Offshore fishing gets back to normal

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By Brant McMullan, Fishing Correspondent

 “Normal” is a loose word in reference to fishing. I’ve been fishing for many years, and I still struggle when someone asks me what he can expect to catch on any given day. 

The problem is fish have minds of their own and tails that can lead them most anywhere. I’ve read science that says fish have a brain the size of a pea. I’ve been out there hunting fish on many days when I felt as if I had the brain the size of pea and they were nothing short of genius. 

However, one thing is fundamental in fishing, and regardless of the size of the fish’s brain, that fish is normally thinking one thing: food. If you can be where the food is, you will almost certainly be where the fish are.

This past week the southerly winds let up a good bit and provided much more favorable conditions in which to get offshore. At the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, we’ve been busy guiding groups from all over the country on a variety of fishing trips from just outside the inlet to more than 40 miles offshore. 

Close to shore, the water is silty as a result of all the wind and large seas from the previous week. As a result, the Spanish mackerel have mostly vacated the 20- to 30-foot depth range and moved offshore a bit deeper, where the water is cleaner. Many days this past week we’ve seen schools of Spanish cutting large pods of minnows in 40 feet of water, so this is a good area to start looking. 

In the 55- to 70-foot depth range, the typical action for king mackerel has slowed significantly. This is due much in part to the water temperature, which is now easily higher than 80 degrees. In addition, as I referenced above, the bait is key and most of the bait has moved offshore to 80-100 feet. However, our half-day charters typically find us fishing this 55- to 70-foot depth range, so we’ve been spending a lot of time there. 

The most abundant fish are Spanish mackerel, without question. The Spanish in this range are mostly oversized, 3-5 pounds, large enough to eat a slow-trolled dead cigar minnow or live pogy. They are great eating and provide enough of a fight to make it fun. In addition, we caught a few cobia, Mahi-mahi and released a sailfish this past week while fishing this depth. 

Moving farther offshore to 80-100 feet, the ocean comes to life. The grouper fishing is getting much better and will continue to improve over the next couple of months. The kings are snapping in this range with spots such as the Horseshoe, 23-mile rocks and Atlantic Ledge all producing. Live pogies are preferred, but dead cigar minnows have proved to be effective baits, too.

In addition to the kings, this range will also produce scattered Mahi-mahi, cobia and sailfish. 

Speaking of sailfish, the Ocean Isle Fishing Center is hosting the first annual Cape Fear Sailfish Classic Aug. 12-15. The captain’s meeting and registration are Aug. 12 at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. Competition is two out of three days, Aug. 13-15. 

For more information, visit the tournament website at www.capefearsailfishclassic.com.


BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at captbrant@oifishingcenter.com