While this week and weekend may not be perfect weather, at least we finally seem to be settling into a summer pattern where clear high pressure is the dominant factor. Of course this does bring high humidity and the chance of a locally strong thunderstorm on almost any afternoon. The really good part is that the wind should be mostly southerly and light, with cooling sea breezes generating in the afternoons. It might be the summer doldrums to some, but it sure is a good time to go fishing.
This week is the Fourth of July and there are the largest crowds of the summer at the coast. If everyone can keep their frustrations in check regarding the long lines everywhere, the only fireworks will be in the evening skies. Seriously folks, the lines at launching ramps, gas docks, and grocery stores will be long and the water will be crowded. If everyone will use a little bit of common sense and some old-fashioned courtesy, we can all enjoy the water and some good fishing together.
Starting in the inside waters, the red drum and flounder continue to bite well. Behind the Outer Banks, you can add in some gray trout and at New Bern and Mann's Harbor the summer stripers are biting. The red drum are moving through many of the marshes and smaller creeks along the entire coast. These are mostly fish from not-quite-legal size up to some that are too large to be legal. An assortment of soft plastics, gold spoons, and live baits almost always brings strikes.
Flounder are holding in the inlets and many inside waters with good moving tides. They lay on the bottom, waiting for the tide to bring them a meal. Live minnows, and strip baits will get their attention. In Pamlico Sound, the gray trout are hitting bucktails, stingsilvers and speck rigs. The stripers really like eels and will hit a wide assortment of artificial baits, but catching them on topwater plugs is the most fun. Try a Frenzy Walker, Zara Spook, or Top Dog, Jr. and watch the excitement.
July Fourth, at 12:01 AM, is when the recreation ocean flounder season reopens north of New River Inlet. Fishermen have been releasing incidentally caught keeper size flatfish for a while, so there should be some ocean flounder waiting to be caught. Check out the holes and jetties around the inlets, the Cape Lookout jetty, and any of the nearshore artificial reefs. A nice finger mullet or peanut pogie, dropped down into the heart of the structure, should get a good bite. Then the question becomes whether or not you will successfully wrestle it out.
In the nearshore areas, the Spanish mackerel are available in good numbers and a few king mackerel and jack crevalle are working their way in also. The big surprise over the last few weeks has been tarpon. Many have been hooked from the surf, off the piers, and from boats fishing close in. So far, there has only been any real success landing them at Bogue Inlet Pier, at Emerald Isle. Fishermen from the pier have successfully landed three tarpon so far.
King mackerel are slowly making their way back into the mid-summer mix. The reports of kings are getting better every week. This weekend there were good reports from Morehead City to Myrtle Beach. No tournament-winning hogs were reported, but maybe someone is hiding a secret. There are a few kings being caught along the beach, but the largest concentrations were in 50 to 100 feet of water.
Dolphin are spread from just offshore out to the Gulf Stream. Most of the nearshore dolphin are smaller but there are some gaffers and a few really big ones mixed in. Sailfish are becoming a fairly common incidental catch. Many live bait king fishermen are being treated to the jumps and gyrations of a hooked sailfish. The key for sails is clean water and an abundance of bait. The closest reports are from Northwest Places off Morehead City, 23 Mile Rock off Wrightsville Beach, and Lighthouse Rocks off Southport.
Maybe the fishing and weather are finally going to be good at the same time.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver