more. At the same time, large red drum move into the bays and estuaries to feed, offering trophy catches for anglers. 

What is the best time for inshore fishing? How do you catch speckled trout in the fall? What do redfish eat in the fall? What is the best bait for inshore saltwater fishing? What do you need for inshore saltwater fishing?

We sat down with Captain Noah Lynk, founder and operator of Noah’s Ark Fishing Charters on Harker’s Island in North Carolina, to get his thoughts on these commonly asked questions and more. The legendary Calcutta Outdoors Fishing Pro has successfully guided inshore charters for more than 20 years. Captain Noah is renowned for consistently putting his clients on fish. Here are the fall fishing tips and advice that he shared.

Capt. Noah Lynk in Calcutta Gear

Which saltwater species do you target in the fall?

Inshore species for fall fishing are going to be speckled trout and redfish with an occasional flounder thrown in. Nearshore species will be redfish, speckled trout, false albacore, Spanish mackerel and bluefish.

Where are the best places to find each of these species in the fall?

For inshore fishing for redfish and speckled trout, you mostly find them in the marsh or nursery areas for shrimp as this is their main diet this time of year. You also find them near structure such as bridge pilings, etc. As for finding trout and redfish in the nearshore waters, you’ll find them along the beaches feeding on minnows, crabs, etc. and any other structure such as rock jetties, which also hold food sources.

False albacore move into our local waters around October and begin their winter feed-up on glass minnows and bay anchovies, feeding in small schools to packs ranging for miles. The best places to find these fish are going to be all along our beaches from Cape Lookout (one of the best places) all the way to Wilmington. Spanish mackerel will be feeding on the same food in the same places as the false albacore.

The bluefish are going to usually stay a few miles out near the local inlets and will be feeding on just about everything that moves. They are very aggressive feeders. This is a great time of year to be fishing as everything is feeding up for the winter months. Some stick around longer than others, but it’s definitely one of the best times of the year for fishing.

False Albacore on Sea Striker Koka Jig

What is the ideal water temperature range for fall fishing?

In my opinion, the best water temperature range for fall fishing is around 75 degrees to 55 degrees depending on your choice of species.

What do you look for when you're fishing inshore in the fall?

Fall fishing the inshore waters requires a good knowledge of the area you’re fishing, the tides in every location, what the fish are feeding on at that particular time, a really good knowledge of how to fish artificial baits to imitate the bait and also a good knowledge of how to rig up for live bait fishing in very shallow water.

Are there other indicators that you look for?

Always be on the lookout for bait scattering, be it shrimp or mullet minnows, birds working over busting fish, etc. Also, if you see a bunch of boats together, they probably aren’t there by accident. When joining other boats that are fishing an area, be slow and be polite.

How do your tactics change in the fall?

Basically, my fall fishing changes with species, which usually means a different place, different tackle, lures, plugs, soft baits, etc. Those will change with the seasons and species.

What are your favorite baits? How do you fish them?

I really don’t have favorite baits per say due to the fact that every species can take a different bait at different times of the year. I try to have all of the best tackle I can possibly have every day, including live bait. You never know what you’re going to need or when you’re going to need it on a second’s notice.

Do you change rod and reel setups in the fall?

For fall inshore for speckled trout, I’ll scale down my rods a little and go for a heavy action to a very light action for the sensitivity. But other than that, I usually keep everything the same, just different tackle.

Is there an ideal time of day to fish in the fall?

Where I’m at on Harker’s Island, right in between both Barden’s Inlet and Beaufort Inlet, is very different than most locations. Time of day isn’t as important here as the tidal situation. You got to hit your tides right on the money: 1. to catch fish and 2. you need to have enough water to fish the spots you want to get to. Once the tide falls to a certain point in many places, you have to get out.

Capt. Noah with Flounder

What is your biggest secret to inshore fall fishing success?

I think my biggest success comes from having the local knowledge on where these fish show up. Once again, knowing your tides and water intimately is key to success as well as your choice of tackle and how to use it. Lots of people get in the right place at the right time, but aren’t using their lures right in some way. I see it all the time.

Any additional fishing tips that you would offer?

For those that are really serious about catching good fish, they really need to pay close attention to the weather, winds, tides in all locations. But most of all, nothing in the world can beat time spent on the water pounding it out. If I’m having a tough day, I’ll step back and think, “Okay, here’s my situation. So where can I go on this wind with this tide to catch a certain fish? What am I going to need rigged up when I get there?”

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