Summer is here. It happened late last week by the calendar, but it has been sneaking in the door for a while.
Afternoon sea breezes almost every day and a constant threat of late afternoon / early evening thunderstorms are some of the key clues. The presence of tarpon, inshore sailfish, large flounder, and spadefish are the clues that really matter. Soon the water will be warming into the low 80's and fishing may slow. Now is the time to get out and enjoy it and have some fun.
The warmer water is moving the red drum around some. Keep a sharp eye out for spotted tails along marsh edges, oyster bars, and grassy flats. On the full moon high tides, they will also move up into the flooded marsh grass, searching for the crabs, shrimp, and minnows that usually hide there. Top water plugs, gold spoons, and an assortment of plastics will help you make quick contact. Remember, only 1 red drum per day between 18 and 27 inches may be kept. It doesn't hurt to release them all.
Around Manteo and Manns Harbor, there have been enough hungry stripers around to keep fishermen smiling. Favorite spots have been around the bridges. This is catch and release fishing only---don't keep one. To the south, flounder and speckled trout fishing is getting better. There have been some good catches of flounder, especially in the Carolina Beach and Southport area. Some pretty speckled trout are being caught from Southport to Sunset beach.
Cobia fishing is slowing drastically inshore, except for a little around Hatteras and Oregon Inlets. It is probably safe to say that this is over for the year.
The shock of inshore fishing right now is the kings at the NC State Ports Dock in Morehead City. There were several caught there two weeks ago and this past weekend a tournament winner came from there. Tracy Castleberry and the Reel Gold crew won the Raleigh Salt Water Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament with a 42.25 pound king that they caught beside the "Wall". It's happened before and it will happen again.
Surf and Pier
When the wind blows from the southwest and muddies up the water, the pier fishing appears to be better. Sea mullet (whiting), bluefish, a few black and red drum, spots, blowfish, sharks, and chinese flounder (skates) are making up the bulk of the catch. On Oak Island, Ocean Crest Pier and Long Beach Pier have still been having some good catches of speckled trout. Live shrimp, fished just off the bottom, seems to be the key. Piers all along the southern and central NC Coast are reporting good catches of 2-4 pound spanish. The best time is usually early morning or late afternoon.
Over the last week, there has been a good number of kings caught on the piers from Emerald Isle to the south. A 50 pounder, caught at Frisco Pier at Frisco, and a 45 pounder, caught at Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island, by Skip Whitford of Atlantic Beach, were the two big kings, but there were several in the low 30's and high 20's.
They are still catching some cobia in the surf at Cape Point in Buxton. The largest so far is a 94 pounder, but several a day in the 30's and 40's are being caught.
There have been lots of bluefish and spanish mackerel along most of the NC coast. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are hitting a variety of trolled spoons and casting lures. If you are having trouble catching them, check out the Central NC Coast Regional Report in the July Carolina Adventure Magazine. There are some good tips to catch spanish when they get finicky.
King mackerel are finally showing up in some numbers at some of the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs. Some of the sea buoys have also had a few good days. The Cape Fear Sea Buoy and the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy have been the hot spots so far. Interestingly enough, these are the two inlets that have shipping channels. As more bait shows up, this fishing should really take off.
Bottom bouncers have been doing well with sea bass, grunts, snapper and a few grouper. There are still some concentrations of small to medium size kings in these depths. The smaller dolphin have moved in here in good numbers also. Anchoring or drifting, with a light line out the back could add a king or dolphin to your bottomfish catch.
While there are still some yellowfin tuna being caught along the coast, the best recently being a 115 pounder caught Sunday off Hatteras, dolphin are outnumbering them in most catches. There are a pretty good number of gaffer dolphin too, including some really big ones. A wahoo or two are also present in many catches. With the heat of the summer, billfish encounters will rise and fall with the moon phases. They will occasionally put some real excitement in your offshore adventures. These numbers should moderate for another several weeks and then peak around the September full moon.
There is no word yet on the two blackfin tuna catches that have been submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record. The certification process involves pictures, positive identification, certified scale verification, and more paperwork, which is not yet complete on either. One is a 36 pound fish that was caught on the Musicman charterboat, out of Carolina Beach. The other is a 37 pound fish that was caught on the Harper's Folly charterboat, out of Hatteras. As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.