If you don't like strong winds, a strong frontal passing, and then more strong winds, then you didn't care much for the weather this past weekend and early this week. We have experienced a similar cold front just before Memorial Day Weekend for most of the past several years. It just seems that the warm weather just gets going too strong and a cold front pops in and bring us back to reality. At least this year, the water temperatures are several degrees warmer than usual and should be able to stem the cold weather without disastrous results.
Right now we are in the midst of some cold weather with temperatures only supposed to make the low 70's until mid-week or later. There are several possible scenarios for the coming Memorial Day Weekend and the one we like best is high pressure and southerly winds at 10 to 15. If this happens it will be the first really nice weekend in a while, but it certainly will be a great way to kick of the "official" beach season. Let's all hope that this long range forecast remains correct.
While last week started out really windy, the wind laid out Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, before breezing up again on Friday. Some of the larger boats did head offshore and return with good catches. There were numerous billfish encounters, however the bulk of the offshore catches were gaffer size dolphin, with a few individuals well over 30 pounds. Yellowfin tuna were not well represented in numbers, but the majority of the tuna were large fish. Several reports had tuna over 75 pounds, with the largest being the 105 pounder caught by Captain Fred Holland and the crew of the Musicman, during the Cape Fear Bluewater Open Tournament out of Wrightsville Beach.
There were also some wahoo and king mackerel scattered throughout the catch. The best report came from Captain Bruce Haas at Southport Bait and Tackle in Southport. Thursday afternoon David Kesler and friends brought in a huge wahoo that maxxed out the 100 pound scales at Southport Bait and Tackle. Haas reports that Kesler and friends later weighed the huge hoo at a Southport Fish House. On those certified scales, it weighed 112 pounds. What a special catch, especially on 20 pound test king mackerel gear.
Cobia have showed up all along the coast also. While the 61 pounder, from Yaupon Beach Pier, continues to be the largest report down south, there have been several over 80 pounds from the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout areas. While it may be surprising to fishermen from the middle and lower part of the NC coast, many large cobia are caught in the surf at Cape Point at Cape Hatteras. In the Cape Lookout area they cruise just a little ways off the ocean beaches and frequent the inside waters between Beaufort inlet and Harkers Island. Around Cape Fear, cobia are mainly caught just outside the inlets and around many of the nearshore artificial reefs.
Along the beaches, Spanish mackerel and chopper blues have been biting well. They are being caught from boats, off the piers, and in many of the larger inlets. Many fishermen reported doing best with the Spaniards using gold 00 and 0 size Clarkspoons. Those same fishermen reported the bluefish weren't very choosy and would eat, lures, live baits, and cut bait.
Red drum are still biting well in the marshes. Gray trout are scattered around many nearshore ocean rocks and reefs, around the high-rise bridges in Morehead City, and Wallace Channel at Portsmouth Island. The flounder bite has been improving around Beaufort and Bardens Inlets at Cape Lookout and in the Cape Fear River, between Carolina Beach and Southport. The Oak Island piers have been seeing some occasional good morning bites with both flounder and speckled trout. Good catch and release striper action continues in the Albemarle Sound around the Manns Harbor Bridge.
This weekend is the official start of the 2002 beach season and is highlighted by the Swansboro Rotary Club Memorial Day Blue Water and King Mackerel Tournaments. For more information call 910-326-3474.
For more in-depth coverage on "how to" and "where to" go fishing along the Carolina coast, check out my articles and more in the North Carolina Sportsman Magazine and visit us on the web at www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver