There were a few moments when the weekend weather was in question and folks heard thunder, but we have now gotten through Memorial Day Weekend and are running headlong into summer. If the crowds at area boat ramps over the weekend were any indication, it will be a busy summer, with lots of folks spending time in their boats and on the water. That's a good thing though and I hope it's a sign we have begun to slowly ease out of our economic woes.
After starting out on that positive note, I have to mention that the 2010 Hurricane Season began Tuesday (June 1). Unlike so many other seasons that have opened recently, we really hope we don't catch a hurricane. They aren't endangered, but they do endanger us and catching one is best done as catch and release and releasing it early and well out at sea.
Unfortunately, the weather experts at the NOAA Hurricane Center have forecast we will see 14 to 23 named storms in the Atlantic and Gulf. A storm is named when the sustained winds exceed 39 MPH. The forecast says these storms will include eight to 14 hurricanes (sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher) and three to seven could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with sustained winds of at least 111 MPH). This forecast exceeds the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Several atmospheric and oceanic factors are favorable for storm development and support the active storm forecast.
"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. "The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared."
"The main uncertainty in this outlook is how much above normal the season will be," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Nina develops this summer. At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Nina to develop."
These predictions have been incorrect before and let's hope they are again. We have been lulled into a false sense of security since the direct hits of several hurricanes in the mid 90s. The glancing blows and missed predictions have tempted us to become like the townspeople when the little boy was crying wolf for the real thing. I hope we continue to be a place hurricanes by-pass and don't visit, but I urge everyone to be prepared.
Unusually warm water is one of the factors that can aid hurricane development and we have it--in spades. Usually the water has barely warmed into the lower 70s along the beaches for Memorial Day weekend. The folks at NOAA report the ocean as being four degrees warmer than usual and we may even be a little warmer than that. The water temperature was being reported as 77 degrees Wednesday morning at Bogue Inlet Pier and 76.5 degrees at the weather buoy just offshore of Frying Pan Tower.
We didn't have a big run of kings this weekend at the ocean piers, but we had a big run of big bluefish and a few kings. Many fishermen at piers from Sunset Beach to Atlantic Beach caught spring-run Hatteras blues in the 10 pound range.
Bryan Wilson received his induction into the pier king fishing fraternity with a whopping 39 pound, 7 ounce king he caught at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. This was Wilson's first pier king and his shirttail now hangs in the pierhouse. His picture is there too and his smile is still glowing bright enough to light the end of the pier at night.
The first king of the year was landed at Bogue Inlet Pier. It weighed 19 pounds and 2 ounces and was caught by Johnny Wise of Peletier. Wise had an excellent day and also caught a cobia.
Other fish bit well for the pier anglers also. Several reported that every time a school of bait passed they could cast Got-Cha jigs and catch Spanish macks. I've already mentioned the big blues and there were small blues, flounder, sea mullet and puppy drum being hoisted to the pier planks.
There was a little bit of chop on the ocean at times this week, but there were also many reports of good catches. Heck, there were so many boats running around, there were enough wakes to keep the boats rocking. The fish were biting well also, so no one really minded all the wakes.
Kings have moved as close as several of the artificial reef and rocks within sight of the beach. Many fishermen are using live baits for the kings, but they have also been hitting frozen cigar minnows and a few lures. Drone spoons in the 3 1/2 size are good king lures as are several diving plugs.
I dislike diving plugs because of the difficulty of getting two or three treble hooks out of a struggling king to get the lure back out. In fact, after being hooked several times by thrashing kings, I throw the king in the fish box and let it die before trying to remove the treble hooks. The hooks come out easier and I haven't had any more go into me. That's good on both counts.
As good as the cobia bite has been, there weren't a lot of cobia reports this weekend. For the past few weeks the cobia have been riding herd on the schools of bait just off the beaches. Other places you are likely to see cobia include cruising a tide line or holding over tall structure. When you encounter one that is of legal size (33 inches fork length, two per day), invite him home for dinner. You'll be glad you did.
Dolphin have arrived in numbers and are eagerly welcomed by most fishermen. They may be encountered anywhere from about 10 miles offshore out to the Gulf Stream. I have heard a few folks say they saw some small dolphin within four miles of the beach, but I believe that was either an oddity or a mistake.
Many nearshore dolphin are caught by fishermen trolling for king mackerel and they are always welcome. However, any floating object in this range is a potential dolphin magnet. Many times several dolphin will be holding under a single floating board or similar flotsam, so take the time to check all of it out.
Some blackfin tuna may also be found with the kings and dolphin. The wahoo bite has slowed in the warming water. The wahoo are still there, but spread out more and can be difficult to find. Wahoo like deeper water and should still be beyond 100 feet deep.
A few sailfish were caught by king mackerel fishermen over the weekend. This is a good sign for the year and their early presence is because of the warmer water and an abundance of baitfish.
Beeliners, grouper, black sea bass and grunts are also biting well. These fish like water roughly 100 feet deep and hold on the rocks, reefs, wrecks and artificial reefs around the end of Cape Lookout and Frying Pan Shoals. Many bottom fishermen are also catching amberjack.
Every week there are many good reports of Spanish mackerel. Pier fishermen are catching them casting Got-Cha jigs and trollers are catching them with 00 size Clarkspoons. Another way to catch them, especially larger Spanish, is to float small live baits around the boat. This is particularly effective while anchored over one of the nearshore artificial reefs.
The flounder fishing is good, but there are a lot of shorts that must be released. Capt. Noah Lynk (Noah's Ark Charters) has been catching a lot of keeper flounder in the waters around Harkers Island out to Cape Lookout. There have also been good flounder reports from Morehead City, Swansboro, Topsail, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Southport, Ocean Isle and at many of the nearshore reefs.
Puppy drum fishing in area marshes is good. With the full moon and its higher tides over the weekend there were reports of pups tailing in several places in area marshes. Spots where drum tail are more secret than automated teller pin numbers, so I don't have the locations to tell, but I believe the folks who told me and I'm sure it was happening. This is a spectacular sight and a time when the drum are feeding hard and rarely refuse any bait or lure you can cast in front of them. The secret is getting within casting range as they are in shallow water and are very spooky.
I heard a few more speckled trout reports this week and that is good. I have been worried about how badly the trout suffered during the cold winter and they really haven't been around in decent numbers yet this year. Good trout reports came from several of the creeks off the Neuse River from Turnagin Bay to Broad Creek and in the Cape Fear River above Snows Cut. Welcome back specks and I hope the trout action continues to improve.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 5 will be held this Saturday (June 5) in Morehead City. It is an opportunity to show our service men and women we support them and get to know some of them. The boats are set, but volunteers are still needed for everything from setup to cleanup. For more information on the event and ways to assist, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
I owe an apology to Nathan Raycroft of Swansboro. Nathan won the IFA Kayak Tournament in Surf City on May 23, but I read my notes wrong and listed him as being from Charleston. My apologies and congratulations.
The Swansboro Rotary Club Bluewater Tournament, held May 28 to 30, was the second tournament of the N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. The king mackerel tournament that usually runs in conjunction with this tournament was moved to October. Tournament headquarters were at the Swansboro Rotary Civic Center in Swansboro, with weigh-ins at Casper's Marina in Swansboro or at the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront.
Jerry Jackson, Havelock, and the crew of the Ava D landed the only blue marlin to be weighed during the tournament and won the Largest Billfish Category and Top Senior Angler honors for Jackson. The Ava D's blue marlin weighed 424.40 pounds. It scored as a point per pound and also placed in second place in Billfish Points. Governor's Cup rules state the minimum size for weighing a blue marlin is 400 pounds or 110 inches.
Capt. Billy Farrington, Emerald Isle, and the crew of the Blue Eyes won the Billfish Points category with 450 points for a blue marlin release and two lesser billfish releases. Capt. Randy Bryant, Atlantic Beach, and the crew of the Maggie were third in the Billfish Points category with 375 release points.
The Rameseas, with Capt. Terry Wells of Wilmington, brought a 58. 40 pound dolphin to the scales to win the Dolphin Category. Capt. Albert Daniel, Selma, and the crew of the Marlin Fever caught a 66.20 pound yellowfin tuna to top the Tuna Category. Capt. Rob Bizzell, Kinston, who is the Chairman of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, led the Bizzy B crew to a win in the Wahoo Category, with a 27.60 pound wahoo.
Kandice Kelly fished on the Release from Edgewater, MD and tallied a billfish release to earn Top Lady Angler Honors. Hunter Blount, Jr. also scored a billfish release on his way to collecting Top Junior Angler honors. He was fishing on the Barbara B, of Greenville.
The Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament was held May 28 and 29 from the Tackle Box on the Circle in Atlantic Beach. The threat of windy conditions affected the turnout for this tournament and only 12 boats entered. It was held on Memorial Day Weekend as a substitute for the Swansboro Memorial Day King Mackerel Tournament that was moved to October and was done solely for fun with a 100 per cent payback of entry fees.
The winner was the Amanda Gail, with Capt. David Lucas and crew from Selma, who landed a 27.80 pound king. Tony Pavone, Swansboro, and the crew of the Y-Knot finished second with a 13.50 pound king. Third place went to Buddy Burlow and the crew of the Fishin' Buddy, who caught a king that weighed 11.80 pounds.
There were also tournaments within the tournament for cobia and dolphin. No cobia were caught, so those entries were refunded. Clifton Moss, Atlantic Beach, and the crew of the Miss Sarah, caught a 13.70 pound dolphin and won that TWT.
The New River King Tournament was held May 28 and 29 from Old Ferry Marina in Sneads Ferry. This tournament was first held last fall and then moved to Memorial Day Weekend to be a family outing to celebrate Memorial Day with a fishing tournament. In addition to king mackerel, cash prizes are also offered for grouper, dolphin, cobia and Spanish mackerel. All entry fees were paid out as prize money. In spite of a slightly breezy weather forecast, 22 boats fished the tournament and all received at least two door prizes donated by the tournament sponsors.
Dandy Justice, and his crew on the Justified, won the king mackerel tournament and TWT with an 18.96 pound king. Justice was sweating it as time ran out, as there was a rumor another boat was headed to the scales with a king that weighed "At least 25 pounds." Fortunately for Justice, that fish never arrived and his king held for the win. Eris Jones and the crew of the Backlash finished in second place with a 9.64 pound king.
Jeff Naylor and the Reelin' Em In won the Spanish Mackerel Division with a Spanish mack that weighed 5.04 pounds. Henry Moore and the Bobcat crew claimed the Top Gag Grouper prize for a 15 pounder. Tournament organizer, Miles Bunn, and the crew of the Rod Hog, caught a 7.04 pound dolphin to win the Dolphin Division. There were no cobia caught, so the entry fees in the Cobia Division were returned.
Dixie Chicken Fishing Funament
The Dixie Chicken Fishing Funament was held from Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach, May 28-30. The Dixie Chicken is a multi-species, inshore and offshore tournament to raise funds for the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef Foundation for work on the Jim Caudle Reef (PA-01), located right outside Little River Inlet. The weather was a little threatening early Saturday morning, with thunder rumbling in the distance, but the day eventually became very nice and fishermen had some very good catches.
Brunswick County fishermen claimed the top two places in the Inshore Overall. Kyle Hughes, Nakina, and the crew of the Speculator amassed 7.18 pounds and claimed the overall inshore win. Brian Aycock, Ocean Isle Beach, and the crew of the Double Trouble were just a little behind in second place with 6.20 pounds. Jeff Wallin and crew on the Triton from Myrtle Beach, S.C. finished third overall with 5.94 pounds.
The Top Spanish Mackerel was caught by Cameron Fonvielle, Hillsboro, on the Lucky 13. It weighed 1.64 pounds. Robert Hughes, Ocean Isle Beach, fishing on the Little Bro, caught a 3.70 pound trout to claim the Top Trout prize. Shonda Tucker, Badin, was fishing with Ken Tucker on the Top This and caught a 5.72 pound flounder. She won the Top Flounder, Top Lady Angler and Flounder Frenzie prizes with the big flattie. Skylar Hribar, Myrtle Beach, S.C. also had a big flattie. His 4.0 pound flounder earned Top Junior Angler Honors in the inshore division.
The Fan Sea, with Capt. Walter Neal, Rock Hill, S.C., had a great day in the offshore division of the tournament. Neal and crew won the Overall Offshore prize with 47.36 pounds. Included in this weight was the Top Wahoo, at 13.12 pounds and the Top Tuna at 10.14 pounds. This was a blackfin tuna. No yellowfin tuna were caught.
The Abbigail, with Capt. Rick Edwards, Whiteville, finished in second place overall with 43.78 pounds and had the Top King Mackerel at 27.24 pounds. Capt. Wayne Huggins, North Myrtle Beach, S.C. led the crew of the Patterson Anna to third place overall with 32.14 pounds. The largest fish of the tournament was the 28.80 pound dolphin caught on the Skirt Chaser by Capt. Mark Poff, Calabash, and crew. It won the Top Dolphin prize.
Debbie Williams, North Myrtle Beach, was the Top Lady Angler in the offshore division with a 24.10 pound dolphin and Chase Carnes, Monroe, caught a 20.36 pound dolphin to claim Top Offshore Junior Angler honors.
A variety of tournaments are on the schedule for this weekend. The Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department will hold a Youth Fishing Derby on Saturday, June 5, at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle. This is a multi-species event, with many prizes. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.com.
The Tuna Roundup will be held June 3 to 5 at Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. This tournament features yellowfin and blackfin tuna and also has categories for dolphin and wahoo. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
The Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge will be held Saturday, June 5, at Wrightsville Beach. This tournament features the inshore species of flounder and speckled trout. Any live flounder will be donated to the UNCW Aquaculture Lab and the proceeds are donated to the Cape Fear Community College Sea Devil Club. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Bald Head Island Rodeo will be held June 3 to 5 from Bald Head Island Marina at Bald Head Island. This is a multiple species offshore tournament. For more information visit www.baldheadisland.com.