While it took spring a little while to finally settle in this year, summer hasn't had any hint of a problem. Two of the hottest days of the year were last weekend as summer was finally becoming official--and it hasn't been cool. After the late spring, summer arrived early and has been here a while; it just took the calendar several weeks to catch up.
The good weather is expected to be with us for a while longer. There are threats of thunderstorms several days over the weekend, but when the temperature and humidity both approach triple digits that is to be expected. While any thunderstorms will be widely scattered, they could well be severe in their immediate vicinity.
The wind is forecast to be southerly at 15-20 knots for Friday and early Saturday, then sliding back to 10 to 15 knots for the balance of the weekend and Monday. Many times this forecast is actually lighter winds in the morning that build to this level in the afternoons. It should be good to choppy conditions on the water.
I had heard a few folks say the offshore fishing was slowing, but my personal experience was different. I headed out this week and found the ocean a little bumpy, but we caught a dozen or so gaffer dolphin, some smaller dolphin, two blackfin tuna, one skipjack tuna, one false albacore, a pair of amberjack and a sailfish. We thought we had some dolphin ready to bail, but it was only a few and once we caught them, no more appeared.
Several of our dolphin were caught within sight of the taller buildings on land. The average size of the dolphin is a little smaller than a few weeks ago, but the numbers appear to be increasing and they are definitely moving closer to shore. Many folks are catching them in the 10 to 20 mile range, but I'm hearing more stories about catches within sight of land.
The billfish bite is still going strong. I believe the sailfish numbers are growing fastest, simply because they are moving inshore and being caught by offshore boats, plus king mackerel and dolphin fishermen. The edges of the Gulf Stream and the eddies peeling off of them have been good billfish locations.
Last week it appeared some yellowfin tuna had finally arrived south of Hatteras, but it was a flurry, not a beginning. There are numerous questions regarding where the yellowfins are and the consensus is they are traveling the offshore edge of the Gulf Stream rather than the inshore side. There is pretty good blackfin tuna action, with some being caught almost daily. There were also some 100 pound plus bigeye tuna caught from Oregon Inlet this week.
King mackerel have arrived and have spread all over. The nearshore water temperature is hovering around 80 degrees, so it's plenty warm for them and bait is almost anywhere. I didn't hear of any pier kings along the mid or northern coast piers this week, but they were biting well at several of the southern piers. They are also just off the beaches at many of the usually summer locations. Any rock or wreck in 50 to 70 feet of water that is holding bait is a potentially good place to catch a few summer kings and you might catch a few dolphin too.
Surely, one of the reasons the kings are here and hungry is the abundance of baitfish for them. Bait has been unusually thick along the beaches and in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Spanish mackerel are biting just outside the inlets and along the beaches. Most are smaller to a couple of pounds, but several citation size Spanish (6 pounds) were caught this week. Trolling Clarkspoons is a good way to catch numbers of Spanish macks, but the bigger ones are being caught by fishermen slow trolling live baits for kings or lightlining a mullet minnow while flounder fishing at the nearshore artificial reefs.
Speaking of the nearshore artificial reefs; they are holding good numbers of flounder. They aren't doormat flounder on the reefs, but most are keepers, with a few approaching five pounds. Flounder were also caught in the inlets, the turning basin, along the pilings of the high-rise bridges and at the nearshore artificial reefs.
The way I was told it was simple. The fisherman said, "The puppy drum are biting like bulldogs." I don't know that's a totally accurate description, but I knew what he meant! Red drum are holding in many places. Earlier this week on the full moon tides, several fishermen reported seeing tailing reds well up in the marsh. If you are having trouble locating pups, check on the flats around and under the duck blinds that are spread through the sounds. They can feed on shrimp, minnows and crabs holding in the same grass that attracts the ducks and then hide in the shade under the blind.
Speckled trout are also biting in many of the deeper channels that run through or beside the flats where the drum are feeding. Trout are also biting at night along the pilings under the lights of the high-rise bridges. When you fish for specks at night, be prepared for a few surprises. One of the best and most fun to catch is ribbon fish. Don't just throw them back either. They make great king mackerel baits.
There are also some good catches of sheepshead right now. They can usually be found around the many dock and bridge pilings throughout the area. Sheepshead will also stack up along sea walls and bulkhead more than just a few feet deep.
In addition to the kings, pier fishermen are catching a variety of bottom fish that includes sea mullet, black drum, blowfish, bluefish, flounder, pompano, spots and more. Spanish mackerel also bit well for pluggers.
The Take a Kid Fishing Foundation had their annual Crystal Coast outing for disadvantaged kids this week. Some went offshore on head boats, others went fishing on the piers and even more went for harbor cruises and a visit to the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. There were many kids from various agencies across the state attending the event, which ended with a big dinner cook-out at the Morehead City and Swansboro Civic Centers. Smiling faces were the order of the day. Many volunteers said they had as much fun as the kids.
The N.C. House has passed a bill this week that will ban using plastic shopping bags on the Outer Banks. The bill passed with a 78 to 41 vote. The bill will now go to the Senate to continue its trek to becoming a law.
Last week I mentioned there were issues in the N.C. flounder and speckled trout fisheries that would be heard soon in public meetings, but there wasn't a schedule yet. The MFC Central Regional Advisory Committee will meet July 2 at 6:00 P.M. at the Craven County Cooperative Extension, 300 Industrial Drive in New Bern. For more information on this meeting contact Mike Marshall at 252-808-8077 or Katy West at 252-946-6481. The MFC Southeast Regional Advisory Committee will meet July 7 at 6:00 P.M. at the NCDENR Regional Field Office, 127 Cardinal Drive in Wilmington, NC. For more information on this meeting, contact Rich Carpenter at 910-796-7291 or the MFC Office at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8022. The MFC Inland Regional Advisory Committee will meet July 8 at 6:00 P.M. at the Archdale Building, 512 North Salisbury Street in Raleigh. For more information on this meeting contact Randy Gregory at 252-808-8078 or the MFC Office at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8022.
There are also several other regional and species-based committees that will meet on these topics, but the meeting times and locations have not been finalized. For this information, plus information on other Marine Fisheries Commission issues and meetings, visit the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The 50th Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament was held at the Hatteras Marlin Club in Hatteras last week. This is one of the oldest billfish tournaments around and has a long successful history. The Outlaw, with Capt. Ken Miller and crew, released five sailfish on the final day to boost their score to 1300 points and pass the Caroline, who had led all week. The Outlaw tallied nine sailfish releases at 100 points each and one blue marlin release at 400 points to score the victory.
The Caroline, with Capt. Watson Caviness, was the early leader and finished in second place with two blue marlin and one sailfish release for 900 points. The 53 boat field released 54 billfish in five days of fishing. This included 22 blue marlin, 12 white marlin and 20 sailfish.
The Oak Island Open Pier Tournament, hosted by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, was held over the weekend from Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers on Oak Island. The tournament featured three categories for all species found around a pier. Fishermen could enter one, two or all of the species categories.
Category Three was the big fish from the end of the pier (king mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle, amberjack and tarpon) and unfortunately none were landed, even though some large kings had been caught as recently as the day before.
Category Two included Spanish mackerel, bluefish, grey trout, speckled trout, red drum, black drum, flounder and sheepshead. Garrett Bell topped the category with a 6 pound, 8 ounce sheepshead. Category one included spot, croaker, whiting, spadefish, Atlantic pompano and pinfish. Wayne Eastman claimed the win with a 1 pound, 14 ounce pompano. Colin Minor claimed the Top Junior Angler honors with a speckled trout that weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces.
The Jolly Mon King Classic was held this weekend from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. In a unique format, the Jolly Mon is a one day tournament, but allows the competitors to select either Saturday or Sunday as their fishing day.
Travis Ketchie, of Gold Hill, and the Ketch This crew were leading the tournament at the end of Saturday, but slipped to second place on Sunday behind Samuel Rees of Southport and the 38.15 pound king caught on the Reel Time. The Reel Time also claimed the honors for the largest king caught on a boat 23 feet long or less and garnered the Top Lady Angler Award for Samantha Nowell.
The Ketch This king was no slouch at 37.10 and doubled by earning Top Junior Angler honors for Chelsea Lyerly. Bill Sears, Apex, and the Got-Cha finished in third place with a 34.80 pound king that also earned Top Senior Angler recognition for Sears.
Several tournaments will be held this weekend. The closest is the Emerald Isle Youth Fishing Derby, which will be held at Bogue Inlet Pier on Saturday from 9:00 to 11:00 A.M. This is a free event for kids ages 5-12 and features lots of fun and prizes. The registration deadline is June 24. For more information call 252-354-6350 or visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org.
The Swansboro Rescue Squad King Mackerel Tournament will be held in Swansboro. This is a one day tournament headquartered at Dudley's Marina. As the name states, all proceeds will be used to benefit the rescue squad. For more information, call 910-392-8047.
The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This is the fourth event in the 2009 Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series. For more information call 910-256-6666 or visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
The Jodi Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament will be held in Wrightsville Beach this Saturday. Final Registration is at the Wrightsville Beach West Marine, with the Captains Meeting following at David's Deli. This tournament is to honor Jodi Tynch, who succumbed to cancer in February of this year, and to raise money in her memory for the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. For more information contact Mike Tynch at 910-284-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.