As I have been traveling across the state and presenting fishing seminars for the past several weeks, questions about the windy spring have become the most often asked. The exact wording may vary a little, but the two most common are "Will it ever end?" and "Do you ever remember a spring this windy?" The answers are yes and no, but there are a bunch of days it seems like no might be the correct answer to both.
One charter mate has been so put out by all the wind the frustration was dripping in his voice when he said, "The wind has blown so hard this spring, it has pushed the tunas by without letting them stop for us to catch any." That is the dilemma we have been facing this spring and after a week or so of windy weather in a row, we truly begin wondering when it might subside enough to regularly head offshore with any pretense of comfort.
If the fronts roll through as predicted, Saturday may be the best day of the weekend. If you can stay over and go fishing Monday, it's showing some promise also.
If you choose to stay in protected waters, it may be time to get serious about cobia fishing. A few have been seen, a couple hooked and one has been landed from an Oak Island pier.
The water is definitely warming, the water temperature reports from Bogue Inlet Pier are only showing high 60's, but it is warmer inside and just a little offshore. Someone reported the water being 74 degrees from the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy out to Big 10 and Little 10 Rocks.
Some kings have taken up residence around Big 10 and Little 10. They aren't too long a ride offshore and several folks have reported the king bite was worth having to wear raingear to stay dry for the bumpy ride. Most have been smaller kings, but they have been very willing biters on a wide variety of natural baits and lures.
The Spanish mackerel numbers have been steadily increasing. They are being caught from the piers to a few miles offshore. While most are easily identified, this is about the time of year when fishermen mistake small kings for large Spanish. That isn't a good mistake to make and it can become costly.
Both Spanish and smaller kings have spots and a lateral line. The lateral line on a king dips sharply as it passes the rear dorsal fin, but is not always a good way to differentiate between the two. The one difference that won't be confused is Spanish have a black coloration on the leading edge of their forward dorsal fin. This spot is approximately the size of your thumb and kings don't have it. A king's dorsal fin is totally gray.
The pier fishermen are catching a lot of bluefish. They range from the smaller ones up to those 8-10 pound choppers. Most folks prefer the smaller ones for table fare, but the bigger ones are fun to catch.
Pier fishermen are also catching Spanish mackerel, sea mullet, black drum, red drum, gray trout, speckled trout, a few pompano and flounder and some small sharks. It's time for blowfish, but I haven't heard of many.
Some good catches of sea mullet and gray trout are coming from the edges of the channels around the inlets. Even on days its too rough to head outside, drifting the inlet channel can be productive. While many methods of fishing will work for these fish, the one most often recommended is jigging speck rigs and stingsilvers. Generally the bare rigs catch more trout, while tipping them with a small piece of fresh shrimp helps get the attention of the sea mullet. There are also good reports of sea mullet in the hook at Cape Lookout.
With the water warming, speckled trout are developing a preference for deeper water and the few degrees of cool that come with it. The Newport and North Rivers are good places to look for specks and holes behind oyster bars and at the mouths of creeks are prime places to check. To the south, the creeks, the old channel just behind Pine Knoll Shores and Emerald Isle and the Swansboro Coast Guard Channel are good places to try.
While the schools are breaking up and they aren't particularly concentrated, there are good numbers of puppy drum in many of the marshes and creeks. Minnows and shrimp have returned and moved into the grass and the drum are patrolling the edges and thin areas of grass looking for an easy meal. There are also some upper slot pups working the first slough in the surf.
While they aren't as thick in inshore waters as they have been in past years, the early flounder bite appears to be a little ahead of last year. I tend to fish for pups until the tide is half or more out and then move towards the inlets and creek mouths to finish out the tide soaking flounder minnows.
Please remember there are some variations in the flounder regulations this year. The limit is 8 in all waters, but south of Browns Inlet and inshore of points in Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, the minimum size is 14 inches. Elsewhere the minimum size is 15-1/2 inches.
When the wind allows making the trip, offshore bottom fishing is a surprisingly reliable way to catch fresh fish for dinner. The head boats are having good mixed catches of sea bass, grunts, triggerfish, beeliners and grouper, plus an occasional king, cobia, dolphin or other light-lined fish.
Good news has already come from Raleigh and our short legislative session which began Tuesday. Bills to reform our regulations for towing boats are advancing from both the house and senate. I don't believe they have time to work out all the issues with the short time allowed for this session, but the primary issues of nighttime, Sunday and holiday movement of boats wider than 102 inches is the primary focus and appears to face very little opposition.
The Hatteras Village Offshore Open is going on as I am writing this. This is the first N.C. Governors Cup Billfish event of the year. At my last check, 7 blue marlin had been caught and released and Brothers Pride was on their way to the scales with one to weigh.
EJW Outdoors has teamed with a collection of sponsors to present the first EJW Big King Classic. This is a season-long king mackerel tournament that allows participants to enter their tournament or fun-fishing caught kings. The Big King Classic began on May 1 and continues through December 31. There is a $50 entry fee and several Tournaments-Within-A-Tournament are available. For more information, go by and visit them at EJW Outdoors in Morehead City.