Wow, when the heat decided to break last weekend, it did it in style, didn't it? I was on Ocracoke and understand we didn't get exactly the same show some folks did, but we got an impressive natural fireworks display and plenty of rain. I didn't particularly care for the lightning, but the cooler breezes that came after it were certainly welcome.
Of course it didn't take very long to warm back up again! I spent Wednesday on the Neuse River chasing tarpon (rather unsuccessfully) and it was hot and still. The only relief was the air blowing by when we moved from spot to spot. I was out with Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service and we saw a few rolling, but couldn't get them to bite. It was really frustrating. We did catch a surprise 39.5 inch red drum, which Beckwith measured and tagged, then eased back into the water.
This week we had two storm systems pop up very rapidly. Tropical Storm Erin has been dumping lots of rain on Texas as I write this and it appears Hurricane Dean will be working its way westward across the Yucatan Peninsula and possibly the Texas coast. I cringe a little every time the tropical weather stirs up and we are about to enter one of the time frames that is typically one of the most active for tropical systems that head our way.
The winds might be a little gusty early this weekend, but look to be getting more back in line by late Saturday and Sunday. Today (Friday) should be the most blustery day, so keep an eye on the weather and pick your best day for fishing.
The tarpon and old drum bite in the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound continues to plug along pretty well. As I noted earlier, our tarpon trip was slow, but that can change instantly if a pod of hungry fish find your baits. The old drum are biting well, with most folks catching several each evening.
There is also a very good speckled trout, flounder and puppy drum bite going on along the banks and in the creeks along the Neuse River. We slipped up into one a little ways and could see the reason. There were shrimp finning and popping across much of the small creek. There were also some loud splashes as several of the more foolish shrimp became dinner for some hungry pups and specks.
The good billfish bite continued this week and maybe even got a little better. The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament is this week and fishing days extend through Friday. The Thursday results weren't posted when I checked, but as of the end of fishing on Wednesday there have been 208 billfish caught and all were released. That number includes 30 blue marlin, 128 white marlin and 50 sailfish.
When the water is this warm and bait is abundant, sailfish may be caught almost anywhere in the ocean. There are numerous reports every week of sails being caught from within sight of the beach out to the Gulf Stream.
The dolphin bite has slowed a little, but good catches are being reported every day. While a few have been caught just offshore of the sea buoys, the more consistent dolphin action begins at about 60 feet deep and improves out to about 100 feet. In the deeper parts there are also good numbers of wahoo. The better wahoo reports are coming from the general areas of the Atlas Tanker and 14 Buoy and many are surprising the live bait king mackerel fishermen.
Even with the water bordering on hot, the king mackerel bite is strong and getting better. There are kings on most of the artificial reefs, rocks and wrecks along the entire coast and some big fall kings have arrived east of Cape Lookout a little early. Kings are also being caught from the piers.
Spanish mackerel catches continue to vary. There are some excellent catches on lures very early in the morning, but by the time the sun gets up in the sky a little, the smaller Spanish only want small glass minnows and the larger Spanish usually only respond to live baits. Finger mullet and 4-5 inch menhaden have been the preferred Spanish baits and have produced numerous citation size (6 pounds) Spanish.
Even with Bogue Inlet Pier reporting 89 degree water on Tuesday, pier fishing is pretty good and with a variety of species. There was an 88 pound tarpon caught at Bogue Inlet Pier this week, plus several kings, large Spanish and a few Hatteras blues. More keeper flounder were caught also and that should continue to improve. Other fish being caught from the piers include pompano, red drum, black drum, smaller blues, sea mullet and sharks.
This week I heard several fishermen lamenting over the small numbers of flounder this year. Their questions were concentrating on whether it was a cyclic decline or a backlash from past overfishing. They agreed on only two points--Flounder fishing was as slow as they could remember it, but the number of shorts was declining. The wall at the Morehead City Port, AR 315, AR 342, Snows Cut, Carolina Beach Inlet, Southport Waterfront, AR 420 and ASR 425 were the hotspots for the week.
As I reported earlier, there is a surprisingly good speckled trout bite--especially considering the water temperature. Holes in creek mouths and around oyster bars are great places to find trout. They will also hold in indentations and holes along the bank. If you see shrimp fleeing across the water's surface; that is a place you should stop and cast a few times.
Puppy drum catches are being reported from well back in the creeks to the surf. They often concentrate in current lines just inside the inlets and right now that water is a little cooler, especially when the tide is rising. Drum will also patrol oyster bars and creek mouths while searching for bait schools to ambush.
Congratulations to Bert and Margaret Ferebee of the Second Catch for winning the Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament. With the windy weather last weekend, the tournament committee allowed participants to select either Saturday or Sunday as their fishing day and the Ferebees took advantage of the lighter seas to find their 44.09 pound king on Sunday.
The Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament (www.piratescovetournaments.com or 252-473-1015), which is the final event in the 2007 Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, will conclude later today (Friday). The tournament listing does not show another N.C. tournament for this weekend, but area fishermen are on the road fishing king mackerel tournaments in South Carolina and Mississippi.