I love it when I take a chance, make a prediction and it comes true. Last week I noted the water had warmed and enough baitfish were along the beach that the cobia had moved in and king mackerel should be following close behind and could even be caught by the weekend. Well, the king bite fired off in Brunswick County as I was writing the report. A few kings were caught before the weekend, but fishermen in the Rebel Pier king Tournament at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island followed up by landing four kings during the tournament.
The honor of catching the first N.C. pier king for 2010 went to Nikkolos Czaban of Oak Island on Wednesday, May 5. Czaban's 32 pound king was his first ever and he received a congratulatory shirttail trimming courtesy of the seasoned king fishermen at Ocean Crest Pier. The free 2011 pier pass he won for decking the big king should offset the cost of replacing his shirt. Another larger king and several nice ones were caught during the tournament and I'll have more details later in the column, so keep reading.
Spanish mackerel have arrived in good numbers and have become a focal point for pier fishermen, but other fish are being caught also. In addition to black drum, sea mullet, small bluefish and more, the first of the large bluefish arrived over the weekend. The best report to date of a "Hatteras" blue is the 9 pounds, 5 ounces one caught by Wayne Penny of Snow Hill at Bogue Inlet Pier.
While the weather has basically settled out and is warming, there are some cold fronts still passing through. I had to drive to Greenville in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning and encountered places my windshield thermometer dipped to 40 and 41 degrees. The weather quickly warmed back up, but a series of similar fronts that might also be holding some rain are forecast to move sometime later Saturday and then again at the first of next week. The cold front this week didn't affect the saltwater fishing enough to notice and hopefully the ones approaching now won't either.
Long range forecasts along the coast have a high percentage of error as many factors can affect them. However, I'd like to go out on a limb and make a long range forecast you can go to the bank with. We are easing into mid-May and the weather will be warm to hot over the next four months. While some rainy days may come at inopportune times, we will see far more sun than clouds during the period. It is important to take care of yourself during the hot and humid weather. Find some good sunscreen and use it regularly. Staying hydrated is important too. It's not an energy drink, but water is good for you--drink lots of it!
This morning when I checked the water temperatures around the area, it was obvious the nearshore and offshore waters are starting to blend and moderate. According to the website at Bogue Inlet Pier, the surf temperature had cooled to 69 degrees and the weather station at Ocean Crest Pier was showing 71 degrees. It was only about a half degree cooler at the buoy at Frying Pan Tower, which shows the mid range water is warming too. With the water temperature spreading to similar warm levels across this large area, we shouldn't see any more wild fluctuations, just continued warming. One of my favorite spots to check the ocean conditions, including the water temperatures, is at www.carolinasrcoos.org.
Offshore fishermen have seen a few calm to mostly calm days since last week and have responded with good catches. Wahoo were one of the primary catches, with many fishermen also adding a limit of offshore bottomfish before heading in. Several fishermen reported that dolphin, also known as mahi-mahi and a favorite of all offshore fishermen, have arrived. There were also good catches of blackfin tuna and a few yellowfin tuna. Capt. Marty Moore even caught a nice blackfin tuna while casting to a school of large Spanish mackerel just a few miles off the beach at Cape Lookout.
As the water warms, fishermen are finding schools of king mackerel moving closer inshore. Most are smaller kings, but there are some nice ones. Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef are good spots off Morehead City and Swansboro, while 23 Mile Rock should be a hotspot off Wrightsville Beach and the Horseshoe is warming up off Cape Fear.
Spanish mackerel continue to bite and should be with us from now until the late fall. Many times they will come right up along the beach and that makes them a favorite of pier anglers and trollers alike. Spanish are often found just outside any of our local inlets. The piers have already registered some nice Spanish catches this year and it should continue to get better for a few weeks.
Many fishermen are saying the cobia bite that began last week at Cape Lookout is as good as they have seen in many years--maybe even as they've ever seen. While the cobia are thick between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout, they are also scattered from Hatteras to Sunset Beach. Lots of 30 to 40 pounders are being caught and enough 60 and 70 pounders are around that fishermen are waiting for a really big one. Billy Ray Lucas' 116.5 pounder is the current NC record and it might be a bit of a wait to top it.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to find North Carolina out of compliance with their latest call to reduce gray trout limits along the Atlantic Coast. As I am writing this the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) is meeting in Raleigh and deciding whether to override their March vote and comply with the federal guidelines or to remain out of compliance. If the recreational limit changes (the federal mandate is to reduce the limit from six fish to one) the change will be posted on the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) website at www.ncdmf.net. I will also update it here as soon as there is official word on any change.
The good reports about puppy drum and flounder fishing in the area continue to increase. The puppy drum fishing is still very good in most coastal creeks and marshes. Fishermen said the drum are feeding well and were readily attacking topwater lures.
Founder fishing continues to be pretty good inside the inlets. Unfortunately, some of them are shorts and must be released. The flounder outside the inlets on the artificial reefs and nearshore reefs have been a little larger and there are many fewer throwbacks. Flounder are also being caught from the piers, but many are too short to invite home for dinner. Flounder have shown a definite preference for mud minnows on Carolina rigs, but some of the larger ones have hit scented soft plastics fished on light jig heads.
While some speckled trout are being caught and the numbers are slowly increasing, the speck bite just isn't where we expect it to be at this time of year. More and more fishermen are echoing concerns that last winter's extreme cold affected us more than we yet know.
My aspirations of becoming a good turkey hunter were put on hold for another year. Turkey season ended Saturday, with me waving goodbye to a still very healthy boss gobbler. It's apparent they don't get that old by being stupid.
I had seen some signs of this old longbeard turkey during my trip several weeks ago to Roanoke Rapids, Weldon and Northampton County, but never got to see him. My hunting partner, Toot Elias of Roanoke Rapids Rentals and Guides (www.roanokeriverrentalsandguides.com), put in a little extra time finding this big boy's hangout and called me to come back and take another try. This turkey was so large his beard and wing tips drug the ground when he strutted and he made three trails in dust bowls, so I gladly accepted the offer and headed back up.
In the Reader's Digest version of things, this turkey is still alive and hasn't even be shot at. I thought I had him coming in Thursday morning and again Friday afternoon, but he figured it out and didn't show himself within shotgun range. Friday afternoon he gobbled until 8:20 P.M. and kept me pinned motionless until after dark before I could collect my decoy and sneak out without fear of spooking him. I didn't get him this year, but I've got a feeling this wise old bird will still be around next year to add a few more chapters to my turkey education.
While my turkey education stalled, I added another positive chapter to catching stripers in the Roanoke River at Weldon. After chasing turkeys until dark, by the time I showered, did a tick search and got some dinner, all the boats were gone from the ramp at Weldon. However, there was one lone fisherman casting from the bank beside the ramp when I rode through on my way back to the cabin where I was staying. I decided I would walk down and ask how the fishing was and spend a few minutes talking.
I didn't have to ask about the fishing! In the time it took me to park and walk down to him he caught two. Then he caught several more as I talked to him for a few minutes. Soon I had returned to my truck and was standing beside him with my own rod and reel. For several hours, we talked and laughed like old friends as we caught and released stripers. Finally I bid him goodnight as I released a striper and knew I needed to get a few hours sleep before the next day's turkey hunt. While most daytime fishermen use live baits, we stayed busy for that night and most of the next casting four inch jerkbaits on light heads and letting them bounce downstream with the current.
If there are any kayakers looking for a race, the Ride the Tide Kayak Float and Race will be held this Saturday (May 15) at Oak Island. The event will begin at 10:00 A.M. and use the falling tide to assist participants on a 4.9 mile course that runs from behind the Oak Island Recreation Center through the calm waters of Big Davis Canal and Montgomery Slough to Blue Water Point Marina. The event includes a poker run and there are classes for serious racers and casual floaters. For more information call the Oak Island Recreation Department at 910-278-5518 or visit www.oakislandnc.com/recreation.
For the past few weeks I have mentioned the situation at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The comment period ended Tuesday (May 11) and now we will have to wait a while to see what, if any, influence our comments had. Dare County officials are asking for an extension of the comment period, but it had not been granted at my deadline. It bothers me that National Park Service (NPS) personnel would consider management policies that prevent human use of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area (CHNSRA) unless the animal/bird/fish species in question are in dire straits. Even worse are the concerns this type of management policy may spread to other National Park areas.
I'm waiting for a report from the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission meeting this week in Raleigh. Their agenda was full with discussions of the Draft Spotted Seatrout (speckled trout) Fishery Management Plan, striped bass management assessment and goals, gill net changes to address issues with the Endangered Species Act and issues with being out of compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission weakfish (gray trout) recommendations. I hope to have reports from the meeting in next week's report. For more information on the Marine Fisheries Commission, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the work of all the advisory committees, visit www.ncdmf.net.
A couple of N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission advisory committee meetings are coming up in the next week. They are:
May 17, 4:00 P.M., MFC Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, NCDMF Central District Office, Morehead City;
May 20, 6:00 P.M., MFC Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, Craven County Agricultural Extension Building, New Bern.
For more information visit www.ncdmf.net or call 252-808-8023.
I have already lightly mentioned the Rebel Pier King Tournament that was held over the weekend from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. The first king bite began for pier fishermen on Wednesday and held through the first day of the Rebel Tournament on Friday. Unfortunately the gusty wind on Saturday and shifting barometer and cooler breezes on Sunday shut it down again. All of the top catches came from Friday and they were led by 17 year old Thomas Cutler of Oak Island with a very impressive 35 pounds, 6 ounces king that collected more than $1,000 in prizes for the young fisherman.
Monty Robinson of Mebane brought in a 22 pounds, 11 ounces king in to claim second place and approximately $650 in prizes. The third place king was caught by Jennifer Haas of Clover, S.C. It weighed 21 pounds, 4 ounces and was worth more than $400 in prizes.
The Far Out Shoot Out began Saturday (May 8) from Ocean Isle Fishing Center and will continue through this Saturday (May 15). This is an offshore tournament that spans eight days to allow each participating boat to pick a single fishing day that fits their schedule and allows for windy weather. The species in the tournament are tuna, wahoo and dolphin. The windy weather prevented many boats from fishing the first few days, so the catches are small and not enough fish had been caught as I was putting this together to fill the leaderboard. The tournament is ongoing and wide open. It will continue through this Saturday (May 15). For more information, visit www.oifc.com.
The saltwater fishing tournament season moves up a gear this weekend with the first of the 2010 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series Tournaments from Hatteras. The Hatteras Village Offshore Open began Wednesday (May 12) and will continue through Saturday (May 15). There are billfish and gamefish categories. For more information, visit www.hvoo.org.
The Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman's Fishing Tournament will be held tomorrow (Friday, May 14) at Kure Beach Pier. This event is sponsored by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club of Carolina Beach and is open to fishermen from the area. For more information call 910-264-8397.
The first of three Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournaments will be held this weekend in Beaufort. The Captains Meeting and Final Registration will be held Friday (May 14), with fishing following on Saturday and the Weigh-in and Awards Ceremony immediately after fishing. All events will be at Town Creek Marina. For more information, visit www.redfishaction.com.