One thing about our weather in eastern NC; if you don't like it, just wait a little while and it will change. With that said, the saga of our strange year continues. We had a couple of cool nights and mornings early this week, but by Wednesday we were back in the mid-80's, with evenings where shorts and short sleeves were comfortable.
The weather is forecast to stay warm through Saturday, but should cool some beginning Sunday and then deteriorate as Hurricane Wilma passes by. Yes--Hurricane Wilma. It ties a record for the most named storms in a year and set records for the most category 5 storms and the lowest barometric pressure. As I am writing this, Wilma is slowly wandering in the Gulf of Mexico, but expected to take an abrupt turn to the northeast, cross southern Florida and pass by offshore here early next week.
Not to wish any harm on south Florida, but it certainly doesn't need to head deeper into the Gulf towards Texas or Louisiana and we wouldn't want even a passing visit. As badly as the category 1 Hurricane Ophelia damaged the area and the rainfall from the leftovers of Hurricane Tammy crippled us just two weeks ago, another dousing would be extremely problematic, plus the winds and surge could be disastrous. Keep your fingers crossed!
During the past week we have had several bursts of very good fishing. The water temperatures have fallen into the lower 70's and more fish are moving and feeding.
One of the good bites has been spots. They haven't bitten well every day, but the piers are reporting good runs of spots. The most consistent time for spots has been on the rising tide.
Other pier catches include, sea mullet, gray trout, pompano, flounder, bluefish, black drum, Spanish mackerel and some sheepshead.
The spot bite hasn't been quite as good in the inside waters, but many fishermen have been out in their boats trying. When you are fishing for spots along inshore channels, you must be aware of where you are and what is happening around you. It is illegal to anchor so you block a navigable channel. The larger boats are limited to only operating in the deeper water of the channel and large rigs, especially tugs and barges, require as much as a mile to stop. You should anchor along the edge of the channel and cast over into it.
I emphasize this point as there was a minor bumping incident between a tug with a barge and a spot fishing boat near the Emerald Isle Bridge last Saturday. Fortunately no one was injured, but the smaller boat refused to give way and was lightly bumped by the barge as it passed. Another near-miss occurred just off the Fort Macon Coast Guard Station and involved one of the Coast Guard boats.
Quite often I have witnessed the Coast Guard making people move out of the channel where the Lockwood Folly Inlet Channel intersects with the ICW. The spot boats get so thick here you can barely get through in a larger center console. One rapidly moving barge could hurt a lot of people.
With the cooling water temperatures the speckled trout are biting and the red drum are getting even more active. Most inshore tidal creeks have one or two good places to try. There is also a growing crowd at the Cape Lookout Jetty, so the bite must be improving there also.
I fished just a little offshore of the Cape Lookout Jetty several days last week and saw marks on my fishfinder I thought would be gray trout. We were king mackerel fishing and I didn't try for them, but I'm pretty sure they were there.
Big red drum have been in the surf at Hatteras, Ocracoke and Portsmouth Island. This is the time to go catch these big bruisers and it should get better as the water temps continue to drop.
The offshore boats made several trips this week and found the wahoo hungry and biting along the southern and central N.C. coast. There were also some scattered dolphin and a few late sailfish caught. Farther to the north, off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet the tuna bite was pretty good. The tuna are mostly yellowfins with some bigeyes and a few blackfins mixed in.
Congratulations to Capt. John Parks, Jacksonville, and the crew of the Early Riser. After placing fourth in the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Qualifying Tournament last week just to make the field for the 2005 Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship Tournament, they made the best of their opportunity and won the event. The championship tournament was dominated by N.C. fishermen, who claimed 5 of the top 10 and 23 of the top 50 places.
My FLW team, Alan Vester Automotive, finished the season in 10th place overall and 11th in the championship tournament. While we were generally pleased with the year, we were bummed out as we were only 4 ounces shy of making the final shootout for the top 10 in the championship.
This weekend's tournaments are the Calcutta Wahoo Challenge (252-0222-3321) from the Catherine Davis Park in Morehead City and the Rumble in the Jungle (843-458-1698) from Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach.