The long range forecast shows the weather staying pretty stable for the next week or so and that should be good for our fishing. The water temperature is now in the high sixties or low seventies along most of the Tar Heel coast and fishing should be wide open.
The inshore fishing surged a little over the weekend and should carry that momentum into the week and coming weekend. There was a mixture of trout caught from some not-quite-keepers to some really nice ones. Several fishermen said trout were biting a mixture of soft plastics and MirrOlures, but live bait, especially live shrimp, was the best bet.
Suspending a live shrimp under a float and drifting it across the mouth of a creek or the edge of an oyster rock is a great way to catch specks. Live shrimp can also be fished on a Carolina rig or as simply as impaled vertically through the horn and fished on a light jig head. It is a bit early to find shrimp in the creeks to catch with a cast net, but there should be some at area tackle shops for sale.
Specks had been holding mainly farther back in the creeks in warmer water, but with the warming trend of the next week or so should begin spreading farther out into the marshes and into some of the holes closer to the Intracoastal Waterway
Someone pointed out that puppy drum will readily attack a live shrimp intended for a trout if it drifts by them. Puppy drum are usually hungry and will also hit a variety of lures. Many fishermen are having good success with Berkley Gulp baits in shrimp and shad shapes. These and the other bio baits give a scent in the water that seems to be very attractive to many fish. Puppy drum are typically in water a little shallower than trout, but sometimes when feeding they mix.
I didnít get a report this week, but donít think the water has warmed enough to run the big drum off Lookout Shoals. There has been a concentration from Cape Lookout out to Shark Island. Gold spoons and soft plastics thrown right into the breaking water and retrieved at a medium speed has been the ticket to getting strikes.
The flounder bite has been picking up and Iíll bet the warm weather kicks it into a higher gear. A few flounder have been caught each week for a while, but they should now be moving into their usual haunts. There have been some flounder around the nearshore artificial reefs and scattered though inside waters for a while. With the weather warming, they should be moving to the creek mouths, in the inlets and around many of the spoil islands along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Good reports of mixed catches are still coming from the Morehead City Turning Basin. Most of the catches are sea mullet, but fishermen are also catching some nice gray trout, croakers, hogfish and a few flounder. This is easy fishing too if it isnít too crowded. Most fishermen drift and lightly jig a double-drop bottom rig baited with shrimp or a speck rig tipped with just a small piece of shrimp. The fresher the shrimp the better and there are days it really makes a difference.
The spring striper run is well underway on the Roanoke River at Weldon. The keeper season closed at midnight on April 30 and there are some special regulations, such as barbless hooks, but you can catch and release until tired. Some reports are of slow fishing and others are good. Sometimes it seems just beling in the right place on the river can make a large difference. With the keeper season closed the crowds are more manageable, but there are still lots of boats and fishermen on the weekends.
Surf fishing has been pretty good at times too. There have been some great catches at Cape Lookout and Hatteras and some good catches farther south. One spot that has seen good catches for weeks is the jetty at Fort Macon. Large bluefish have been caught there, plus sea mullet, pompano and blowfish, plus an occasional flounder.
After the cold front last weekend, the water is warming again and that is good. The pier enders are catching some Hatteras bluefish and are hoping the warming water brings some kings and cobia. In addition to catching Hatteras blues, there were mixed bottom fish and plugging catches from the piers. Pier catches included flounder, bluefish, pompano, black drum, Spanish mackerel, plus an occasional red drum, speckled trout, gray trout and more.
Iím going to break this train of thought right now and step up on my soap box for a few paragraphs. Last weekend I helped with the Women Anglers in Training (WAIT) fishing school that was presented by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department. The ladies received classroom instruction on Saturday, then went fishing Sunday from Oak Island Pier or one of several inshore and nearshore boats. I helped with the ladies that preferred to fish from the pier as their on-water experience and we had a very good time. Early in the day the fishing was slow, but we were catching a few bluefish and were giving them to the king fishermen at the end of the pier for bait.
During the afternoon, several boats decided the only place they could fish in the entire ocean was right around the end of the pier. Boaters, this is extremely poor taste! It is one thing (and bad enough by itself) to run by a pier too closely, but to stop and fish there is just a total lack of respect. While it isnít actually illegal unless the boundaries are buoyed, 1,000 feet is as close as you should ever get to a pier.
Think about it for just a little. Those fishermen on the pier are limited to just the water around the pier. Pier king fishermen must fight and land their fish without moving from the end of the pier. If a king runs 300 yards (which isnít unusual for a larger king) that fish is 900 feet from the end of the pier. If a boat is fishing in that area, it could run over the line, the lines could tangle or it could break the pier anglerís fish off in several ways.
Boat fishermen have access to the entire ocean. Donít get so close to a pier you jeopardize the fishing of the fishermen there. I know most people donít think about this, but they should. Please stay a respectable distance from the ends of the piers. There are artificial reefs and small spots of live bottom near most of the piers and boaters should concentrate on them.
While I was on the pier Sunday with the ladies from the WAIT, there were two small cobia caught. These were very small, approximately 15 and 18 inches and were immediately released, but they were a welcome sight. Hopefully their mom and dad arenít too far away and will grab a king mackerel bait soon.
There are reports of two cobia caught at Cape Lookout over last weekend and several more encounters early in the week. Several were caught around Cape Lookout on Thursday.
With the heat of this week and the forecast as warm (hot) as it is, the water should warm and the cobia bite should begin in earnest. Some fishermen will fish traditionally and soak baits on the bottom while anchored, but motoring along the beaches and casting jigs into bait balls has become popular and is productive.
Fishermen trolling small Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons just off the beaches, around the nearshore artificial reefs and along the tide lines around the inlets are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish.
Some fishermen were slow trolling for kings and Spanish, but were only catching Spanish. There were some nice Spanish in the mix and even a few citation size ones. Kings are moving closer in, but havenít made it close to the beach yet.
False albacore and Atlantic Bonito have been caught in several places along the coast. The hot spot for bonito right now is off New River Inlet at the north end of Topsail Island.
Fishermen made it to the Gulf Stream several days last week and returned with good catches of wahoo, blackfin tuna and dolphin. There were also some scattered yellowfin tuna from Cape Lookout northward. Several fishermen reported temperature breaks and weed lines a few miles inshore of the Gulf Stream were also holding fish. Many of the dolphin were gaffers and that makes for multiple delicious meals of mahi-mahi.
Just a little inshore of the temperature breaks, the bottom fishing is good. The main complaint I hear is the black sea bass, whose season is closed until June 1, are devouring baits as fast as they can get to the bottom Ė and sometimes not even allowing them to get to the bottom. Grouper season opened Tuesday (May 1) and Iíve already heard some reports of limiting out in a matter of minutes. Beeliners, grunts, porgies, triggerfish and hog snapper may be kept in addition to grouper.
As already noted, the kings are still holding offshore. Many were caught by light lining while bottom fishing or by trolling frozen cigar minnows and Drone Spoons around the areas holding bottom fish. With the warm weather forecast for this week, the king action could be pretty good by the weekend at places in the 50 to 80 foot deep range.
A hearing of the National Parks Congressional Subcommittee was held in Washington, D.C. on April 27 regarding access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The topic of this meeting was HR 4094, a bill sponsored by Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC) titled Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act. Representative Jonesí bill would overturn a final rule implemented by the National Park Service (NPS) in mid-February, as well as the 2008 U.S. District court approved Consent Decree.
To help emphasize this need N.C. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced a similar bill in the Senate the day before the hearing. The purpose of the bills is to allow taxpayers access to the recreational areas they own and help restore the Hatteras Island Economy. No report from the Subcommittee has been issued yet.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) is soliciting qualified individuals to serve on its Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel. Advisors will assist in developing management measures to reduce impacts on Atlantic sturgeon. Applicants who are appointed to the Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel will serve a term of 3 years.
Anyone interested in serving Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel should submit an application to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901, email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to (302) 674-5399. Applications can be obtained by visiting www.mafmc.org or by contacting the Council office at (302) 674-2331 (ext.253). Applications must be received by May 11, 2012.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet May 9-11 at the Clam Digger Inn in Pine Knoll Shores. The meeting features a time for public comment on Wednesday, May 9 at 6:00 P.M. and again on Thursday, May 10 at 9:00 A.M. The business meeting will follow the second public comment period. A copy of the agenda is available at www.ncdmf.net and more information is available by contacting Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting their annual Ride the Tide Kayak Race and Float on Saturday, May 5. The event will begin at the crossover and floating dock behind the Oak Island Recreation Center, with the dedication and opening of the new kayak launch there. From there participants will ride the outgoing tide to Blue Water Point Marina at the west end of the island. There are numerous classes for participation of all age and skill levels. For more information call the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department at 910-278-5518 or 910-278-4747.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will offer a kayak fishing seminar on Saturday, May 12. This seminar will offer classroom instruction in the morning, then a session on kayak fishing accessories, plus a kayak fishing trip in the afternoon. Participants may register for the classroom sessions or the classroom sessions and the fishing trip. Some rental kayaks are available on a first-registered basis. For more information contact the Oak Island Recreation Department at 910-278-5518 or 910-278-4747.
The first of the 2012 Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournaments was held Saturday, April 28, at Scotts Hill Marina in Hampstead. The weather was excellent and the fish and fishermen responded. Team Worthless, of Capt. Brent Stanley and Jason Dail, was the winner with a pair of redfish that weighed 12.76 pounds. Stanley and Dail also had the largest redfish of the tournament at 6.64 pounds. Barely behind in second place, Team Dingbatters, of Capt. Rennie Clark and Hurricane Drew Arndt, brought 12.72 pounds to the scales. Capt. Rob Koraly and Craig Stanfield of Team Sandbar Safari finished third with 11.49 pounds. The Top Junior Angler was Christian Wolfe.
The Day at the Docks King Mackerel Tournament was held in Holden Beach on April 28. The event was sponsored by the Holden Beach Merchants Association. Team No Pro Bono, with Allen Johnson, Wes Johnson, Rob Hunoval and Zack Shackleton, landed a king that weighed 16.28 pounds to claim the win. There was also a Flounder Division that was won by Team Wide Open with Blake Stone, Adam Sellers and Jason McDowell. The Flounder Division was scored by aggregate weight and the winning aggregate was 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
Seventy fishing teams comprised of 420 anglers are at Ocracoke this week for the 29th Annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament. The tournament began on May 2 and will continue through May 4. For more information visit www.outerbankschamber.com.
The Reeliní for Research Offshore Fishing Tournament will be held Saturday, May 5, from the Morehead City waterfront. The tournament features prizes for dolphin tuna, wahoo and mako shark and proceeds are donated to the UNC Childrenís Hospital. For more information visit www.reelinforresearch.org.
The Chasiní Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge began on April 1 and runs through June 11. Anthony Nelson of Beaufort took the lead Thursday afternoon with a 46.5 pounder. ChasiníTails also added a Spanish and Flounder Challenge that began May 1 and runs through August 31. For more information stop by the store or visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
Capt. Joe Shuteís Bait and Tackle Shop is sponsoring a Cobia Tournament that will run the month of May. For more information stop by the store or visit www.captjoes.com.