What is it with these early storms? Much like the prior week, we were headed into last weekend with a reasonably good forecast, just a little extra wind and some waves, and suddenly on Saturday morning there is a named storm and on Wednesday we get walloped. Of course, this one began as a sub-tropical storm, not a tropical storm like last week – what’s the difference?
What that means to the fishermen that had big plans but didn’t head offshore over much of the weekend or this week because of weather is that the wind is blowing and there is a good chance of strong thunderstorms. This sounds a lot like a tropical storm to me, but the important thing is it was still our second named storm before June 1.
Not that hurricanes don’t make some unusual moves, they do, but these storms are moving crazy. We’ve seen a hurricane or two pass and come back for round two. Just last week Tropical Storm Alberto formed south and offshore of us and then moved back to the west before losing strength and sprinting by during the week.
The forecast was similar for Tropical Storm Beryl, except it made landfall near Jacksonville, Florida and then turned to come back by us as a tropical depression. That tropical depression still packed a punch and spawned a tornado that did a lot of damage along the White Oak River. Thankfully no one was killed.
Sometimes you have to look really hard to find that silver lining in the storm clouds, but this has one. Eastern N.C. has been in extreme drought conditions for a while, but we have gotten some rain lately and lessened the drought severity a little. Any rain associated with Tropical Storm Beryl will boost us back to closer to where we should be on annual rainfall and relieve some of the drought concerns, plus help the farmers.
One thing I find highly unusual is that just last week the researchers at the National Hurricane Center predicted this would be a normal hurricane season. I guess our versions of normal are different. Two named storms before June 1, both of which formed suddenly off the Southeast US Coast not in the tropics or even the Caribbean, seems a little different than normal to me. Here’s to getting back on track and having an uneventful summer and fall.
The winds started picking up about the time last week’s report was posted, so most of the fishing action of the last week has been in protected water. We are fortunate that several North Carolina beaches faces south and create a lee for winds from the north, northeast and northwest. Things still get bumpy quickly if you move very far off the beach, but the winds were northeast for at least part of the weekend and this allowed fishermen to get into the edge of the ocean and try some fishing. Some boats were moving slower or anchored like they were trying for kings or cobia, but many were moving faster and trolling for bluefish and Spanish macks.
If you would like to check the nearshore conditions other than through the posted weather or driving to the beach and looking for yourself, there are web cams scattered along the N.C. Coast. Just do a Google search for N.C. Coastal Web Cams and you will be surprised what comes up. Several that I use frequently are maintained by the surf shops for surfers, but work well for checking nearshore conditions.
Unfortunately the nearshore ocean action wasn’t real good over the weekend and early in the week, but fishermen managed to land a few fish anyway. The best action was with Spanish mackerel, but some bluefish, both small and large and some flounder were also caught. By Wednesday, storm conditions returned as the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl pushed up the coast.
In spite of the stormy conditions, there was pretty good action from the piers most of the week. Hatteras blues were hot early in the weekend and some flounder and gray trout were also caught. Other fish being caught from the piers included small blues, pompano, black drum, sea mullet and more.
Boat fishermen, especially those who wanted to head offshore, haven’t gotten a good break this week until Thursday. There were a few days the conditions weren’t too bad close to the beach, but heading offshore called for a big boat or some pretty serious discomfort. The shame is the fish were biting and luring fishermen into making the long run. Several fishermen reported excellent dolphin catches, but also mentioned bumps and bruises from the trip. Sometimes it takes a while to learn that fishing is scheduled around weather and when the big pond is rough, you find something else to do.
Remember those black sea bass that have been so annoying all spring? The season for them will open at 12:01 A.M. Friday, June 1. There will be larger fish farther offshore, but I’d wager a fair amount that a steady fisherman could catch legal limits at the artificial reefs and hardbottom areas within sight of the beach. The limit is five fish, with a minimum length of 13 inches.
Speaking of ocean bottom fish – before the winds started blowing last week fishermen were catching limits of grouper, beeliners and other offshore bottom fish. This weather hasn’t been enough to affect them and they should be hungry once the weather allows fishermen to get back to them. Grunts and porgies are fairly thick from about 60 feet or so on out, while beeliners, triggerfish and grouper start showing at about 80 feet deep or so and go offshore from there.
I mentioned dolphin earlier and they are the hot offshore pelagic right now. Most of the current run of dolphin are gaffers, with most running 15 to 20 pounds. The grass lines will be broken up after two back to back storms, but will reform. In the meantime concentrate on current edges and temperature breaks. Blackfin tuna and wahoo are also biting, but have slowed from their numbers of a few weeks ago. For those so inclined, there has been some of the best billfish action in years during the past few weeks.
King mackerel are slowly moving into many of the spots around rocks, wrecks and over hardbottom areas in 50 to 70 feet of water. Many places along the coast are well known for their past histories and usually draw crowds. There are similar places nearby you can find and fish without the crowd if you trust your fishfinder and instincts.
This hasn’t been a good week to prove it, but Spanish mackerel are biting. Even better, there are larger fish and more fishing arriving.
I only heard of a few cobia being caught this week, but there weren’t many people fishing.
The early flounder action has been good. Fishermen are finding them at the artificial reefs, from the piers and at many creek mouths and marsh cuts inside and along the bars and sloughs at inlets.
Just when I thought the warming water had slowed the trout bite, there was a surge in trout catches this week and some were big. I don’t know if more trout moved in or if more fishermen were avoiding the bumpy ocean and chasing trout. They can still be caught on lures, especially early and late in the day, but many fishermen will have their best luck using frisky live shrimp, peanut pogies or mullet minnows. Topwater lures and scented soft baits have been the artificials performing best.
Puppy drum are biting pretty well anong much of the coast and several fishermen have reported seeing tailing reds in the marshes on high tides. The June full moon will be Tuesday night. If the wind allows, this should be an excellent weekend and week to chase tailers. Remember the evening tide is usually higher, but many times the wind is calmest in the early morning.
Whatever lure you are casting in flooded grass will fish better if it is weedless. Also remember the edges of the grass are surprisingly sharp and will saw through mono line quickly. This is a good time to use braid and short leaders on baitcasting and spinning outfits. Fly line is more durable, but take care with the leaders to find a combination of durability and strength that will cast well and not spook fish.
The surf was stirred up for most of the past week, but fishermen found a few fish. There best catches have been Hatteras blues and black drum, especially around the inlets. A few pups, flounder, sea mullet and pompano were biting before the swell stirred up the surf zone and should return as soon as the water settles. Shrimp, cut mullet and sand fleas have been good baits.
The Military Appreciation Day (MAD) organization hosts fishing trips for active duty military personnel each year from Morehead City and Southport. This is the seventh year and MAD 7 Morehead City will be this Saturday, June 2.
It is probably too late to volunteer your boat to take a group fishing, but they can always use volunteers to help prepare and serve lunch and for other landside activities. If anyone is interested, please visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org and apply through the forms or contact information there. There is also some information on Facebook at Military Appreciation Day.
National Fishing and Boating Week is June 2 through 10. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in partnership with Bass Pro Shops, Neuse Sport Shop, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service is offering fishing events across the state. A list of these events is on-line at www.ncwildlife.org.
A variety of tournaments are scheduled for this weekend and all are in the southern part of the state. The Bald Head Rodeo will fish Thursday through Saturday, May 31-June 2, with participating fishermen choosing two of the three days. This tournament features the aggregate weight of dolphin, tuna or wahoo and a special billfish division. For more information visit www.baldheadisland.com.
The first of five flounder and red drum tournaments in the Fisherman’s Post Inshore Tournament Trail will be held this Saturday, June 2. The Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge will be based on the heaviest slot red drum and flounder per boat. In addition to tournament prizes, participants will earn points at a rate of one point per pound for the series. The tournament will be based from Wild Wing Café and Wrightsville Beach Marina. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Share King Mackerel Tournament will be held June 2 and 3 from Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach. The tournament format allows fishermen to choose and fish either day as it best fits their schedule or weather concerns. The tournament raises money to fund S.H.A.R.E., an eastern N.C. nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children and their families who are facing difficult circumstances in Pender, Duplin, New Hanover, Brunswick, and Columbus Counties. For more information visit www.sharenc.org.
The Oak Island Open Pier Tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, from Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers in Oak Island. There are multiple ways to win, with prizes for three fish categories and several age groups from kids to seniors. For more information contact the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department at 910-278-5518 or 910-278-4747 or visit www.oakislandnc.com/recreation.
The Facebook Winner Take All Challenge will be held Saturday, June 2, from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. There is no entry fee and the tournament is open to all fishermen who "like" the Ocean Isle Fishing Center Facebook Page. The tournament species is Spanish mackerel and all fish must be caught by hook and line, in N.C. or S.C. waters on the day of the tournament and weighed at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. The winner will receive a $100 gift card. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The IFA will be in Charleston, S.C. on June 2 and 3 for the second boat and kayak tournaments in their Atlantic Division. Boat fishermen will fish on Saturday, June 2 and kayak fishermen will fish on Sunday, June 3. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com or www.ifakayakfishingtour.com.
There are a pair of ladies –only tournaments happening next weekend, but I wanted to be sure and get the word out early. The Kelli Wagner Ladies Big Rock Tournament will fish from the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront on Saturday, June 9. This is the preview to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament that is the following week and the ladies take it very seriously. For more information visit www.thebigrock.com.
The Ladies Pier King Mackerel Tournament is a ladies-only pier fishing tournament for king mackerel that will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. There have already been two runs of king mackerel at this pier and the Hatteras blues have been biting too. There are a limited number of spots available, but some remain open. For more information call Ocean Crest Pier at 910-278-6674.