The dog days of summer have been around for several weeks now. As I write this, we are in another cycle of cooler but wet weather. Maybe this one is the real forerunner of cooling weather, cooling water, and great fall fishing. The surf temperature has dropped a few degrees over the past week or so and activity has seemed to pick up a little. The next few weeks will bring the change into fall and we need to be ready, because it might take off at any time.
While flounder are still a large part of the inshore catch right now, red drum and speckled trout are becoming more common every day. The drum are spread out along all of the coast and range from the shallows of creeks, into flooded marshes, and to the depths of the sounds. A live finger mullet on a small bucktail or jig head is living on borrowed time if you are in the right place. If you prefer artificials, gold spoons, such as the Johnson Spoons, and curltail grubs are generally the best bet.
Speckled trout action has been slowly improving along the entire Carolina Coast. The edges of Pamlico Sound have been the most consistent producers, but that is slowly changing. If you can work a Mirrolure, the trout will reward you by striking. Otherwise, one of the soft plastics will probably serve you best. I really like the versatility of curltail grubs. A point to remember is that a good trout hole doesn't have to be deep, just deeper than the water around it.
In the lower Neuse River, some large drum are still being caught in the late afternoons and nights. Points with drop-offs are great locations to try your luck. A big chunk of fresh natural bait, fished on a fish finder rig, is the prime tackle for these big bulls. Fight them hard and quick, so you can release them in good condition.
Surf and Pier
Flounder had been being the most prevalent catch, but they are slowly being replaced by spots, trout, and whiting . In Brunswick County, below the Cape Fear River, there have been some excellent catches of speckled trout. The secret is live shrimp, fished just off the bottom, in the very early morning and very late afternoon.
The piers have also been catching some kings and larger spanish mackerel out near the ends. As the water cools and the mullet, spots, and such begin migrating south, this action should really pick up. Downsize your rigs and try some 6 to 7 inch finger mullet to catch some large spanish mackerel.
The huge amounts of sargassum weed have finally just about cleared out of the inshore waters. Some larger kings have finally moved into their normal areas around the Cape Fear River, Dead Tree Hole, and Cape Lookout. There are still some doormat flounder lying around many of the inshore artificial reefs. There is an interesting article in the September Carolina Adventure regarding using a Cyalume chemical lightstick on a flounder rig. I would suggest that you check it out. It is still a little too warm for the whiting and gray trout to move in.
This has been the most consistent fishing area for a while now. Starting at about 60 feet and going out to about 100 feet, there has been a mixture of kings, dolphin, sailfish, wahoo, and even a few lost tuna. Most of the fish are being caught by fishermen that are slow trolling live bait, however, cigar minnows, ballyhoo, and even a varied assortment of lures are also working. As the water cools and the bait concentrates around the wrecks, rocks, and other structure in these depths, the fishing should get even better. That will most likely be late this month or even next month. The weather will be the deciding factor.
This section of water has changed the least since my last report. There does seem to be more larger dolphin than a few weeks ago, although there are still a lot of bailers in the catch
While dolphin continue to be the largest part of the offshore catch, some others are working their way back into it. A late summer visit of 40 to 60 pound yellowfin tuna has been a real treat. The majority have been from the Big Rock to the north, but boats around the Steeples and Blackjack Hole have also caught a few.
In the past few days more wahoo have shown up in the daily reports. Elsewhere the wahoo seem to be moving to the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream and sometimes even inshore of that. More and more are being caught accidentally by king mackerel fishermen, as they move about searching for food.
It's time for the white marlin blitz off the northern Outer Banks. There was a fair showing around the August full moon, but the September full moon should be better. It is coming up on Wednesday, September 13. If you have a desire to tackle one of these speedy smaller marlin, now is the time to do it. They can cover a lot of water in a day, but most of the Outer Banks marinas and tackle shops can give you up to the minute information.
I have an article about the where's and when's of king mackerel fishing, that is in the September "Carolina Adventure" Magazine. The information covers years of fishing and making notes. Get one and check it out. It should help shorten the learning curve by a fair amount.