Fortunately, the cold front that came in over the weekend was not as strong as the forecast. The temperatures did drop pretty severely, but the wind never quite built as expected. Our weather pattern should remain similar for a while. There has been a fair bit of chop on the east facing beaches and once you got offshore. However, on the south facing beaches the nearshore waters were pretty decent for the first few miles. Another low pressure system, but with southerly winds, is supposed to be bulldozing its way through, as this is being printed and delivered. The winds should be coming back around to the north and moderating by Friday and the weekend.
With the cooler daytime temperatures, the water temperatures are continuing to fall. It won't take but another cold week, until we are within a degree or so of normal for this time of year. Early in the week, Sportsman Pier reported the water in their bait tank was 61 degrees. The combination is really just what we are looking for; cool water, small crowds, and hot fishing.
Offshore, the bite continues to be good. There are wahoo, dolphin, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, and some king mackerel. With this latest cold surge, the last of the late season sailfish appear to be gone. Maybe after this cooler weather sets up some temperature breaks, the wind will relax for a while and the fishing stay hot.
If this past weekend is any indication, king mackerel fishing is red hot. The kings have been around in numbers and hungry for a few weeks. Now there are reports of some really large kings. The reports have been good all along the coast, with a special notice to the waters off Hatteras for the past week or so. There had been reports of some kings in the 50's, but this past Saturday that became small talk.
Congratulations to Andy Hinton, Greg Theodorakis, and David Stallings of the Hot Grits II. This past Saturday, they claimed the win in the Teach's Lair King Mackerel Tournament and a piece of history with the largest king mackerel ever caught in a king mackerel tournament. While 15.70 pounds shy of the NC King Mackerel State Record, their 66.55 pound king was .05 pounds larger than the 66.5 pounder that Du Wayne and Darin Crofton caught to win the 1997 GMC Gulf Coast King Classic. According to Southern Kingfish Association tournament records, the Crofton's 66.5 pounder is the largest king ever caught in a Gulf or Atlantic Coast king mackerel Tournament. That fish was also certified as a State Record for Alabama and won the Croftons a new truck.
The previous record North Carolina Tournament Record King Mackerel was also a 66.5 pounder. It was caught by Bruce Armstrong, Bruce Armstrong, Jr., Drew Armstrong, and Mike Webb during the 1990 Hatteras Village King Mackerel Tournament. Several other North Carolina king mackerel tournaments have been won by kings over 60 pounds. Among others, these include Scott Garris's 64 pounder from an early 90's Carolina Croaker and Marlin Club King Mackerel Tournament and Don Westbrook's 60.85 pounder from the 1999 Grand Ole Opry King Mackerel tournament.
In addition to the tournament winnings, the lucky fishermen will be collecting bounties from the SKA, USAA, and North Carolina Sportsman Magazine, for their new tournament record. The NC State Record for king mackerel is 82.25 pounds and was set by James Winch, on the Drumstick in 1999.
The good spot fishing continues, while many pier and tackle shop owners say that the big schools of the large yellow-belly spots are still to come. With the cooler temperatures, pier fishing has been improving for the past few weeks and should continue to improve for a little longer. In addition to the spots, there are sea mullet, gray trout, speckled trout, flounder, red drum, black drum, bluefish, and a few last Spanish mackerel.
Red drum continue to bite well from the marshes into the nearshore ocean. Speckled trout catches are improving almost daily. Gray trout and sea mullet catches are getting better also. Along the edges of inside channels, plus the Dead Tree Hole, John's Creek, and the WOFES are great locations to try.
The striper bite is heating up at Oregon Inlet. Capt. Devin Cage reports already catching some ocean stripers over 25 pounds. He thinks that this week's low pressure system will really turn them on.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver