The weather has been pretty good and looks to hold similar over Father's Day Weekend after this little blow at mid week. A cold front is forecast to roll through over the weekend and while it isn't expected to affect the daytime highs, it should bring us cooler evenings Saturday and Sunday.
The wind is supposed to shift as the front moves through and circle around to the west Saturday evening and Sunday, then move to the north as the cold front passes Sunday night into Monday. The wind velocities should generally be 10 to 15 knots which will make the seas choppy, but tolerable for small boats and not too bad for larger craft.
The offshore fishing has been good for a while and doesn't show any sign of slowing. The average size of the dolphin being caught has gotten smaller, but the numbers are growing. Dolphin are also moving closer to shore. Many folks are catching some in the 10 to 15 mile range, but a few were caught near the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy over the weekend.
The billfish bite picked up over the last several weeks and is still going strong. Participants in last week's Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament released 137 billfish and that action is still continuing this week. The edge of the Gulf Stream, from roughly Swansboro Hole to north of the Big Rock, has seen a lot of action.
Finally a few tuna have been caught south of Hatteras. The bite had been sporadically good north of Hatteras and off Oregon inlet, but had been slow south of there, except for blackfins. A few more yellowfin tuna have been caught last week and this week and hopefully it will continue.
King mackerel are biting at many of the well-known summer spots. The Triple Nickel, Northwest Places, the Hutton, 13 Buoy and Southeast Places are a few. Bait has been thick along the beaches and in the Intracoastal Waterway and the kings are here to eat it. Some nice kings are also being caught from the Crystal Coast piers.
Spanish mackerel fishing also continues to be really good. Spanish are biting just outside the inlets and along the beaches. Most are smaller to a couple of pounds, but several citation size Spanish (6 pounds) were caught this week. The largest Spanish have been caught by fishermen slow trolling live baits for kings.
I only heard of a few cobia catches this week, but other good reports are still coming in strong from the inshore fishermen. Several fishermen said they saw many more keeper flounder this week. They weren't big flounder, but were a couple of inches longer than the 15 inch minimum size. Flounder were caught in the inlets, the turning basin, along the pilings of the high-rise bridges and at the nearshore artificial reefs.
The puppy drum bit well also. Many folks seem to know about the drum in the Haystacks and up the Newport River, but they are also in Core Creek, North River, Middle Marshes and along the sandbars and dredge islands in Bogue Sound.
Some speckled trout are also biting in the deeper channels that run through many of the same areas where the drum are holding. Another option is to fish at night along the pilings under the high-rise bridges. There is more than trout around the pilings and you may even get a few surprises, but it is a cooler time of the day and they usually come by to feed there at some stage of the tide.
Sheepshead are also putting in appearances along the pilings under the bridges. Another good place to find them is along the wall at the State Port.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of bottom fish, plus the kings turned on this week. The most recent surge of kings at the piers was Tuesday at Bogue Inlet Pier. Fishermen decked four that afternoon, with the largest being a 28 pounder caught by Lee Throckmorton of Emerald Isle. Spanish mackerel also bit well for pluggers. Bluefish, sea mullet, black drum, blowfish, flounder, pompano, spots and more were caught by the bottom fishermen.
A potential State Record Spadefish was caught June 14 off Hatteras on the Top Water Charters with Capt. Marty Moore of Beaufort. The big spadefish weighed 11 pounds, 3 ounces on the certified Scales at Teach's Lair Marina. The current record is 9 pounds, 1 ounce and was caught by Spencer Smith off Southport in 2001. I put a call in to the Division of Marine Fisheries office to verify this, but did not have an answer at deadline.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament enjoyed some of the best weather ever last week and resulted in 141 billfish being brought to the boat for release or capture. Of those, 137 were released and 4 boated. While two of the ones boated met the federal minimum size of 99 inches, they didn't quite meet the tournament minimums of 110 inches or 400 pounds. The tournament came down to a 439 pound blue marlin caught by the Figment, with owner Mickey Corcoran of New Bern and Capt. Glynn Loftin of Swansboro on Tuesday and a 466 pounder caught by the Sea Creature and owner/Capt. Steve "Creature" Coulter at about mid-day Saturday.
I have to feel a little for Capt. Loftin and the crew of the Figment. They took the lead of the tournament on Tuesday and held it until the final weigh-in on Saturday. After staving off two challenges at the scales and 140 reported hook-ups, they slipped to second place behind the Sea Creature blue marlin that was 27 pounds heavier and grabbed the win at the last minute.
Coulter is a second time Big Rock winner, with the first time as captain of the Outlaw in 1992. Coulter's marlin missed the instant prize of $335,750 for the first blue marlin heavier than 500 pounds by 34 pounds at 466. Still it took the lion's share of the tournament winnings at $746,820. Loftin and the figment crew received $318,380 for second place. There were 137 billfish released during the tournament.
Piracy, with Capt. Chris Russell of South River, won the Release Category by releasing two blue marlin and two white marlin for 1,050 points. Figment won the Largest Tuna Award for a 98.25 pounder, while Certifiable, with Capt. Joel McLeod of Jupiter, Fla., won the Largest Wahoo Award for a 57.15 pounder and Sea Hag, with Capt. Ken Cramer of Morehead City, caught a 57.15 pound dolphin to win the Largest Dolphin Award.
The Big Rock Tournament took place over 6 days, with each boat choosing four of the six. The weather remained excellent through the tournament and approximately half the field used their four days up by Thursday. With the weather remaining good and only one small blue marlin on the leader board, several of those boats chose to re-enter for the remaining two days. This tournament allows entry once it has begun and tournament officials said this was within the rules even though it was unprecedented. With this and other late entries, the tournament attracted 169 boats.
This is the largest blue marlin tournament in N.C. and while the number of entries was down about 15 boats from 2008, it was the second largest payout at $1.6 million. It was also the third event in the 2009 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series.
The 50th Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament began June 15 from the Hatteras Marlin Club in Hatteras and will fish through June 20. This is one of the oldest billfish tournaments around and has a long successful history. Many of the boats from the Big Rock Tournament headed there on Sunday. There were still several fishing days after my deadline, but I plan to have the full results next week. At my deadline, the Caroline, with Capt. Watson Caviness of Fayetteville, was leading with 900 points from releasing two blue marlin and a sailfish. For more information, visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
Attention pier fishermen! The Oak Island Open Pier Tournament, hosted by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, will be held this weekend from Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers in Oak Island. This tournament features multiple categories for all species found around a pier. Fishermen may enter one, two or all three of the species categories. There will also be a Junior Angler division for youths 12 and younger. For more information, call 910-278-4747 or 910-278-5518 or visit www.oakislandpiertournament.com.
The Jolly Mon King Classic will be held this weekend from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. The Junior Jolly Mon will be fished on Friday, followed by the adult tournament on Saturday and Sunday. In a unique format, the Jolly Mon is a one day tournament, but allows the competitors to select either Saturday or Sunday as their fishing day. For more information call 910-575-FISH or visit www.OIFC.com.