Last weekend had a really good marine forecast and, while the actual winds were a little stronger at times, it was very fishable and folks caught a lot of fish. This weekend the forecast is even better. The winds are to be lighter and the temperature won't be as high. After hearing about the catches from last weekend, many folks are already chomping at the bit and raring to go.
Our billfish bite has been extremely good so far this year. This week there have been good numbers of sailfish all along the coast with the 14 Buoy to 90 Foot Drop area being a hotspot. A growing number of white marlin have been gathering between there and the Big Rock and a few blue marlin are in the deeper water offshore of the Big Rock.
Tournament billfish numbers have been good all year. The hot bite from the Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament continued into the Alice Kelly Ladies Only Tournament over last weekend and now looks to be getting even better during the Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament. This is the last of the seven tournaments in the 2009 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series and it was red hot through Wednesday.
After just two days of fishing, 76 boats had released 184 billfish and the Sea Hag had weighed a 755 pound blue marlin. The Sea Tow and Pelican were tied for the lead with 12 releases each, with two days of fishing remaining. Surely the standings of the tournament will change again and there will probably also be some shuffling in the final standings for the Governor's Cup Series.
The offshore boats also returned with dolphins and wahoo. The spots from the 90 foot drop out to the Big Rock and both north and south have been holding hoos and mahi. The hot tip is finding a weed line or strong rip and working it until you find the concentration of fish.
Several boats returned from offshore with rainbow runners this weekend. They were caught from around 14 Buoy out to beyond the Big Rock. These are unusual fish for our waters and resemble a skinny amberjack with some colored lengthwise stripes. Rainbow runners are excellent table fare, so if you don't know what they look like, you might want to check them out in a fish ID book. That way you'll know what to keep if you catch some.
King mackerel are biting too. The spots east of Cape Lookout and off Southport seem to be working pretty well. There have also been some kings caught around Beaufort and the Cape Fear River Inlets and along the ship channels out to the sea buoys.
The good Spanish mackerel fishing continues. There are some fish around most inlets, but this week a concentration of larger Spanish has been up around Cape Lookout. Clarkspoons have accounted for Spanish up to around four pounds and live bait fishermen have been catching them to citation size (6 pounds) and larger.
The king bite slowed from the piers, but have been replaced with a good late summer mixture of bottom fish and Spanish mackerel. Flounder and some nice black drum are the high spots in the pier catch that also included a few, pompano, spots, bluefish and croakers. While it cooled a few degrees last week, the water temperature along the beaches has warmed back into the low 80s.
The inshore fishing is going surprisingly well for August. Flounder should be biting and they are. There are some flounder around most of the inlets from Oregon Inlet to Little River Inlet. They are also along the edges of the channels. Some big ones are being caught along the wall at the Morehead City State Port and in Snows Cut at Carolina Beach. Puppy drum continue to amaze me and are a testimony to what good management can do. They are in many of the local marshes and bays, especially some areas most folks think are too shallow.
Some trout, both specks and grays, are biting. The specks will hit lures, but tend to hold on the edges of the channels and wait for a live shrimp to drift by. Popping corks are an excellent tactic for them right now. The water is really a little too warm, but there have been some grays around the Morehead City to Radio Island Railroad Bridge. I believe night fishing with live minnows would be a good way to target them.
Sheepshead fishing continues to be very good. They like vertical structure like pilings for bridges and docks. Those "one-arm-bandit" fiddler crabs are excellent baits and barnacles will also work well at times.
I believe they were just running late as I heard of several days of good tarpon fishing in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River this week. One report was of a quad hookup and they landed three. Good job! Large drum are also biting on bars and around the points and islands in Pamlico Sound. While the tarpon prefer deeper water, the drum usually feed on the rises and bars in four to eight feet.
Many folks are not aware that we have a Marine Protected Area (MPA) off N.C. It is off the end of Frying Pan Shoals about 55 nautical miles from Southport and called the Snowy Grouper Wreck. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Block Island busted two boats for fishing there this week. MPAs were established as snapper and grouper sanctuaries and no bottom fishing is allowed. The Miss Kaylee and the Split Decision each had approximately 1,000 pounds of mixed snapper and grouper when the Coast Guard boarded them inside the boundaries of the MPA. The boats were escorted to Southport for processing.
With the return of the oppressive heat over last weekend and earlier this week, I want to caution folks again to be careful about dehydration, sunburn and heat related issues. Water is the best liquid to carry, with sports drinks in second. Soft drinks and adult beverages can often do the exact opposite of what you want and may exaggerate your exposure to heat and dehydration.
On the sun exposure end, there are numerous good sunscreen products available. The "Sport" versions that resist running and are resistant to sweat are the best with these. A high SPF rating and numerous re-applications is wise.
Many fishermen, myself included, suffer from getting involved in their fishing and forgetting or just deciding not to reapply sunscreen. Some fishermen even refuse to wear sunscreen on the basis of contaminating their hands with a smell that is not natural and can be passed along to lures and baits.
For that group of fishermen, let me introduce you to Gillzshirts. These are shirts designed for active fishermen in hot and sunny conditions. While there are several styles of Gillzshirts, the common denominator is they are made with microfiber polyester, which has a moisture wicking technology and a UPF rating. The bottom line is they help keep you cool while also providing sun protection.
Some Gillzshirts are simply long sleeve microfiber shirts. Others have vented underarms and side panels to help with cooling. My personal favorite has vented underarms and side panels, plus a sewn on face mask that is also vented so it doesn't fog glasses. The body of Gillzshirts has a UPF 30 rating, while the face mask has a UPF 50 rating. The face mask is also available separately.
I have been testing Gillzshirts since the early summer and am pretty impressed. They are cool and use the wicking qualities of the microfiber to keep you dry. If there is any breeze, it works along some of the same principles of an air conditioner to cool the shirt and you.
The UPF protection is very nice also. I have numerous friends with sun-related skin issues and I have learned to avoid long periods of direct sunlight. The sewn-on face mask prevents burning those little sections of neck that peek out from many of the other sun masks and the large vent section really does prevent fogging my polarized sunglasses. I find the face mask also helps hold down my cap while moving from place to place.
If you try a Gillzshirts, especially one of the vented models, you will be impressed. I haven't found a local outlet for Gillzshirts, so I can only recommend visiting their website. It is www.gillzshirts.com. You can also find them at www.breathelikeafish.com. There is an ordering option on the website and they are available in sizes small to XXXL. If you would like more information, I have been dealing with Kent Hickman and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 863-286-5386.
August 5 was a good day for 63 year old Bob Farris of Charlotte. Farris was fishing in the Ocean City (Maryland) White Marlin Open and landed a blue marlin that weighed 1,062 pounds. Any time an angler lands a blue marlin heavier than 1,000 pounds it is a special event and Farris' fish followed true with this. Farris caught the huge fish during a tournament, it was the first "grander" (exceeding 1,000 pounds) blue marlin ever landed in Maryland and, needless to say, it blew away the existing Maryland state record--by more than 100 pounds.
The previous record of 942 pounds, set by Jim Daniel, had stood for 20 years. It took Farris a little more than 3 hours and a quart of sweat to re-write the record book. The huge blue marlin easily topped the blue marlin category at the tournament and won roughly a half million dollars. With that kind of money, Farris can afford some Ben-Gay to soothe those aching muscles and lots of water to re-hydrate.
The White Marlin Open is considered the largest billfish tournament in the world, with 298 registered boats and cash prizes exceeding $2.1 million. Farris was fishing aboard the No Problem, with Capt. Skip Opalko and owner Mark Becker of North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The local billfish bite stayed red hot through the Alice Kelly Ladies Only Billfish Tournament held this past weekend in Manteo. This event is produced by the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group and is a fundraiser for cancer research in honor of Alice Kelly.
I had to do this by counting the leader boards, so I may be off a fish or two, but the final billfish count for this tournament was 131 billfish in two days of fishing for the 82 boats of lady anglers. This included 97 white marlin, 31 sailfish and 3 blue marlin. This is quite a lead-in to the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament, which follows this week.
The Rigged Up led the field with 420 points on six releases. The Sea Toy and Daymaker followed with 350 points each, and the Sea Toy finishing second by virtue of releasing their last fish almost an hour earlier. Summer Bracher, of the Pelican, claimed Top Lady Angler honors, while Danielle Michael, of the Points North, topped the Junior Angler category.
The Crystal Coast Fishing Association held their first 2009 Redfish Series tournament on August 8 in Swansboro. Participation was low and tournament directors said it was because the lower than usual astronomical tides were not allowing anglers access to many preferred areas.
The 15 boat event was won by the Crystal Coast Graphics/NC Charter Fishing Team of Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor. Cronk and Taylor posted the winning aggregate weight of 14.66 pounds and also had the largest redfish at 7.5 pounds. The Outlaw Anglers team was second with 6.00 pounds, while the Speckled Specialist Team finished third with 5.88 pounds
The next CCFA Redfish Series tournament will be held October 10 in conjunction with the Swansboro Mullet Festival. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net or call 910-340-2651.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament is currently being fished in Manteo. As mentioned earlier, the billfish bite has been off the hook early in the week. This is the final of seven events in the 2009 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. For more information or to see the daily leader board updates visit www.pcbiggame.com or call 252-473-1015.
The Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament will be held this weekend in Sneads Ferry. This is the third of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 1. For more information visit www.sneadsferrykmt.com or call 910-327-2376.