I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July and found a fun way to celebrate our nationís birthday. Once summer became official, it didnít take long for the heat to fire up. There were some really warm days last weekend and through the week and heat advisories were issued.
If you are fortunate enough to be spending time outside, please drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and use plenty of sunscreen. The forecast is for the temperatures to ease back into the 80s for the weekend and maybe even drop to the mid eighties by Monday, but it will still be hot and humid.
I heard there were new high temperatures set at several places along the N.C. coast over the past week. I canít verify any specific temperatures, but I helped change a set of kayak racks in the early afternoon one day and the heat was brutal. The high humidity is a contributing factor too and makes it difficult to breathe. Do not over exert yourself and pay extra attention to staying hydrated.
In addition to the possibility of heat issues, a second concern with this combination of high heat and humidity is severe thunderstorms. Unfortunately many of our neighbors in the state and across the region had to deal with some really nasty storms over the weekend and especially Sunday.
When we have this combination of high temperatures and humidity, it is wise to pay attention to the weather and especially so if you are in a boat and/or fishing on open water. When that black cloud starts forming, head for shelter. Deciding to fish a little longer and see what happens is rarely a good idea. As we were just reminded, these summer thunderstorms can be really strong and you donít want to be caught in one.
Before I get into other things, I would like to offer a salute to Andy Griffith, who passed away on Tuesday at 86. If you never saw the original show, you may wonder why I feel Griffith should be saluted in a fishing column. He was a great spokesman for North Carolina and there were many times he and Opie headed out somewhere to do a little fishing (and thinking, explaining or some other life experience). Then who could forget the lead in and out to the show that had them walking down the path carrying fishing poles. We lost a great one this week. Godspeed Mr. Griffith.
Fishermen and other vacationers began arriving last weekend and the local waters have been busy. Thankfully most of the fish have been cooperating. There were several afternoons the wind breezed pretty well, but for the most part it was tolerable somewhere.
Inside the inlets the top action has been with flounder and puppy drum. There are reasonably good numbers and there have been some large fish. Puppy drum are not yet as widespread as they should get during the summer, but several fishermen mentioned that nearly half the pups they caught were overslot size fish. Puppy drum are hitting live or dead shrimp, live minnows, cut bait, soft plastics and spoons, plus topwaters early and late in the day.
The flounder bite is good too and most fishermen say they are catching mostly keepers. There are two schools of thought for flounder and that is live bait (mud minnows, mullet minnows and peanut pogies) or soft plastics. Fishing live bait is pretty simple. You cast to a likely spot and wait for the flounder to see, catch and eat it.
More ground can be covered by casting soft plastics and slowly retrieving them across the bottom. With the bio baits that have scent built in or spreading some scent on plain soft plastic baits, there is an attractor for flounder and other fish too. Both methods have been producing well, so the difference comes down to personal fishing preference. Iím not real good at sitting and waiting, so I like casting and retrieving.
I would like to throw in another option here. Flounder are attracted to spoons. I have caught them around Cape Lookout and Frying Pan Shoals when trolling Clarkspoons for Spanish mackerel and bluefish and inshore when casting weedless spoons for puppy drum. With Clarkspoons I use both silver and gold colors and have caught flounder on both. When casting weedless spoons inshore, I primarily use gold, but sometimes use copper.
One trick I do with the weedless casting spoons is to cut just the curltail off a curltail grub and add it to the hook of the spoon. This allows retrieving the spoon slowly, so it stays on the bottom, but the tail gives it lots of action. The weedless part allows casting this into grass or across rough bottom and being able to retrieve it back out into open water. Lots of puppy drum and flounder live in these areas and I catch both.
Most fish donít like the oppressive heat any more than fishermen. In the heat, something to think about is what brings cooler water. Two times of day are cooler. The time right around daybreak is the coolest because it had about 8 hours with no sunlight shining on the water. The time right before dark is cooler than the main part of the day, but not as cool as the morning.
Rising tide also brings some cooler water and the closer to the inlet, the more pronounced this is. During the summer, the ocean water is usually little cooler than the inshore water. On a sunny day, the water temperature over a shallow dark bottom may rise several degrees around low tide. When the first of the rising tide reaches that, it will feel like walking from outside into a house with the air conditioner on. This shot of cool water often stimulates fish to feed.
As I said last week, trout are one of the fish that respond to little shots of cooler water with a rising tide. They are usually more active in the cooler temps early in the morning, but will sometimes feed later in the day if the water cools a little. This doesnít have to be much. Sometimes just a degree or two can really turn them on.
Spanish mackerel are biting along the beaches and around the inlets. Most fishermen troll for them using small Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons behind planers or trolling weights.
Spanish can be a lot more fun casting light tackle to them. If you spot a school of Spanish that are obviously feeding and tearing up the water, try casting Got-Cha Jigs and Clark Casters too them on trout tackle. It makes catching those 3/4 pound fish a lot of fun and when a big one hits itís a real (reel) battle.
The good catches of last weekís king tournament caught a lot of fishermenís attention. Almost every morning this week fishermen were competing with pelicans for pogies. Several fishermen said there was plenty of bait and it was much easier to catch right after daybreak before the pogies were being chased by porpoises and pelicans. They said several mornings the bait holding in deeper water marked well on fish finders and hadnít started popping yet.
Once they found the bait, king fishermen headed offshore to their favorite rock or wreck in 50 to 80 feet of water. The reports are the kings are scattered, but a good day of fishing will produce a limit or two. Several fishermen said they were catching more fish on their downrigger lines than on the surface and this makes good sense as the water should be a little cooler in the mid and lower depths.
Dolphin are offshore and are moving closer in almost every day. They are still along the grass lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream, but are breaking off and following bait inshore. Dolphin are one of the fastest growing fish in the ocean and eat a lot. Like fat old men at a buffet, they donít like to be too far from the food. A few dolphin are being caught mixed with kings and the numbers should increase over the next few weeks. Itís also time for king mackerel fishermen to begin catching a few sailfish that move inshore to feed with the kings and dolphin.
Billfishing continues to be pretty good, with some days that are better. It is a rare day when a boat or two in the charter fleet doesnít release a billfish. It is a far more rare day when a single boat releases a billfish of each species on the same day. The Bill Collector, with Capt. Stephen Draughon, did just that on July 3 and released a blue marlin, white marlin and a sailfish. They also released a second blue marlin. Congratulations!
Offshore bottom fishing is as close as fishing comes to being catching! Just about every report is of fishing that is good or better. Black sea bass are around most of the ocean rocks and wrecks from a few miles off the beach and out. On the closer structure, many are short, but moving to a little deeper water will increase the number of keepers. Remember that on July 1 the minimum size for black sea bass increased to 13 inches.
Mixed catches of grunts and porgies had been starting at about 60 feet deep, but have moved a little deeper with the rising temperatures. You should find them from about 80 feet deep and out and they often mix with beeliners and grouper. Several of my fishing mentors said if you were catching the big white grunts, there were grouper nearby. Donít forget to put a light line out for a dolphin, king or wahoo that might be attracted to activity of reeling the struggling bottom fish in.
Those pier fishermen willing to work the tides and fish early and late are catching a variety of fish. Some of them are pretty nice ones too. The pier catch includes whiting, flounder, black drum, sheepshead, spade fish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, speckled trout and more. The pier speck bite is usually best in the first couple of hours after daybreak and they definitely pay more attention to live baits.
I havenít received a report of a second pier tarpon yet, but there have already been some seen by king mackerel fishermen chasing bait along the ocean beaches. A few have also been spotted rolling in Pamlico Sound. Tarpon like the heat and weíve got it. The tarpon bite could start at any time.
The only tournament scheduled for this week is a kids tournament at the Surf City Ocean Pier in Surf City as part of their Fourth of July celebration on July 4. For more information visit www.surfcityoceanpier.com.
The tournament schedule will return in full force on the weekend of July 13-15 with the East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament (www.gotemonliveclassic.com) at Carolina Beach, the Eric Powell Redfish Tournament (910-327-2106) in Sneads Ferry and the Hatteras Grand Slam (www.hatterasgrandslam.com) in Hatteras. Hopefully the heat will have moderated by then.