We are only a week into summer and there are several weather issues already facing us. The one we know will come is the forecast of intense heat. Weather forecasters are predicting we will see high nineties by the weekend along the beaches and will probably pass the 100 degree mark inland.
This is when the crowds really begin to ramp up for the Fourth of July celebration. Be prepared to wait at boat ramps, restaurants, supermarkets and in traffic. Please drink plenty of water and use lots of sunscreen to help prevent heat, dehydration and sunburn issues. Keeping cool is a good thing in many ways.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are doing strange things so far this year, so keep a watch on them. Last week Hurricane Chris formed north of Bermuda and rushed to the north without threatening land and fell apart over the weekend.
As Hurricane Chris dissipated, an area of tropical weather that had earlier been thought wouldnít develop became Tropical Storm Debby in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the weekend, the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center didnít have a clue where it would go. Then on Monday they thought it would stall in the Gulf and finally cross Fla. this weekend to emerge into the Atlantic next Monday. After about mid-day Monday, every new forecast had it speeding up and moving faster.
The remains of Tropical Storm Debby passed well offshore and fell apart on Wednesday. Donít breathe too easy though. It is well away, but another of those areas of tropical weather with a low chance of strengthening has popped up near the Windward Islands in the South Atlantic. This is the fifth of these systems for this year and the other four strengthened enough they earned names.
The heavy rains last weekend and earlier in the week have been a big help to firemen battling the forest fire in the Croatan National Forest. Smoke and ash from the fire have been an issue as the winds switched several times this week. Firefighters have been gaining steadily and should have the fire contained soon.
While there have been a few days that the ocean was bumpy, fishing has been good for the past week. Weekend tournaments had good catches of king mackerel, flounder and red drum. Just as the summer heat is forecast to go up a notch, it appears the fishing is getting hotter too.
The leaderboard in the Southport Inshore Challenge held from Southport Marina on Saturday featured lots of flounder and puppy drum exceeding five pounds. The top eight flounder were all five pounds plus and the top ten redfish all exceeded six pounds. The Jolly Mon King Mackerel Tournament was held in Ocean Isle Saturday and Sunday and the top ten kings weighed more than 30 pounds. Thatís pretty good fishing Ė nope, actually thatís pretty good catching.
Fishermen along most of the Carolina coast caught king mackerel, flounder and puppy drum well last week and over the weekend. There were a surprising number of reports that included numerous overslot puppy drum that were immediately released. While some of the flounder and pups were caught on lures and soft plastics, live mullet minnows, pogies and shrimp were preferred by fish and fishermen. Flounder and pups liked their baits suspended under corks and on Carolina rigs on the bottom, while the kings liked slow trolled pogies and bluefish on standard and skirted live bait rigs.
Shark fishing has become popular and there are enough of them around to make it interesting. Fresh baits, big hooks, wire leaders and heavy tackle are the best combination for the toothy critters. There are sharks everywhere, but the waters around the mouth of the Cape Fear River hold a lot of them and some are bigger than big. There are special size and number regulations for sharks so check the regulations at www.ncdmf.net before keeping one.
As the water temperature continues to climb, the number of speckled trout reports drop. Trout are still around, but seem to take siestas from mid morning to late afternoon. Several fishermen said they would still hit topwater lures from daybreak for a few hours and again just before dark, but it required moving the bait slowly and even pausing occasionally.
Trout spots close to the inlets get some cooler ocean water when the tide first starts rising and sometimes have a midday trout bite, especially on overcast days. The midday bites are usually better when using live baits.
Pier fishermen continue to catch a mixed bag of fish that includes specks, flounder, black drum, sheepshead, spade fish, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and more.
Last week I suggested it was about time for the pier fishermen to battle some tarpon and it happened. I couldnít get all the details, but a lucky fisherman landed a huge tarpon from Jolly Roger Pier on Topsail Island. From the picture I would guesstimate it at 150 pounds plus. The report also said they released it and it swam off. Itís about time for fishermen on most of the Tar Heel piers to see and fight a few tarpon.
Most are small, but Spanish mackerel are biting well. Fishermen around the inlets and just off the beaches are easily catching limits trolling Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons behind planers. Fishermen on the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottoms have light lined peanut size menhaden and caught larger Spanish.
The results of the Carteret Community College Foundation Spanish Tournament show some large Spanish are around. The top two Spanish were heavier than five pounds and there were a bunch of three and four pounders.
Most of the past week has seen calm winds and fishermen have taken advantage. Kings have moved back a little closer to the beach, with a few being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs and more beginning to show at the rocks and reefs from about 60 feet deep and deeper.
More cobia were caught this week too. There was debate if this was a second run or a push at the end of the first run. As long as they are biting, who cares?
Dolphin are moving closer to shore too. The water temperature is hovering right around 80 degrees and that should warm some with the heat expected over the weekend. That is plenty warm for dolphin and they are scattered, but a few are mixing with the kings at about 60 to 80 feet deep. With the water this warm, I am expecting a report of a sailfish mixed with the kings at any time.
Fishermen headed farther offshore should find more dolphin, plus some wahoo and blackfin tuna. There are marlin and sailfish in the deep offshore waters and good reports are expected from the Wrightsville Beach Blue Marlin Tournament over the weekend.
Offshore bottom fishing is hot! I havenít heard a bad report except for sea conditions in several weeks. Black sea bass are just about anywhere from 60 feet deep or so and out, but the bigger ones are in deeper water. Grunts, and porgies start biting well at about 60 feet and you add beeliners and grouper at about 80 feet. Donít forget to put a light line out for a dolphin, king or wahoo that might be attracted to all the commotion in the water.
The N.C. Senate passed SB 821 on June 20 by a margin of 47-2 and it was sent and received at the N.C. House on June 21. The house passed it on June 28 and sent it to Governor Perdue to be signed. Hopefully she will sign this and not veto it. The provisions of this bill include:
* Ban on mothership purse seine menhaden reduction fishing in North Carolina;
* Requirement that a super majority is necessary to override scientific recommendations from the Division of Marine Fisheries regarding measures needed to end overfishing or to rebuild overfished stocks;
* Study of merging the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission;
* Reorganization of Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees;
* Establish new harsher penalties for knowingly gathering shellfish or shrimping in closed waters; and
* Study of coastal fishing license and boating fees with special emphasis on directing some of these funds to dredging inlets.
For more information on this and other N.C. legislation, visit www.ncleg.net.
Dare County Commissioners voted last week to amend zoning to allow ocean fishing piers as a conditional use in C-2 H zones. That is excellent news for a proposed ocean center complex Eric Kaplan of Charlottesville, Va. wants to build near the north end of Hatteras Village. The ocean center would be based around a fishing pier and include multiple amenities, including an ocean education center, a restaurant, and facilities for entertainment. A website with detailed information is at http://hatterasislandoceancenter.blogspot.com.
There are a trio of tournaments on tap for this weekend and all are in the Cape Fear area. The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament is the fourth event in the 2012 N.C. Governorís Cup Billfish Series. The tournament will feature billfish and offshore gamefish and will fish June 28 to 30 from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
The Fourth Annual Jodi Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament will be held June 30 and July 1 from Starling Marine and Motts Channel Seafood Dock in Wrightsville Beach. This tournament allows participants to choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. For more information visit www.joditynchkmt.com.
The Carolina Yakfish Series Saltwater Tournament for 2012 will be held from the Wildlife Ramp at Federal Point in Fort Fisher on Saturday, June 30. This tournament is for paddle or pedal powered vessels and features a catch, photograph and release format. Registration will open at 6:00 A.M., with fishing beginning at 7:00 A.M. For more information visit www.carolinayakfish.com.