We survived the Fourth of July and that is a good thing. While there were a few beach houses that weren't occupied sometime during the last week, there weren't many. While I waited in line (at many places) I was thankful that the weather, while a touch windy, wasn't too extreme in any way and most folks were enjoying their time at the coast.
The front we were warned about for last weekend, did finally reach us, but it was nowhere near the weather event we were concerned it might be. That is good on the wind, temperature and sunshine fronts, but we sure could have used the 1 to 2 inches of rain the forecasters were promising. There were some spot thunderstorms and light general rain at times, but nothing to seriously dampen the spirits of fishermen and holiday visitors.
Those cooler temperatures are fading away and the daytime highs are creeping back into the 90's, even on the beach. The good news is that much of the fishing is nearly as hot as the weather. We have had several weeks of good fishing and, while there have been some lower spots and slower locations; the overall report has been extremely good.
The wind forecast for this weekend is good again, with the forecast staying generally with southerly breezes below 15 knots. Much of the time, particularly Saturday and Sunday, the forecasted winds are on 5 to 10 knots, with a little increase due to the afternoon sea breezes.
There is some possible rain in the mix, with the best possibility running from late Saturday afternoon through Monday morning. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but we could sure use some of the overage that is battering Texas and the Midwest right now.
The good summer billfish bite continues. This bite began in early June and has had a few peaks and valleys, but has been surprisingly good. The offshore boats are catching both blue and white marlin, plus a good number of sailfish. The boats fishing at the outer edge of the usual range for kings, but well short of the Gulf Stream, have been catching good numbers of sailfish and occasionally seeing a marlin. Their running joke is that most folks can handle a sailfish on king mackerel tackle, but it is far below what is needed to subdue a marlin.
Without question, the dolphin bite is as good as I can remember. There are lots of gaffers well inshore of the Gulf Stream and some smaller ones have been caught within sight of the beach. They seem to be moving in packs and always feeding.
Capt. Mike Webb of Pelagic Sportfishing said the dolphin were almost a nuisance on several of his bottomfishing trips last week. He said they would swarm the boat and get the fishermen's attention away from the grouper. I think that would fall under the classification of a positive problem. I like grouper and grouper fishing as much as anyone, but a school of dolphin just off the transom would get my attention too!
Even with the water approaching 80 degrees, there are still some yellowfin tuna working the edges of the Gulf Stream eddies and a few bigeye tuna are being caught off Cape Hatteras. Some wahoo are also mixed in with the tuna and dolphin.
The king mackerel bite has been improving for several weeks. There are good reports from around most inlets, and one 52 pounder is rumored to have been caught in Beaufort Inlet earlier this week. Smaller kings are on most wrecks, rocks and artificial reefs from a few miles off the beach out to about 80 feet deep.
The reports on Spanish mackerel were mixed this week, both in terms of quantity and quality. Some folks reported missing the schools entirely, while others reported catching lots of Spanish from 3 pounds and heavier. The artificial reefs were mentioned as was a hot bite around the Barge Wreck one afternoon.
The king mackerel bite from the piers continues to go well. Almost every pier has reported several catches during the past week. The warm water has also brought another predator in around the piers. A few scattered reports came from other piers, but fishermen at Bogue Inlet Pier decked a barrage of barracudas. The toothy critters ranged through the teens in weight, but all flashed that toothy grin.
In mentioning the toothy critters, I couldn't help but break the thought train and include the piranha that was caught in the Catawba River last week. N.C. Inland Fisheries biologists believe the unusual, and certainly non-native, fish was a pet that outgrew its aquarium and was released. They ask this not to be done as it introduces non-native fish to the ecosystem and could possibly harm it.
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 speckled trout. An exceptional summer run of trout is being caught from several of the southern piers.
For most folks, flounder fishing is a little slow, but others are finding them well. One tip passed on by one of the consistently successful fishermen is to look for some new places and not continue to fish the spots that everyone knows and that get hammered so regularly. He suggested looking around creek junctions or where sand bars or oyster rocks narrow up a channel and force a lot of water through a small area.
Some of the better flounder catches have come from the nearshore ocean artificial reefs and patches of live bottom. Several knowledgeable fishermen believe this flounder bite will continue to improve through the rest of the month.
A surprising number of nice speckled trout are being caught in the warm summer water. This week Bogue Inlet Pier reported the surf temperature at 83 degrees and it should be a degree or two warmer in many of the inshore creeks and marshes. Live shrimp continue to be the best bait, but some fishermen are scoring well with topwater baits.
Small pods and single red drum are working through the marshes and creeks and will usually bite well if you can find them without spooking them. On the full moon last weekend, I saw some tailing through an area in the marsh they normally would not have been able to swim. When you find them tailing in the marsh grass, they are feeding and aren't too particular. Use a durable line as the edges of the grass are sharp and will quickly cut lines that aren't abrasion resistant.
The Bobcat, with Capt. Henry Moore of Clinton, won last weekend's Topsail Offshore fishing Club King Mackerel Tournament with a 32.70 pound king. Moore had to sweat it out for a while as both the second and third place fish were less than a pound lighter.
This weekend's tournaments include the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament (910-686-9778 or www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com) at Wrightsville Beach, the Fourth of July Offshore Tournament (252-473-1015 or www.piratescovetournaments.com) at Manteo and the East Coast Got-Em-On King Classic (910-512-0542 or www.carolinabeachclassic.com) at Carolina Beach.