Amazingly enough, the easterly winds Saturday afternoon through Monday didn't slow the fishing nearly as much as anyone expected. Sure, it wasn't as good as it had been at the end of last week, but it didn't shut down entirely and rebounded early in the week.
Tropical Storm Irene, which formed in the Caribbean and then weakened to a tropical depression, has reintensified into a tropical storm, possibly strengthening into a hurricane, and is heading our way. The area of concern begins in South Carolina and extends toward New York.
The most recent updates have slowly moved the projected track to the north and east, with it passing us Monday night. Hopefully this projected turn continues and it passes well offshore.
Regardless of the storm, the weekend's weather looks pretty good. The forecast is for southwest winds at around 5 to 10 knots into Saturday afternoon and then only increasing to 10-15 knots through Monday. If the storm passes close by these forecasts will undoubtedly deteriorate, but hopefully they are correct.
Our great summer billfish bite continues. White marlin are still the most frequent catch, followed by sailfish and then blue marlin. The offshore billfish bite has been best above the Big Rock, from around the 700 line to off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet, but there have also been catches at the Big Rock and to the south.
As long as there is warm water and plenty of bait, the sailfish will probably stay close to the beaches. I haven't yet heard of one being hooked from a pier, but one was caught from the tideline at Beaufort Inlet this week. Most of the nearshore sailfish catches have been reported by king mackerel fishermen, who were pleasantly surprised when one pounced on their bait.
Dolphin continue to be caught almost everywhere. Several smaller ones have been caught inshore of the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy. Northwest Places and WR 13 have been holding surprisingly consistent numbers of dolphin and out around the 90 foot drop is almost a sure thing.
In spite of the hot water, there are king mackerel holding close to the beach. For several weeks there has been a pretty good bite around Beaufort, Bogue and even up at Drum Inlets. Don't overlook the Morehead City Turning Basin either. The winner, and several other placing fish, of one of last week's king mackerel tournaments were caught there.
Fishermen on the piers are still seeing a mixed catch. The variety includes pompano, sea mullet, spots, flounder, trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and an occasional king mackerel.
Flounder fishing has been good. Several good spots include the hook at Cape Lookout, Beaufort Inlet, New River Inlet, Carolina Beach Inlet, Lockwood Folly Inlet and Little River Inlet. Drifting with live mud minnows or mullet minnows will bring rewards. Strip baits are a reasonable substitute if you have difficulty getting live baits.
A few more speckled trout were caught this week. Properly worked soft plastics will produce and live shrimp are almost like cheating. Look for spots that have some cover for the trout to hide and some current to sweep smaller baitfish and shrimp by them.
Large red drum and tarpon are in Pamlico Sound. They are primarily in the triangle between the Neuse River Entrance Marker, Brant Island Shoals and Cedar Island. The tarpon generally are in the deeper water and feed best during the daytime, while the drum are usually in shallower water around the points and islands and feed better in the late afternoons and evenings. Fresh whole spots and menhaden are good baits for both.
Congratulations to Danny Carter and the Miss Karen Lake crew for winning the Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Clay Croom and the Team KenCraft crew for winning the Island Harbor/KenCraft King Tournament and to Leanne Crouch, on the Strictly Business, for winning the Long Bay Lady Anglers King Mackerel Tournament.
This weekend's tournaments are the Sneads Ferry Rotary King Mackerel Tournament (910-327-2376) in Sneads Ferry and the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies only Billfish Tournament (800-422-3610) in Manteo. The Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament (800-422-3610) begins Monday in Manteo.