I love to give what I call "chamber of commerce fishing reports" where everything is biting and the weather is great and that is what I had hoped to do for this weekend, but this dang low just won't go away. Things are not bad, just not quite perfect. However, it looks like the weather will be improving all weekend and should be exceptionally good by Monday. As far as the fishing goes, we are having the best cobia run anyone can remember and all the other fishing is really good except for speckled trout.
Memorial Day is this Monday, which creates a long weekend and the first big weekend of the summer. It's time to come on down and enjoy the weather and the fishing. However, don't get too busy and wrapped up in your fun and forget to honor our service men and women on who died in service to their country.
The water temperature has risen to the low to mid 70s along the beaches and similar readings 20 miles offshore. I fished the IFA Kayak Tournament at Surf City on Sunday and was well back up several creeks where I saw water temperatures into the 80s during low tide. I also saw lots of shrimp and baitfish for hungry fish to eat and grow larger.
I haven't received a report of a pier king in the waters around Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, but it could happen at any time. Several nice cobia have been caught by pier fishermen, the largest this week being a 62 pound, 6 ounce brute from Bogue Inlet Pier early in the week. There are also Spanish mackerel, Hatteras blues, and a lone 22 pound barracuda caught by fishermen at the end of the pier.
The Pier at the Sheraton Resort isn't as long, but fishermen there get their share of bluefish, puppy drum and flounder. Royce Morton reported several large flounder were caught there this week, including two that passed the four pound mark.
In a preview of things to come, it appears the kings are working their way up the coast. Several weeks a go there was a run of kings from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island and this past weekend the kings attacked at Oak Island Pier, which is on the east end of the island. The run began at mid-day Friday and 17 kings had been caught by sunset Sunday. Most were teenagers, but several were in the 20s and a pair was in the 30s. The largest was 37 pounds.
I don't know if it was the low approaching, but all fishing was good last week and has continued into this week. The one thing that hasn't been up to par this spring has been the speckled trout fishing. There have been a few outstanding trout catches, but the speck fishing hasn't been anywhere near the past few years. This weekend one of the IFA Hobie Kayak Tour fishermen enlightened me with some information he saw in a report issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources regarding a similar situation in some S.C. waters and it brought several things to light.
Speckled trout are susceptible to cold water and we saw that with several trout kills over the winter. When the water temperature drops too rapidly, it stuns the trout, which involuntarily inflate their air bladders, come to the surface, roll over and die. These are the trout that are seen floating after one of these incidents.
There is also a secondary cold kill that doesn't cause the trout to come to the surface. After several days of very low water temperatures the trout slow down, quit feeding and slowly just stop swimming and sink to the bottom. I have read something about this in N.C. speckled trout reports, but hearing it suggested as a cause for problems in waters south of us brought it to the forefront of my thoughts on this.
There is also a third "natural cause" for the reduced speck populations this spring and that is our buddy Flipper. Dolphin and porpoises eat a lot of trout and puppy drum during the winter when most of their other forage fish are gone. Drum handle the cold water better and usually move to waters far enough up creeks or get into the surf where the dolphin don't find them. However, when trout begin slowing down in cold water they rarely move and when they do, they look for deeper water, which makes it easier for the dolphin to get to them.
Several fishermen told me stories of dolphin "raising cane" in marinas over the winter and now that comes to light in a different perspective. Many of those incidents were probably the dolphin herding the slowed specks and pups into a corner before feeding. One person said he was servicing the motors on his boat and he noticed it because the boat began rocking from the wakes made by the dolphin rushing and turning quickly to herd the fish. As Paul Harvey says, "Now you know the rest of the story." I believe there is a lot of truth to this one.
Kings have moved onto many rocks and artificial reefs within 20 miles of the beaches all along the coast your favorite rock, wreck or artificial reef in 50 to 75 feet of water should have kings holding around it. There are some cobia with them, but more cobia are cruising the beaches, especially around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, and they should begin entering the inlets at any time.
With the slowly approaching low, it's been another windy, swelly week and not many boats have headed offshore regularly. Those that went last weekend and the few this week have found lots of dolphin, blackfin tuna and wahoo. The dolphin and blackfin have begun moving inshore of the Gulf Stream, but the few yellowfin tuna are still farther off in deeper water. The dolphin have been in many places with the best yellowfin reports coming from well above Cape Hatteras.
Offshore bottomfish are also biting well. The various rocks and reefs in the deeper water beyond the end of Frying Pan and Cape Lookout Shoals are good spots to find groupers, snappers and sea bass. Many fishermen are also catching amberjack, grunts and American red snapper. Red snapper season is closed, so they must be released. The fishermen off Cape Fear are also catching hog snappers and African pompano.
Spanish mackerel are here and biting. Pier fishermen are catching them on smaller live baits and by casting Got-Cha plugs. The best two tips for using Got-Cha plugs is to buy the ones with the gold hooks and to retrieve them quickly. I don't know why the gold hooks are so important, but if you stand for a while beside someone who has them and you don't, you'll be sure to buy them the next time. Retrieving them quickly is because everything is running from all those little razor-sharp teeth and you need to match it. Trollers are having good luck along the beaches and especially around the inlets by trolling 00 size Clarkspoons.
The puppy drum fishing was pretty good this weekend, with a few specks being caught also. Competitors in the IFA Redfish Tour on Saturday found some fat upper slot pups and fishermen in the IFA Kayak Tour on Sunday found more, plus a few nice specks. Many fishermen are also finding good numbers of flounder. I have only heard of a very few doormats, but keepers from a pound to three are being caught in many places and the Sheraton Pier reported several over four pounds this week. Flounder are also biting at the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks.
National Safe Boating Week ends today (Friday), but don't relax and let your guard down. This will be one of the three busiest weekends of the year for boaters and everyone needs to be on their best behavior. Please don't let the long lines at area ramps wear your patience.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 5 will be held in Morehead City next Saturday (June 5). This is an opportunity to show our service men and women we support them and get to know some of them. Volunteers are needed for everything from setup and cleanup to persons who would like to provide boats to take the military folks fishing. For more information on the event and ways to assist, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The Hillsborough Sport Fishing Club's JWR Gaffer Dolphin Tournament was held over the weekend. It was headquartered at Seawater Marina in Atlantic Beach, with additional weigh-in sites at Hatteras Harbor Marina in Hatteras and Dudley's Marina in Swansboro. The winner was Scotty Williams and the crew of the Blue Sails, who caught a 39.9 pound dolphin. Williams and crew are from Rocky Mount and were fishing south of the Rock Pile in 80-90 fathoms of water. Their fish was weighed at Hatteras Harbor Marina. For more information visit www.HillsboroughSFC.com.
The IFA Redfish Tour was in Surf City on Saturday for the second of their three Atlantic Division Redfish Tournaments. The fishing was good too, as the top five boats all had two redfish aggregate weights of 13 pounds or heavier. The winners were Rennie Clark, Jr. and Drew Arndt of Wilmington with a pair of fat slot redfish that weighed 14.46 pounds. The 7.55 pounder that anchored their bag was also the heaviest of the 50 boat tournament.
Milton Miller and Kevin Thigpen corralled a pair of heavy six pounders to total 13.65 pounds and a second place finish. Eric Powell and Allen Jernigan of Sneads Ferry and Jacksonville had the second largest fish, a 7.18 pound red, but had to settle for third place with 13.32 pounds total. Chris Sewell and Ray Melvin weighed 13.02 pounds to finish fourth and David Brown and John Parks scaled 13 pounds even for fifth place. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com.
The IFA Kayak Tour events fish the day after the Redfish Tour events and the second of the Atlantic Division was held in Surf City on Sunday (May 23). Competitors fish for the longest aggregate length of one red drum and one speckled trout. The IFA Kayak Tour is a catch/photograph/release event so there is no upper slot for red drum. Competitors score by photographing their fish on tournament provided measuring devices and turning in the pictures at the local Hobie Kayak dealer. The awards follow the close of the tournament.
Nathan Raycroft traveled up from Charleston and, while he didn't have either the largest trout or redfish, he had the longest total inches at 45.75 and won a new Hobie Pro Angler for his effort. Second place went to Allen Cain of Wilmington, an employee of the Hobie dealer (Great Outdoor Provision Company) who took the day off to fish. It was a wise choice. Cain caught the longest trout at 18.5 inches and added a 26.5 inch redfish for a 45 inch total to finish in second place. He won a Hobie Outback kayak. Third place went to Scott Inge of Raleigh who totaled 41.5 inches and won a Hobie Quest kayak. Justin Carter caught a 30.75 pound redfish to claim Largest Redfish honors. I competed in this event and had a great time, but didn't catch fish large enough to win one of the prizes. For more information visit www.ifakayakfishingtour.com.
The first of five Top Dog Flounder Tournaments of 2010 was held Saturday from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. In addition to paying three places for the largest flounders, the Top Dog Tournaments also offer some special weight prizes for the flounders weighing closest to, without going over, specific weights. Then, some of those special weight prizes are selected as Wild Card Spots and win merchandise in addition to the cash prizes. The Top Dog Tournaments benefit the Brunswick County Children's Christmas Fund.
Anthony Bridgeman, of Southport, won the tournament with a 4.28 pound flounder that also collected the special weight prizes for 4.5 pounds and 5 pounds. He pocketed $700 for his $50 entry fee and a day of fishing. The big winner for the day may have been Dennis Durham of Carolina Beach. Durham, finished in second place with a 3.22 pound flounder that also won the 3.5 and 4 pounds special weights, plus he had another 2.00 pound flounder that won the 2 pound special weight for a total of $600 dollars. But it doesn't stop there. The 3.5 pound special weight was also a wild card prize and Durham added a flat screen TV for his wild card prize.
Third place went to Wayne Crisco for his 3.06 pound flounder and Crisco has another 2.5 pound flounder that won the 2.5 pound special weight prize. This was also a wild card and he added a home entertainment system to his prizes.
There were no ladies entered in the tournament, so no Top Lady Angler Award was presented. Craig Phillips topped the Boys 12 and Under with a 2.74 pound flounder and Magnolia Smith topped the Girls 12 and Under with a 1.14 pound flounder. Smith's flounder also won a wild card prize that was a new bicycle.
Several tournaments are on tap for Memorial Day Weekend. The Swansboro Rotary Club Bluewater Tournament is the second tournament of the N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series and will be held May 28 to 30. The king mackerel tournament that usually runs in conjunction with this tournament has been moved to October. Tournament headquarters will be at the Swansboro Rotary Civic Center, with weigh-in at Casper's Marina in Swansboro or at the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront. For more information visit www.kingbluewater.com.
The Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament will be held May 28 and 29 from the Tackle Box on the Circle in Atlantic Beach. In addition to king mackerel, cash prizes are also offered for dolphin and cobia. For more information call 252-342-6100.
The New River King Tournament will be held May 28 and 29 from Old Ferry Marina in Sneads Ferry. In addition to king mackerel, cash prizes are also offered for grouper, dolphin, cobia and Spanish mackerel. For more information call 252-236-2450 or 910-382-1042.
The Dixie Chicken Fishing Funament and Flounder Frenzie will be held at North Myrtle Beach, May 28-30. The Dixie Chicken is a fun multi-species, inshore and offshore tournament held from Harbourgate Marina, located under the bridge, in North Myrtle Beach. Saturday is the fishing day and all proceeds go to the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef Foundation for work on the Jim Caudle Reef (PA-01), located right outside Little River Inlet. For more information visit www.dixiechickenfunament.com.
The Flounder Frenzie is a flounder tournament held by the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau in conjunction with the Dixie Chicken Funament. Boaters also weigh at Harbourgate Marina and non boaters may fish and weigh at Cherry Grove Pier. For more information call 1-877-332-2662 or 843-281-2662.