In spite of some record low temperatures over the past few days, summer is here. Afternoon sea breezes almost every day and a constant threat of late afternoon / early evening thunderstorms are some of the key clues. The presence of tarpon, inshore sailfish, large flounder, lots of dolphin, spadefish, and big kings on the beach are the clues that really matter. If the water gets any warmer, the excellent fishing may slow. Now is the time to get out and enjoy it and have some fun.
The warmer water is moving the red drum around some. Keep a sharp eye out for spotted tails along marsh edges, oyster bars, and grassy flats. On high tides and especially the full moon high tides, they will often move up into the flooded marsh grass, searching for the crabs, shrimp, and minnows that usually hide there. Top water plugs, gold spoons, and an assortment of plastics will help you make quick contact. Remember, only 1 red drum per day between 18 and 27 inches may be kept. It doesn't hurt to release them all.
Around Manteo and Manns Harbor, there have been enough hungry stripers around to keep fishermen smiling. Favorite spots have been around the bridges. This is catch and release fishing only---don't keep one. To the south, flounder fishing is getting better. There have been some very good catches of flounder in the Morehead City, Swansboro, Carolina Beach and Southport areas. A few fishermen are still catching some speckled trout, but they are hard to find in this heat. Very early mornings and late afternoons are usually the times when the trout are most active.
Several weeks ago, there were some kings caught at the NC State Ports Dock in Morehead City. There also have been several caught right in Beaufort Inlet and the Cape Fear River Inlet. It's happened before and it will happen again.
Surf and Pier
When the wind blows from the southwest and muddies up the water, the bottom fishing part of pier fishing appears to be better. Lots of summer spots, some flounder, sea mullet (whiting), bluefish, pompano, a few black and red drum, blowfish, sharks, and skates are making up the bulk of the catch. There are still some spanish mackerel around but they prefer those days when the water is clean. Even then, the best time is usually early morning or late afternoon.
Over the last week, there has been a good number of kings caught on the piers from Atlantic Beach to the south. A 53 pounder, caught at Bogue Inlet Pier on July 16, is the largest of the year so far. There have also been several 40's, plus some in the 30's and 20's as well. The kings are right on the beach at this time and are just right for the pier fishermen to catch. There have also been a few tarpon and lots of jack crevalle mixed in with the kings.
While the bluefish have slowed down some, there are still lots of spanish mackerel along most of the NC coast. These spanish mackerel and bluefish are hitting a variety of trolled spoons and casting lures. If you are having trouble catching them, check out the Central NC Coast Regional Report in the July Carolina Adventure Magazine. There are some good tips to catch spanish when they get finicky.
In the past few days. king mackerel have waged an all out assault on the baits near the beaches. While they have shown up in some numbers at some of the nearshore rocks, artificial reefs, and sea buoys, they were literally bumping their noses on the beach over the past weekend. I received an E-mail from Curtis Struyk, of Morehead City, that said he had caught and released a bunch of kings over the past few days---including a half dozen over 30 pounds. The amazing part is that all these fish were caught in less than 15 feet of water. The Cape Fear Inlet and Beaufort Inlet have been the hot spots so far. Interestingly enough, these are the two NC inlets that have shipping channels. As more bait shows up, this great fishing could leap from high gear to overdrive, so be prepared..
Bottom bouncers have been doing well with sea bass, grunts, snapper and a few grouper. There are still some concentrations of small to medium size kings in these depths. The smaller dolphin have moved in here in good numbers also. Anchoring or drifting, with a light line out the back could add a king or dolphin to your bottomfish catch.
There are still some yellowfin tuna being caught along the coast, with the best catches being from the Big Rock to the north. However, dolphin are outnumbering them in most catches. There are a pretty good number of gaffer dolphin too, including some really big ones. A wahoo or two are also present in many catches and sometimes even a king or two. With the heat of the summer, billfish encounters will rise and fall with the moon phases. They will occasionally put some real excitement in your offshore adventures. The billfish numbers should moderate for another several weeks and then peak with the annual white marlin blitz around the September full moon.
Potential Record Catches
There is no word yet on the two blackfin tuna catches that have been submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record. The certification process involves pictures, positive identification, certified scale verification, and more paperwork, which is not yet complete on either. One is a 36 pound fish that was caught on the Musicman charterboat, out of Carolina Beach. The other is a 37 pound fish that was caught on the Harper's Folly charterboat, out of Hatteras. As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.