The front that rolled across the coast last Friday brought some northerly winds and some unusually cool summer temperatures. The northerly winds were a hindrance once you got very far off the beach, but it sure was nice to be cooler.
It was almost too cool though. The weather disrupted the patterns of several species of fish, but they responded pretty quickly and appeared to have enjoyed the cooler respite also. The temperatures were low enough Sunday and Monday mornings that several low temperature records were broken. It actually was pretty nice to be able to wear a long sleeve shirt for bug and sun protection and not be on the verge of overheating.
The cooler trend is hanging on a little, but the daytime highs are forecast to return to the upper 80's by Sunday. If your time allows, you might want to take advantage of the last of the cooler days today (Friday) and tomorrow.
The upcoming weekend looks to be pretty nice for fishing. After some light northerly breezes on Friday, the wind should return to a generally southern flow for a while. The forecasted winds are only 10 to 15 knots, so it should be pretty calm early in the day, with the sea breezes picking up a little during the afternoons. There are mentions of thunderstorms every afternoon, so keep an eye to the sky and be prepared to head for shelter.
I had a very good experience last weekend, even though it was a long drive. I was invited to attend a Writers and Guides Festival sponsored by D.O.A. Lures in Jensen Beach, Florida. Several other manufacturers, such as Ranger, Eagle Claw, Power Pro, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Seaguar, Flambeau, Oakley, and Shimano joined with the folks at D.O.A. to put together a meeting with guides and writers that included good food and great fishing, which are two of my favorite things.
Some of the folks who attended included Vic Dunaway of Florida Sportsman Magazine and numerous how-to fishing books, Blair Wickstrom of Addictive Fishing Television, Bob Stearns and Bob McNally of numerous fishing publications and many more writers, plus a bevy of top-notch local guides. It was great to talk and fish with all of them.
The fishing was excellent too, as we caught tarpon, snook, ladyfish, jacks, redfish and lots and lots of speckled trout. Many writers scored personal bests of snook over 40 inches, trout to nine pounds and tarpon from 5 to well over 100 pounds. It was a great time, even figuring in all the time I spent in the driver's seat going to and from, and I'll be ready to go again next year if they invite me.
Several fishermen said I picked a good time to be elsewhere as the northerly winds messed up our fishing, but others tried new patterns and continued to catch fish. The big news continues to be the billfish bite. There are sailfish everywhere and marlin cruising the eddies along the Gulf Stream. Several grand slams (a blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish on the same trip) were reported during the last week.
Dolphin catches are outstanding and the brightly colored and acrobatic fish are surprising nearshore trollers, while seeming to be everywhere from a few miles out to the Gulf Stream. All the dolphin aren't gaffers, but there are lots of them and a limit of 10, even if they are smaller, makes for many mahi-mahi meals. A few wahoo are also being caught in the same general areas as the dolphin and sailfish.
The king mackerel bite slowed a little when the cold front first moved in, but was picking up again before mid-week. Quite a few kings are being caught from the piers and from there they may be on almost any rock or wreck out to just inshore of the Gulf Stream. The larger kings are scattered from the beach out, but some big girls are around to be caught.
I had several reports of big Spanish mackerel this week. I believe they have been here for a while, but the blustery winds had more fishermen staying close to the beach and fishing live baits, which got the big Spanish excited and feeding. The pier fishermen have been reporting some good Spanish catches also. The best time has been early morning, with late afternoon a reasonable second.
With the exception of the continuing king run and now a run of tarpon from Surf City to Atlantic Beach, the pier fishing is pretty typical for the heat of the summer. The flounder bite keeps trying to improve and the percentage of keepers is increasing. Other fish being caught from the piers include pompano, black drum, bluefish and spots.
Inshore flounder catches are improving. The fish are getting larger and more seem to be getting hungry. Some of the better places have been around bridges, along the edges of the sand bars in the inlets, at creek mouths in the marshes and at the nearshore reefs. Last week the drop along the edge of the Turning Basin at the State Port was a hotspot, but this week the flounder have been hugging the port wall.
Good trout catches continue to come from some of the deeper holes in the marshes and creeks, with the hotspot being the Haystacks in the Newport River and the thoroughfare in the North River. There is also a good mix of trout in many of the creeks off the Neuse River, from the mouth almost to New Bern. With the lack of rain, the water is salty well up the river.
There are mixed size red drum spread through the coastal marshes and creeks. One spot may be all underslot fish, while another may be all overslot fish. The big drum news is with the full moon coming up on Monday, the big drum should be biting well in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound. Tarpon have also made their annual summer appearance in this area. You can fish tarpon during the day and then big drum in the evening, which makes it a really fun trip.
Surf fishermen should be aware that in the wake of the federal judge's decision that beach driving should not be allowed, the National Park Service is reviewing their policies regarding beach driving. Everything but bird and turtle nesting areas is currently open, but it could change at any time. It would be wise to check with the NPS before heading out to be sure the beach is still open.
Captain Ken Miller and the crew of the Outlaw had to use the tiebreaker rule to finalize their win at last weekend's claimed the win at last weekend's Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament. They tied with the Miss Marilyn at 1,600 points each, but recorded their final release earlier to become the winners. This is the second time in two weeks this has happened. Last week the tiebreaker decided the Hatteras Grand Slam Tournament.
Captain Chris Edens and the crew of the Sarah Jo endured a ride in some rough seas to claim the win at the Southport FLW Kingfish Series Tournament. Their winning fish weighed 39 pounds and 5 ounces and was also rewarded with a direct entry into the FLW Kingfish Series Championship Tournament.
This weekend's tournaments include the Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament (www.orientalrotary.com or 888-542-0311) in Oriental, the Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament (910-256-6550) in Wrightsville Beach, the Ducks Unlimited Band the Billfish Tournament (252-240-8415) in Morehead City and the Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament (www.gwkmt.com or 910-350-0952) in Wrightsville Beach.