This has been an interesting week. It began hot and windy, had a few stormy days, cooled off and is supposed to be warming back up again. So far, through all the changes, the fish are still biting and the bite seems to be improving. I don't know about everyone else, but I'll begin the day with a jacket and keep my raingear close by if the weather spurs the fish to feed harder. It also helps when a couple of new species arrive.
Heading offshore over the next few days might be a bit bumpy. WeatherUnderground (www.wunderground.com) and Reefcast (http://saltwatercentral.com) disagree a little about sea conditions and fishing conditions for the weekend and next week. Reefcast is more oriented to offshore and usually predicts the conditions to be windier and is correct a surprisingly high percentage of the time. Still, Reefcast shows the winds being less than 15 knots through Monday, so there could be calm mornings before the wind builds. Unfortunately, it looks like the wind was just taking a little break earlier in the week and hasn't gone away after all.
Some good nearshore fishing should be headed this way. Last weekend the 2016 spring run of king mackerel along the beach began at Oak Island. The bite slowed after Tuesday, but the ocean got stirred up and expectations are for the kings to return once the ocean settles out. With the sunny warming weather, they should continue moving up the coast and be off the rest of the N.C. Coast before long.
Randy Robbins of James Island, S.C. caught the first N.C. pier king of the year late Saturday afternoon, April 30, from Oak Island Pier at Oak Island. It was a citation king of 30.2 pounds. Then on Sunday, 15 year old James Lutz of Oak Island added a 29.8 pounder from Oak Island Pier and Jamie Balock added a 38.15 pounder caught from Ocean Crest Pier.
The king action continued Monday when Lutz landed his second for the year at 35.4 pounds. Tuesday morning the bite shifted to Ocean Crest Pier, also at Oak Island, and a pair of kings weighing 38 and 25 pounds were landed. A dozen or so kings were also landed by boaters trolling along the southern N.C. beaches and the largest of them was the stud 47.60 pounder caught by Charles Callahan of Laurinburg. Callahan was fishing from Ocean Isle and weighed his big king at Ocean Isle Fishing Center. There were also a half dozen or so cobia landed by the southern N.C. pier king fishermen, but all were just a little short to be keepers.
This action should be moving up the coast and could arrive at any time. I wouldn't be surprised to see the first keeper cobia from the piers this weekend or early next week and there should be more kings with them.
Pier fishermen are also catching a lot of bluefish, whiting, Spanish macks, black drum, and a few pompano. The size and number of the Spanish is increasing. There were several big black drum caught at Bogue Inlet Pier, plus some nice size pompano at several piers.
Nearshore trollers are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Some king mackerel were also caught near the beaches off southern N.C. There are Atlantic bonito and false albacore off many inlets and around Cape Lookout. They like small flashy lure trolled or retrieved quickly and will buzz the reel and bend the rod on most Spanish mack outfits.
The weather cooperated (although marginally at times) for a few days last week and the offshore fishermen had excellent catches. Trollers caught wahoo, blackfin tuna and dolphin, with a few surprise sailfish and white marlin thrown in. The dolphin numbers really jumped this week and most are gaffers.
Offshore bottom fishing has been excellent too, with catches of large black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys. Grouper season opened Sunday, but some folks who wanted to go were turned away by a rough weather forecast. A few fishermen made the trip and were rewarded.
There are schools of small kings offshore. They have been holding in the 100 foot depths most of the spring, but are moving inshore a little as the water warms and more bait arrives. Offshore bottom fishermen are catching a few kings on light lines trailed behind the boat.
Surf fishermen are catching bluefish, plus some sea mullets, black drum and an occasional pompano. The better spots have been in deeper sloughs along the beach and at the inlets.
Whiting are biting along the edges of the ship channels at Morehead City and Southport. There are some gray trout, croakers, pigfish and more mixed with them. This is simple fishing, a double drop bottom rig or speck rig tipped with small pieces of the freshest shrimp possible or pieces of Bag-O-Worms synthetic bloodworms from Fishbites.
Inside fishermen are catching flounder, puppy drum, black drum, and speckled trout, but not in big numbers and not real consistently. The most dependable inside fish is black drum and a few of them are also being caught in the surf and from the piers. Black drum are cousins of red drum and fight well. They might not make a hard run down the bank or oyster rock like a redfish, but they fight hard and every inch of line gained is a struggle.
Black drum will occasionally hit lures, mainly soft lures with scent, but they prefer pieces of shrimp or cut bait. They will readily gulp down a live shrimp and sometimes eat minnows.
The water is warming enough pups and specks should be moving towards the mouths of creeks and might be in the bays along the Intracoastal Waterway or scattered through the marshes. Pups typically feed a little shallower than specks, but both eat many of the same things. The water is warm enough they will generally be feeding if you don't spook them.
There was a little spike in flounder action near the end of last week. There are still lots of shorts, but there are keepers too. Flounder like to lay on the bottom along structure and let the current bring food to them. If you're fishing live baits, give flounder a little time to turn and swallow them. If flounder are aggressive and hitting lures, you can set the hook as soon as you feel them.
Live baits are the hot ticket for most inshore fish right now. Mud minnows are currently the primary minnow and can be caught in traps in many small creeks. Most tackle shops have mud minnows and some also have live shrimp, which the fish consider a delicacy. Unfortunately most small bait thieves like live shrimp as much as the preferred species and they're expensive to feed to pinfish, little croakers, sand perch and the like. Pups, specks and flounder will also hit lures and scent is a plus.
There are also flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs. One popular technique to prevent staying constantly snagged is to jig vertically using soft plastics on 2 to 4 ounce bucktails. Artificial Reef flounder will also eat live baits, but the time it takes them to turn and swallow the bait also lets them move deeper into the structure and become more likely to get hung up.
NC Wildlife Resources
Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
A "ladies-only" Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) weekend event will be held May 20 to 22 at the Eastern 4H Environmental Education Conference Center in Columbia, N.C. This will cover multiple topics during the weekend. For more information contact B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638 or email@example.com, or visit the "Learning" section of the Commissionís webpage at www.ncwildlife.org.
The third seminar that might be of interest to area sportsmen is a free Outdoor Cooking Workshop scheduled for June 4 from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. Participants will learn how to prepare a meal over a wood fire and charcoal briquettes. They will learn how to cook game, fish and other traditional meals in a camp setting, using a Dutch oven and learn new cooking techniques.
This is a hands-on class where participants will prepare and eat their outdoor meals. Due to the hands-on nature of the workshop, space is limited to the first 25 people ages 14 and up. Pre-registration is required by contacting Thomas Carpenter at 910-868-5003, ext. 15 or Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the John E. Pechmann Center, or to learn more about the many workshops conducted across N.C., visit the Wildlife Commissionís website's "Learning" page at www.ncwildlife.org/learning.
Hammocks Beach State Park
to Host North Carolina Paddlefest
WRC Seeks Members for
Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
The first seat is an expert affiliate seat. Nominees for this seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.
Two additional seats are at-large affiliate seats. Nominees for these seats should be qualified individuals from land trusts serving North Carolina, federal natural resource agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-governmental conservation organizations, industries with operations and/or management that have landscape-scale effects on wildlife, or other organizations that provide a stakeholder voice in wildlife resource conservation. Individuals should have a comprehensive knowledge of nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.
The committee meets four times a year, usually at the Commissionís headquarters in Raleigh. Nominations will be accepted through May 16. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will appoint the committee members at its July meeting. Nomination forms and information on supporting documents can be downloaded at www.ncwildlife.org. Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee - Attn: Shauna Glover, Habitat Conservation Division - MSC 1721 - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700. Electronic nominations should be emailed to email@example.com. For more information, e-mail Glover or call (919) 707-0064.
May 18-20: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Meeting, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
May 3 to 7, NC Paddlefest, Hammocks Beach State Park (mainland), Swansboro, www.ncpaddle.org.
May 7, Ride the Tide Kayak Race and Float, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com, 910-278-5518.
May 7 to 15: Far Out Shoot Out, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
May 10 to 14: Hatteras Village Offshore Open, N.C. Governors Cup, Hatteras Harbor Marina, Hatteras, www.hvoo.org.
May 14: Oak Island Kayak Fishing Seminar, Cape Fear Yacht Club, Oak Island Parks and Recreation, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com,
May 14 and 15: Rebel Pier King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
May 20-22 Topsail Island Surf & Pier Fishing Challenge, East Coast Sports, Surf City, www.fishermanspost.com.
May 21: Cape Fear Flatfish Open, Island Tackle and Island Marina, Carolina Beach, 910-223-3633 or 910-524-0353.
May 21: CCA-NC Cobia Challenge, TowBoat US/Portside Marina, Morehead City, www.ccanc.org.
May 21 and 22: Oak Island Open Pier Fishing Tournament, Oak Island Pier and Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com.
May 21 and 22: Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.
May 26 to 29: Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Water Fishing Tournament, N.C. Governor's Cup, Swansboro Rotary Civic Center, Multiple weigh locations, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.
May 27 to 30: Cobia Clash, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
May 28: Blackbeard's Spring King Bash, Blackbeard's Restaurant, Sneads Ferry, www.blackbeardskmt.com.
June 2 to 4: Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo, Bald Head Marina, Bald Head Island, https://www.facebook.com/BhiRodeo.