I was concerned the cold snap we had early last week would negatively affect the fishing for Memorial Day Weekend and it did--at least except for offshore fishing and red drum. The good news is it has passed and the sun has shone on the waters for more than a week and they have warmed back up. In fact, they have more than warmed back up; they have warmed beyond where they were. The folks at Bogue Inlet Pier reported 74 degree water early in the week and that is 10 degrees warmer than last Tuesday.
Through the middle N.C. Coast the marine forecast is for 10- 15 knots of wind on Friday, but then falling out to 10 knots or less through Monday. The 2 to 3 foot waves should be pretty easy to handle too. Throw in partly cloudy to mostly sunny cloud conditions and it is shaping up to be a great weekend. I hope you can take advantage of it.
While the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season doesn't officially begin until June 1, Mother Nature is playing a practice game this week. Tropical Depression 1 formed Thursday well up the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard and well offshore. It was approximately 300 miles south of Providence, Rhode Island Thursday afternoon. While not expected to pose a threat to land, it is expected to develop into a Tropical Storm. If that happens, it will be Tropical Storm Ana.
Not only has the water warmed back up, but the fishing has warmed up too. The most impressive thing is all the gaffer dolphin that are being caught. It was a bit bumpy over the weekend, which made the ride to and from the offshore waters a bit uncomfortable, but the winds calmed some during the middle of the week and it looks to be a pretty nice weekend. If you want to stock your freezer with fresh mahi; this is shaping up to be a good opportunity.
The dolphin have moved inshore a little too. They got as close as the 14 buoy for a couple of days and then moved back to the 90 Foot Drop. With this warming trend and all the sunshine, they will probably be back around the 14 buoy by the weekend.
Just beyond this, there have been wahoo and a few tuna, mostly blackfins, scattered along the edges of the Gulf Stream eddies and temperature breaks. Checking one of the sea surface temperature agencies or websites should help you zero in on a couple of potential hotspots.
The billfish bit this past weekend too. It was the weekend of the Swansboro Rotary Club's Memorial Day Bluewater tournament and all the fish except yellowfin tuna cooperated. There were many billfish released and four blue marlin heavier than 400 pounds were boated and weighed. The largest was 645.5 pounds. Read more in the tournament coverage below.
King mackerel had been moving closer to the beach and there had been a few caught within sight of the beach before the cold snap. They moved back off, but were within range. The rumor is the big king from the weekend tournament was caught over the Papoose. The second place king came from 31 miles off Swansboro. More tournament info is below.
Since then, the bait is moving back in and the kings are following it. There hasn't been a king reported from any of the Bogue Banks piers, but one was caught this week at Seaview Pier at Topsail, plus several more from the Oak Island piers. If we don't have another freak cold snap, the kings should continue moving back in.
The cobia bite slowed last week but has rebounded a little earlier this week. They should still be around and maybe will turn on again this weekend. The folks at Chasin' Tails on the Atlantic Beach Causeway reported they weighed an 83 pounder earlier in the week
The cold front slowed the Spanish bite, but moreso by dirtying up the water than the dropping temperatures. When folks found clean water they caught Spanish. The light winds this week have allowed the water to clean up and the Spanish bite is good and getting better. The smaller blues seem to tolerate stirred up water better than the big ones, but both are moving back in as the water settles.
The pier fishermen are catching Spanish, blues from small to the big Hatteras choppers, black drum, some spots and this week had a few undersize cobia. Perhaps those cobia will get larger this week.
Speckled trout and red drum have been biting pretty well back in the creeks and marshes and this weekend the drum bite went off big time. There were lots of nice drum caught as will show in the report on the Cabela's/IFA Redfish Tour Tournament that was held in Surf City over the weekend. The Haystacks and Middle Marsh have been mentioned several times as good spots to try.
In an interesting move to spark some sales, several brands of the Brunswick Boat Group have announced a buyer incentive much like some carmakers have done in this uncertain economy. Bayliner, Trophy and Maxxum Boats have announced a protection plan where they will make monthly boat payments if the buyer loses their job. The basic premise of the plan is they will make up to nine months of payments if a buyer loses their job within a year of the purchase. To qualify for this protection, boats must be purchased by July 6. If you are considering purchasing a new boat, you should go by a Bayliner, Trophy or Maxxum dealer and find out all the details of this plan before making your choice.
The Fourth Annual Military Appreciation Day will be Saturday. Organizers say they are expecting the largest crowd ever and already have a waiting list. They say more than 400 fishermen and 200 family members are already registered and they are expecting more than 750 people for the cookout. More volunteer are still needed and if more boats are added, the waiting list can be shortened. If you are interested and/or can volunteer to help, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org for details and instructions.
Teams from ECU and NC State are among the 286 students from 73 colleges and universities competing in the 2009 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship this week at Lake Lewisville, Texas. Practice days were Tuesday and Wednesday, with the tournament happening Thursday and Friday. NC State won this event several years ago and maybe one of them will win again this year. I'll have the results next week.
Last week I received a phone call from a fellow fisherman named Mike Tynch. Mike's wife Jodi passed away on Feb. 3 after a battle with cancer and he has organized a memorial king mackerel tournament in her honor, with the proceeds going to the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. The Jodi E. Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament will be held June 27, with weigh-in at Motts Channel, Seafood in Wrightsville Beach.
Final Registration will be June 26 from 3:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. at West Marine in Wrightsville Beach, with the Captains Meeting following immediately after at David's Deli, in Wrightsville Beach. The Awards Ceremony and dinner will be held June 27 at 6:00 P.M. at David's Deli. For more information, you can pick up a tournament brochure at many tackle shops and marine sales or contact Tynch at 910-284-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Cabela's / IFA (Inshore Fishing Association) Redfish Series Atlantic Division Tournament Trail was held from the Beach House Marina in Surf City over Memorial Day Weekend. This is a team tournament, where each team weighs two slot-size (minimum 18 inches to maximum 27 inches) red drum and the team with the heaviest weight wins.
As they should have, the local fishermen dominated this tournament. The top team was Rob Koraly, Swansboro, and Gary Knight, Burlington, with an awesome total weight of 14.22 pounds. They also had the heaviest fish, a 7.22 pound fish that barely made the 27 inch upper limit on the slot. The second and third place teams, Lane Hurst and Jamie Riggs, Swansboro, and Ricky Kellum and Derrick Barbee, Jacksonville, had total weights of more than 13 pounds. Congratulations to all! For more information, visit www.redfishtour.com.
The Swansboro Rotary Club Memorial Day Blue Water and King Mackerel Tournaments were held this weekend in Swansboro. This is actually two tournaments in one. The Bluewater Tournament is the second in the N.C. Governor's cup Series and the King Mackerel tournament is the first Southern Kingfish Association tournament in N.C. for 2009. For more information, visit www.swansbororotary.com or call 252-422-9100.
In a very interesting coincidence, the boat with the registration number 1, was the first boat to weigh a fish and won the King Mackerel Tournament. Bert and Margaret Ferebee of New Bern on the Second Catch enjoyed a field day in this year's tournament. Their 33.10 pound king won the tournament, plus the Top Lady Angler Award and the award for the largest king caught by a Boat of 23 Feet or Less. The tournament winning prize was guaranteed at $25,000, so by the time they add the secondary prizes and their TWT money, it was a big payday.
Cameron Wallace, on the Shake, Rattle and Troll from Charlotte, won the cobia division with a 47.42 pounder. James McLamb, who was fishing with Wallace and fought the big cobia, received the Top Senior Angler Award. Cole Edens, of Hampstead, was fishing with his dad, Randall, and his granddad, George, on the East Coast Sports boat and topped the Junior Anglers with a 15.80 pound king.
In the billfish tourney, a pair of boats with a winning history in this tournament rose to the top again. Tournament winner Adrian Holler, on the Sea Striker from Morehead City, was also the winner of the 2000 tournament. This year he caught the largest blue marlin at 645.5 pounds. This fish was worth 2 points per pound in the Points Category for 1,291 points, which earned him the overall win.
Jeff Vreugdenhil, on the Reel Love from Clinton, won the tournament in 2002 and 2008. This year he finished in second place by weighing a 424 pound blue marlin and releasing two smaller ones. His marlin was awarded 1 point per pound and with 600 release points his point total was 1,024 points. This was also enough points to also finish third in the Release Division. The Reel Love is only 28 feet long.
In the Gamefish Categories, the largest wahoo was a 69.35 pounder caught by Gary Joyner, of Greenville, on the Frequent Flyer. The Miss Judy, with Lacy Henry of Atlantic Beach, caught a 34.35 pound dolphin to top the Largest Dolphin Category. There were no tuna weighed during the tournament. Tonya Jergens, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was fishing on the Gypsy Angler and landed a 29.15 pound dolphin to win the Top Lady Angler Award, while Hunter Blount, Jr., of Greenville, fished with his family on the Barbara B and released a sailfish to score 75 points and become the Top Junior Angler.
While the calendar version of summer is still a few weeks away, the real deal was ushered in this weekend with the Memorial Day Weekend and many celebrations. Summer is a time for fishing tournaments and there will be at least one from now until the middle of October.
The Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo began May 28, at Bald Head Island Marina. The fishing days are May 29 and 30. This is a gamefish (tuna, dolphin, wahoo) tournament with a billfish TWT. The winners are decided based upon receiving a point per pound for catches of the eligible gamefish species. For more information, visit www.bhifishingrodeo.com or call 910-457-7393.
The Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge will also be this weekend, with registration on May 29 and fishing on May 30. This is a multiple species inshore tournament that will be held at Wild Wing Cafe and Wrightsville Beach Marina. For more information, visit www.fishermanspost.com or call 910-452-6378.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is only two weeks away. Mark your calendars for June 6 for the Keli Wagner Ladies Tournament, then June 8 though 13 for the regular tournament. Weigh-ins will be each afternoon on the Morehead City waterfront. For more information, visit www.thebigrock.com.