If you haven't been able to partake, the temperatures and the fishing have been hot this week! The billfish bite that began during the Big Rock Tournament hasn't slowed and it has been joined by a red hot nearshore king mackerel bite, a surprisingly good summer speckled trout bite, plus good red drum and improving flounder fishing.
I know it's hot, but get off your duff and go fishing. Just like a new fishing lure that can't catch any fish unless you use it, you can't catch any fish if you don't go. Take plenty of cool water, a good sunscreen, a can of Deep-Woods Off and go have some fun.
Unfortunately our weekend weather forecast is a little confusing. There is a cold front backing in to drop our daytime highs a few degrees, but the wind forecast varies from up to 25 knots north of Cape Lookout down to 10 to 15 knots at Cape Fear and includes warnings of thunderstorms. As we all know, what we will actually see depends on how fast the front moves and where the boundaries finally settle. Let's hope it stalls inland and we all get good weather the entire weekend.
With July 4th being on Wednesday, we have two extremely busy weekends coming up. The official holiday is Monday the 2nd, but many folks are planning their vacations around it and the coast will be crowded. Please be patient and courteous as you wait in line at the ramp, restaurants, traffic and the grocery store and please don't let the absurd price of fuel and the lines at the pumps get you overheated. A little old-fashioned courtesy and common sense will go a long way.
Skipper Gentry, of Carolina Gentleman Tackle and the boat of the same name called to tell me just how good the billfish bite was continuing to be. The Carolina Gentleman crew claimed the Top Lady Angler spot at the Swansboro Rotary Blue Water Tournament and won the Under 40 Foot Division at the Big Rock, so they know a little about billfish and if they say it's hot, it is. I'm trying to match their schedule to get in a trip with them and see for myself.
Other offshore fishing continues to be as good as I can remember for many years. There are still some yellowfin tuna all along the coast and a few bigeyes are still being caught off Cape Hatteras, plus the gaffer dolphin fishing is white hot. There are also wahoo mixed in with the tuna and dolphin. Some dolphin and sailfish have moved within sight of the beach and there is a report of someone catching a sailfish out of Bogue Inlet in an 18 foot Jon boat.
The king mackerel didn't want to get left out of the report and have been biting well since late last week. There are good reports from around most inlets, with an exceptional catch in Beaufort Inlet earlier this week and a few already being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin.
While the bite may move up or down the beach from day to day, the Spanish mackerel bite has been good around most inlets. This week the reports said the bigger Spanish were just a little farther offshore in 30 to 40 feet of water. This puts them around many of the nearshore artificial reefs.
When trolling size 0 and 00 size Clarkspoons in silver and gold are as close to a sure things as you can get for Spanish, but as the water warms they are feeding on smaller baitfish and can sometimes get finicky. If you are seeing Spanish jump, but not catching them, downsize your lures and set them farther behind the boat or drift, with the motor off, and cast. One of my favorite lures to use when this happens is 1/8 ounce speck rig jigs. Several fishermen have reported that by drifting or light-lining live finger mullets and small menhaden, they are catching Spanish of five pounds and heavier.
King mackerel continue to be one of the highlights of pier fishing all along the coast. The kings are obviously feeding on the schools of bait and forage fish moving along our beaches and they continue to feed within range of the pier fishermen. I didn't hear of any 40 pounders this week, but several in the 20' and 30's were decked.
The flounder bite has also improved at the piers, with a majority of the catch being nice keepers. Other fish being caught from the piers include Spanish mackerel, pompano, drum, bluefish and an occasional trout.
Flounder fishing is off some from past years, but is improving. The prime inside hot spots have been around the inlets and where smaller creeks open into larger creeks in the marshes and along the Intracoastal Waterway. Mullet minnows are the preferred live baits, but they are still hitting mud minnows. Peanut menhaden will catch flounder also. The hot spots in the ocean have been the nearshore artificial reefs and patches of live bottom scattered along the beaches out to 35 to 50 feet deep.
There aren't fall-like numbers of speckled trout being caught in the warm summer water, (Bogue Inlet Pier has already reported 82 degrees) but the trout bite has remained surprisingly consistent. There are the not-quite and barely legal fish, but some genuine chunks have also been caught. Live shrimp are the best bait if you can get them through the pinfish, but several fishermen have been extolling the virtues of catching trout with topwater baits. There is no doubt the strike triggers a huge adrenaline rush.
The warming water has scattered the red drum, but small pods and singles continue to bite well throughout the marshes and creeks. Last week I pointed out the shade under docks is a good spot to try for drum. They also move up into the marsh grass at high tide to catch fiddler crabs, shrimp and minnows. They are actively feeding when you find them in the grass and don't refuse many offerings. Use a durable line as the edges of the grass are sharp and will quickly cut many lines.
Simply Storage, with Capt. Michael Kennedy of Winnabow, won the Jolly Mon King Classic last weekend in Ocean Isle. Their winning king weighed just over 38 pounds and the next two places only dropped to 36 pounds. It was a tight tournament, with plenty of suspense until the last fish was weighed. Zack Shackleton, of Sanford, topped the Jr. Jolly Mon with a 22.9 pound king.
The only tournament on the schedule for this weekend is the Topsail Offshore fishing Club King Mackerel Tournament (910-367-6337, www.tofc.com) from Surf City.
Happy 4th of July and good fishing.