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Who knows whether Al Gore is right or wrong about global warming, but in all the mess of what we call weather, there is one theory I will claim to and stand by: Weather is a balance.
As bad as it may have been in March and early April, it will eventually turn and be equally as good. And thus, the weather finally turned last week after months of wind and unseasonably cold weather. We have experienced a stretch of beautiful weather that looks to continue for some time. The result is the fish are finally getting their acts together and starting to do what they are supposed to.
This past weekend was an absolute perfect weather weekend to be a fisherman. The seas were running 2 feet to 3 feet from the beach all the way to the Gulf Stream, and whether you were fishing for Spanish mackerel along the beach or tuna, dolphin and wahoo in the Gulf Stream, the action was much improved and relatively good.
Nearshore, the Spanish mackerel were pleased to see beach water temperatures rise into the upper 60s. They showed up and bit for fishermen in good numbers off Ocean Isle Beach and Holden Beach, most of them in the 20- to 30-foot-depth range. Pulling No. 0 silver Clark’s Spoons with No. 1 or No. 2 planers was the technique of choice.
The Atlantic bonito still have not shown up in our area with any great numbers. There have been a few scattered schools randomly encountered, but if we don’t see them within the next week or two, they will certainly have slipped by our area without much sacrifice. As you fish or run through the 30- to 60-foot-depth range over the next week or two, keep your eyes open for groups of birds hovering and dipping, as they will likely be over Atlantic bonito.
Farther offshore in the 80- to 110-foot-depth range, the bottom-fishing for large black sea bass is still very good. The vermillion snapper and grouper are also beginning to move into this range. There were a few king mackerel caught over the weekend in this range as well, but I look for the kings to make a big move this week into the 75- to 90-foot-depth range and begin to school heavily. There are plenty of baitfish in this range, and the warm weather will certainly bring the water temperatures into their desired range.
Along the edge of the continental shelf, “the break” in 150-feet of water, the fishing is finally heading in the right direction. The stable weather and light south winds have allowed the Gulf Stream to creep back closer to the break, thus improving the fishing.
Over the weekend, the Gulf Stream was still some 5-10 miles offshore of typical hotspots, such as the blackjack and steeples. Water temperatures at these locations was a-not-so desirable 69-70 degrees. However, the wahoo are always around the break, and fishermen caught them scattered along the break in the 25- to 50-pound range.
A large school of blackfin tuna showed up at the steeples on Friday, and the boats that were there figured out the formula to catch them loaded up. The key to targeting blackfin is to scale down your lure size. Use No. 3 silver Clark’s Spoons or small ¼ or ½ oz. feathers on 30- to 50-pound tackle. Run these lures extra far back and you’ll get a bite.
Many of the fishermen that ran to the break ended up trolling 5-10 miles farther offshore, where they found 73- to 75-degree water and action from dolphin. May begins the peak month for catching dolphin, and this weekend’s catches proved that they are heading this way.
Over the next month, the dolphin fishing will be world class from our area, as fish more than 50 pounds will be caught, with 15- to 20-pound dolphin an average size. Look for marlin to begin mixing in with them as well, and wahoo will remain scattered along the break. The tuna will come and go, and we are still waiting for the arrival of the yellowfin tuna.
All this great offshore fishing to come is going to land smack in the middle of the annual GPS Store Far Out Shoot Out Tuna, Dolphin and Wahoo Rodeo fishing tournament. The tournament begins officially on May 9 and extends until the following Saturday, May 16.
Fishermen who register to compete for the $10,000 first-place prize will be allowed to choose one out of the eight days between May 9-16 to call their competition day. A phone hotline is set up to where tournament captains can call in and declare which day they want to compete as late as 8 a.m. of the same day. This format allows teams to watch the weather and pick the best weather day and/or best scheduling day for them.
The overall prize is based on the heaviest combined weight of one tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Additional prizes are awarded for the largest fish of each species, and the Don Leonard memorial award honors those teams who catch and release marlin or sailfish during the event.
The Far Out Shoot Out is hosted from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center and registration is open from now through May 9. Interested fishermen may visit www.OIFC.com or visit the Ocean Isle Fishing Center or the GPS Store for a tournament entry form.
One major addition has been made to the tournament this year. The Far Out Shoot Out is now part of the Masters Tournament Series, a series of three tournaments: Far Out Shoot Out Tuna, Dolphin and Wahoo Rodeo; Jolly Mon King Classic; Fall Brawl King Classic. The Masters Tournament Series will determine who is the best all-around offshore fisherman for 2009. Captains who fish all three events will be scored and their finishing places averaged. The captain with the best average finish will be awarded the coveted Blue Kacket and be honored as the Masters champion.
Prizes include free entries into all 2010 Masters Tournament Series events and at least $5,000 in cash and prizes from event sponsors. The series, hopefully, will spark fishermen to broaden their fishing efforts beyond just one style, to become a better and possibly the best overall fisherman. More information is available at www.OIFC.com .
It is nice finally to see the fishing world getting back to normal. The coming weeks look promising, and I’m excited and hopeful all you offshore guys will come fish the Far Out Shoot Out with me. See you there.
BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com