The Shallows and Backwaters

North Carolina is home to some of the most expansive saltwater estuaries in North America. The waters of Bogue Sound, Core Sound and the Newport and North Rivers have rich spartina grass marshes that are the spawning and nursery grounds for many species of shallow-water game fish. The The flats and deep cuts teem with shrimp, mullet and other bait-fish...and often right behind them are Red Drum, Flounder and Speckled Trout - the three species that make up the NC Inshore Slam.

RED DRUM, the North Carolina State fish, are available year round and provide fantastic light-tackle action. While you can live-bait for these fish, I like to chase these hard-fighting bull dogs with artificial baits like jigs, spinnerbaits, spoons - and top-water plugs. Redfish on top-water plugs is some of the most exciting fishing that one can experience. They will hit a surface plug with tremendous force, often pushing a huge wake behind the lure before engulfing it while making a splash the size of a manhole cover! It's not for the faint of heart!

Tailing Red Drum are one of North Carolina's best kept secrets. When the conditions are right, I pole my shallow-draft Jones Brothers Bateau onto the grass flats and we start looking for tails. A sight-fisherman's dream, the water is extremely shallow - often less than 8" deep. Stalking these fish is an experience of its own- it's some of the hardest fishing you will ever do.

Dates for Tailing Red Drum are limited - so book in advance!!

FLOUNDER - Beaufort Inlet is also home to one of the best flounder fisheries on the east coast. Beginning in the spring and peaking in late summer and fall, we find flounder in great concentrations from the backwater creeks, channels and docks all the way to the nearshore wrecks and reefs. While we often come across them while chasing drum and trout in the marshes, we can also target them exclusively in the backwaters. Whether it's with live-bait or artficials, we do it all!

SPECKLED TROUT - Come fall it's trout season. As the days shorten and the winds blow from the north, the trout begin their fall migration and begin to school up in the creeks and marshes. A true WaterDog specialty, we chase these fish all October and November using grubs, mirrolures and assorted artificial baits. The bite starts in the marsh and moves to the ocean as the water cools, and we follow their migration. One of my favorite fish to target, I pride myself in my ability to put my clients on serious trout. Come peak season, huge catches are possible - 100 fish days are common and we've had many 300+ trout trips!

2004 and 2005 were two of the best years of speckled trout and red drum fishing in decades, and with the mild winter of '05/06, the summer and fall of 2006 should be the best year yet!


Our inshore fishing opportunities are endless! Outside of the backwaters, the inlet and the many nearshore wrecks, reefs and live-bottom areas are home to a plethora of gamefish species. We often cruise the tide-lines and rips of Beaufort Inlet to cast for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sharks and cobia. Moreover, we are also lucky enough to have several wrecks and live-bottoms only minutes away from Beaufort inlet. An extremely productive year-long fishery, the wrecks offer opportunities for big flounder, big Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, spadefish, Atlantic bonito, false albacore...the list goes on and on!

In the spring (April and May)we begin the season by chasing the hard-fighting and delicious Atlantic Bonito. While they only stay for a few weeks, these fish are a very special catch and a true delicacy on the dinner table. As the water begins to warm, schools of bluefish and spanish mackerel roam the inlet and beaches and other large gamefish work their way towards shallower waters. The areas around Cape Lookout are home to a great run of early summer cobia - we both site cast and bait fish for these big beasts. Along with cobia, also in the mix are big bluefish (10lbs+) and big sharks.

When we aren't off chasing big kings and dolphin (mahi-mahi) in the summer months, we can often be found on the nearshore wrecks and live-bottoms targeting flounder and trophy-size spanish mackerel (3-8lbs!) on light tackle! Mid to late summer, these areas stack up with great numbers of flounder and catching 20+ legal flounder in a day is common! One very popular charter is to target the mackerel on 12lb test while flounder fishing. As we drop baits for flounder, we'll fly the kites and live-line live-bait for the mackerel and watch these drag-screamers smash the baits on the surface. In addition to this consistent fishery, other options and possibilities are endless - who knows what we may see! Schools of tarpon, huge sharks, amberjacks, bait-ball never know...anything can happen. Some of my greatest memories are not just of the fish we've landed but are of some of the amazing sights we've seen: Giant basking sharks, leatherback turtles, humpback whales, mola-molas (ocean sunfish), manta rays, schools of stingrays hundreds of yards across...those are the memories of a lifetime.

As the days shorten and the nights get cooler, autumn brings about our best fishing of the year. In addition to the bountiful red drum and speckled trout, the area waters have some of the best king mackerel fishing on the east coast. The fall is when we catch the giants -30-40lb fish are a common catch and even 50lb fish are possible. My personal best is a 55lb behemoth that client Richie Nash landed in November, 2004.

Cape Lookout is home to the absolute mecca of fly-fishing – the autumn false albacore blitz as fly anglers (and spin anglers) from all over the globe gather at Cape Lookout for a shot at one of the fastest swimming fish in the ocean. Drag-melting runs that can peel off hundreds of yards of line in seconds is the norm with these guys. Don’t miss out! In addition, Cape Lookout is also home to a fantastic year-round fishery--huge cobia in the spring and summer, big spanish mackerel in the summer and fall, and excellent fall speckled trout. The shoals also offer excellent winter striper fishing – few local anglers are even aware that the big stripers are returning in force!


BIG Nearshore Fish

What most anglers don’t realize is that off-shore species are very accessible to smaller boats – and you don’t have to shell out $1300+ for a charter and travel 40+ miles offshore to get into a good mahi-mahi or king mackerel bite! Within a modest distance from the beach are dozens of wrecks, live-bottom areas and meandering weedlines that allow anglers to chase mahi-mahi (dolphin), king mackerel, false albacore, huge sharks, grouper, cobia, amberjacks and even sailfish! My very comfortable and seaworthy Parker center consol gives us great range allowing us to safely find the fish.
By far the most popular summer charter, we troll and kite fish for large pelagic fish. Imagine big dolphin (mahi-mahi) hound-dogging out of the water, sailfish billing baits and big smoker kings screaming off hundreds of yards of line...often times within sight of land! While king mackerel are always present, our lines are constantly being kocked down by various gamefish species. In 2005 we had a mini-blitz of sailfish and for three weeks I had encounters with these beautiful fish almost daily (with most of them winning the battel)...and all within 10 miles of the beach! Every day is different and that is what adds to the excitement of this fishing - one day it's big schools of mahi-mahi, the next it's king mackerel and cobia. The realm of possibilities are endless!

Using both live-bait and artificials, we provoke massive strikes on light-tackle...the other signature piece of my service. While many offshore boats fish using similiar methods - most use very heavy tackle that does not does not allow for a good fight. I exclusively use 15-20lb test tackle that provides a great fight and really let's you hear the reel sing! In addition to trolling, kite-fishing adds an entirely new element to nearshore fishing. As one of the only anglers in North Carolina to use kites for nearshore fishing, it gives me a competive edge with picky summer fish. Using kites, we dangle baits on the surface several hundred yards from the boat. The lack of tackle in the water tends to entice large fish and explosive slashing strikes. This type of charter can also be combined with bottom fishing for triggerfish, seabass and grouper or nearshore wreck fishing for flounder and spanish mackerel.


Whether you want to troll for pelagics like dolphin or kings or drop bait for grouper or other bottom fish—Water Dog customizes trips to your requests. I also specialize in chumming up kings, big Spanish mackerel, sharks and amberjacks for the light-tackle anglers and fly-fishermen. This fishery is summer-long, lasts well into the fall – and rarely slows!


April & May - For two weeks every spring I make the trek to North Carolina's legendary Roanoke River in order to hit the peak of the spring striper run. I juggle my dates so that I'm available for both the April "keeper season" and early May catch and release fishing."Phenomenal" is the only word that describes it -- 100 fish per angler are the norm during the peak of the run. While most fish are in the 15-28" range - it is possible to catch stripers up to 40lbs!

While you can use bait, it's usually a lot more fun to use artificials like jigs, crank-baits and TOPWATER BAITS. There is usually a fantastic top-water bite in both the mornings and afternoons. In addition, the opportunities for fly fishermen are incredible - at times fly-anglers will even out produce spin and bait fishermen! The fishing is easy and fun and it's great for children as well as serious, hardened anglers!

August-September - North Carolina is famous for having the world's largest red drum. Come late summer the large, mature red drum migrate from the ocean to the shallows of the Pamlico Sound to spawn. These brutes invade the pamlico in such massive numbers that at times it is hard not to run into them! We target these fish at night, usually anchoring up to watch the sunset and preparing for a chaotic evening. The bite is so consistent that it is nothing to catch a dozen of these large brutes in a single evening! These trips are an experience of a lifetime and are great for anglers of all experience levels. You can't come to NC with out targeting the giants at least once!

June-October - Per special request, we can travel to the remote waters of core sound and the southern Pamlico to pursue speckled trout and drum on the vast shallow flats and along the miles of undeveloped shorelines. With the right winds, the water can be crystal clear and offers ample opportunities for site fishing. I'll pole the skiff along the flats while anglers keep their rods readied to cast to schools of drum cruising the shallows. With a little luck, it is even possible to see (and thus sight cast to!) schools of giant red drum! Regardless, the fishing is usually excellent and the scenery is fantastic. It almost feels like your in a true wilderness!

All tackle – spin, fly or conventional – and gear is provided.
But customers may feel free to bring along whatever gear they desire.

Capt. Tom Roller  ·  USCG Licensed and Fully Insured  ·  ·  (252) 728-7907  ·  (919) 423-6310
Designed by  ·  (c) Copyright 2004  ·  All Rights Reserved