Another nasty cold front slammed into the NC Coast late last week. This time the winds reached gale force strength and the overnight temperatures dropped to the freezing mark everywhere but right along the beaches. Of course, in typical eastern NC style, the daytime highs had climbed back into the 70's by Sunday. Another blow will be coming in the middle of this week from the south before switching to the north on Wednesday. We are wondering what will be coming next.
Beginning last week, there were some reports of the first bluefin tuna of the fall. The reports came from east of Cape Lookout at the 30 Minute Rock, East Rock, and 1700 Rock. Some of the king mackerel boats found the large bluefins to be very exciting for a short time, but definitely a mismatch for king mackerel live bait gear. One fisherman made the comment that, "The whine of the clicker sure sounded good for a while, but after several had spooled the line from a number of reels, we learned to crank the drag down and break them off before we lost all our line."
For those who monitor the marine weather, you may have noticed that the reports now include the report for a new buoy at the end of Frying Pan Shoals. The National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) put NDBC Station 41013 on line last week in anticipation of the dismantling of Frying Pan Light Tower and the impending shutting down of the existing weather station FPSN7, which is located on the tower.
This is a critical reporting station for planning fishing trips all along the southern and central NC coast. I like that both the old and new stations will be on line for a while. The weather station on Frying Pan Tower is roughly 150 feet above the water, while the instruments on the new buoy are only about 12 feet up. Last week as the front rolled through there were differences of 5 to 7 knots in wind velocity between the two. The station on the tower reports the higher numbers. There are also slight variations in the wind direction.
The inshore catch is still pretty mixed. There have been some excellent reports of speckled trout, plus good catches of gray trout, bluefish, croakers, sea mullet, red drum, and a few flounder still biting in the inside waters along the coast. The striper bite at Manns Harbor, New Bern, Washington, and Wilmington continues to improve, plus some are being caught in the surf from the Virginia State Line down to around Cape Hatteras.
Other good news from Cape Hatteras is that the inlet created by Hurricane Isabel has been filled and the NC Department of Transportation is hard at work replacing the road.
The fall king mackerel bite has been hot when you can get there. If you didn't see the results, There were several kings in the 40's and numerous kings in the 30's caught at last week's US Anglers Association Championship tournament held at Southport and Oak Island last week. In fact, there were several 30 pounders that didn't make the leader board in the 24 and Over Class. The kings are holding over bait, from about 60 to 80 feet deep.
The false albacore numbers and catches have been rapidly improving around Cape Lookout. The cooler weather seems to have gotten them in a more aggressive mood.
While the weather dictates whether or not the trip is makeable, the offshore bite remains hot. There are tuna north of Cape Hatteras and wahoo from the Big Rock south.
Congratulations to Dean Spatholt and the crew of the Fish Meister for winning the 24 and Over Division, plus Mike Landreth and the crew of the Hit ‘N' Run for winning the 23 and Under Division at the US Anglers Association Championship King Mackerel Tournament this past weekend at Southport and Oak Island. Their winning kings weighed 49 and 34 pounds respectively.
This weekend many NC king fishermen will be in Biloxi, Mississippi, competing in the 2003 Southern Kingfish Association National Championship Tournament. Good luck to all.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver