The weather for the Memorial Day Weekend was pretty nice. Even better, a similar pattern appears to be setting up for this weekend. While giving a nice seabreeze of 10 to 15 knots during the middle of the week, the forecast is for 5 to 10 knots on Friday to begin the weekend.
Over the holiday weekend, there were some hot tempers, fender benders, long lines at launching ramps and a lot of traffic in the water, but it is behind us and we can move into summer. The latest drop in gas prices must have energized folks as this was as large a crowd as I can remember.
The big news from inshore and close to the beaches continues to be cobia. They aren't thick yet, but are being caught all along the southern and central coast.
The good gray trout bite continues. They are biting from the surf, piers, in the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry Channel, Wallace Channel, the Morehead City Turning Basin, along the edges of the Beaufort Inlet Shipping Channel and at Johns Creek Rock off Wrightsville Beach.
Sea mullet are biting in many of these same areas. Typically, the better catches of sea mullet have been right around dark.
The bite slowed in a few areas over the weekend, but bluefish are biting well along the entire N.C. coast. They are mixed from just over a pound to 10 pounds and larger. They don't show a bait preference, hitting Got-Cha's, cut bait soaked on the bottom and live baits.
There have been a few large red drum in the surf at Drum Inlet, Ocracoke Inlet and Cape Hatteras Point. Be prepared for limited beach access as the National Park Service has been closing larger perimeters around bird nesting sites.
The inshore drum bite in the creeks and marshes remains good and includes everything from rats to big pups. There are also some nice black drum being caught.
Spanish mackerel were biting well again this week and had moved as far north as Oregon Inlet. Got-Cha's and small spoons have been the hot lures.
The early run of small kings continues to excite fishermen. Most are under 10 pounds, but they are biting extremely well. Over the weekend the action was red hot at the Cape Fear River Channel and Lighthouse Rock. Several fishermen said their must have been thousands of kings there as you could catch (and release) them until you were too tired to catch any more.
Unfortunately, many of these kings are below the 24 inch minimum size. Do not mistake them for Spanish and keep them. These kings are too small to have spawned, so it is not good for the species and two offenses are possible—one for possessing the undersize fish and another for exceeding the limit—If you have more than 3.
The easiest difference to recognize between Spanish and kings is at the front edge of the leading dorsal fin. If it has a fingernail-size black spot, it is a Spanish. If it is completely gray, it is a king. Forget about the lateral line—it does strange things on small kings and large Spanish. Don't try to call them cero mackerel either. They aren't! If you have ever seen a cero, the differences are really evident.
For Spanish mackerel the minimum size is 12 inches fork length, with a limit of 15 fish. For kings the minimum is 24 inches, with a limit of 3 fish.
An undersize king was caught and released from Bogue Inlet Pier over the weekend. This is their first of the year. David Branch also decked a 53 pound cobia there.
Offshore the yellowfin tuna bite has slowed, but they have been replaced by lots of hungry gaffer dolphin. Wahoo, king mackerel and billfish are also being caught.
Congratulations are in order for several fishermen after the Swansboro Memorial Day Blue Water and King Mackerel Tournaments. Larry Dempsey and the Lickety Split had 600 billfish release points, Adrian Holler and the Sea Striker boated a 506 pound blue marlin and Joe Winslow and the Hooligan topped the king mackerel standings with a 26.32 pounder.
Tournaments this weekend include the second half of the Pirates Cove Cobia Tournament (800-422-3610), Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo (910-457-3701), CCSA Cobia Tournament (252-222-0651) and the US Open Pier Tournament (910-457-5787).
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver