What a fantastic weekend we had for Memorial Day. I don't believe I can remember one quite as nice overall in many years. It was warm, sunny, not too windy and the fish were biting. That's a combination I will gladly take any time.
While there certainly were plenty of people on the coast, including boaters and fishermen, I thought the crowd was not quite as large as it had been in past years. I spoke with a few people who agreed with me and some who had the nerve not to. One thing we all agreed upon is that there is no reason the gas companies should be reaping the profits they are and fuel be as expensive as it is. Those who agreed with me that the crowd was down some all blamed it on the rising cost of fuel.
We are looking at another pretty good weekend coming up. There are some clouds and possible thunderstorms in the forecast, but the daytime highs are forecast to be in the 80's every day and the wind to blow no more than 10-15 knots. This isn't quite as good a forecast as last weekend, but it isn't bad. If you avoided the crowds last weekend, you might want to plan a fishing trip this weekend.
I had another fun day on the water Saturday as the guest of J.R. and Cheryl Davis of Greensboro. We stayed within sight of the beach and caught several kings and missed a few more. We had one skyrocket on the prop wash bait three times and manage to avoid the hooks. On its third try, it knocked the bait over six feet through the air. That really was a sight to see, but it would have been better if it had also made the reel squeal.
My fresh king for supper helped make up for the disappointment of that one not finding a hook.
I heard some good fish stories from last weekend, but the best was Lee Bryan of Sophia, who caught a very hungry speckled trout on the bluefish he had suspended from the end of the pier for a king or cobia. It was a citation trout at 5 pounds, but had the appetite of a much bigger fish to eat Bryan's 9 inch bait.
While there were surprisingly many reports of billfish encounters over the weekend, gaffer dolphin are the mainstay of offshore fishing right now. There were an unusual number of sailfish reports from the 100 foot depth range and some blue and white marlin from farther offshore. A few tuna and wahoo are also being caught.
For a combination of species with shrinking number limits and increasing minimum sizes, the offshore bottom fishing continues to roll along. The newest regulation change is effective as of today (Friday, June 1, 2007) and raises the minimum size to 12 inches (total length) for black sea bass caught south of Cape Hatteras. This had previously been 11 inches and was raised to meet federal standards. Other offshore bottom fish catches include gag grouper, red grouper, a few red snapper, beeliners (vermilion snapper), black sea bass, pinkies (red porgy), porgies, triggerfish and tilefish.
While there haven't been but an occasional larger one, the kings are moving closer to the beaches. Last weekend there were numerous reports of snake kings at many of the artificial reefs and rocks within sight of the beaches. The piers from Topsail south have had some kings landed, but it hasn't yet spread to the Crystal Coast.
The first pier cobia of the year were landed over the weekend and early in the week. Congratulations to all those fishermen and especially Jesse Lockowitz, who landed a 45 pound citation cobia from Bogue Inlet Pier. If Lockowitz's name sounds familiar, he is the young man who holds the N.C. state record for tarpon. He caught that fish at Bogue Inlet Pier a couple of years ago.
The rest of the pier report is similar to past weeks. The catch is fairly steady. Big bluefish and Spanish mackerel are being caught from the pier ends. Closer in to the surf, the pier catch includes flounder, drum, speckled trout, sea mullet and a slowly increasing number of pompano.
For boaters, the cobia report is good from Cape fear to Cape Hatteras. Several big cobia have already been caught near Cape Lookout. Tournament officials are expecting some big cobia to come to the scales in this weekend's CCSA Cobia Tournament.
The surf fishing reports are highlighting occasional runs of red drum, plus some flounder, trout, black drum, sea mullet and big bluefish. At Cape Hatteras there have also been a few cobia caught in the surf.
In the inshore waters, red drum are biting well and the flounder bite is improving. The edges of the oyster rocks at many creek mouths and the sand bars around the inlets are good places to target for flounder. There are also some along the edges of the channels.
Fishermen are reporting seeing more baitfish activity in the creeks and marshes. As these hatches occur, mullet minnows and live shrimp will become the best live baits for drum, trout and flounder. When a falling tide sweeps the bait out of the creeks, the predator fish arrive to feast on the buffet.
There are still good concentrations of bluefish around most inlets. They aren't bad table fare when prepared fresh and have saved quite a few fishing trips when other, more glamorous, species wouldn't cooperate.
There are still some sea mullet and gray trout being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin, but the bite has slowed and might be about over for the spring. It's probably time to drop down larger live baits and try to catch flounder along the slopes of the drops into the channel and basin.
Congratulations to the tournament winners from last weekend. The crew of the Impulse, from Atlantic beach, topped the Billfish Division of the Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Water and King Mackerel Tournaments with 600 points on several releases. The crew of the Tailwalker, with Captain Dale Walker of Willow Springs claimed the win in the King Mackerel Division with a 25.88 pound king.
The tournaments for this weekend include the Carteret County Sportfishing Association Cobia Tournament from Beaufort (252-725-2841), the Oregon Inlet tuna Roundup from Pirate's Cove (252-473-1015) and the Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo, from Bald Head Island (910-457-3701).