I've had several folks remind me it happens to some degree every spring, but sometimes you just have to wonder what is going on with the weather. I've been to Alaska and seen the glaciers retreating, but when we have cold snaps in May like earlier this week, it's hard to put much faith in the global warming theories. I sure hope it doesn't affect the fishing for Memorial Day Weekend.
Yes y'all, Memorial Day is this weekend! This is a unique calendar year and May ends on a Sunday, so Memorial Day is a week earlier than most folks expect this year. Remember our veterans and honor them for serving our great country.
Because of the holiday, the crowds at the ramps, gas stations, restaurants and more will be large, so allow extra time and bring some patience. Also--National Safe Boating week ends today (May 22), but let's keep up the good practices.
These little cold fronts bother me and I believe they disrupt the fish too. We had a really late spring, but things have finally gotten going well and Mother Nature throws us a curveball. After a couple of days that barely made it to 70 last week, we had one day in the 50s and another in the 60s at the first of this week. The good news is a warmer weather forecast for the holiday weekend and maybe the cold fronts have been short enough not to disturb the fish.
Unfortunately the cold weather did cause the water temperature to drop a few degrees. It dropped back to a chilly 64 degrees at Bogue Inlet Pier on Wednesday. Hopefully the southerly winds and warmer days will see it rebound quickly.
We're looking at generally light winds through the weekend, but with seas that are a little larger than normally associated with those winds. The forecast is for east or southeast winds at 5 to 10 knots with a breeze up to 10 to 15 knots in the far south and spreading into the mid coast late Sunday and Monday. The wave forecast is for two to four feet and three to five feet, varying at times across the weekend.
The good news is there has been a heck of an offshore bite. Gaffer dolphin are at many spots along the break and are hungry. Some wahoo and tuna, mostly blackfins, are scattered throughout the same area. Quite a few folks heard the good reports and headed offshore last weekend in spite of the questionable weather. Most said it was a little rough, but they had good catches and it was worthwhile.
Every week there have been a few more reports of billfish. It wasn't fall crazy, but during the Hatteras Village Offshore Open, there was a pretty good billfish bite. More details follow, but the winning boat released three blue marlin, while second and third places both caught blue marlin and were only 20 points apart. Many billfishermen are taking this as a good sign for the Swansboro Bluewater and King Mackerel Memorial Day Tournaments in Swansboro this weekend.
Since the dolphin have showed up so thick more folks have been chasing them on the calm offshore days that have been bottom fishing, but there are still some nice bottomfish to be caught. Most folks are primarily chasing grouper, but they are also catching beeliners, grunts, black sea bass, amberjack and occasionally a cobia or king.
Speaking of kings; more kings are showing up every week and they had been moving closer in. Hopefully the cold snap and cooling water temperatures of early in the week won't slow this too badly. Prior to the cold snap, there had been kings caught within sight of the beach in the central section of the coast and some had been landed from the piers along the southern coast.
The cobia bite slowed with the cold early in the week, but several knowledgeable fishermen said the water would warm back up pretty quickly and they expected the cobia bite to resume. Until this week, several fishermen were calling this the best cobia bite in several years. Let's hope it turns back on.
The cold didn't slow the Spanish mackerel bite, but the winds that accompanied it slowed the fishermen. This is leveling out and this should be a great weekend for catching Spanish. Most boat anglers troll for Spanish with a mixture of 00 and 0 size Clarkspoons, 0 size Drone spoons, bird rigs and mackerel tree rigs. At least one pair of lures are trolled down in the water column behind planers or trolling sinkers.
Sometimes bluefish are also caught when trolling for Spanish. If you are catching a lot of bluefish, you are usually trolling too slow to excite the Spanish. Many times simply speeding up 100 to 200 RPM will make the difference and get you more Spanish strikes. Look for Spanish around the inlets and along the beaches from just outside the breakers to about 50 feet deep.
The pier fishermen are catching Spanish too. The long-time favorite lures for jigging Spanish have been Got-Cha jigs. The gold hook versions have proven themselves superior time and time again. A new option that is quickly gaining popularity is Clark Casters. Clark Casters are a short wire extension for a Clarkspoon that also has a weight and a spinner. Three weights (1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 ounce) are available in gold and silver.
Other pier catches were pretty mixed this week. Bogue Inlet Pier reported good action with Hatteras blues, small blues, sea mullet, and black drum, plus a few sheepshead, flounder and speckled trout. Some kings have been caught from a few of the southern N.C. piers, but none along the central coast just yet.
The windy weather kept many fishermen out of the turning basin early this week, but they had been catching sea mullet and gray trout, with a few black drum. This bite should still be there as the wind subsides. The turning basin and the channel out to Beaufort Inlet will probably be pretty crowded this weekend.
Speckled trout and red drum have been biting pretty well back in the creeks and marshes. The Haystacks and Middle Marsh have been mentioned several times as good spots to try. Live bait is almost a sure thing for these fish. Shrimp are deadly and mud minnows produce surprisingly well. Under popping corks or along the bottom on Carolina Rigs are the two favorite ways to fish them.
The Fourth Annual Military Appreciation Day will be next Saturday, May 30. Organizers say they are expecting the largest crowd ever and already have a waiting list. They say over 400 fishermen and 200 family members are already registered and they are expecting more than 750 people for the cookout. More volunteer are still needed and if more boats are added, the waiting list can be shortened. If you are interested and/or can volunteer, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
I'm continuing my warning to surf fishermen headed to the Outer Banks that they should check with the National Park Service regarding areas closed to vehicles and pedestrians. All access to the point at Cape Hatteras has been closed and other areas are being added. The park's website is www.nps.gov/caha.
It isn't saltwater, but it is noteworthy--286 student anglers from 73 colleges and universities will assemble next week at Lake Lewisville, Texas for the 2009 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. This field includes fishermen from East Carolina and NC State. Practice days are May 26 and 27, with the tournament on May 28 and 29. Good luck to all, but especially those teams representing our area.
The Hatteras Village Offshore Open wrapped up on Saturday. This was the first tournament of the 2009 Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series and it was a doozy. The Sizzler, with owner Paul Spencer and Capt. Daniel Spencer won the overall with 3 blue marlin releases, including 2 on the final day. The top tuna was caught on the Sea Angel II and weighed 46.90 pounds. The top dolphin was a 33.25 pounder caught by the Hatteras Fever and the Reliance caught a 20.80 pound wahoo to top that category.
At the southern end of the state, the week-long GPS Store Far Out Shoot Out at Ocean Isle Fishing Center finished on Saturday. The winner of the tournament was the Dirty Dog with 74.95 pounds total weight of offshore gamefish (1 each of tuna, dolphin and wahoo). The heaviest tuna was a 27.95 pounder caught by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center team. The heaviest wahoo was a 44.95 pounder caught by the Salty Lady. The OIFC/Black Bart team caught a 27.25 pound dolphin to win that category and the 7th Heaven was the top boat less than 25 feet long.
The Swansboro Rotary Club Memorial Day Blue Water and King Mackerel Tournaments will be held this weekend in Swansboro. This is actually two tournaments in one. The Bluewater Tournament is the second in the N.C. Governor's Cup Series and the King Mackerel tournament is the first Southern Kingfish Association tournament in N.C. for 2009. For more information, visit www.swansbororotary.com or call 252-422-9100.
The Cabela's / IFA (Inshore Fishing Association) Redfish Series Atlantic Division Tournament Trail will be in Surf City this weekend. The tournament will be held from the Beach House Marina, with weigh-in beginning at mid-afternoon. For more information, visit www.redfishtour.com.
Just across the S.C. state line, the Dixie Chicken Funament and the Flounder Frenzie will be held in Little River, S.C. this weekend. The Dixie Chicken Funament offers both offshore and inshore divisions and the Flounder Frenzie has both boat and pier options. For more information, visit www.dixiechickenfunament.com or call 843-249-1637.