It sure has been hot for the past several weeks. I'm not sure why they call this the Dog Days of summer----even my dogs are trying to avoid the heat. Finally this morning there was a little cooler air moving around. Hopefully it is a sign that the heat is about to break and we can move on to some good fall fishing. It won't be any too soon either.
Red drum are still the number one player here. Keep a sharp eye out for spotted tails along marsh edges, oyster bars, and grassy flats. On high tides and especially the full moon high tides, they will often move up into the flooded marsh grass, searching for the crabs, shrimp, and minnows that usually hide there. Top water plugs, gold spoons, and an assortment of plastics will help you make quick contact. There are also some large red drum around the mouth of the Neuse River and in the Pamlico Sound. These fish, which prefer an offering of fresh bait, run from about 40 inches on up. Use circle hooks, bring them to the boat quickly, remove the hook or cut the leader with a minimum of handling, and release them in good condition for survival. Remember, only 1 red drum per day between 18 and 27 inches may be kept. It doesn't hurt to release them all.
There are still enough hungry stripers around Manteo and Manns Harbor to keep fishermen smiling. Favorite spots have been around the bridges. This is catch and release fishing only---don't keep one. Some fair striper reports are also coming from Belhaven, Washington, and New Bern. These aren't big fish, just hungry smaller ones. Early mornings, late evenings, and heavily overcast days are the best time to go. Check the regulations before you go, but generally in these areas you can keep 3, with a minimum length of 18 inches.
To the south, flounder fishing is slowly getting better. There have been some very good catches of flounder in the Morehead City, Swansboro, Carolina Beach and Southport areas. There doesn't seem to be as many 10 pounders as most years, but there are a fair number of 4 to 6 pounders.
Especially in the Eastern Pamlico Sound and Hatteras areas, a few fishermen are still catching some speckled trout. They can be pretty finicky and hard to find in this heat. Very early mornings and late afternoons are usually the times when the trout are most active. While many soft plastics and topwater baits are working to some degree, live shrimp get their appetites fired up best.
Some of the inshore guides are reporting catching some gray trout in the sound north of Buxton. Remember, we have some new gray trout regulations. The absolute minimum size is 12 inches. If any gray trout in your creel is under 14 inches, then you may only have 4. If all the gray trout in your creel are over 14 inches, then you may keep 10.
Several times already this summer there have been some kings caught at the NC State Ports Dock and Fuel Terminal in Morehead City. The largest was 42 pounds, but several in the 20's and 30's have been reported. If it's rough or you have a small boat, this is an alternative to not going fishing. It's happened before and it will happen again.
Surf and Pier
Things are slow on the piers right now, but when the wind blows from the southwest and muddies up the water, the bottom fishing part of pier fishing appears to be better. Some summer spots, flounder, sea mullet (whiting), bluefish, pompano, a few black and red drum, blowfish, sharks, and skates are making up the bulk of the catch. There are some spanish mackerel around, but generally they prefer those days when the water is clean. Even then, the best time is usually early morning or late afternoon.
With the onslaught of the "Dog Days of Summer" king fishing from the piers has slowed quite a bit. Every day, more baitfish are moving along the beaches, so it is just a matter of WHEN that action will pick back up. There have been some hungry jack crevalle prowling the beaches and they have tried to take the place of the kings. If you like pier fishing, check out the article in the September Carolina Adventure Magazine about big game fishing from the piers. You will probably be surprised with some of the catches.
While the bluefish have slowed down some, there are still some schools of spanish mackerel along most of the NC coast. These spanish mackerel and bluefish are hitting a variety of trolled spoons and casting lures. The excessive heat tends to make the spanish get rather finicky. What really helps is to downsize your tackle and lures when the spanish get finicky and keep on catching them.
Just like on the piers, the king fishing in nearshore waters has slowed dramatically. The king mack attack of several weeks ago has all but disappeared. I am certain that there are still some kings near the beach, but the extreme heat, very warm water, and several other factors we don't understand have just given them temporary lockjaw. They will break loose again soon and with a vengeance.
Bottom bouncers have been doing well with sea bass, grunts, snapper and a few grouper. Right now this might be the best area to look for a limit of kings. They aren't everywhere, but there are still some concentrations of small to medium size kings in these depths. A few big ones will probably be mixed in also. The smaller dolphin have moved in here in good numbers also. Anchoring or drifting, with a light line out the back could add a king or dolphin to your bottomfish catch. Don't be surprised to find a wildly jumping sailfish on the business end of your line either. They have been surprising quite a few fishermen in this depth range.
I'm going to include this with the mid depths because the water there is only 50 to 60 feet deep. The African Pompano have finally made a good showing at Frying Pan Tower. Their favorite bait is a frisky live menhaden. They have been biting all the way from just off the bottom to the surface. Your live bait king outfits will do a good job catching them.
There are still some yellowfin tuna being caught along the coast, with the best catches being from the Big Rock to the north. However, dolphin are outnumbering them in most catches. A wahoo or two are also present in many catches and sometimes even a king or two. The Point, south of Oregon Inlet, has been holding some nice bigeye tuna for several weeks now. Many of these fish are in the 100 pound range or over and will test even the heaviest tackle.
The annual white marlin blitz off Oregon Inlet got off to a pretty good start last week. Boats in the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament caught, tagged, and released 235 of them. This action should peak around the September full moon and continue for several weeks after that.
Potential Record Catches
There is still no word on the two blackfin tuna catches that were submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record.
A pair of potential state record spadefish have been caught off Southport. One is just a an ounce or two more than the existing record of 8 pounds and 2 ounces and the other is almost a pound larger.
The certification process for a catch to become a state record involves pictures, positive identification, certified scale verification, and more paperwork, which is not yet complete on either.
As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.