Happy Fourth of July to everyone. Please remember this as our country's birthday and celebrate it as such. Enjoy the fireworks, the backyard cookout and especially the freedom to do them.
This was a windy week early, but the wind began laying out on Wednesday and the weather is shaping up for a pretty good weekend. The forecast calls for mainly south and southwest winds between 5 to 15 knots. That's about as mild as you can expect. Besides, if we didn't have that little bit of sea breeze build in the afternoons; it would be too hot to be comfortable.
The July Fourth crowd began arriving last Friday and has been building pretty steadily all week. This is the busiest beach holiday of the year and the crowds appear to be nearly as large as in past years. There may be a few folks who gave up their vacation, but, judging from the size of the crowds on the beaches, at the ramps and in fuel and check-out lines, it isn't many.
The crowds are large and things will be moving slowly, so be prepared and allow a little extra time. A does of good old-fashioned courtesy and common sense will go a long way toward preventing accidents and confrontations. Be polite and think safety!
Not to be a damper, but merely an acknowledgement; Tropical Storm Bertha has formed near the Cape Verde Islands. The current forecast track has it moving northwestward over the weekend before sweeping to the northeast and moving into the mid-Atlantic and staying east of Bermuda. It is not currently expected to threaten the U.S., but the surfers may see some swells by mid to late next week.
Capt. Noah Lynk called to say he was enjoying some of the best flounder fishing he had seen in a few years. He said his clients were still catching some undersize flatfish, but they were catching enough larger flounder that everyone was getting off the boat happy. He is fishing around Harkers Island and Cape Lookout, but I've heard similar reports from fishermen in the Morehead City Turning Basin and Newport River.
I also heard the flounder bite from the piers is improving. More fish are biting and more of them are keepers. There has also been an ongoing good flounder bite in the ocean around the nearshore artificial reefs and on some of the close-in hardbottom areas. They are also saying the ocean flounder are aggressive and biting hard. One thing most flounder fishermen agree on is they are catching more flounder than last year--and that is good!
The puppy drum bite is pretty good too. There are a few larger schools in some places, but for the most part there are small pods and singles spread across much of the area. Capt. Dave Dietzler has been having good catches in the first slough off the beach at Shackleford and several folks have mentioned the Newport Marshes and the North River Thoroughfare. I haven't been down there to see, but I also expect they are on and around the shoals with duck blinds in Bogue Sound.
There have been some good speckled trout catches, and especially so when adding in the extremely hot air and hot water temperatures. Bogue Inlet Pier has been reporting 78 and higher in the surf zone so afternoon low tide temps in shallow inside waters could easily be in the mid-80's. The best way to get a speck's attention is to tempt it with a live shrimp.
Spanish mackerel continue to bite well. The pier anglers are catching them as well as fishermen trolling along the beaches and around the inlets. With the heat, the early morning is the best time and they might be as close as just beyond the breakers. As the sun gets higher in they sky, they usually move to a little deeper water. One of the most consistent areas has been from the rock jetty to the West Slough Buoy at Cape Lookout.
The dolphin fishing is still excellent, but the average size is getting smaller. This happens every summer as they spawn and the peanuts move closer to the beach. If you are catching a lot of smaller dolphin, sometimes there are a few larger ones underneath them. Try weighting a line to get it deeper and you might hook into one of those big bulls. In the warm water, the dolphin are moving as close as Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef.
While it has slowed a little, the billfish bite is still good. Many fishermen are beginning to look more for sailfish as they are often closer in. The area around Jerry's Reef has a good history with them and has produce one former state record in late July.
King mackerel are also moving closer to the beaches. The pier king bite hasn't gotten hot yet, but a couple are being caught most weeks. Last week Nate Ludwick of Newport landed a 68 pound tarpon from Bogue Inlet Pier. Congratulations!
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be good also. Capt. Mike Webb said he had a trip Wednesday that had caught their limits of nice grouper by 9:30 and had to look for other fish to make the rest of the day. Excuse me, but that just doesn't seem to be that serious of a problem. The other offshore bottom fish they are catching include black sea bass, beeliners, porgys, and grunts.
I was one of approximately 50-60 kayak fishermen who attended the Kayak Fishing Meet and Greet at Fort Fisher last Saturday. After fishing and paddling for several hours, the group reassembled at the Federal Point launch area for a hotdog lunch, casual exchange of rigging and fishing tips and drawing for a bunch of nice door prizes.
It was a good time for all and most of the participants left with various degrees of sunburned smiles. There is some building discussion regarding having a similar event at Southport in the fall. I'll try to keep you posted. It was a lot of fun and we caught some fish too!
There was some bad news this week on the king mackerel tournament front. With the slow economy and uncertain fuel prices, the Oak Island Fishing Club has decided to forego their Long Bay Lady Anglers King Mackerel Tournament in 2008. For the past several years this has been the only "ladies-only" king mackerel tournament in N.C. A letter sent to past participants this week cites these reasons for the cancellation and offers June 2009 as the potential date for the tournament to return.
Remember you can fish free in N.C. on July 4. The Division of Marine Fisheries (Salt water) and Wildlife Resources Commission (fresh water) have declared July 4 as a "Free Fishing Day" in N.C. This is for residents and non-residents.
The N.C. boat trailer legislations (S 1695 and H 2408, H 2167) that are working their ways through the N.C. legislature have encountered a new obstacle. After initially having no opposition, the N.C. Highway Patrol is now expressing some reservations regarding safety when allowing boat trailers wider than 102 inches to be towed at night. The legislation to increase the unrestricted wide load width to 120 inches sailed through the Senate and its committees and passed with a 47-0 vote.
Several bills were working their way through the House committees and at least one had been initially reported as favorable before this. On the first two readings in the House the tally was also positive with over 90 per cent of the representatives voting in approval. There are rumors that in spite of the overwhelming support, the governor will veto the bill if it returns from committee and passes a third reading on the House floor.
One group that is closely following the bill has posted a letter supporting increasing the width on their website and it uses your zip code to be sent to the appropriate legislators. You can complete and send the letter in less than one minute at http://www.tarheelstriperclub.com/towingissuesletter.htm
The point I found most interesting in this letter is about safety. While I didn't have time to verify the statistics before this deadline, one of the points raised in the letter is there are more accidents in 1 year involving law enforcement officers and vehicles than there are in 3 years with individuals towing boats. I'm all for safety, but perhaps, at least in this instance, the safety issue is more emotional than factual.
You can track the progress of these bills at www.ncleg.net. This website also enables finding the contact information, committee assignments and constituent area for every N.C. legislator.
Congratulations to John Pollard and the crew of the Stream Weaver for winning the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament last weekend at Wrightsville Beach. They released the first blue marlin of the tournament at 9:24 A.M. on Friday and the time was the tie-breaker when 2 other boats also recorded a single release each.