Hey, we made it through Memorial Day Weekend and the beaches didn't sink. At times I thought the number of weekenders was down, but every time I got in a checkout line or waited at a restaurant I was sure the number was up.
The several rounds of thunderstorms that came through may have dampened people's spirits temporarily, but they seemed to recover pretty quickly. Several times as I passed over area bridges during the weekend, the Intracoastal Waterway seriously resembled a 2-way boat parade.
The fishing was pretty good too. If you consider the gusty winds on Saturday and the crowds, the fishing was probably better than it should have been. I rode by one of the remaining piers early Saturday morning and there wasn't a single vacant parking spot in their parking lot. Later that evening the fishermen were leaving with broad smiles and most had supper in their cooler.
The pier fishermen had a pretty mixed catch. The bulk of the catches from the piers continues to be bottom fish. With the stirred up water, sea mullet were the biggest part of the catch, but that may shift some as the water clears. Other fish being caught included gray trout, speckled trout, spots, big blowfish, red drum, black drum, dogfish, pompano, flounder, bluefish and king mackerel. Every time the water cleared the pluggers hooked into another batch of blues and Spanish mackerel.
Even though the kings and cobia aren't cooperating with the pier fishermen, big Hatteras bluefish are readily hitting the live baits deployed from the ends of the piers. Sure, they aren't as desirable as kings or cobia, but they stretch your string and put a big bend in your rod. That combination should bring a smile to your face.
There were a few more kings caught on some of the southern piers this week. With the water temperature already in the mid-70's it could spread along the entire coast at any time--maybe this weekend.
As the winds laid out on Sunday and into the early week, fishermen headed offshore. While the blow had broken up the weedlines and scattered the fish, most found some that were hungry and ready to bite. The numbers of dolphin are increasing and they are regularly becoming the majority of most offshore catches.
There are still good numbers of yellowfin tuna in the offshore catch, but they are decreasing some as the water warms. Most boats are also catching a wahoo or two per trip and a billfish or two are seen or hooked and lost most days.
This blow last Friday and Saturday muddied up the water along the south facing beaches, but there were still reports of king mackerel moving closer in. The 210 and 240 Rocks and Northwest places have seen action out of Beaufort inlet, while the Southeast Bottoms, Jerry's Reef and Christmas Rock have been mentioned out of Bogue Inlet. The 23 Mile Rock and the Fairway are being mentioned out of Carolina and Wrightsville Beaches, while the Shark Hole, 390/390 and the Jungle are the hot spots out of Southport. There should also be kings around other rocks and wrecks at similar ranges and depths.
The Spanish mackerel numbers are definitely increasing. Even with the windy conditions early in the weekend, the nearshore trollers reported good catches of blues and Spanish mackerel as soon as the swell laid out enough for them to get out.
Some red drum were also reported in the surf. They seem to be staging around the bars at the capes and around the inlets. There have been some drum around the inlets south (west) of Cape Lookout, but the better reports have come from Drum, Ocracoke and Hatteras Inlets. The beach from the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area down to Bald Head Island has also been producing well. This is one of the few remaining undeveloped beaches along the southern coast.
In the inshore waters, trout and drum continue to bite pretty well and more flounder are finding their way into local catches. The trout and drum seem to like many artificials as well as live baits, but last week the flounder had a definite preference for mullet minnows. Mud minnows and peanut pogies usually work well also, but last week they were a poor second choice.
Congratulations to Capt. Randy Bryant and the crew of the Maggie for winning the Marlin Division and to Capt. Brett Barnes and the crew of the Hot Rod for winning the King Mackerel Division of the Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Tournament last weekend. The Maggie landed a 553 pound blue marlin and added a release, while the Hot Rod landed a 43.65 pound king mackerel.
The Carteret County Sportfishing Club Cobia Tournament will be held in Beaufort on June 2-4. Call 252-240-2751 or visit www.carteretcountysportfishing.com for more details. Other tournaments include the Oregon Inlet Tuna Round Up, Manteo (1-800-422-3610) and Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo, Bald Head Island (910-457-3701).
I don't usually do product endorsements, but over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to test a product called the LoungAir. This is an inflatable chair/recliner/bed combination. I found it to be an easily adjustable bed and recliner, but possibly an even better boat chair.
By placing the LoungAir in the stern of the boat and adjusting the air pressure (a rechargeable and 12-volt adaptable pump makes easy work of this), most of the bumps of an afternoon chop can be forgotten. The LoungAir has three chambers and each of them can be adjusted to your perfect comfort level and then deflated and stored while fishing. I found it to be extremely comfortable and would suggest it as a Father's Day gift for your favorite fisherman. The LoungAir is not yet available in stores. You can check it out and order your own at www.loungair.com.