As I am writing this, it appears we have returned to weather more appropriate for mid-May. However, even though the temperatures aren't forecast to drop dramatically, we will be in for some more northerly winds over the next few days. Fortunately they aren't forecast to be too strong for most of the weekend.
Friday starts with some northerly winds at 15-20 knots that will spike up even a little more before falling out to 10-15 during the day on Saturday. From there we should be varying from north to westerly for the winds, but staying below 15 knots and the weather warming back to the high 70's and low 80's for Sunday and Monday. There isn't much possibility for rain either, so this might be a good opportunity to chase some fish.
Starting inshore, the water has warmed significantly. I was in a few creeks near the inlets last weekend and say water temperatures of 76 and 77 degrees in several places. It was 71 and higher everywhere I went. I didn't do much with trout or flounder, but the drum were entertaining and I finally decided to invite one home for dinner. I didn't catch one on topwater stuff, but they were receptive to plastic shrimp and crabs fished under popping corks.
I have heard several pretty good reports of trout and flounder. Some fishermen are getting the trout to bite an assortment of soft plastics and MirrOlures, but live baits have been producing better for most folks. Live shrimp work well, but pinfish and many other bait thieves like them also and they don't last very long. Mud minnows are pretty easy to catch and a few fishermen are also beginning to find some mullet minnows. Peanut pogies are a favorite of mine.
The flounder are getting hungrier in the creeks and inlets, but the best reports I have heard have come from the nearshore artificial reefs and a few nearshore rocks. Those peanut pogies work very well here and occasionally attract something unexpected like a big red drum or a misplaced grouper. There are big bluefish around and they like them also.
I said it last week and I'll say it again--if you are looking for a sure thing--and we all know there is no such thing as a sure thing in fishing--most of the inlets and just outside the inlets are loaded with bluefish from a pound to over 10 pounds. You should expect to have a few rigs bitten off. Wire leader is tooth proof, but the other fish seem to recognize it as something they would prefer to avoid, so mono is the call and bite-offs will happen.
I would expect there are still some sea mullet and gray trout in the Morehead City Turning Basin and out the channel to Beaufort Inlet, but I didn't hear those reports this week. The gray trout bite is picking up in Wallace Channel at Portsmouth Island.
The surf and pier report is somewhat mixed, with bluefish being the mainstay of both. There are little blues and Hatteras blues. Some drum, both black and red, are mixed in, as are a few flounders and such. Occasional runs of big drum have been happening from Cape Lookout to Cape Hatteras. You have to put in your time and be there when they decide to feed.
Wally called from the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach to say they were having a really good run of nice size pompano and the sea mullets were picking back up again also. He said the Spanish began biting pretty well for the pluggers too. The standard lure for them is a red or chartreuse head, white body, Got-Cha jig with gold hooks. Don't forget to get the one with gold hooks!
Cobia are big news this week. Last week there were a couple reported, but some numbers and good size fish were caught this week. Cobia will be around the artificial reefs and the inlets in the ocean, and will also venture inside some of the larger inlets and the hook at Cape Lookout.
I haven't heard of any pier kings along the middle and northern N.C. Coast, but there have been periods of sporadic action to the south. The piers at Oak Island and Topsail had king runs earlier and it happened at Oak Island again Wednesday and Thursday.
With warm water and baitfish arriving, the kings have moved closer to shore. Jerry's reef was a hot spot off Morehead City and Swansboro for the past week. They weren't large, but they were numerous and hungry. The situation is similar along most of the coast, with some larger fish mixed in off Southport and Hatteras.
Close to shore, the trollers and casters have been catching bonito again. These tasty tuna cousins are always welcome. The way they fight at 4 to 6 pounds, I'm sort of glad they don't grow to 40 to 60. The Jim Caudle Reef, off The N.C./S.C. State Line; AR 370 and AR 372 off Wrightsville Beach and AR 315, the Rock Barge and Trawler wrecks off Morehead City have all seen good activity.
Offshore, the numbers of tuna have slowed a little, but the gaffer dolphin have moved in to replace them. Lots of nice dolphin are being caught and some wahoo are still finding their way into most offshore catches.
The billfish bite was hot on Wednesday. The Hatteras Village Offshore open began then and 17 blue marlin were released and a 428 pounder was boated. My deadline was before Thursday's fishing ended, but more hookups and releases were being reported. At that time, the Jester was leading the tournament with 2 Blue marlin releases.
The offshore bottom fishing has been very good to excellent all spring and that hasn't changed. Most fishermen begin the day looking for grouper and most other offshore bottom catches include beeliners (vermilion snapper), black sea bass, red snapper, pinkies (red porgy), porgies, triggerfish, tilefish and an occasional hog snapper.
A really unusual fish joined the offshore catch this week. Anthony Ng, of Fish-Ng Accessories, called to tell me he had caught a lionfish last Saturday, while grouper fishing near WR 2. He sent me a picture and this wasn't a little lionfish either. Lionfish have a poison in their fins and have spikes that will easily stick you. If you should catch one, be careful handling it. Their sting is rarely fatal, but it is extremely painful and often has other negative side-effects also.
Several tournaments are going on this week and weekend. I already mentioned the Hatteras Village Offshore Open (1-800-676-4939 or www.hvoo.org). The others include the Far Out Shoot Out (910-575-3474 or www.oifishingcenter.com) in Ocean Isle, Cape Fear Blue Water Open (www.cfbwfishingclub.org) in Wrightsville Beach and the Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge (910-452-6378 or www.fishermanspost.com) in Wrightsville Beach.