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Fall has been threatening to make an appearance during the last several weeks here in Brunswick County. One week of nice comfortable temperatures would be followed by another week of near summertime mid-80 degree sweating weather.
This past week was one of those warmer weeks and that was going to be my first excuse for why the fish didn’t bite. Here we are in the month for fishing off the Carolina coast and it’s 80-plus degrees and fish still think its summer.
Well, that’s what I was preparing myself for when I was pleasantly reminded the only job with a lesser success rate than that of the weather forecaster is the fish forecaster. The fish completely disregarded the unseasonably warm temperatures last week and relied solely upon their calendar and declared it was time to hit the buffet here in our local waters. Whether you were inshore, nearshore or offshore fishing last week, you more than likely found yourself enjoying the sport of catching rather than fishing.
The big event during the weekend was the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament in Southport. A perfect weather forecast and word of great king mackerel fishing leading up to the event created the perfect scenario for a huge turnout and historic catches.
Four hundred and eight boats entered the tournament, which is a tremendous showing and rivaled that of tournaments before the economic downturn. The fish were right on cue as well with most teams catching numerous fish and not having to go far to do it.
The best action for king mackerel undoubtedly occurred in the Cape Fear River Channel within sight of land and just a few miles away from the tournament checkout.
Six king mackerel were weighed in the tournament that eclipsed the 40-pound mark, which is astonishing for our area. In years past, if one fish more than 40 pounds was scaled, it was considered a monumental accomplishment.
The winning team was the “McAttack” and Capt. William McCann, from Henderson, posed an impressive 47.20-pound king mackerel on Saturday, the second and final day of the event. For their efforts, the team went home with more than $61,000 in prize money.
Another noteworthy catch from Ocean Isle Beach was local team Sea P A/OIFC with captains Ken and Matt Ritch finishing third with a 44.10-poind kingfish that won the team more than $25,000.
The king mackerel weren’t the only game in town last week either. If you are an inshore fishing enthusiast, you wait all year for what kicked off in a big way last week. The annual migration of bull red drum went into full swing as anglers did battle with monster red drum up to 40 pounds on the inshore waters in our area.
The Little River jetties were once again the hotspot. Fishing menhaden or mullet on the bottom toward the end of jetties produced bent rods and screaming drags for most that gave it a shot. These brute redfish are also being caught with regularity on the nearshore reefs, such as Yaupon, the Jolly Mon and the Jim Caudle.
Offshore, the wahoo bite that has been developing during the last couple weeks continued its upward trend. If it were a stock, I’d still be buying right now because that bite should continue to improve for another few weeks before waning.
Boats fishing 160 to 200 feet deep over structures like the Steeples, Black Jack and MacMarle’n ledges are seeing great results. Both wahoo and blackfin tuna with the occasional sailfish mixed in keep the deckhands busy right now when trolling ballyhoo in the blue water.
My synopsis of the past week and forecast moving forward basically revolves around the notion that if the fishing was as strong as it was this past week even with the warm temperatures, the prospects over the next month look even brighter as fall finally arrives.
This week the temperatures are going to drop and the wind will blow from the north. Give it a few days to settle out and when it does, don’t dawdle. The fish will be ready to go and we need to be ready to give them some exercise.
Brant McMullan, a two-time winner of the SKA national championship, is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.