After cooking for a week, we have eased back into temperatures closer to our normal heat-to-serve range for the middle of June. It's still plenty hot, don't get me wrong, but at least it isn't stifling like it was. There were a few days that were hot enough to be what the old-timers called "Take your breath away hot," but we have survived and moved on
This weekend looks pretty good overall. The cool front that passed through Tuesday night cooled things off and turned the wind to a northerly point for a couple of days, but that has corrected itself and turned back to our usually summer southerly flow. Depending on exactly where you are, the weekend wind forecast varies from good to pretty good, but there wasn't a bad in the lot. Sure, there could be some strong local winds if you get caught in one of the thunderstorms that could happen at any time, but overall most of the coast will see maximum afternoon sea breeze winds approaching 15 knots.
I didn't want to talk about it too much before leaving and take a chance on jinxing it, but I had a plan to beat last week's heat and now I can say it worked out pretty well. Actually the plans had been made for several months, but the timing worked nearly to perfection. I saw the windshield thermometer in my truck reading up to 101 degrees while traveling, but only had to handle high 80's once I arrived--and they don't seem too bad when boating and fishing.
I'll apologize for skipping out on all the local sun baking, but I had been invited to the D.O.A. Lures (www.doalures.com) Writer's Outing at River Palm Cottages and Fish Camp (www.riverpalmcottages.com) in Jensen Beach, Fla. I had so much fun attending this event in 2007 I immediately replied in the affirmative to the invitation.
This is a special event, at a unique place, where outdoor writers are invited to gather and receive a preview and testing session for the D.O.A. line of lures. D.O.A. provides information, samples and guides for the writers to test the products. In addition, several other manufacturers provide information and samples for the attending writers. This year that group included Humminbird, Minn Kota, Shimano, Eagle Claw, and Power Pro.
A high point of my trip was fishing Friday morning with Capt. Squeeky Kelly of Let's Go Fishin' River Flats and In-Shore Charters. Squeeky is originally from Wilmington and we ran together some at Wrightsville Beach in the early 1970's. He moved to Stuart, Fla. in the mid-1970's as a commercial fisherman and then became one of the top billfish mates and captains in the area. While making quite a name for himself, Squeeky traveled the billfish tournament circuit and world billfish hotspots running boats and catching an estimated 500-plus billfish. Many of the captains and older mates on the waterfront remember him.
Several years back, Squeeky decided he had done enough traveling and returned to Stuart to stay and began working as an inshore guide. After spending a morning fishing with him, I believe he has the inshore side figured out as well as he did with billfish offshore. We caught trout, snook, ladyfish and more, but best of all we got a chance to talk and catch up some. He said he was coming up to visit his family this fall and I can't wait to introduce him to a few of our local spots.
If you are headed to the Stuart, Jensen Beach, Fort Pierce area and think you would like to go fishing, I would highly recommend giving Squeeky a call. He knows his fish and has an outgoing personality that makes it fun to be on the water. You can reach him at (772) 763-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When not on the water riding or fishing the heat was noticeable but not oppressive. Again, I want to remind everyone to keep well hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. This isn't just a nag; both excess sun and dehydration have the potential to cause serious health issues. Drink lots of water, use lots of sunscreen and wear a big hat.
On the local scene, I have been told the speckled trout bite is going strong. Not only are there good numbers of trout, but there are some large individuals also. I also received several phone calls about a hot puppy drum bite. They said the drum were biting well from a few miles inland out to the surf. The best bite has been just behind the barrier islands, through the inlets to the surf. One fisherman confided he was having his best luck using mud minnows on a Carolina rig.
The flounder catches have people talking also--and it's not all good either. Their main complaint is the size limits. They feel that 15-1/2 inches is too large a minimum for those areas requiring it. They also severely dislike having to put back flounder that were legal in past years and often question if they will survive.
While I won't argue that flounder have been over fished for several years, I believe the states north of us have been the real culprits. What makes the regulations harder for the average fisherman to understand is more flounder are being caught so far this year than last.
The Spanish mackerel bite is getting better and it's already pretty good. There are nice Spanish being caught from the piers and by fishermen trolling along the beaches and around the inlets. Between the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty out to the West Slough Buoy, in about 20-30 feet of water has been a particularly productive spot. Silver and gold Clarkspoons in size 00 and 0, trolled at 6-8 knots have been working well for the trollers and Got-Cha jigs are the favorite of the pier fishermen.
The dolphin bite continues to be red hot! The water is warming and the dolphin are moving closer to the beaches. As they move closer and the reports continue to improve, more folks will go after them and the reports should get even better. Bogue Inlet Pier reported 78 degrees on Wednesday and had been as hot as 80 a few days earlier. There are also some really big dolphin in the mix right now. Several bulls had heads that resembled the squareness of a half-sheet of plywood.
The hot billfish bite also continues. Speaking of billfish, congratulations to Bucky Copleston, Charleston, S.C., and the crew of the Artemis for winning the 50th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. They caught a 640 pound blue marlin on Monday and had to wait all week while everyone else tried to knock them off the throne. Five more marlin were weighed, but, while several came close, none were quite up to the task. Copleston and crew won $708,400 of the record $1,854,575 purse.
The catch for the week-long tournament was fantastic with 163 other billfish (110 blue marlin, 32 white marlin, 21 sailfish) being caught and released. Many others were hooked, but broke off or pulled their hooks before being landed. Even with the escapes, the average was almost a billfish per boat for the 177 boat field.
A few tuna and wahoo are being caught along the eddies and loops just inshore of the Gulf Stream, but the hot dolphin and billfish bite is the main draw for our offshore fishing right now. A few more tuna are being caught north of Cape Hatteras.
King mackerel are moving closer to the beaches and with 78 degree water and more baitfish showing each day it isn't a real surprise. I've always believed that once the water temperature passed about 70 degrees, the presence of baitfish was more important to hold kings in an area than the temperature. I guess they are much like us in that manner. Like most folks, I can stand a little extra heat or cold if the dinner table is set well and there is plenty to eat.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be good. In spite of what the federal fisheries managers are saying, there are good numbers of black sea bass, beeliners, porgys, grouper and grunts being caught. Red snapper numbers aren't what we would like them to be, but even they show occasional signs of increasing.
The boat trailer legislation (S 1695 and H 2408) are progressing through the N.C. legislature. While being modified several times, S 1695 was adopted in its present form on June 17 and its house counterpart, H 2408, passed its first reading and was referred to the Finance Committee on June 19. While they have other trailer, truck and farm equipment provisions, they allow drivers older than 18 to tow a combined weight of up to 26,001 pounds on a Class C license and allow towing of private trailers up to 120 inches wide, without a permit and any time of day or night, including holidays. These bills also allow for towing of private permitted trailers wider than 120 inches on any day, but not at night. The permit fees will remain unchanged. They are $12 per move or $100 annually.
Even better, the bills are worded to become effective as soon as they are signed by the governor. If you would like, you can track the progress of these bills at www.ncleg.net. This website also enables finding the contact information, committee assignments and constituent area for every N.C. legislator.
The first of 3 tournaments in the Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Series will be held this Saturday in Swansboro. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net or call 910-340-2651.
This weekend the Jolly Mon King Classic will be held in Ocean Isle. For more information visit www.oifc.com or call 910-575-3474.