There is no doubt that summertime is here and we are right smack dab in the middle of the summertime mixed bag fishing. It is a time when anything is possible, the unexpected usually happens, and day to day fishing is about as predictable as the weather. This is where the saying, "You should have been here yesterday," came from. There is still lots of good fishing but many outside factors can turn today's feast into tomorrow's famine and then back again.
If you fish through the middle of the day for the next six weeks or so, you will quickly learn why fishermen get up so early. It is to escape the heat. While there may be a few mid-day feeding periods, the fish also seem to bite better early and late in the day. There are rewards to be reaped at this time of year, but there are the slow days to deal with also. Enough of the lecture, let's talk about what's biting.
Flounder seem to be the inshore mainstay along the entire North Carolina Coast. They are being caught from Sunset Beach to Corolla. Creek and river mouths are usually good as are the drop-offs along many sand bars and oyster rocks. The bottom right beside jetties are also good places to try. Mud minnows, finger mullet, peanut pogies, and strip baits will all work well. There may be a daily preference in baits, so try them all before moving.
It is time for the tarpon to move into the lower Cape Fear River, between Battery and Bald Head Island. This is generally a nighttime fishery, but often produces great fun and awesome memories. In the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound the tarpon are putting in their annual appearance also. This is a daytime fishery and therefore attracts more participants. Both of these are bait fishing situations. A natural bait, dead or alive, is the best way to get in on the action.
Also in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound, there are lots of large red drum right now. This is a late afternoon to mid morning fishery, with many nighttime participants. There are the large breeding drum and must be released immediately after catching them. My suggestion is to remove or cut off the hook, with a minimum of handling of the fish and certainly without lifting it into the boat. This is again a bait fishing situation.
Smaller red drum are in the marshes, shallow coastal creeks, and along the edges of the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. These fish will respond to a variety of lures. There is a 1 fish per person per day limit on red drum, with a size limit that is between 18 and 27 inches only. I recommend saving that limit, in the event you deep hook a fish or otherwise catch one that has a poor chance of recovery and survival.
Some speckled trout are also showing up along most of the coast. This fishery had been spotty and down a bit during the spring and early summer. There were some concerns that last winter's freeze had severely damaged their population. That question is still unanswered, but it sure is nice to see some of them showing up again.
Surf and Pier
This has been very mixed bag fishing. Some days the spanish mackerel are hot, but flounder has been the most consistent catch. There are also some whiting, croakers, spots, and bluefish. Out on the end, a king mackerel or two occasionally come to feed and excite the fishermen. Bogue Inlet Pier, in Emerald Isle, has also had a school of tarpon hanging around and rolling just out of casting range.
Spanish mackerel are the most consistently caught fish in the nearshore ocean waters right now. There are also flounder on most of the nearshore artificial reefs, a scattering of king mackerel, and some tarpon. The Tarpon are concentrated pretty well around Frying Pan Shoals, with a few at Lookout Shoals also. The most unusual group is the small school that has been seen around Bogue Inlet Pier for the last week or so. One of them has been hooked, on a Got-Cha jig no less, but it was a very short lived fight.
In that area between 50 and 70 feet deep, the king mackerel have been biting like mad. There are many areas that have lots of smaller fish, in the 8 to 12 pound range, while others are holding kings that are slightly larger. Some big kings are also on these rocks, but it is time for them to be moving toward the beach. There are increasing number of sailfish encounters each week and the dolphin have put in an appearance or two. This is just a little bit inshore to find any consistent dolphin action, but there have been enough catches to mention it
For the past few weeks, dolphin have been the mainstay of the offshore catches. Most have been smaller bailing fish but there are a few gaffers and even some big fish mixed in. There have been a few tuna caught but mostly north of Cape Hatteras. Wahoo are spread out all over, with one in many offshore catches, but no concentration anywhere. There are still some blue marlin along the Carolina Coast, but we are nearing the time for the white marlin to show in good numbers off Cape Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. By the full moon in August, the white marlin should be biting hot and heavy offshore of the northern NC Coast.