Fish Post

Tidelines – August 1, 2019

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Capt. Dale Collins, of Fish or Die Charters, recently put me on my career-best flounder, but since he did it in the same week that Fisherman’s Post hosted the annual Intracoastal Angler’s Kids Day on the Vonda Kay, Dale’s going to have to wait until the second half of this Tidelines article to get his limelight.

This is the third year of our annual kid-friendly, half day bottom fishing trip with Capt. Dave Gardner on the head boat Vonda Kay, currently docked beside Motts Channel Seafood in Wrightsville Beach. Philip David and the rest of the crew at Intracoastal Angler have been the title sponsor of this event since its inception, and their support has helped introduce many kids 14-and-under to offshore fishing.

I and my two oldest boys—Owen (13) and James (12)—have been on board all three years, and that continuity has provided me with a small window into my boys’ developing relationship with fishing.

This year, unlike the previous two years, Owen and James fished the entire time. They didn’t get bored, distracted, or tired and want to move inside the galley. Rather, they fished the entire time at the first drop (which they have done prior), and then they fished the entire time at the second drop (which they have never done before) and the third and fourth (again, never).

They were also baiting their own lines, removing fish from their own hooks, and not once did I have to tell them to put the phones down and be in the moment. Without any struggle, they were already in the moment.

I know for parents whose kids live and breathe fishing from the earliest age that this seems like a very small victory, but my kids haven’t been naturally drawn to fishing. So when they both fished hard the entire time, were proud of the stringer of grunts and sea bass they put together for a family dinner, and told me days after the trip how much fun they had this year on the Vonda Kay, I’m seeing that as reason to celebrate.

Capt. Dale Collins (left), of Fish or Die Charters, guided Gary Hurley to his career-best flounder, a 7.9 lb. flattie caught on a bucktail/Gulp off a dock near the Swansboro waterfront.

I’ll temper the singular role that fishing played in their enjoyment, though, as having some of their soccer buddies to hang with was a large part of the success of the day. My own boys get enough, if not too much, time in Tidelines, so I’d like to share with you some of the notes I received from the kids that made the trip for the first time:

Anthony: “My favorite part of the trip was hanging out with my friends and catching my very first black sea bass.”

Christiana: “My favorite part on the boat was catching my first triggerfish. It was so hard and challenging to reel in.”

Declan: “I liked standing in the front of the boat and getting soaked with my friends. It made the trip out a lot more fun. I also liked the anticipation of reeling in your line when you think caught a fish. I was scared that the fish that were too small to keep wouldn’t live, but I think they all survived.”

Wyatt: “I liked hanging out with my teammates and being on the Vonda Kay heading out to sea with the spray and sunshine. Also happy to have rallied after getting seasick, throwing up and then going on to catch a nice sea bass.”

Cooper: “It was so cool when we got to touch the shark!”

Plans are already underway for the 4th annual Intracoastal Angler Kids Day on the Vonda Kay, most likely to be held in late June 2020, so please stay tuned for details. However, you don’t have to wait until June 2020. The Vonda Kay goes out weekly on the same half day bottom fishing trips that we just enjoyed, so you can visit them at and start planning your own introductory trip.

Or you can visit Intracoastal Angler, whose staff loves any opportunity to help a kid catch a fish, whether it’s advising parents or working directly with the kid that’s interested. Their info is available at

I’m not quite sure how to segue, so I’ll just state again that Capt. Dale Collins, of Fish or Die Charters out of Swansboro, put me on my career-best flounder a few days before the kids’ trip.

I met Dale at Dudley’s Marina, and we started by targeting some clear water docks not far from the inlet. Though we were flounder fishing, there wasn’t any bait on board, and that’s because Dale believes in and produces exclusively with a bucktail/Gulp.

He handed me a rod armed with a 3/4 oz. white Spro bucktail and a 4” glow chartreuse Gulp shrimp. For the deeper inshore waters, he likes the 3/4 oz. because it falls quicker than the 1/2 oz., and he likes the Spro bucktail because the hair holds on well and it’s made with a good, strong hook.

Dale’s instructions were relatively simple: fish slow, shoot for 1’ off the bottom on the bounce, and be sure you feel the bucktail fall and touch the bottom. Of the short list of instructions, Dale told me, feeling the bucktail on the fall is the most important, as flounder will almost always hit the bucktail when it’s dropping, so you need to be ready to respond to a strike with a good, hard hook set (and Dale emphasizes good and hard).

The first set of docks produced a number of shorts and a couple of keepers. Then we moved to some ICW docks, but the boat traffic was too high on a Friday to fish comfortably or effectively. At the Swansboro waterfront, I sent my first cast towards a big piling at the end of a dock and immediately felt the telltale heavy thump of a big flounder.

Capt. Dale Collins, of Fish or Die Charters, targets red drum and flounder, such as my 7.9 lb. doormat, throughout the summer months and into the fall (October). He’ll start paying closer attention to trout in mid-September, and then stay on the trout all the way into January/February. Conveniently enough, that’s when the winter reds start schooling up well.

Your doormat is waiting for you, and it wants a Spro bucktail/Gulp offering. Help Dale help you by visiting him at Facebook/fishswansboronc or (252) 422-4326.