While the weather has been a little strange and has even been forecast worse than what has arrived, the fish have been biting. Those few cool mornings haven't deterred the fish and may actually be firing them up. We've got a little bit of unsettled weather again this week to deal with, but it should be OK. There was cool rain early in the week and it is supposed to warm up during the mid week and then there is another chance of a rain event for the weekend. Once the weather straightens out, it should be a little cooler and the fish might be biting even better.
Several fishermen I have spoken with have commented on how warm the water continues to be. The ocean water at Bogue Inlet Pier continues to hold in the mid 70s. Thursday morning it was 74 degrees, so last week's cool front and the rain didn't cool it off too much. These fishermen have a bunch of years of experience and they believe we haven't seen the best push of fall fishing yet. If that is so, you might want to put some new line on that reel and buy a few packs more bait. Fishing is about to get real good.
This weekend looks to be starting with some southerly flow, but with a cold front approaching. The timing will probably change between now and when it actually arrives, but it appears that sometime later Saturday or Sunday our winds will switch back to the north and the temperatures will drop a little. The difference should be about 10 degrees by Monday. The wind may also begin breezing up a little by Monday.
Even with rougher water conditions, the pier fishing continues to be pretty good. Many folks are chasing the spots and they move up or down the beach as the reports come. Bogue Inlet Pier had a king at mid week and is hoping for more for their tournament fishermen. Other pier action includes bluefish, Spanish macks, puppy drum, flounder, pompano, sea mullet and even a few sheepshead.
The Spanish mackerel fishing has been excellent for weeks and it continues still. The Spanish are almost everywhere from a few miles inside the inlet to a handful of miles offshore. Some of the best Spanish fishing has been around AR 315 at Morehead city and around the "old" Sea Buoy at Southport. Trolling spoons is catching small to medium Spanish and some big ones are holding out for live baits.
The nearshore king bite started to get going and then slowed again. Years of records say it will get going again within a week unless the weather and rough seas force the kings out. When they fire off, the bite is usually strong along Shackleford and from the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty out to the Rock Barge at Cape Lookout and in the Ship Channel and along Oak Island at Southport.
Kings are already biting strong a little ways off the beach. There has been a good bite at the Shark Hole, but they haven't been particularly big. Those spots east of Cape Lookout from 30 Minute Rock out to Chicken Rock have been holding a mixture of kings. The action has been pretty good, but the size varies from 15 to 45 pounds.
Wahoo are the catch for the offshore boats and that bodes well for this week's Calcutta Wahoo Challenge. There are a few blackfin tuna and dolphin and an occasional billfish, but the action is with wahoo. The action has been moving about a little and ranges from south of the Steeples to north of the Big Rock. There are some yellowfin and bigeye tuna being caught north of Cape Hatteras, but they haven't made a showing elsewhere.
The inside action is pretty good, with specks, reds and flounder being the main draws. There are some sea mullet and gray trout along the edges of the turning basin and Beaufort Inlet Channel and some whiting at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Just this roughly 100 miles has these fish called different things. Whiting, sea mullet and Va. mullet are all the same fish.
Even with the water still pretty warm, the specks are biting well. Some are still back in the creeks, but many have moved out into the marshes where the current is washing shrimp and baitfish by them. The minimum size for speckled trout increased to 14 inches on October 5. Live shrimp are the hot bait for specks. I prefer floating them under corks, but they can also be fished along the bottom.
I'm hearing mixed reports on flounder. Most folks are reporting catching them, but some are reporting lots of shorts. Sometimes they are mixed in the same general area. The most consistent keeper catches have been on the nearshore artificial reefs. The bars along the inlet channels are also good spots to find keepers.
Good numbers of puppy drum have been caught in the surf the past few weeks. They have been moving along the beaches stalking all the finger mullet that are leaving the sounds and creeks. Pups are also biting well in inside waters. There are some smaller pups back up in the creeks, but many upper slot fish have moved out into the marshes where there is more food.
I had a unique experience this week I thought was a lot of fun and hope you readers find it entertaining. I was invited to a promotion of the upcoming Kroger 200 NASCAR Truck Race, October 24 at Martinsville Speedway. The promotion featured Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway and Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday from Kevin Harvick, Inc. The promotion was held at Grand Prix Greensboro and featured lunch, interviews and go-kart races.
The combination of many want-to-be racers and two professional drivers made for a fun and exciting time. I stayed on the lead lap with Hornaday, but Harvick lapped me about halfway through the white-flag lap. Those indoor go-karts are much faster that the ones we have at the beach.
The final event of the day was a match race between Kevin Harvick and Clay Campbell. The loser was to donate $500 to the winner's favorite charity. Campbell is pretty fast and held off Harvick in a race that included an attempt to bump pass in the next-to-last turn. Harvick then donated $500 to the Martinsville Speedway Children's Foundation. To show he was a good sport, Campbell also donated $500 to Victory Junction Gang Camp, Harvick's favorite charity.
The 31st Annual US Open King Mackerel Tournament, held over the weekend from Southport Marina in Southport is set to claim the title of the largest U.S. king Mackerel for 2009. Even in the current economy, the tournament added 16 boats from last year to reach 453 boats. The title was taken from the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament and Festival, held each July in Jacksonville, Fla. The numbers were close, but Bob Gipson, Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament Executive Director reported their 2009 tally at 451 boats. A few tournaments remain, but none have the history of participation like these events.
The weather forecast was not looking particularly good early last week, but improved a little with every update and the weather during the tournament wasn't nearly as windy or rainy as what had been forecast. Some storms threatened on Friday, but never delivered and the ocean was a little bumpy early Saturday morning before calming out to become a very nice day.
Capt. Larry Deal, of Oak Island, with his crew of Eric Deal, Lee Skipper and Donnie Elkins, fished in the area of the "old" Cape Fear Sea Buoy and found the only 40 pounder of the tournament just before mid-afternoon on Friday. Deal and the Mako Warrior crew brought the big king to the scales at 3:14 and had to wait 25 hours to be proclaimed the winners.
Capt. John Brown of Bolivia and the crew of the M & M presented a 38 pound king to the tournament weigh master about 1:45 Friday afternoon and held the lead for 90 minutes. Sheilah Brown was fishing on the M & M and was declared the winner of the U.S. Open's first ever Lady Angler Tournament-Within-A-Tournament (TWT). According to Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Spahr, there were 60 boats that participated in this special "ladies-only" TWT.
Capt. Mike Wright of Southport and the crew of the Spread M Wide caught the largest king on Saturday and it landed them in third place. Their king weighed 36.05 pounds.
In addition to being the largest U.S. king mackerel tournament for 2009, the U.S. Open fishermen also had the most impressive N.C. leader board to date. While only the Mako Warrior's winning king was heavier than 40 pounds, the next 34 were all heavier than 30 pounds. Yep, the top 35 places were all 30 pounds or heavier and the weights didn't drop off much after that either. The tournament paid through 55th place and that fish weighed 28.25 pounds. A special prize was given for the 108th largest king and it weighed 24.65 pounds. A complete listing of the tournament prizes and weights is available at www.usopenkmt.com.
The Neuse River Backwater Open was held over the weekend at Lawson Creek Park in New Bern. This is a unique tournament that features many different fish found in the Neuse River backwaters. The format is an aggregate weight of up to 11 fish, which may include 5 speckled trout, 2 red drum, 2 flounder and 2 striped bass. In addition the fisherman catching the largest fish of each species is recognized.
The Overall winners were Brad Buck and Mark Dudley with a very impressive total weight of 32.75 pounds. Ronnie Mallard and Brian Rowe finished in second place with 27 pounds. The third place team was Paul Hunter and Jason Arthur who caught a total weight of 25.55 pounds.
Wendy White caught a nice upper slot drum to lead that category with 6.95 pounds. Greg Parker and Zak Stafford tied for the largest speckled trout. Each caught a speck that weighed 2.65 pounds. Jason Arthur caught a 3.75 pound flounder, which was the big flatfish of the tournament. The largest striped bass was caught by Jeremy Jones. It weighed 4.3 pounds. For full results visit www.neuseriverbackwateropen.com.
The Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department began a surf fishing tournament for flounder on September 26 that ended last Saturday. Mike Riedel won the tournament with a 20 inch flounder that weighed 3.72 pounds. Roger Young found an 18 inch flounder that weighed 2.80 pounds to claim second place. Dale Collins caught a 17 inch, 2.23 pound flounder to finish third, while Randy Abrams landed a 16.25 inch, 1.55 pounder to fill out the fourth place spot.
The fishing is heating up and lots of tournaments are taking place in the next few weeks. A couple have already started. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament is run by Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach and features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. Registration is open and ongoing, but fishermen must be registered for a minimum of five days before they can enter a fish. The current leader is John Moore of Morehead City with a 3.81 pound speck. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Tournament began Monday at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle and continues through Friday. The winds on Wednesday afternoon caused them to halt the tournament for the day, but it resumed Thursday morning. The current leader of the tournament is Johnny Wise of Peletier, with a 24 pound, 8 ounce king. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
As I am writing this on Thursday (October 8), it is the first day of fishing for the 2009 Calcutta Wahoo Challenge. The tournament will run through Saturday with daily weigh-ins at the Morehead City Waterfront beginning at 3:30. Headquarters for the tournament are at Katherine Davis Park. For more information visit www.thewahoochallenge.com.
The Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Tournament also began today (October 8) in Nags Head. I don't have a website for this tournament, but plan to have the results next week.
The Kings of the Coast Tournament originally scheduled for last weekend at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island will be held this weekend. The date change was made to avoid conflict with the U.S. Open King Tournament. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
The Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament begins today, with fishing on Saturday in North Myrtle Beach. This is the open tournament. A Southern Kingfish Association Professional Series tournament will be held at the same location, with fishing on Friday and Saturday. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
The Crystal Coast Fishing Association will hold their second redfish tournament Saturday from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. The tournament will be run in conjunction with the Swansboro Mullet Festival. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 4.5 is headed to Oak Island and Southport on October 17. This is not as large an event as at Morehead City and Atlantic Beach during the spring, but is just as highly appreciated. The day will feature fellowship, many varieties of fishing and a big meal at the Oak Island Moose Lodge at the end of the day.
Volunteers are needed for all phases of the event. This includes everything from registering folks in the morning to serving food to providing a boat to take some of them fishing. The website for the event is www.militaryappreciationday.org and it lists the many ways someone can register to help and also a way for the service personnel to register.