While it began last week over1500 miles away, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isodore was the major weather maker for the latter part of last week. Thankfully, it followed a more western track than forecast and all we experienced on the coast was a little rain and some Small Craft Advisory weather. We do have Tropical Storm Kyle still wandering around out in the mid Atlantic, sending some swells to our east facing beaches and creating undertows. Numerous surf rescues and several drownings are attributed to this.
The other storm, Tropical Storm/Hurricane Lili, has finally chosen a path into the Gulf of Mexico, rather than up the east coast of Florida. While we get a chance to relax during this fertile hurricane season, Lili appears to be headed just a little west of where Isidore made landfall last week. At mid-week the winds look to be excellent for fishing. Then later in the week, a front pushes in and stirs things up. The long-range forecast is for the weekend to be rougher from Morehead City to the north and somewhat calmer along the southern NC coast.
It is important that everyone know that the minimum size for flounder caught in inside waters increased to 14 inches on October 1. There still is no limit on the number an individual can keep. Flounder have been available in good numbers, both in the inland waters and in the ocean. However, there is a very high percentage of "shorts" (undersize fish) in the catch. The ocean waters have more restrictive regulations, which include a 15-1/2 inch minimum length and a possession limit of 8 per person.
The king mackerel have moved in to the beaches! From the Hook at Cape Hatteras to the Brunswick County inlets, there have been excellent king mackerel catches during the past week. Even on some of the rougher days, the fishermen still were able to go fishing because the kings were so close. Congratulations to Tim Newton and the crew of the Deal King for winning this past weekend's Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament, out of Emerald Isle. The HOOK king mackerel tournament, from Oak Island, was rescheduled to October 25 and 26.
Look for some big kings to be caught this weekend. The US Open King Mackerel Tournament will be held from Southport Marina in Southport. This tournament, which began in the late 70's, annually attracts over 500 boats and is often referred to as the "Granddaddy of NC king mackerel tournaments". There is over $100,000 in cash Primary Prizes for the 55 largest king mackerel, plus numerous cash Secondary Prizes. Two things that set the US Open apart from other tournaments is that all the prizes are cash and all the prizes are guaranteed. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com or call 910- 457-5787.
Pier fishing is starting to pick up some also. In addition to the scattered flounder, speckled trout, red drum, sea mullet, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and king mackerel, the spots are starting to run. Several pier owners reported good catches of larger spots, but said the annual fall run hadn't begun yet and that the spot fishing should continue to improve.
Red drum continue to provide the most consistent inside fishing. More gray trout are arriving, with good catches reported behind Hatteras and Ocracoke, in the Morehead City Turning Basin, and lower Cape Fear River. The speckled trout activity is picking up well all along the coast and should improve as the water cools. The cooling water is also making the fat alberts aggressive, so get ready.
It has been rough enough offshore that not many boats have made the trip recently. Wahoo are being caught in good numbers, along with dolphin, some tuna, and assorted billfish. While there has been a pretty good run of blackfin down around the Steeples, the best tuna fishing has been out of Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. There are some average size fall yellowfins, but the real attraction has been the bigeyes. These are nice tuna and it doesn't take many over 100 pounds to fill a fishbox with fish and a freezer with steaks.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver