Man, we have had a couple of pretty mornings in a row and the winds are forecast to be reasonably calm through the weekend. In fact, they are forecast to be northerly, easterly and the temperatures should drop back into the mid 80s. It will almost seem like a cool wave and we better be prepared to take advantage if the actual weather matches the forecast. Many folks are excited about fishing this weekend and they should be.
It's so nice to finally have a couple of nice days. The onslaught of wind was affecting everything and wearing fishermen down. Most of the fishing reports from near the ocean beaches were a little slow, but there was some surprisingly good news from the piers, especially Bogue Inlet Pier. Two kings were landed at Bogue Inlet Pier and three tarpon were fought for a while before throwing the hooks and making their own early releases.
Other fish caught from the piers included Spanish macks, plus some bluefish and a good mixture of bottom feeders. Sea mullet led the bottom feeder catches which also included pompano, flounder, spots, red drum, black drum and a few sheepshead. As soon as the wind slackens and the water clears, the kings should return and there may be more tarpon attempting to steal baits from pier fishermen.
There were a few short breaks in the wind between last Thursday and now, but one fisherman said they were traps just to get fishermen out in the ocean before the winds picked back up and beat on them. A few king mackerel are being caught and that should pick up this weekend with decent weather and a tournament to get fishermen spread across the area.
The good dolphin bite that has been so strong from just out of sight of land out to the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream was scattered by those two weeks of southwest wind. After a few more days of calmer weather, the ocean should clean up and the weed lines begin to reform. The good dolphin fishing should return at that time. Sailfish were mixed with the dolphin and kings from 40 to 100 feet of water prior to this stretch of gusty winds and many experienced fishermen expect them to still be there once the fishermen get back out.
Spanish mackerel have been the saving grace of the past couple of weeks. There have been days the ocean conditions were too rough for smaller boats to pass through inlets to fish for them and they came inside. The Spanish have come through Beaufort Inlet to Middle Marsh and the Atlantic Beach Bridge and all through the Hook at Cape Lookout, plus through Bogue Inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway and up the Cape Fear River to the ferry crossing.
Size 0 or 00 Clarkspoons are the hot lures for Spanish and they should be trolled behind planers or trolling sinkers to get them below the surface where they can be seen--and eaten. Smaller live pogies are also excellent Spanish mackerel baits, especially for larger ones, but should be fished while anchored or moving very slowly.
The wind has been wreaking havoc with the inshore fishing also. There have been a few days when the inshore sounds and rivers had a definite white look from all the whitecaps. When the wind is puffing that hard, sometimes even sheltered water is difficult to fish. The wind pushes the boat around at anchor and keeps it swinging, which makes it difficult to feel bites and it is impossible to pole against the wind. The wind occasionally helps blow a boat across a flooded flat, but has been so strong most of the time it is blowing the boat too fast to fish well.
The speckled trout bite has been pretty slow, but there have been short flurries of action right after sunrise and occasionally again just before sunset. When this happens, the fish will usually chase topwater lures and the explosive strike of hitting topwater lures helps make the fishing more exciting.
Drum seem to almost always be feeding if you can find them. They will hit a variety of lures, including some of the same topwater lures as trout, plus various cut baits and most live baits. Shallow marshes have been the hot ticket for pups most of the time, but the full moon high tides flooded numerous flats and allowed the drum to move up on them to chase fiddler crabs, shrimp and minnows. If seeing spotted tails wagging on a flooded flat doesn't get your blood pressure up and your adrenaline peaking, you should schedule a visit with your doctor immediately. You may be seriously ill and not know it yet.
Flounder have been the most consistent of the inshore fish for the past couple of weeks. There have been days when limits were caught and days that only a few were keepers. The edges of the channel inside the hook at Cape Lookout has been a good spot for flatfish as have the walls at the State Port in Morehead City and around the supports along the railroad bridge from Morehead City to Radio Island. Farther south, Snows cut and the lower Cape Fear River have also been holding lots of flounder. Unfortunately, many of the flounder being caught are shorts and must be released.
I worked the North Myrtle Beach Saltwater Classic this weekend in North Myrtle Beach and had the privilege of meeting Jim Gardiner of Compmillennia (www.compmillennia.com) in Washington, N.C. Compmillennia builds and provides engineering support for construction projects and processes using advanced composite materials. Jim, who is a former owner of Egret Boats and has done plug and mold work for several prominent boat builders, has a solid background in boatbuilding and one of the in-house Compmillennia projects is building a 6.7 meter (22 feet) high performance catamaran he hopes will be welcomed into the fishing community.
Jim's in-laws live near me and while we had spoken on the phone several times and exchanged e-mails, we had never met. Those of you, who know me, know I've never been a big fan of performance catamaran powerboats and every time he mentioned catamaran, my mind closed like the rusty steel trap it is. On Saturday morning, Jim took me for a ride I won't soon forget. We didn't do anything foolish, but he proved to me there is one performance catamaran that will do what the boat builder says it will.
The Compmillennia 6.7 Catamaran is an impressive boat. It rides much longer than 22 feet and the open deck configuration provides more fishing room than most boats a half dozen or more feet larger.
Performance is impressive too! With a pair of Suzuki 175 four stroke outboards the 6.7 will easily top out in excess of 50 MPH, yet cruise at 30 to 35 while sipping regular fuel. The boat stays extremely flat in all situations and only has a couple of inches of bow rise when accelerating from idle to plane, which it does in short order. It is extremely stable and we gave it a pretty good little test in the ocean too. It handled and ran impressively into a head sea, down sea and in side to and angling courses. I'm probably going to have to take back some things I said about performance catamarans in the past, but Jim will have to bring his demo back a few times, so I can continue with my analysis--just to be sure.
You can check out the Compmillennia 6.7 Catamaran at www.compmillennia.com.
There was some humor to our morning cruise too. Jim's demo is a highly polished metallic silver gray that has a definite military or SWAT look. Because he uses it for demonstrations, he keeps a speed gun on board. The speed gun, which is one like baseball scouts use to clock a pitcher's speed, looks much like a handheld radar and boy does it get responses like one too!
We were in the Intracoastal Waterway between Little River Inlet and the Hwy. 17 Bridge at North Myrtle Beach and there are a couple of No-Wake Zones there. Several times Jim was focusing on non-moving objects to calibrate the speed gun so we could use it and we noticed all the boats around us were quickly dropping from their "a little quick" speeds back to absolute idle speed. I can only guess they thought we were Marine Patrol or some other waterway enforcement vessel and clocking their speeds in preparation for an expensive No-Wake Zone ticket.
The only fisheries meeting on the current August schedule is the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission meeting that is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, August 11 to 13 in Wilmington. The agenda is available on-line and there are times set aside for public comments at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday evening and 9:15 A.M. Thursday morning. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net.
A Military Appreciation Day (MAD) event has been scheduled for Saturday September 11, at Oak Island. This event is a smaller version of the MAD event held in June at Fort Macon. Fishermen and boats to carry military participants and volunteers to prepare and serve food are needed. For more information and to volunteer, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The Masters King Mackerel Tournament scheduled for Saturday, July 24 in Atlantic Beach, was postponed indefinitely. The postponement was due to a health issue in the promoter's family. When it is rescheduled, the dates will be listed in this column. For more information call 252-269-5165.
The North Myrtle Beach Saltwater Classic was held Friday and Saturday, July 23 and 24, from Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach. This was the seventh of eleven tournaments in the 2010 Saltwater Classic Series and was also sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association. Ten of the Saltwater Classic Series events feature a king mackerel tournament and a redfish tournament from the same site on the same day. The Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament is one of these events and features two days of king mackerel fishing rather than a redfish tournament to accompany the king mackerel tournament.
Team Fin Chaser, with Capt. Todd Streeter and Darrin Strickland of Southport and Oak Island won the redfish tournament. Strickland said they decided to fish in N.C. waters and the hardest thing to do was to catch fish that fit the smaller measurements of the combined N.C. and S.C. slot limit sizes to take to the scales. North Carolina's slot is 18 to 27 inches and South Carolina's slot is 15 to 23 inches. By fishing in N.C. waters, Strickland and Streeter further limited themselves to fish that were in a five inch slot from 18 to 23 inches and legal in both states. They released a lot of fish that were legal in one state or the other, but persevered to find the right ones and capture the winner's trophy.
King mackerel fishermen weren't limited by an upper size, but were limited by the rough ocean conditions. In spite of the seas, three of the top five boats were competitors from the 23 and Under Class. The Miles Away, with Capt. Jason Miles of Charleston was the Top Boat Overall and in the Cass of 23. Their fish weighed 29.35 and also earned Top Youth Angler honors for Junior Miles.
Another Class of 23 Boat was second. The 2 Dogs, with Capt. James Dawkins weighed a 27.78 pound king early and held the lead until the Miles Away crew arrived at the scales. The Dirty Work, with Capt Joe Wells and crew finally broke the little boats stranglehold with a third place overall and a Top Lady Angler award for Amanda Wirth. The Dirty Work's fish weighed 27.26 pounds. For more information on this tournament, the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament, or any of the other Saltwater Classic tournaments, visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The Queen of Kings Pier King Tournament was held Friday through Sunday (July 23-25) on Ocean Crest Pier. King mackerel, Spanish mackerel and bluefish were the eligible species and the ocean stayed stirred up enough only Spanish and bluefish were caught.
Shortly before the tournament ended Sunday afternoon, Missy Passmore landed a 3 pound, 11 ounce Spanish mackerel to take the lead she would not relinquish and earn a winners prize package valued at more than $1,500. Wanda Johnson was who Passmore bumped from the lead but she only slipped one spot. Her 2 pound, 5 ounce Spanish mackerel finished in second place. Carrie Seay placed third with a 1 pound, 10 ounce Spanish caught earlier in the tournament. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
Tournament three of Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder Series was scheduled for Saturday, July 24, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. The proceeds from the Top Dog Flounder Series benefit the less fortunate children of Brunswick County at Christmas. Unfortunately, due to a persistent southwest wind that hadn't broken for about 10 days, the tournament was postponed and not rescheduled. The Top Dog Flounder Series will continue with the tournament scheduled for August 28. For more information visit http://topdoginc.weebly.com or call Capt. Jimmy at 910-457-9903.
A big handful of saltwater tournaments ranging from kayaks to the Gulf Stream are scheduled for this week and weekend along the N.C. Coast. The 22nd Annual Ducks Unlimited "Band The Billfish" Tournament will be held Friday and Saturday, July 30 and 31, from the Morehead City Waterfront. This is the sixth of seven NC Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series tournaments for 2010. For more information visit www.bandthebillfish.com.
The 26th Annual Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament will be held Saturday, July 31, from Jaycee Park on the Morehead City Waterfront. This is a Southern Kingfish Association sanctioned tournament. For more information visit www.rswsc.org.
The 18th Annual Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, July 31 and August 1, from Whittaker Pointe Marina in Oriental. This is an all release tournament. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org.
The TJM Celebrity Charity Kayak Tournament will be held Saturday from Hook Line and Paddle Kayaks in Wilmington. Fishing will be allowed from Topsail to Bald Head and up the Cape Fear River to River Road Park. Proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the North Carolina Alzheimer's Association. The tournament will feature prizes for the inshore species of speckled trout, red drum and flounder. For more information visit www.hooklineandpaddle.com.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Classic will be held this week from Wrightsville Marina in Wrightsville Beach. Friday and Saturday, July 30 and 31, will be the fishing days. For more information call 910-540-2464.
The Cape Fear Flounder Classic will be held from Southport Marina, with fishing on Saturday, July 31. This tournament is being held by the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce and will feature guaranteed prize money, just like the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament. For more information, visit www.southport-oakisland.com.