As I am not a billfisherman, I took my usual vacation and vacated the area during the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament Week. I usually go somewhere else and fish for something smaller and that was the case again this year. On my return, I was told that I managed to miss the crowds and the parade of boats each afternoon, but I also missed some good fishing. I hope you readers were able to take advantage of the bite that I missed.
Our weather for this weekend looks pretty good except for breezing up a little this afternoon (Friday) north of Cape Lookout and south of Cape Fear on Saturday afternoon. Except for those instances it is mostly 5 to 10 knots with a little 10 to 15 thrown in when the afternoon sea breezes kick up. There is a threat of rain and thunderstorms, especially Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but you have to be expecting that when the temperature and humidity are both in the immediate neighborhood of 90.
The offshore fishing was good before and has elevated itself a notch or two. There have been some large yellowfin tuna caught for June and a few bigeyes are still being caught off Cape Hatteras and to the north. We were all expecting the big dolphin bite to slow, but this continues to be one of the best years I can remember for gaffer dolphin. While they aren't an everyday catch for everyone, there are also wahoo mixed in with the tuna and dolphin.
We thought we were having a good billfish year before the Big Rock Tournament began and the catches there removed any lingering doubts. Fishermen in the Big Rock tournament caught 179 billfish and released all but 7 blue marlin. The releases included 96 blue marlin, 45 white marlin and 31 sailfish. The release rate for this year's tournament was just better than 96 per cent. That is both an impressive bite and an impressive release percentage.
There is growing good news for fishermen who would like to battle a sailfish or catch a dolphin. The water is continuing to warm and they are moving inshore. Over the past week, both have been caught regularly in water less than 100 feet deep. In another week or so, we will be hearing good reports of both mixed with the king mackerel at the popular rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs in 60 feet of water.
The reports on kings are getting better too. The snake kings had been flirting with nearshore anglers for a week or so and moved right on up to the beach over the last week. There have been some large ones also. Even the pier fishermen have begun scoring with them.
The Spanish mackerel bite has been good from Calabash to Corolla. The better numbers have been caught around the inlets, along the beaches and along the edges of the shoals at the capes. Size 0 and 00 size Clarkspoons in silver and gold are the standards, with many fishermen also reporting good action using the models with color flash strips. Larger Spanish have been reported by fishermen using live finger mullets and small menhaden over the nearshore artificial reefs.
Pier fishing had appeared to slow a couple of weeks ago, but has gotten hot recently. The kings moved to the beach all along the coast and bombarded the pier fishermen for several days. There have been good numbers of teenagers and 20's caught at most piers, with the biggest report I received being the 32 pounder caught by Greg and Ashton Gant on Bogue Inlet Pier. Spanish mackerel have been biting Got-Cha jigs with gold hooks. The flounder bite has also picked up some in the past week and the number of keepers to shorts is improving. Other fish being caught include pompano, drum, bluefish and an occasional trout.
The inshore and nearshore flounder fishing continues to get better. The number of inshore keepers is getting better and most of the flounder on the reefs are over the 14-1/2 inch minimum. The inside hot spots have been around the inlets and at the mouths of the marsh creeks. The last couple of hours of the falling tide and the first couple of hours of the rising tide have been the best times. The ocean hot spots have been the nearshore artificial reefs and patches of live bottom scattered along the beaches.
Red drum continue to bite well through the marshes and creeks. One prime spot to check is in the shade under docks. The drum will hide behind pilings and ambush the minnows and shrimp the tide pushes by.
Even with the warm water, the trout bite was good last week. Several fishermen reported good luck with topwater baits such as Zara Spooks, Spook Jr's, Top Dogs, and Top Dog Jr's. If you can't walk the dogs with these baits, the new Chug Head from D.O.A. Lures will help you get a grub or other soft plastic lure working across the surface. If the strike of a big trout (or drum) taking a surface bait doesn't get your pulse racing, you might need to see your doctor for a checkup.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament ended Saturday. While the release action was hot early in the week, there had only been 2 marlin brought to the scales until Friday. The 5 that day included the winning 613 pounder of Capt. Tommy Lewis and the Bak Bar of Huger, S.C. and the 40 Feet and Under Boat winner of Capt. Skipper Gentry and the Carolina Gentleman of Morehead City. The small boat class was a new addition to the tournament for 2007 and was very well received. Capt. Rocky Hardison and the lady angler crew of the O Lucky Me topped the Ladies Big Rock with a single blue marlin release.
The Hatteras Blue Marlin Club Release Tournament (252-986-2454) at Hatteras and the Cobia "Inshore Attack" Tournament (252-473-1015, www.piratescovetournaments.com) are currently underway. Other tournaments this weekend include the Small Fry Tournament (252-473-1015, (www.piratescovetournaments.com) at Manteo and the Jolly Mon King Classic (910-575-3474, www.oifishingcenter.com) at Ocean Isle.