We are beginning to see some of those nasty summer thunderstorms blow up and roll through pretty regularly. They can form very quickly and be very strong in a local area and should be avoided if possible. The wind and driving rain aren't good, but they become just a nuisance compared to the danger posed by the sharp and dangerous lightning that is usually a trademark of these storms. It is wise to keep an eye to the sky while out fishing and be prepared to head for cover if a storm approaches.
Don't take these storms lightly. When we are in this summer weather pattern of hot temperatures and high humidity, they are always a potential problem. Some of the bad weather spawned by these storms includes waterspouts over water, tornadoes over land and wind shears or microburst winds over either.
The forecast is for at least a slight interruption in our weather pattern this weekend. While southwest winds of 15 to 20 knots are forecast along the entire coast on Friday, they are expected to shift to a generally northerly direction for Saturday and Sunday, with Monday varying from westerly, through northerly, to easterly according to location on the coast. After Friday, the velocity will drop to primarily 10 to 15 knots, so fishing conditions should be reasonably good, especially close to the beaches.
While there have been some windy days in the past week, the offshore fishing has been pretty good when the boats went. Dolphin are the big catch and they have been caught from just a few miles off the beach out to the Gulf Stream. The dolphin aren't running quite as large as they were several weeks ago, but they more than make up for it in numbers.
Sailfish are another big offshore catch. There have been a few reports of sailfish being caught within sight of the beach, but the most consistent reports are from about 10 miles off out to the Gulf Stream. They are always a pleasant surprise, but have really startled some king mackerel fishermen.
Some wahoo are also mixed in with the dolphin and fishermen on the offshore side of this bite are talking about catching blue and white marlin.
Speaking of billfish experiences--a Wrightsville Beach fisherman, Harry Archer, III, headed out by himself Saturday on the family's 25 foot center console and had one of those days you never forget. Archer was fishing approximately 8 miles off Masonboro Inlet and had three sets of double sailfish strikes. Even though he was fishing alone, he managed to catch (and release) four of them. Congratulations Harry!
The king mackerel bite continues to be pretty strong. The kings are being caught from the piers out to the rocks and wrecks in roughly 80 feet of water. The larger kings are scattered, but there are some real smokers around. Several fishermen have done well around the inlets and last weekend there was a good bite at the usual rocks east of Cape Lookout.
Spanish mackerel fishing has been a bit hit-or-miss, but has been good at times. Several days the pier fishermen had very good catches. The best time has been early morning, with late afternoon a reasonable second. The fish seen jumping during the middle of the day usually aren't biting well, but can sometimes be coaxed into feeding by downsizing lures or switching to live finger mullet for baits.
The pier fishing is pretty typical for the heat of the summer, except for a pretty consistent king mackerel bite. Spanish mackerel fishing is sometimes good early and late. Some pods of tarpon have been seen rolling near the ends of the piers, but I haven't had a report of one being hooked or landed yet.
The key word there is yet. It will happen and maybe this week. The flounder catch is picking up a little and more are keepers. Other fish being caught from the piers include pompano, black drum, bluefish and spots.
I continue to get varying reports from inshore fishermen, but I have seen some good catches and I think it is fairly good. Flounder catches are improving. There have been some nice catches, with limits of fish all heavier than two pounds. Some of the better places have been around bridges, along the edges of the sand bars in the inlets, at creek mouths in the marshes and at the nearshore reefs. The drop along the edge of the Turning Basin at the State Port is also usually a productive flounder spot.
The water is too hot, but there have been some outstanding speckled trout catches in the deeper sections of the marshes, creeks and even a ways up the Neuse River. Live shrimp are almost failsafe, but pinfish and many other bait thieves like them also. Many fishermen are reporting their best substitute for live shrimp is soft plastic shrimp shapes and some are doing well with topwater baits.
There are mixed size red drum spread through most coastal marshes and creeks. They aren't in big groups during the summer, but if you catch a few in an area, more may be just a short distance down the bank or across the bar. Drum are sensitive to the heat and often hold in the shade under docks, so don't overlook them. It's time for the big drum to be arriving in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound. The shoals off Cedar Island are good places to find large drum.
If you want to have some fun, head out one evening after ladyfish. These athletic little cousins of tarpon are prolific feeders and acrobatic speedsters. They tend to gather under the lights of a large dock or bridge at night and feed on shrimp being swept by in the current. Live shrimp, on a bare hook with no weight, are the best bait for ladyfish.
Captain Vaughn Ford and the crew of the Crazy Legs claimed the win at last weekend's Carteret County Sportfishing Association/Boater's World King Mackerel Tournament with a 43.60 pound king. The Release and Runaway tied for the win at the Hatteras Grand Slam tournament last weekend with 600 points each. The Runaway was awarded the win based on the earlier time of their last catch.
This weekend's tournaments include the Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament (www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com or 252-808-2286) in Beaufort, the Dare County Boat builders Challenge (www.piratescovetournaments.com or 252-473-1015) and the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series NC Division Tournament 1 (www.flwoutdoors.com) or 270-252-1000) in Southport.