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Hot weather slows fishermen, not fish

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By Brant McMullan, Fishing Correspondent

I think it is safe to say we are officially in the dog days of summer. August is typically a month not suited for outdoor work, but so long as there are hungry fish and willing fishermen, the show must go on.
Despite it feeling like a sauna outside, the water temperatures are actually a little cooler than they were this time last year. That is much in part to the deluge of rains we had back in late June, which brought so much cool, fresh water to the nearshore waters. We have griped for a month about all that rain, but believe it or not, I think it may actually help us out in the end.
Ocean Isle Fishing Center inshore guides are still posting good catches of speckled trout, which has never been the case in past years. Trout in particular prefer the cooler waters of spring and fall but, thankfully, they continue to provide action among the flounder and redfish that are staples of the inshore fishery.
King mackerel fishing has been very good from our area for more than a month now. The summer king season is usually from mid-June to mid-July, but this year it was more like early July to early August. We have had a great run of good quality 15- to 20-pound kings in depths 60 feet to 70 feet. Again, we had a late winter and then the June rains cooled things off and slowed down progress, but eventually things came around and, thankfully, we have been rewarded.
I am getting some indications the kings may be moving offshore to find cooler water, as catches in the 80-foot depth range have improved in the past week. However, fishermen are still picking on kings and oversize Spanish mackerel in depths of 50 to 70 feet.
Speaking of the 80-foot depth range, this area has produced some monster wahoo this year for live-bait fishermen. If you want to hear a reel scream, you attach a wahoo to a king mackerel rig and hang on. In mid-July, a whopping 85-pound wahoo was taken at the Atlantic Ledge area in 80 feet of water. Last week, Capt. Stan Gurganus helped guide a crew from Ohio to a 38-pound wahoo also caught on live bait in the similar area.
This past weekend, Capt. Chris Dew and Chris Critz guided Mr. and Mrs. Dixon for Mrs. Dixon’s 30th birthday fishing trip. The team caught live pogies off Holden Beach on Saturday morning and headed 24 miles offshore to an area of live bottom and ledges in 80 feet of water. Before the day was over, Mrs. Dixon had boated a 72-pound wahoo that took a top-lined live pogy. Dew reported the fish made an incredible high-speed run and then turned around and came straight back to the boat. Mrs. Dixon did an excellent job of keeping the line tight. After a hard fight on the sunny day, she was rewarded with the fish of a lifetime.
In other fishing news, the Spanish mackerel fishing is finally getting better along the beachfront. Again, this fishery was a casualty of late June’s weather, and although it has taken a month to get better, the Spanish mackerel are showing up in good numbers.
Finally, August is the month when we start to see an improvement in our Gulf Stream fishing, in particular for wahoo, sailfish and white marlin. Capt. Steele Park and Capt. Derek Treffinger of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center Carolina Cat were trolling the Gulf Stream this past Sunday and they reported good action from wahoo, tuna and dolphin. That is a great report and I would expect that fishing to get only better in coming weeks and months.
All in all, I’d say fishing is pretty good. There will of course be some days that produce better than others, but for now, we are in a good pattern, and I think fishing is better than average for this time of year.
Brant McMullan, a two-time winner of the SKA national championship, is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at captbrant@oifishingcenter.com.