Well, we made it through what Boat US and AAA call the busiest weekend of the summer. The afternoons were a little breezier than the forecast, but all-in-all it wasn't too bad. There were stories of numerous unrented rooms and cottages, but the beaches and waterways looked pretty full.
After beginning with a question regarding the direction it would head, Tropical Storm and soon-to-become Hurricane Bertha kept us guessing for most of the past week. However, after a few forecast changes and bumping up and slowing down then bumping up again in wind velocities, we are back to what the long range forecast was at this time last week. Bertha has turned out into the open Atlantic and will stay on the east side of Bermuda. We are looking at another pretty nice weekend. There aren't even big waves in the forecast for the surfers.
While the marlin bite has slowed a little, more sailfish are being reported so the billfish bite remains pretty good overall. One of the good things about sailfish is they often follow bait to within sight of the beaches. Several are caught and many more give fishermen a thrill before escaping at many of the popular spots 10 to 20 miles out the inlets. The area from the Hutton, out by Jerry's Reef and to Rock South of 13 has a history of producing sailfish during July. If you would like to see one in the air on the other end of your line, that is a good starting point.
Dolphin fishing is a summer staple and this year is no different. The dolphin aren't averaging as large as they were a month ago, but there are more of them and they are in more places. Heading out to 14 Buoy and the 90 Foot Drop is as close to a fool proof plan for dolphin as there is, but they are being caught closer in almost every day. Two places that are mentioned almost daily are Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef.
I say this a lot, but it's true, offshore bottom fishing is about as close to going catching as you can get. If you get anchored up over the structure, or drift across a good piece of natural hardbottom, you should catch some fish. Grouper and snapper are the primary targets, but the catch usually includes black sea bass, beeliners, porgys, and a variety of grunts.
King mackerel fishing is in its usual mid-summer slowdown. There are some kings around and sometimes you might hit a spot that is loaded with them. A few are cruising the beaches and inlets, but the spots in 60-80 feet of water are more consistent right now. Live bait is more tempting, but trolling lures or dead baits allows you to troll faster and cover more water. It's a chicken versus egg debate and both techniques work.
Both the boat fishermen and pier anglers are catching Spanish mackerel. The early morning, especially when the tide is high, is a good time to find them just outside the breakers. As the sun rises and the day warms they often move out to 30 to 40 feet of water and concentrate on smaller glass minnow for food.
When this happens you can often catch more by switching to smaller lures or baits. With live baits, I use the smallest mullet minnows I can find and with lures I switch to a 000 size Nungesser spoon.
Flounder fishing has pretty good in the ocean and inside waters. The nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom areas have been steady producers for a couple of months and the inshore flounder bite has been improving, both in numbers and percentage of keepers. AR 315, AR 320 and AR 342 have all been mentioned this week, plus several nearshore hardbottom areas like the Inshore Keypost and Tom Smith Rock.
Pier fishermen are seeing a few more flounder as are those fishing inside waters. In inside waters the Morehead City Turning Basin is a hot spot as are the bars in Beaufort Inlet and several points and holes along the channel from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout.
The summer drum bite continues to be good. There are puppy drum in the surf at Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout, through the sounds and into the inland marshes. Various sizes are being caught, which indicates the presence of several year classes. Some large red drum are also beginning to arrive off Cedar Island and along Pamlico Sound into the Neuse River.
The first tarpon are showing up also. Captains George Beckwith and Brian Harrington had several good days earlier this week. The tarpon were in the Lower Neuse river out to Brant island Shoals in Pamlico Sound.
Our good speckled trout fishing is continuing into the heat of the summer. If you can keep the pinfish and other bait thieves away long enough for a speck to find them, live shrimp are about as good a bait for specks as there is. Several local guides have been reporting some excellent trout action using topwater lures.
There was a very unusual catch this week near Frying Pan Tower. Steve Smith caught a permit that weighed 18.92 pounds. Permit are usually found only in extreme southern Florida and the islands of the Caribbean. .
As you know I have been following and reporting the legislation to allow wider boats to be towed on all days and at night. Thursday afternoon word came from Raleigh that Governor Easley was considering vetoing the legislation if it passed. While there have been several modifications to the legislation and it was removed from a bill that also included provisions for longer trucks, there was overwhelming support from the N.C. Senators and Representatives.
The governor's beef is with allowing towing at night, but the bill only provides for that up to 120 inches wide. Boats wider than 120 inches may only be trailered during the daytime. Under the current regulations, boats wider than 102 inches may only be trailered during daylight hours Monday through Saturday and not on holidays. This prevents many people from legally using their boats on Sundays and holidays.
You can track the progress of these bills and find the constituent area, contact information and committee assignments for all N.C. senators and representatives at www.ncleg.net. It would be wise to contact your legislators and let them know you support this legislation. It may come down to having to assure them we support an override of the governor's veto.
The Carteret County Community College Foundation Spanish Mackerel will be held this weekend from Radio Island Marina. For more information call 252-222-6222 or visit the Carteret Community College website at www.carteret.edu and follow the links to the fishing tournament.
The East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament will be this weekend in Carolina Beach. For more information call 910-297-4981 or visit www.carolinabeachclassic.com.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament will begin before we go tom press next week. This is the fifth of seven tournaments in the 2008 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Conservation Series. For more information call 252-808-2286 or visit www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
If anyone is interested in making a short trip to help improve their fishing, I will be joining Capt. Jimmy Price for a Summer Fishing Seminar next Wednesday night, July 16, at the Kure Beach Community Center. Capt. Price will speak on flounder fishing and I will follow with a session on catching king mackerel. The event is sponsored by the Kure Beach Recreation Department, North Carolina Sportsman Magazine, Mercury Marine, Maps Unique, Sea Striker and D.O.A. Lures.
There is an advance registration fee of $20, and registration at the door is $25. This includes the seminar, a participant's sample bag, door prizes, refreshments, and a 3 month trial subscription to North Carolina Sportsman Magazine. For more information or to register, call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com and click on the tab for the Summer Fishing Seminar.