It looks like we have another pretty good weekend headed our way. There is a little more east in most of the wind forecasts that I would prefer, but 10-15 knots is the strongest wind in the early forecast and that is good. It's rare that any summer wind begins at it full velocity as they tend to build with the heat of the day, so there should be nice mornings with building sea breezes to enjoy again this weekend.
Since Tropical Storm/Hurricane/Tropical Storm Bertha has stayed active so long, I wanted to give a little update on it. After crashing into Bermuda as a tropical storm, it has turned off the island on a southeasterly track that forecasters say will become a more easterly movement into the weekend and take it out into open ocean. As of Tuesday night, it had already set a record for the longest lived July tropical weather system ever and each day it continues adds to its legacy.
Doug Leister of Fort Macon Boat Sales in Morehead City called this week to say the water along the Crystal Coast ocean beaches has cleared again and the surf and pier fishing was picking back up a little. He credited the northeast breezes for helping calm the ocean after the swell from Tropical Storm/Hurricane Bertha and clearing up the nearshore water. He said the flounder bite had picked up noticeably at the Sheraton Pier, plus more bluefish and Spanish mackerel were being caught in the cleaner water. He also reported on a successful puppy drum and speckled trout trip I'll mention later.
Speaking of piers--The North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpafonline.com) will be hosting the Dog Days Surf Fishing Tournament on August 23 to help the town of Oak Island raise money to purchase Yaupon Pier. Yaupon Pier was taken in a real estate foreclosure during last winter and has not reopened. The town of Oak Island has been trying to buy it to keep it open, but hasn't yet been successful. They have received a grant of approximately 30 per cent of the needed funds and are applying elsewhere for the balance. The tournament, which will be held at the farthest west beach access on Oak Island, will begin at 8:00 and run through 1:00. For a map and more information visit http://www.ncfps.com/Save_Yaupon_Pier.html or call 803-396-7867.
Boat fishermen are also catching Spanish mackerel. When the tide is high early in the morning, they are often feeding just beyond the breakers. If the tide is low and later in the day when the sun is higher in the sky, they usually move offshore to deeper water.
Spanish can be very selective about what they will eat and this is especially so during the heat of July and August. If they appear to be feeding, but won't hit your lures, they are probably feeding on something smaller than what you are trolling. When this happens to me, I switch to 000 size Nungesser spoons for trolling, drift and cast speck rigs to breaking fish or drift and live bait with the smallest mullet minnows I can find hooked in the back with a single size 6 treble hook.
King mackerel fishing has also slowed some in the heat. There was another caught off Bogue Inlet Pier over the weekend, which is a pretty good indicator a few are cruising the beaches. The kings are around, just spread out, but occasionally you will hit a rock or ledge that is loaded with bait and holding them particularly well. Records from many years indicate the spots in 60-80 feet of water are typically the most consistent locations to catch good numbers of small to medium kings.
Dolphin are one of the fish many angler look forward to catching during the summer and why not? They are pretty fish, top fighters that often jump several times before giving up, taste great and almost always are ready to feed. The dolphin are mostly bailers and shingles right now, but there are often one or two big bulls hanging just below that school of bailers.
The key to catching the larger bulls is getting a bait below the school of smaller fish. The stretch of ocean between 14 Buoy and the 90 Foot Drop is an excellent place to catch dolphin and the king fishermen run into smaller roving pods about every day. The king fishermen mention Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef frequently as good places to catch a few dolphin while king fishing.
Even in the heat of the summer, the offshore bottom fishing is remaining good. Some of the warmer water fish have moved closer in, while those that prefer cooler water have moved offshore. Grouper and snapper are the fish most fishermen brag about, but many of the other fish are fun to catch and are excellent table fare also. Black sea bass, beeliners, porgys, triggerfish, a variety of grunts and an occasional hog snapper are some of the other offshore bottom fish caught regularly.
Last Friday I reported the marlin bite was slowing and then it was a hot weekend for billfish along the entire state. Heck, even I saw one, but it was just window shopping and didn't bite. I was fishing at the Steeples with Joe Seegars and a group of friends when a blue marlin came up on the port side and checked out a few baits before sounding and disappearing.
Just a few minutes later I was reeling in a small blackfin tuna on a TLD 25 and hoping the marlin didn't come back and take my tuna and all my line. It didn't and we landed a pair of blackfins, which are a treat any time, but especially so during the heat of summer. My loin tasted very good on some sushi rice and lightly seared with sesame seeds, soy sauce and wasabi.
Seriously--there is a good marlin bite in the deeper blue water and the reports of sailfish closer in is growing almost daily.
The tarpon have arrived in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. There were several good reports at the end of last week and over the weekend. My friend Justin Conrad from Greensboro landed his first Friday afternoon off Cedar Island. He was fishing with Gary Graham and Mike Hayes, who also caught trout and drum, but not a tarpon. I haven't heard much this week and with the full moon coming for tonight (Friday) it may be slow for a few days unless you care to go at night. Don't despair though; the big drum are arriving and they will bite late afternoons, early mornings and quite often seem to feed all night if your stamina holds out.
The inshore fishing continues to be pretty good, with flounder fishing maybe even improving a little. I heard some good things, such as more fish with a higher percentage of keepers, about the nearshore ocean flounder fishing this week. The ocean has been calm enough folks have been getting out and the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom areas have been holding flounder. Other good spots for flounder have been the bars in the inlets, the Morehead City Turning Basin and the channel from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout.
Our red drum fishing has been improving for several years and this is looking to be another good year. Puppy drum are scattered in many areas from the surf and bars in the smaller inlets to creeks and marshes in inside waters. Even better there have been drum from underslot to overslot size caught, which indicates several year classes are there.
Sunday morning Doug Leister reported he received an invitation to go trout and drum fishing around Beaufort and gladly accepted. He said that even as hot as it was, both were hungry and feeding. He said they were eating mud minnows on Carolina rigs with abandon. He said they caught several nice trout and drum, including a few that were longer than the slot.
Several local guides have also been reporting excellent topwater action on both trout and drum. With the full moon, the drum may be well up into the flooded marshes and easy to spot. I'm hoping to make a high tide trip and see if I spot any tails wagging as they root out small shrimp, minnows and sandfiddlers.
The legislation to allow wider boats to be towed on all days and at night took a few interesting twists and turns this week. Last week I reported that Governor Easley had said he would veto the legislation if it passed. The governor's concern is with the provisions for towing at night, not Sundays and holidays. Tuesday afternoon the bill was amended to lower the maximum width for night towing to less than 114 inches (9-1/2 feet). Boats of 114 to 120 inches may still be towed during daylight hours without a permit and boats wider than 120 inches will require a permit and may only be trailered during the daytime.
With these amendments, H 2167 passed the senate in its first two readings on Tuesday and passed the third reading Wednesday morning. All these votes were near unanimous supporting the bill. After concurrence by the house, the legislation will be forwarded to the governor for him to sign or veto. There is concern in both houses the governor will veto the legislation even though there is tremendous bipartisan support. They are recommending we contact the Governor's Office and let them know we support H 2167.
You can track the progress of these bills and find the constituent area, contact information and committee assignments for all N.C. senators and representatives at www.ncleg.net. E-mail, phone and fax contact information allows contacting your legislators to let them know what legislation you support or don't support. The Governor's office may be contacted at the following: Phone -- 1-800-662-7952 (N.C. only) (919)733-4240, or (919)733-5811; Fax -- (919)733-2120; E-mail -- email@example.com; Mail -- Office of the Governor-20301 Mail Service Center- Raleigh, NC 27699-0301.
Congratulations are certainly in order for local captains, and Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor. Cronk and Taylor teamed together to fish the Atlantic Division of the Cabela's Redfish Tour and garnered Team of the Year honors for the division. The Atlantic Division included tournaments in Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Surf City.
Congratulations to the Ocean Isle Fishing Center team for winning last weekend's East Coast Got-Em-On King Mackerel Classic in Carolina Beach. Their winning king weighed 34 pounds.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament will begin before this comes out as Thursday was the captain's meeting and today is the first day of fishing. This is the fifth of seven tournaments in the 2008 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Conservation Series. For more information call 252-808-2286 or visit www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
The Carteret County Sportfishing Association King Mackerel Tournament will be held this weekend. Tournament headquarters is at Boater's World in Atlantic Station and weigh-in is at Jaycee Park on the Morehead City waterfront. For more information call 252-222-0651 or visit www.carteretcountysportfishing.com.