I don't know if it was indicative of the entire coast, but I was truly surprised at the light traffic on the Atlantic Beach Causeway earlier this week. Several times I was able to pull out onto the road without the wait I have become so accustomed to during the summers. Perhaps with the Fourth of July being on a Wednesday, we had the entire crowd the previous week and didn't split it into two.
The good weather of last weekend had a few strong and stubborn thunderstorms interrupt it, but overall the fishing conditions were good through Monday. Monday afternoon the southwest wind breezed up a bit and hasn't settled out yet as I am writing this. The forecast for the weekend is for lighter winds and hopefully the ocean hasn't gotten too stirred up.
We are looking at a forecast of primarily south and southwest winds of 10 to 15 knots through Monday. There is one possibility of the Sunday afternoon breezes approaching 20 knots north of Cape Lookout, but all else looks pretty good.
We are also in that summer weather pattern of possible thunderstorms and rain showers. I got caught in a pretty strong squall offshore on Monday morning, but just rebaited, put the rod in the gunwale rod holder, and waited it out under the T-top. We watched the storm on the radar as it bore down on us, but the grouper were just starting to bite and we didn't want to move. These storms are always a possibility at this time of year when the temperature and humidity are both approaching 90.
Several fishermen have reported the fishing slowing some overall and I believe they may be correct. It is still well worth going and some fish are biting well, but it has slowed some with the unrelenting heat. The water temperature reported by Bogue Inlet Pier is 84 degrees and I saw it at 82 to 83 on Monday.
Capt. Mike Webb invited me out on the Pelagic Too Monday for a day of grouper fishing and light lining. I had a great time and we boated our limits of nice grouper, even though having to fish around the squall I mentioned earlier. We also caught a variety of other bottom dwellers including beeliners, pinkies, black sea bass and grunts. Several times the amberjacks moved in on us and we may have caught a dozen, with the largest being around 40 pounds. In addition the light lines stayed pretty busy with dolphin and a nice king.
Webb and I didn't see a sailfish, although we expected to. The reports of numbers of sailfish releases continue and cover the water from several miles off the beach out to the Gulf Stream. The sailfish are often swimming with packs of dolphin and we saw plenty of them.
The Gulf Stream boats continue to report catching both blue and white marlin, plus a good number of sailfish.
Even with the nearshore water temperatures reaching the mid-80's, there are still some yellowfin tuna working the edges of the Gulf Stream eddies all along the coast. A few bigeye tuna are being caught North of Cape Hatteras and the boats from Hatteras and north reported bluefin tuna catches this week. The fishing is a little unusual for this time of year, but good. Wahoo have also been mixed with the tuna and dolphin.
The king mackerel bite had been improving for several weeks prior to this little southerly blow. Hopefully the water doesn't muddy up to the point of pushing them back offshore. There have been good reports of kings from the piers out to the rocks and wrecks in roughly 80 feet of water. The larger kings are scattered, with the better reports coming from patient fishermen around the inlets, while almost any structure a few miles off the beach has been holding smaller kings.
The reports on Spanish mackerel had slowed, but the pier fishermen had a serious run early in the week. The bite has slowed again by mid-week as the nearshore water dirtied up some, but most expect the action to return as soon as the water clears. Once the wind lays out, the nearshore artificial reefs should be holding Spanish while we wait for the water closer to the beaches to clear.
The piers continue to report king mackerel catches almost daily. They are a good addition to the slower bottom fishing. The flounder being caught by pier fishermen are getting larger and the number of shorts is dropping. Other fish being caught from the piers include pompano, drum, bluefish and speckled trout.
The report on inshore fishing varies with different fishermen, but overall it isn't bad. The flounder bite is picking up, with some good catches coming from around the State Port, under the bridges, along the edges of the sand bars in the inlets and at the nearshore reefs. Mullet minnows are the preferred baits, but last week the flounder seemed to like mud minnows also.
Some really nice speckled trout are being caught in the warm summer water. Live shrimp are their favorite food, but some fishermen are enjoying good success with an assortment of topwater baits.
Drum are spread through the marshes and creeks in singles and small pods, but usually will bite pretty well when you locate them. One good tactic is to fish the falling tide along the edges of the marshes and concentrate on indentations in the marsh line and creek mouths.
Some ladyfish are also being caught by the trout and drum fishermen. They are best caught when they concentrate under the lights of a large dock or bridge at night. Live shrimp, on a bare hook with no weight, are the best bait for ladyfish. They are lots of fun to catch as they run wild and jump.
Last week I mentioned a piranha had been caught in the Catawba River near Mount Holly. Upon closer examination, N.C. Inland Fisheries biologists identified the fish as a pacu, which is a popular fish with aquarium owners and looks almost exactly like a piranha. The biologists believe this fish was a pet that outgrew its aquarium and was released. They ask this not to be done as it introduces non-native fish to the ecosystem and there is potential for seriously harming other native species and the habitat.
The Laid Back, with Capt. Garrick Waters of Wilmington, won last weekend's East Coast Got-Em-On King Classic with a 40.70 pound king. Congratulations to Waters and his crew. There were 10 fish over 30 pounds weighed during this tournament.
This weekend's tournaments include the Carteret County Sportfishing Association/Boater's World King Mackerel Tournament (252-725-2841, www.carteretcountysportfishing.com) at Atlantic Beach and the Hatteras Grand Slam (252-995-3076, www.hatterasgrandslam.com) at Hatteras.