The weather has been mostly warm and mostly sunny for a while now. There were a couple of pretty breezy days but the forecast cold front didn't quite make and the water is warming nicely. Barring another cold snap, we are about back to normal in both water and air temperatures. The water temperatures are rising and the fishing should continue to improve. There were reports of inshore temperatures of above 70 in the last few days and this should make those fish much more active. Remember the minimum size for ocean-caught flounder is now 15-1/2 inches.
Inshore fishing has been a bit irregular along the NC coast. There are some reports of gray trout along the entire coast. Unfortunately most are too short to keep. Maybe they will be larger when they return in the fall. The NCDMF is considering some changes in the regulations for gray trout. Details are on the NCDMF web site at www.ncdmf.net. The warmer water is moving the red drum out of the small creeks and into some larger waters. Keep a sharp eye out for spotted tails along marsh edges, oyster bars, and grassy flats.
In the central part of the state, the large speckled trout have slowed down. There have been some scattered smaller trout and puppy drum. Farther to the north, around Manteo and Manns Harbor, there have been enough hungry stripers around to keep fishermen smiling. Favorite spots have been around the bridges. This is catch and release fishing only---don't keep one.
Surf and Pier
With the wind blowing from the southwest again, the pier fishing is getting better. Sea mullet (whiting), bluefish, the occasional gray or speckled trout, a few black and red drum, spots, blowfish, sharks, and chinese flounder (skates) are making up the bulk of the catch. The spanish mackerel have arrived. Piers all along the southern and central NC Coast are reporting good catches of 2-4 pound spanish.
Over last week there have been a small handful of kings caught on the piers from Topsail Island to the south. This action should continue to improve and the kings move up the coast. Some cobia are also being caught from the piers.
In another example of how strange the fishing has been, a 35 inch striper and a 94 pound and 4 ounce cobia were both caught in the Cape Hatteras surf this past week. On the evenings with southerly winds, there have also been some good catches of large red drum. These fish were tagged and released as the NC red drum regulations only allow keeping one 18 to 27 inch fish per day.
There have been lots of bluefish and spanish mackerel along most of the NC coast. Some Atlantic bonito are still around but will be leaving soon, with the warming water. Learn to tell these tasty critters from false albacore (little tunny) and you are in for a real treat. Spanish mackerel, bonito, and bluefish are hitting a variety of trolled spoons and casting lures. A few kings have finally been caught at some of the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs.
The kings are slowly moving in. They have been caught at some of the early favorite spots as shallow as 50 feet. There also are a few that are moving right to the beach in the southern part of the state. Bottom bouncers have been doing well with sea bass, grunts, and a few grouper. Similar king and bottomfish bites are happening off Morehead City and Hatteras. The kings are mostly small fish.
While there are still some yellowfin tuna being caught along the coast, dolphin are starting to really outnumber them in most catches. There are a pretty good number of gaffer dolphin too, not just the peanuts from early spring. A wahoo or two are also present in many catches. Billfish encounters are on the rise and are putting some reel excitement in many offshore ventures. These numbers should continue to increase for another several weeks.
There are two blackfin tuna catches that have been submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record. The certification process is not yet complete on either. One is a 36 pound fish that was caught on the Musicman charterboat, out of Carolina Beach. The other is a 37 pound fish that was caught on the Harper's Folly charterboat, out of Hatteras. As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.