Could it actually be a little cooler outside? I believe it is and the humidity has fallen a little also. It surely didn't come any too soon. The heat wave we have been experiencing for the past several weeks had fishermen asking for their worst enemy, some wind, to help cool them off. Let's enjoy this while we have it--it may well get hot again.
I'm writing this a little early this week, so the weekend forecast is a few days farther out and a little more iffy than usual. The forecast doesn't look too bad though. The temps should be cooler, the humidity lower and the winds not blowing too badly. We may have a little rain, but that is a reasonable trade-off.
I went fishing with Capt. Chris Bellamy on Monday behind Topsail Island. Other than the heat, we had a slight problem with the fish. We were working through the shallows in the marsh after drum and for a while had to settle for catching flounder. I know, it's a tough problem, but we managed to work through it.
Most of the flounder were in water less than knee deep and all were less than waist deep. The bait of choice was 3-inch Gulp shrimp in white, natural, molting, and new penny colors and the 4-inch Gulp curltail minnow in several darker colors. The drum bite was better after lunch and we attributed it to them having fed Sunday night by the light of the full moon.
The report for several weeks has been for good inshore flounder and drum fishing. It certainly was good on Monday. The sunburn, from not stopping to apply extra coatings of sunscreen, was almost worth the pain.
Some of the best flounder reports have been from fishermen targeting the nearshore ocean artificial reefs. We didn't try them, but we didn't need to. The reefs have been giving up lots of nice flounders and should continue. There have also been pretty consistent flounder catches along the edges of the channels leading to the inlets.
Red drum have been biting pretty well all summer and are usually fairly easy to pattern. They typically move into the shallow areas in the marshes as the tide rises and then retreat to the deeper channels as the tide falls. Monday they bit better as they were moving back into the marsh on the rising tide.
There is some occasional good activity in the surf and just beyond, but the pier catches have slowed some during the hot spell. There are some nice fish being caught occasionally, but the bite hasn't been consistent, except for late afternoon and early evening usually being slightly better. The pier catches have been mostly Spanish, bluefish and flounder, with some pompano, drum, spadefish, sheepshead, small sharks, and a few sea mullet.
The pier king bite slowed this week. I only received one report of a king from a pier. There have been a few tarpon hooked, but no report of one being landed from a pier yet.
The tarpon and large red drum bite is happening in the Pamlico Sound and lower Neuse River. One of the favorite locations has been just off Swan and Raccoon Islands, between the Neuse River entrance and Cedar Island. The tarpon are typically off the islands, in the deeper water during the day and the big red drum come close to the islands to feed in the evenings. If you make this trip, take plenty of good insect repellent and sunscreen.
There have been some good catches of Spanish mackerel, but they have mostly been early in the day. With the sun up in they sky they seem to get lockjaw. A few fishermen can cast well enough to reach the Spanish while surf fishing, but the better catches have come from pier fishermen and the best catches from fishermen in boats.
We finally had good weather for the king mackerel tournaments and the anglers took advantage of it. Two of the three king tournaments were won by kings of 41 pounds and there were many more only slightly smaller. The hot spots last weekend were still similar to the past several weeks, with the addition of the 4-Mile Rock off Drum Inlet and the Cape Fear River Channel.
While it still isn't bad, the incredible billfish bite of the last several weeks has slowed a little. Maybe it is due to the full moon? Perhaps the billfish bite will surge again as we move towards the final quarter. The dolphin bite is hot again, and more wahoo have been caught over the past week. The offshore boats are also catching an occasional king or tuna.
Congratulations are in order for several skippers and crews who excelled during last weekend's tournaments. Capt. Kenneth Wilkins and the crew of the Miss Geri won the Raleigh Salt Water Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament with a 41.80 pound king. In the Long Bay Lady Anglers Tournament, Valerie Wallace, fishing on the Showtime, paced the ladies with a 41.94 pounder. The Low Profile crew claimed the win at the Island Harbor Marina KenCraft King Mackerel Tournament with a 32.42 pound king.
There are several tournaments again this weekend and they cover the spectrum from flounder to billfish. The Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament (www.sneadsferrykmt.com or 910-327-3953) will be in Sneads Ferry. The Southport Marina Flounder Tournament (910-279-0971) will be in Southport. The Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Memorial Billfish Tournament and the Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament (www.piratescovetournaments.com or 1-800-422-3610) will be at Manteo. The Alice Kelly Ladies Tournament will be over the weekend and the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament will begin on Monday and fish next week.