Don't be too upset with the wind we have had for the past few days. After four weeks of exceptionally nice weather, we were due to have some wind and get the water riled up a little. There have been, and still are, some scattered thunderstorms in the weather forecast. This is summer weather, usually reserved for the end of June through September, but, along with many other things, it has come early this year. Living at the coast we have learned to deal with those things that happen when the temperature and humidity both exceed 85.
With the southwest wind picking up some, the fishing has changed a little. When the nearshore water is dirty, the bottom fishing picks up, but as soon as it starts to clear again, the Spanish mackerel, cobia, and bluefish will be back. Maybe this time they will bring some kings in with them too. It is about time for the rest of the coast to catch up with the nearshore king action that the southern coast has been enjoying for almost a month.
Please be aware that there are some small king mackerel mixed in with the schools of Spanish mackerel that are spread all along the coast. This is important as there are different minimum size and bag limit restrictions on these fish. A day that has otherwise been great could be spoiled by getting a ticket for having undersize or over the limit catches of these small kings. It is your responsibility to know the difference.
The minimum size for Spanish mackerel is 12 inches (fork length), while the minimum size for king mackerel is 24 inches (fork length). Fork length is measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the rear edge of the middle of the fork of the tail.
The bag limit for Spanish mackerel is 15 per person per day, while the bag limit for king mackerel is only 3 fish per person per day.
One of the differences that many people try to use is the shape of the lateral line, on the side of the fish. With a Spanish mackerel this line is almost straight, while on a king mackerel it makes a dip, just below the rear dorsal fin. On smaller fish this difference is not always well pronounced.
Don't use the yellow spots on the fish's side to tell the difference. All Spanish mackerel and most smaller kings have spots. Do not confuse either with cero mackerel. According to the mackerel team at the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, they have never seen a cero mackerel in NC waters. For the record, cero mackerel have elongated spots that form bars down their sides.
The best identifier between Spanish and king mackerel is the black spot on the leading edge of their forward dorsal fin. Spanish mackerel have this black spot and kings do not. It's that simple!
Fishing hasn't changed much this week. It's been rougher getting offshore, but there are dolphin, tuna, and wahoo to be caught. Off the south and central NC coast the main catch is dolphin, but they are getting larger. Off the northern coast the main catch is still tuna, but more dolphin are arriving daily.
Inshore there are sea mullet, gray trout, red drum, flounder and bluefish along most of the coast. There are also some speckled trout that are fewer in number, but larger in size.
The nearshore king mackerel bite continues off the Oak Island piers and the nearshore artificial reefs. It has slowed a bit with the dirty water, but should pick up again as soon as the water clears up some. The kings are moving closer elsewhere too.
Cobia have shown up on the beaches everywhere along the coast and inside at Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, and Ocracoke Inlet.
The Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Marlin and King Mackerel Tournaments are this weekend. For more information visit www.swansbororotary.com or call 910-326-FISH.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver