With the exception of the lines of nasty thunderstorms that rocked much of the N.C. coast at times last weekend the conditions were good for fishing. Saturday was an incredibly calm day, except when we were dodging lightning bolts, and Sunday was almost as nice. There have been several excellent days during the week also.
If you haven't noticed, we usually have pretty good reports when the weather is good and this one shouldn't disappoint anyone. If the weather is nice, more folks are out looking for fish and when more people are looking, there are better odds of more people catching.
The upcoming weekend looks to be another nice one too. After having a light easterly breeze on Friday, the wind will stay light, with the forecast for the entire weekend at 10 knots or less until one 10-15 knot segment shows along the far southern coast on Monday. There is a slight chance of showers and that ever-present threat of afternoon thunderstorms, but overall the weather forecast is very good.
I am hearing good things from the Pamlico Sound and lower Neuse River regarding tarpon and large red drum. If you have never fished for either, both are quite exciting, but the drum don't jump. Typically the tarpon bite better during the day and the drum begin nibbling in the late afternoon and continue into the evening.
I had an unexpected meeting with a pretty large tarpon last Saturday while fishing a king mackerel tournament. The tarpon, which we estimated to be approximately 100 pounds, took a liking to one of the live pogies we were trolling and absconded with it. The run was real exciting until the big fish jumped. It went about 150 yards before taking a leap. When it went airborne, it rolled on the line and quickly chafed it in two after landing, but the adrenaline rush held on for a few minutes.
If you are fishing offshore in the ocean, the big news continues to be the exceptionally good billfish bite. There are sailfish being caught from just off the beach and marlin working the cooler eddies along the Gulf Stream. I didn't hear of a grand slam (a blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish on the same trip) this week and that might actually be more surprising than hearing about them for the past several weeks.
The dolphin bite remains hot and heavy from about 60 feet deep out to the Gulf Stream, with a few being caught within sight of land almost daily. Most of the closer-in dolphin are smaller, but there are good numbers of gaffers and larger. A few wahoo are also being caught in the same general areas as the dolphin and sailfish.
The king mackerel bite continues to be strong. There are some large fish being caught pretty consistently, but only a few huge fish. The first of those really big kings make it in before Labor Day Weekend, but should arrive in numbers shortly after. Kings are being caught from the piers out to about 100 feet deep.
The reports on Spanish mackerel are very mixed. Some fishermen are finding them consistently and others are having difficulty. I have seen more catches of larger Spanish and the fishermen are targeting them differently. Sure, some Spanish will be caught by the traditional method of trolling spoons behind planers and trolling sinkers, but most of them will be smaller fish.
The fishermen who are slow trolling mullet minnows and smaller menhaden or anchoring near the reefs and using smaller baits on light lines or under balloons have been catching some nice Spanish. The pier fishermen have also been reporting some occasional good Spanish catches. The best time has been early morning, with late afternoon a reasonable second.
It's hard to say the pier fishing is slow, with the catches of kings and occasional tarpon, but the heat is affecting the intensity and variety of the catch. The flounder bite is slowly improving in both numbers and the percentage of keepers, but the bite is slower than the same time in past years. Other fish being caught from the piers include pompano, black drum, bluefish and spots.
Inshore flounder catches are also slowly improving, but behind recent years. 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. Several nice flounder have come from the port wall at the Morehead City State Port and AR 315.
Surprisingly good trout catches are coming from some of the deeper holes in the marshes and creeks. Two spots constantly being mentioned are the Haystacks in the Newport River and the thoroughfare in the North River. Some excellent trout reports are coming from the creeks off the Neuse River from The Bay River to Northwest Creek.
Pods of various size red drum spread through most coastal marshes and creeks. They appear to be staging in year classes as one spot will be mostly underslot fish, while another may be mostly slot-size or overslot fish.
There have already been some good reports of big drum biting well in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound. That fishery usually begins by the July full moon, which was Monday, and lasts until the water cools or a barrage of fresh water pushes them out of the sound.
For the first time in several weeks, the winner of the Ducks Unlimited Band the Billfish tournament didn't need to be decided by a tiebreaker. However, second and third places were decided by breaking the tie. Congratulations to Captain Elson Myers and the crew of the Outer Limits, who released 4 sailfish to win the tournament.
Captain Daniel Lee and the crew of the Magic Marlin snagged a 34 pound king mackerel to claim the win at the Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament. Phil Ambler released 3 tarpon to capture the win at the Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament.
This weekend's tournaments include the Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament (www.rswsc.org or 919-833-2800) in Atlantic Beach, the Island Harbor KenCraft King Mackerel Tournament (252-354-3324) in Emerald Isle and the Long Bay Lady Anglers King Mackerel Tournament (www.oakislandfishingclub.net or 910-845-4827) in Oak Island.