Near-shore fishing is improving

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By Brant McMullan, Fishing Correspondent

As water temperatures continue to rise, the near-shore fishing for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and cobia will continue to improve.
This past week the Spanish mackerel bite has turned back on as schools of good sized Spanish can be found all along Brunswick beaches feeding on glass minnows in 20-30 feet of water. Trolling topwater Clark Spoon Alabama rigs has been effective in capitalizing on this fishery.  
And where there are Spanish, there will also be large king mackerel. Albeit they may not be in great numbers, but top predators are never far from their food, and king mackerel love to eat Spanish mackerel.
If you are wanting to target these kings, you can add a large rigged Ballyhoo into your Spanish mackerel spread and let it run long or, catch a Spanish mackerel or two and put them on live bait rigs and slowly troll them around the school.  
Beyond these beach-roaming kings, the schools of smaller-size resident kings have begun moving into the 65-foot depth range. These resident fish do not migrate north to south but instead move in and out based on water temperature and food availability.
It is normally June before we see the kings move into the 65-foot depths, but this year’s warm weather has led them inshore sooner. Slowly trolling live menhaden or live cigar minnows will be the most effective, but a dead cigar minnow will normally also do the trick.
The cobia are moving through our area right now and can be just about anywhere. They can show up right along the beach, often hanging around inlet or artificial reef buoys, or they can be offshore, feeding alongside the king mackerel.
You should carry a 1-ounce jig rigged with a large grub tail or whole squid on a 20-30 pound spinning outfit and keep it ready. Cobia will show up at any time, and you have to be ready.  
A bit farther offshore, in the 80-100 foot depth range, we are having a banner early season on vermillion snapper. Typically, this fishery is best in the summer and early fall, but this year we are seeing them early and closer in than normal. The Gulf Stream continues to produce good catches of Mahi-Mahi with scattered wahoo and tuna still around.
This coming weekend starts the beginning of the annual, weeklong Far Out Shoot Out- Tuna, Dolphin & Wahoo tournament. The tournament allows competitors to fish one out of eight days, and the winner is determined by the team amassing the most total pounds by weighing one tuna, one Mahi-Mahi and one wahoo.
For information on this tournament or to keep up with daily tournament results, visit the Ocean Isle Fishing Center or www.OIFC.com. That is all for this week. See you on the water.
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.