NC Railbird hunting and Saltwater fishing guide

Wilmington, N.C.  

Inshore Fishing and traditional Rail Bird Hunting Charters

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Inshore Fishing charters
Traditional N.C. Rail Bird Hunts ​​

Book a railbird hunt- tide !
Waterfowl Hunts
4 hour Fishing Charters are $350 1P, and $450 for two persons ​, and every backcountry charters are stress free adventures​.

Joe Guide only books a small number of fishing trips in the spring and summer time, so call and leave a message and see what days are available.

Please let me know if you or your fishing buddy desires to fly-fish or utilze light-tackle.

I go Wadefishing after tailing Reds only during a flood tide that is big enough to allow big reds to think they can have their way crunching and munching on Fiddler, Peeler, or Mud crabs.  I try to ensure that all my clients who desire to wade-fish and chase tailing red on our  backcountry flats experience a interesting and exciting adventure! 
Spring and summertime might be over rated by kids today who seem to spend hours and hours playing with game-boys and other expensive electrical toys, however in my day; summer time...was kids time...when we read a lot of old Outdoor Life and Field & Stream, and Fur, Fish & Game magazines which were stacked up- knee high in the corner of Grandfather's bathroom that had a exceptional reading light.

Summer time was when kids of all ages- got cut loose from teachers and mathmatical formula's.
Summertime was "June bug" and fishing and frog gigging time... in freshwater ponds, or gigging flounder under a Carolina Moon at low tide" in the saltwater flats by a Colman Lantern -suspended across the hole in a Inflatable intertube.
     You might still remember times like those Carolina summer times in my mind.

You may recall such times in yo' life when the air on a springtime afternoon just kinda smells prettier than any other day. You may recall as I do, the magnolia's blooming, and busting out to overshadow Rose bushes.
We had a church lady that came over to baby sit little bubby....
 and  every summer time visit Mrs. Lavina Martha Washington Pompy crafted - delicious "frozen OJ popsiclices" made out of love and concern that young children need to drink more vitamin C.
Now you readers have all grown up...and are now sucessful business men, and Captains of Industry. You might desire- to book a stress free Inshore Fishing Charter while you are on Vacation this spring or summertime at Bald Head Island, Figure 8 Island, Wrightsville, Carolina, or Kure' Beach with yo' family.

Let me know if you deisre to bring your own fly rod, or you can use one of my fly rod outfitts: I have SAGE, and two types of TFO 8 or 9 wt fly rods rigged for tailing reds in the spartina grass.

I use a lot of CRAB Flies or Mud Minnow Patterns designed by Bud Rowland of Lower Laguna Madre' in Texas, or some super crabby flies by Connie Mack Moran of CREATIVE FEATHERS of LaMarque, TX.

You FISHING...or just sitting at home Wishing?

If you try to understand the tide system you realize that tides bring oxygen and microorganisms which bring in baitfish and pelagic species.
+++ cannot catch a fish sitting inside yo' home in that lazy boy rocker.

Have you got some practice casting your casting at home in your front yard or a pond with good clearance for your backcasts.

Be Prepaired before you go fish.

I like fishing two hours prior to a flood tide in the spring- Fall, and in the colder weather I prefer to fish the falling tide . 

**You need to leave a message to inquire about available Fishing dates. 

Each fall the Speckled Sea Trout run from the middle of October through late December. Peak runs of specks occur after water tempretures hit 58 degrees. Specks can run in cycles...with every third season showing up with larger numbers of fish in your region.

Wade fishing for big reds occurs in our inshore saltwate when the water tempretures are 68 - 80 degrees F.

Tides gotta be high enough for reds to get into certain flats via feeder creeds during a flood tide.

Big reds do not travel onto flats  until three conditions  occur. Threfore you can start seeing reds tail or push into feeder creeks which these fish feel SAFE from Preditors. They can be spooking all spring-summer-fall months, however you got to lead them, and stalk them quietly and succently with a lure that looks like their food source they are seeking. 

We can find tailing redfish from the new moon of May - until about the second week during the New/full Moon of October.

     It is all about h20 tempretures, food sources and enough flooding and hunger to drive single fish, pairs and pods to pursuue primary and secondary food species in a particular flooded flat. Really big reds can be quite "spooky" too. You got to stalk these tailing reds for that is what you are doing- hunting these tailing fish during an incoming, and flooding flood tide.  
Give a Duck hunt Charter as a Christmas Present to the Duckaholic in your home  or family.

Father & Son
Duck- Hunt Holiday special **

*( sons must be accompanied by their father who booked this charter, and the son needs to be between ages of 8 -14 years old )

* This is a limited time offer, and  just  $350.


YOU got to book a (Father/son {4 hr} Duck hunt) while charters are still available.

The Father/Son Special Duck Hunts are morning hunts.

 Launch @ 0500 - picking up decoys by 0900 hrs .


Hunting is done from our 20 ft boat blind and over decoys -therefore it bears all the qualities to please your little duckaholic. 


SE North Carolina Waterfowl hunting is always predicated by  how many ducks migrated down the coast from Core Sound, or the Outer Banks into our coastal inshore  waters.

If the Divers are down...we will hunt divers, if not, then we will shoot puddled ducks. 
Holiday dates are quite  popular (gifts to give your Papa, or favorate cousin  or best friend)  and holiday dates should be booked early. 

Note **Duck hunting charters**
 $350 1P , and $450 2 P.
Have your licence, HIP Cert, and do not forget to sign your...federal duck stamp when you arrive for your charter. 
I offer a limited number of duck hunts during the holiday period and use a boat-blind, and  hunt over decoys during  a four hour duck hunt charter. 

2018 -2019 Duck Seasons

Nov 20 - Dec 1

* (6 duck bag limit
DEC 15 - JAN 26th 2019

 $350 1 P, or {$700 for 2 P)

In November 1832  John James Audubon wrote in his journal that he "...watched a Charleston gentleman, hunt railbirds from a skiff off the Cooper River outside of Charleston."
The sportsman used a pole-man to push his skiff, and told him that he kept two 30" Manton (sxs) loaded and capped - "...jest in case he got into a big flock of railbirds as - gentlemen only shot railbirds while flying".


Our Rail bird hunts are  4 hr charters   during which time, we hunt the incoming - full - falling tides that occur throughout  a Rail bird flood tide.

Bag Limits:

25  Sora + Virginia Railbirds per day

15 Clapper and King railbirds limt  per day or in Aggragate.  

70 Day Split-SEASON
starts in September either on the first or one of the first big tide days of that month.
* "super-tides" only occur 3 - 4 times every month.
You see, this kind of wingshooting is only possible when we have the great big flood tides, and having twelve knots or more of wind will certainly help the guide poling that skinny water Railbird super skiff.
     What diffreienciates between a good day from a great day?

Railbird hunting is all about the tides!  There are the super/king tides and the winds during that hunt day.

Some  strong winds can influence the tide too, and increase a tide's height.

Heavy rains that dump into the Cape Fear River's  tributaries can also increase the flooding along the lower Cape Fear River too.
You readers might find it somewhat hard to grasp, however,  I have seen days when "two inch" tidal variance- can turn a good day into something quite special ! 

In my book -- The RAIL BIRD HUNTER's BIBLE (2014) I discuss what factors are in play, those unique aspects between a normal tide, and what encompuses a Super Tide or the King Tide's.

Understand that you may only see 4 or 6 KING TIDES each season, and some of those may occur after sunet due to lunar conditions.
You need a big enough tide to get those railbirds- out of thick cover.

How can you best practice for railbird hunting? 
(The very best practice is by shooting a round of  trap- from the 16 yard line). 
What is the best SHOTGUN to use?

*I would recommend you consider bringing a 20 ga, 16 ga, or a 28 ga shotgun Auto, or O/U, or my personal favorate...the SxS.

Shells should be Low/brass #6 or #7.5 non-toxic which can be found at most Wal-Mart Sporting goods section.
If it is going to be a windy day, you really should bring- one more box of shells, than you may think you'll need. I have had many a gunner have to stop some mighty good railbird hunts, because he shot his only box of shells and were still just a few birds shy of his limit.

 A 12 ga shotgun is just - too much gun for railbirding, however...if you are 75 years old, or older...I will certainly allow you to shoot a 12 ga in my skiff.

The current record is a 15 birds limit in 19 shots. It was done by a Psychiatrist with a 28 ga o/u on his first railbird hunt in late September.
I might add, he has hunted two other times with me and never shot that good again...but it was mighty windy those other days.
** I've seen a whole lot of gunners use 28 -35 shells to kill a limit of railbirds. Sometimes they fly much faster than you think they can, or you run into a Sora or two and they can destroy ol' general average.

You will be sitting in the gunner's chair (near the bow of the skiff), and you will need to make 15 - 25 yard shots. We seem to have more wind in November, and you certainly need to adjust your swing and need a better lead and swing through. 
You will gun railbirds from our skiffs that are rigged-out special for railbird hunting and fly fishing.
Your guide will pole your skiff in flooding Spartina grass flats and marshes where we normally find them. 
NOTE...**New Customers pay in full ** prior to booking a specific date.

90% of my clients are return customers.
Note:  throughout a 70 day season. We can find all four huntable railbird species that migrate through our regional Atlantic Seaboard Coastal marshes, however two species of railbirds are more dominate: the Clapper and the Sora during  the first two months of the season, but the bag is in aggrigate.

Clapper Rail birds domiate most limits.  Although there are quite a number of Sora killed during the latter parts first two months, and I do occassionaly see a few  Virginia and King Railbirds later in October and November seasons. 
There is no doubt that I see  more "Hybred King rail birds" each year as the larger King rails cross-breed with the more abundant Clapper.
The King and the Sora congregate in the fresh water Rice meddows along the N.E. Atlantic Flyway migration path where natural wild rice still grows. The Sora makes a soft "Peep...Peep...peep sound".
Clappers utilize the sound- "Kak..Kak...Kak", and variations of a lonely Clapper Hen call at first light and twilight are used to sound out where others are in the tall spartina grass.
These  two species -- occassionaly migrate with the larger Clappers during their full moon migration flights, (especially prior to NorEastern Cold fronts) that occur in late October and November.  
In example Maine's Naragansitt Bay's rice fields are full of Soras on SEPT 1, but by the third week, they have migrated down to the CT River Rice meddows, or the Rice Meddows of New Jersy's SE near the Delaware Bay. Those birds will migrate through the Cape May marshes and migrate with Clappers down to the Carolinas in late September or later in late October depending on bad storms impacting their regional area.
Wingshooting for Rail birds
Railbird season runs
Sept - Oct - Nov .

There are a limited number of SUPER / KING FLOOD TIDES to book throughout each 70 day season.  This is most imortant and hard to grasp that there are only 15 -18 "Super flood  Tides" that occur during the whole season each year.

If you desire to BOOK a CHARTER- you got to secure a good RAIL BIRD FLOOD TIDE day for your hunt date.  We go when the tides are really big.

  The Atlantic Seaboard is quite unique marsh as the Cape Fear is a different river from say the Santee or the Congree, or the Wando, or the ACE Basin in coastal South Carolina. Even in NE North Carolina the New River and the Neuse River has great  areas where there are some marshes that flood, however their tides are not as high, due to the geophysics and therefore do not experience- bigger tides except during great storms.

The Lower Cape Fear River has it delta marsh regions. These are quite vast and all are different in a great number of ways. There are two major shrimp species that migrate at different times of the year. There is little food sources for ducks or geese, and the salitity in some are greater or less depending on the number of cuts and feeder creeks that flood various areas.

Marsh hens love to eat shrimp larve, seeds and spartina snails and smaller fiddler crabs too. They tell me how heathy the marsh is every year. I visit them during breeding season in March/April and do a bird count and see where the larger nesting areas are located. Researchers use the railbird's occassionally to study this species and to test the marsh and see what the birds are eating,  Their occassionally look at the railbird's livers to determine what is going on in the march ecosystem which is where these birds get their nourishment and their zest for life in the marsh. 

You will need to spend some time reading my RAILBIRD HUNTERS BIBLE if you are intersted in the devlopement of these species, and those various locations across the USA where the four huntable species may be hunted.

At present two states do not allow railbird hunting, and these are California and Oregon.

It is all related to one endangered species of railbird. This would be the elusive "California King Railbird," that is currently on those state's- "endangered species list" in the Pacific Flyway.
It is endangered primarily due to the bad checmicals that the cities and counties allowed to drain into San Fancisco Bay throughou tthe years; and negetively impact their local marsh habitat in the Sacrmento Delta. The CALF DNR still always Waterfowl hunting many of those same areas, which makes no sense to me, nowever that is the way things are in Calfornia.

Although an occasional NE can blow in that increases the flood - tide tremendiously, even on a low tide day.
This is an advantage when there has been a great deal of rain in northern portions of N.C. those tributaries drain into the CAPE FEAR RIVER and that impacts our tide system
You got to learn that scouting is necessary and that is when I keep up with the migration and where the birds have shifted in a marsh that might be 10,000  - 20,000 acres and the birds occassionaly shift after arrival into our marsh backcountry, I try to keep up with the larger numbers of railbirds. 
You got to realize that I let the wind be my friend. It helps me with my poling an covering a particular flat.

You will hear me talk about the importance of tides.

Let me explain. The super or the king flood tides  are very unique lunar tides. These vary at lunar cicles, and can increase by direction of heavy winds or in cases following heavy rainfall that flows into the river system that impacts a coastal delta.

Super Flood tides and King Tides always equate excellent gunning days railbirding.

Old timers called these great big tides a "railbird flood tide" .

You determine when you can find time on your schedule, and then speak with me about when that month will have the biggest tides we can hunt, or perhaps the first big tides of the early season, or three days following a great freeze or snow in the NE will cause a migration of railbirds down in massive numbers. In September we have our Resident Raibirds, however if you understand first and formost reason that the best wing-shooting  on railbirds will occur during a great Flood tide. You have  a unique mathmatical formula...

WIND x FLOOD TIDE's of a 5.3 > lunar tide = good or exceptional rail bird -- gunning conditions necessary to make ones hunt a me moriable adventure" .

I guide the *traditional method of Railbird hunting* 

*The Guide uses a push pole - to push the clients in a skinny water railbird skiff, that is poled, or rather pushed with modern day push-pole (STIFFY PUSH POLES)  through a flooding shallow marsh. The gunner sits in the front "gunners chair with his shotgun in his lap" {pointed out or off the side} or laying on his lap.
When the railbirds jump...the guide will give the safety statement;  "Mark Right or Mark Left" ...the client will then shoot the railbird while in flight.... trying to shoot within five seconds of the bird's jumping (Joe Guide's -5 sec rule of railbird hunting) . A gunner who can hit twenty clay pigeons on a 16 yard line on a Trap Range -- can crunch about 80% of the railbirds that you shoot, if you can focus your aim on them within their first five seconds of flight.

Railbirds jump up from the marsh kind of like a quail busting out, or similar to a Pheasant jumping from heavy cover, and normally  most railbirds will fly with the wind in their butts 95% of the time.  
A good guide will always be talking to his client, (keeping them informed and gives direction...shuch as, ("Mark Right...bird is at 2 OClock position." Sir, can you see the bird yet? It is off the front 15 yards...get ready.
Can you see them now sir? There are three birds in that clump of green spartina. Can you see them now? Ok...very well. Get ready - they are going to Jump.
The Client sits in the big front gunnar's chair during the hunt- this is done- as the tide rises and then peaks and during the time that it starts to fall.

When the tide peaks at 5.3 > it will force the railsbirds out of the marsh. If there is a super tide 5.4 or a 5.5 h/t  railbirds get forced out - of the heavy grass, and strart to look for dead spartina grass-mats---to  ride out these great big flood tides, on this floatsom. Gunning railbirds during these big flood tides, can be quite exciting and I 'get my clients deep into the backcountry skinny water 's thickest cover- THAT IS WHERE  these migratiory birds tend to congregate.
If the wind is blowing greater than 14 knots, you will probably wish you brought a second box of shells, or a 12 ga with #9 shot.
Friend, It is not as easy with the winds in their butts, as it seems in my rail bird hunt videos on YOUTUBE. The average gunner takes 28 shots to kill a limit of 15 railbirds; especially if the wind is blowing 12 knots or more.

Please also note that 90 % of my clients return to hunt with me from  throughout over the USA. Get you a good railbird flood tide day. I will let you know what days are best for your to book during a particular hunt day. Book your charter early. Seasons are set by April 1st, however NLT August the 1st. 
GOOGLE my Rail Bird Hunt videos on YOUTUBE (JOE GUIDE RAILBIRD Hunts) to see how its done.   

chase redfish & Speckled Sea Trout
Flood tide redfishing occurs during the warmer months which allows for stalking... tailing redfish- during incoming and falling flood tides. A lot of clients really enjoy stalking reds however you got to have the tides for that to come together. For Specks or Flounder, it is focus on areas where these species can best be found, and the h20 tempretures are key factors. Falling Tides are better for Speck fishing, so I try to focus on that tide or (two hours prior to two hour afterwards of a particular tide depending on the sepcies we are seeking.


     if you cannot wade fish, or you do not feel comfortable doing that, you just let me know, and then I can pole you across a flat, with the wind at your back, and you can sit or stand in a big casting chair on the front of my skiff and fish from that position.

Simple as that. You got to wet your line to fish, and you cannot catch fish if you line is in the boat. 


However...if you do desire to wade fish, and stalk tailing reds - you gotta bring your "ankle high Wade Boots." Short  spartina grass flats where we wade are good and firm bottoms, You must have your own flats shoes to wade fish. Or at least a old pair of high top basketball shoes. I use my old desert or jungle boots.

Practice your casting BEFORE you come down to fly fish for reds with me. This is not NE or SW Florida or the Keys...I am not goign to yell at you like Florida's guides if you miss a cast. I am going to wade beside you, and point out fish, and show you why they are feeding in a particular flat and why the fish are not in some flats and why all these factors need to occur, and how the Lunar system tides ebb and flow with the tides and hope that you will enjoy your time out on the water.

You can wade fish miles of flooded spartina grass flats. However you gotta understand that reds will feed in some flats and not in other flats, especially depends on the hight of the flood tide, H20 tempretures and especially the "primary or secondary" food sources that are available in certain flats, but are not in what appears to be other flats, and why these factors are important to the plegic species and is a factor driving their feeding. Crabs are usually the key in these flats, more than shrimp or smaller pelegaic species.
*I explain all these things in great detail within my Fly Fishing Book (RED FISH on a FLY) . 
In the late Fall and spring we can target Speckled Sea Trout which start showing up in schools about the middle of October through December like clockwork.

(( Photo: All four huntable speices- are represented in this limit. The Atlantic Flyway King, the Virginia, & Sora railbirds, and the rest are Clapper railbirds in this aggregate 15 bird limit, by a client from Virginia- during his second day of a two morning railbird hunt charter))
     Wilmington, North Carolina
     You can experience the Lower Cape Fear backcountry in all its beauty throughout the seasons of the year, but remember this delta region consists of thousands of acres of bay, creeks and hundreds of drainage ditches, and many saltwater duck ponds. Robert Raurk wrote about this area a great deal in his classic stories found in the book:  THE OLD MAN and THE BOY.  ​​ ​​
     Field and Stream and Outdoor Life has written about the CAPE FEAR  Fishing and hunting regions throughout the years. Perhaps you have read the articles about me - that brought you to this website.

     The Delta Marsh of the Lower Cape Fear River has an average depth of 3.3 feet however it does have a number of big holes back in it's larger creeks, and its many different channels run the length of the heavy rock  "cribbins"  which seperate the first and second bays. These inner bays or shallow sounds make up the three major larger sections of big water, with heavy and short marsh flats that form unique back country and shallow flats extending out  to the Cape Fear River Ship Channel about a mile or so to its west. The barrier sea islands run southward to boarder Smith and Bald Head and cut up by smaller, tree and scrub inner islands.  

     The "rock cribbins" along the first two back bays protect the inside  backcountry flats and bays and marshes from storm deteriation and slow the tidal flow flooding. These rocks actually date back to approprations during President Grant's Administration and were completed during President Grover Cleveland's administration, however this works project was interrupted throughout those years-  due to politics and congressional funding.

     Mr. James Sprunt's exceptional book: CHRONICLES of the CAPE FEAR  1660 - 1916 explains more fully those aspects. The inner channels were dug out by steam shove and dredge, initally by free-men of color under very difficult conditions, and later by other contract workers.

There are miles of shallow flats throughout the Lower Cape Fear delta region. These flats are inter-connected by 1.5 - 4 ' deep spider and ribbon - creeks  which flood and drain the flats and hundreds of ancient duck ponds and spartina grass flats. The bays, flats, and backwater duck ponds dominate the landscape of backwater fishing & wildfowling habitat and are hard for most skiffs to get to-- unless you have a unique skinny-water skiff like the one  I use for your Rail bird hunting or Fly0-Fishing adventure.  
​​Do you... desire to experience exceptional Wingshooting or Inshore saltwater Fishing with light-tackle?

If you enjoy the outdoors and getting out in the back country this will be the kind of fishing, or hunting experience that you will enjoy if you book a fishing or wing shooting charter with

You make the call...or text... Joe Guing Tide, a super flood tide, or a railbird flood tide

 YOUTUBE has many different long or short videos you can see.
Google... "Joe Guide Railbird hunts...or Joe Guide Fishing Video Clips" .