Sunshine and warm weather are a cure-all to many things in fishing and they are working their magic again. The water temperature in the surf at Bogue Inlet Pier has risen another couple of degrees this week to 76 degrees and the slowdown caused by the cold front the week before Memorial Day has become a thing of the past. Fishing is good along the Crystal Coast.
The forecast has the wind blowing today, but falling out overnight and getting better throughout the day Saturday. It is supposed to begin at 10 to 15 knots Saturday morning and then fall out to 5 to 10 throughout the rest of the weekend. Thunderstorms are mentioned daily except for Sunday, but once the weather gets this warm, they are always a possibility along the coast.
There is good news from the piers to begin this week's report. Rich Baugess landed the first king of the year at Bogue Inlet Pier this week and Dana Tabarrini, also of Swansboro, landed the first keeper cobia. The Spanish have been biting well too. Black drum, croakers, sea mullet, pompano and spots are the bottom feeders also being caught from the piers.
A surprise catch was the tarpon "Yankee Mike" Freeman caught from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island last Friday. According to Ocean Crest Pier operator Dave Cooper, the tarpon was quickly measured, photographed and released. The weight was estimated at approximately 45 pounds using the fisheries formula of girth squared, multiplied by length, and then divided by 800. Congratulations to Freeman! Tarpon are occasionally caught from the ocean piers in July and August, but this is the earliest I can remember. Perhaps this early one is a good sign for the coming summer.
The offshore fishing has remained hot. The numbers of gaffer dolphin have dropped a little, but there are more smaller dolphin moving in. This week a few boats found some yellowfin tuna in addition to the blackfins and wahoo they've been catching. Dolphin have moved inshore to the area around the 14 buoy, with an occasional catch even closer.
There have also been good reports of billfish. With the billfish action we've seen already and so many boats that will be fishing the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, I should have some excellent billfish reports for next week.
With the seas being so calm and the dolphin bite so hot, many fishermen have been running by the kings to catch dolphin. Kings are moving closer in and some are being caught just off the beaches, from Cape Lookout to the south. Other good spots for early summer kings are the rocks and wrecks in roughly 60 feet of water.
The Spanish mackerel bite continues to be red hot. They are pretty thick around the inlets and scattered along the beaches, just out from the surf. Spanish are also scattered along the shoals at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout and Cape Fear.
The cobia bite fired back up again this week. The reports haven't included as many really large fish, but lots of 30 to 50 pound cobia have been weighed at area weigh stations.
Speckled trout have been biting pretty well back in the creeks and marshes. The bite is often better and in shallower water early and late in the day. The specks move to deeper and cooler water during the bight light and heat of the day. Live shrimp as bait really tip the scales in the fisherman's favor.
The red drum bite is going off too. There are drum from just inside the inlets to the backs of the creeks. Several schools have been reported in the marsh just inside Bogue Inlet. They are also in Haystacks, Newport River and Core Creek. Drum are usually pretty cooperative and will hit live baits, cut bait and a variety of artificials.
Several good flounder catches came from the nearshore artificial reefs this week. Mud and mullet minnows were the hot baits for them. More flounder were also caught inshore. The inshore flounder were near the inlets and on the drops from shallow water into the channels. These flounder like live baits too, but will also hit drifted strip baits.
There was good and bad news from the boating industry this week. The good is more brands of the Brunswick Boat Group have announced a buyer protection incentive much like some carmakers have done in this uncertain economy. Bayliner, Trophy and Maxxum Boats announced their plan last week. New brands added to the promotion include Cypress Cay and Palmetto Pontoon, Harris FloteBote, Kayot, as well as certain models of the Crestliner, Lowe, Lund, Princecraft and Triton aluminum boat lines.
This is 12 Brunswick boat lines with some form of buyer protection if the buyer loses his job within a year of the purchase. The coverage includes up to a $500 monthly payment on Bayliner, Trophy and Maxxum lines and $250 per month on the remaining nine lines. To qualify for this protection, boats must be purchased by July 6. If you are considering purchasing a new boat, you should go one of the participating dealers and find out all the details of this plan before making your choice.
The bad news is that Genmar Corporation has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. Genmar is the nation's second largest boat builder and includes the Hydra-Sports, Wellcraft, Ranger, Champion, Seaswirl, Triumph, Stratos, Larson, Four Winns, Glastron, Carver, Marquis, Windsor Craft and FinCraft lines. Genmar CEO Irwin Jacobs has assured Genmar customers and dealers that Genmar will soon emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings as a stronger and more efficient company, but ripples are spreading throughout the marine industry with numerous concerns.
U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle approved limited additional access to N.C. Outer Banks beaches in a ruling earlier this week. One area with relaxed restrictions is beaches with unhatched turtle nests. After Sept. 15, beaches that had been totally closed will only be closed from sunset to 6:00 A.M. In some areas, commercial fishermen will be allowed access beginning at 5:00 A.M.
Boyle also granted the National Park Service slightly more leeway when closed areas are entered. Old rules required the buffer around a nest had to be expanded permanently if the buffer was violated. Now the buffer can be reduced to its original size if the violator is caught.
Boyle ordered the restrictions on beach driving last year after two environmental groups sued the National Park Service, contending it didn't do enough to protect endangered species.
The Fourth Annual Military Appreciation Day was Saturday. Organizers said the largest crowd ever attended and included more than 600 military folks and family members. The weather allowed for great fishing for the military personnel and an excellent beach outing for their families. For more information and to start preparing for next year, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The team from Murray State put on a late charge and surged by the team from the University of North Texas to claim the win at the 2009 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. The tournament was held on Lake Lewisville and the team from nearby U North Texas team was the favorite, but slipped to second in the final hour. The field of 286 student fishermen from 73 colleges and universities include a team from past winners NC State (2006) and newcomers ECU. Unfortunately neither of the N.C. teams made the top ten.
The 18th Annual Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo was held last week at Bald Head Island Marina. This is a gamefish tournament that includes a TWT for billfish. The Billfish TWT was won by Skip Dickens on the Turbulence, with a blue marlin release.
Captain Chris Bailey and crew on the Lane Choice from Wrightsville Beach claimed the overall win with an aggregate gamefish weight of 295.26 pounds. The heaviest wahoo was a 43.59 pounder caught aboard the Musicman. The Abigail II crew caught a 37.22 pound tuna to top that division and the Turbulence crew added a 36.65 pound dolphin to their blue marlin to also win the dolphin division. The Top Lady Angler was Ashley Nifong on the Fish Hooker with a 45-pound wahoo and Michael Meredith, on the Lane Choice, claimed Top Junior Angler honors with a 20-pounder.
The Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge was also held this weekend at Wrightsville Beach, with registration on May 29 and fishing on May 30. This flounder and trout tournament was held with final registration and the awards at Wild Wing Cafe and the weigh-in at Wrightsville Beach Marina.
Dennis Durham topped the Flounder Division with a nice 5.47 pounder that couldn't resist a live pogy. Durham was fishing in the Cape Fear River. Second Place went to Ryan Tanner, for a 4.77 pounder caught in the Intracoastal Waterway near Carolina Beach. Lindley White caught a 4.59 pound flattie to finish third.
For the second year running, Ricky Kellum topped the Speckled Trout Division. Kellum's speck weighed 4.36 pounds and hit a live shrimp in the Intracoastal Waterway near the intersection with New River. Brent Banks was only .04 behind for second place with a 4.32 pounder caught on a live shrimp at the Little River jetties. Michael Clark caught a 4.16 pound speck near the Hwy 172 Bridge in Sneads Ferry to finish third.
While neither was quite large enough to make the top three on their own, Bruce Fields, Jr. combined a 4.02 pound speck and a 2.91 pound flounder to win the aggregate category with 6.93 pounds.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament begins this weekend. This is the largest blue marlin tournament in N.C. and is the third event in the 2009 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series. Mark your calendars for June 6 for the Keli Wagner Ladies Tournament, then June 8 though 13 for the regular tournament. Weigh-ins will be each afternoon on the Morehead City waterfront. Weigh-ins will also be webcast live. For more information, visit www.thebigrock.com.