Maybe we're about to catch a break. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast for this weekend was pretty bad, but it has gotten a little better every day. We have gone from rainy with 15-20 knot winds that might increase and were going to be gusty to winds that should be 10-15 knots or less except for around some scattered thunderstorms Friday afternoon and Sunday. The temperatures will be warm the whole time, with the winds being primarily southerly, and then switching to the north on Monday.
With that weather forecast I'm looking for the fishing to continue to improve and there is already something for just about everyone. We're seeing some afternoon water temperatures above 70 in many of the creeks and on some of the larger flats and the water is only a few degrees cooler in the surf. If you haven't changed your calendar, stop right now and do it. May has slipped in on us and the weather and fishing are starting to look pretty good.
I've got to start this week with some good news for the pier fishermen, especially those who pay the extra charge to set their king line from the end. Last week I reported the first pier king of the year had been landed from Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island. The catch apparently wasn't a fluke.
I reported last week that this pier has a long history of having an early run of kings. The timing is typically between the third week of April and Mothers Day Weekend and this year hit the gap perfectly. The number of 2008 kings stands at 19 as I am writing this, and with the warm southwest winds forecast for this weekend, it should continue to climb.
I was there Sunday morning, with a group of ladies from the Women Anglers in Training school hosted by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department and it looked like a parade of kings by us. I believe they landed 7 while we were there in the morning and early afternoon. There were also a host of chopper bluefish from about 6 to 12 pounds. A few Spanish mackerel have been caught, but their numbers should increase quickly in the next week or so.
Wally, from the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach called to say they were having a run of sheepshead. He said no one really understood why, but they weren't throwing them back. Other pier catches include smaller bluefish, sea mullet, blowfish, black drum, sharks and an occasional flounder.
Judging from the number of boats seen there, the sea mullet are still biting in the Morehead City Turning Basin and along the edges of the channel heading out to Beaufort Inlet. Sea mullet have a great nose and use it to help find food. They prefer the freshest shrimp possible.
I've only heard of a few, but the numbers of gray trout caught incidental to sea mullet fishing should increase over the next few weeks. Other catches from the Turning Basin and inlet include croakers, spots, bluefish, pigfish, and an occasional flounder or speckled trout.
Speckled trout have been biting pretty well in the marshes and coastal creeks. I didn't hear of a lot of large specks this week, but even with the minimum citation size increasing to 5 pounds, many citation fish been caught this spring.
Red drum and a few flounder are also biting in inside waters. I spoke with Capt. Dave Dietzler earlier in the week and he said the drum are moving about a fair amount, but he was finding a couple of hungry schools almost every day. I worked a seminar Tuesday evening with Capt. Ray Massengill and he said his son had gone flounder fishing at one of the nearshore artificial reefs and caught several flounder heavier than 5 pounds and one that weighed over 9 pounds. Last year was pretty slack for flounder, but this year seems to be starting a little better.
Large bluefish dominated the action in the surf and just beyond this week, but a few nice puppy drum have been caught. There were also a few big drum landed (and released) at Cape point at Buxton. This activity has been along the entire coast.
Capt. Massengill had taken a day off from guiding for striper at Weldon to work the seminar with me. He left directly from the seminar to head back and said the bite was hot and still getting better. He said they were starting to see more large fish also. The striper action also continues in the Neuse and Tar/Pamlico Rivers, but at a slower pace.
Fishermen along the Cape Lookout Shoals and the nearshore artificial reefs caught a few more bonito this week. The artificial reefs are good places to begin looking for them and keep an eye to the sky for birds following a bait ball or in a feeding frenzy. When the Spanish mackerel arrive, bonito will mix with them, as they feed on the same baitfish. False albacore are also in area waters and they aren't considered to be good table fare as bonito are. It is important to learn to tell the difference.
I mentioned the run of kings at the one pier earlier, but the bulk of the spring kings are still holding a ways offshore. Several charter captains suggested looking for them at 240 Rock, West Rock and similar locations west of Cape Lookout Shoals and at the Atlas tanker and some similar spots to the east. With this run of warm weather over the coming week, the kings may be moving closer inshore quicker than we think.
Off Cape Fear, the hot spot has been from the Horseshoe out to Frying Pan Tower, but several locals said they were seeing baitfish closer in and the kings would be following it pretty soon.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be good. The head boats are having good mixed catches of sea bass, grunts, triggerfish, beeliners and grouper. They have also hooked a couple of cobia. Cobia should be around the inlets and inshore channels in the next few weeks.
The first of the Cape Lookout Redfish Challenge Tournaments will be held Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3, at Calico Jacks Marina in Harkers Island. The Captains Meeting, Final Registration, and Sponsors and Fishermen's Cookout will be Friday beginning at 5:00 P.M. Fishing will be on Saturday, with check-out and weigh-in at Calico Jacks. This is the first redfish series designed just for Tar Heel fishermen and it should be a fun, festive and family atmosphere. The weather is also shaping up for it to be a good time for the fishermen. For more information visit the website at www.redfishaction.com.
For the pier king fishermen, the Rebel King Mackerel Tournament will be held Friday through Sunday, May 2-4, at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. This is where the king bite has been so hot for the past week. For more information call 910-278-6674.
Tuesday evening, May 6, the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department, A.K. McCallum Company and North Carolina Sportsman Magazine will be hosting a fishing seminar at the Kiwanis Recreation Center in Fayetteville. Two topics will be discussed. The first topic will be speckled trout and flounder fishing, with Capt. Jimmy Price of Wreck Hunter Guide Service, and the second topic will be king mackerel fishing, with yours truly as the speaker. For more information, call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
Last week I mentioned the restrictive regulations governing towing a boat and trailer and the potential for changing them. This has become a "hot button" topic as many boaters have received citations and stiff fines for license, license tag, weight and width violations they weren't aware of. The Highway Patrol held a public forum on April 21 at UNC-W to alert boater to these regulations. Many legislators attended and spoke regarding changing the laws at the upcoming short legislative session. This is not just a coastal problem. The regulations affect towing a boat anywhere in N.C.
It would be wise to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about this. You may find who your legislators and their contact information, plus the same for all the members of the Transportation Committee, by visiting www.ncleg.net.