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We have finally had a nice weekend of weather. Whether you went fishing or mowed the grass, it was one of the finest weather weekends I can remember. And the good news is the fish recognized they were supposed to show up as well.
Several days of north and east winds pushed the Gulf Stream closer inshore to the edge of the 150-foot break, which is typically the key ingredient to good offshore trolling. The only problem was the Gulf Stream water was on the move and had only been over these productive fishing grounds for a matter of hours before the fishermen showed up. The result was decent fishing for wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna, but not great fishing, which is typically what we expect from mid-April through May.
Capt. Roger Gales guided Virginia angler Drew Hager aboard the Carolina Cat for a day of Gulf Stream fishing on Saturday. Roger reported blended water color at 73 to 75 degrees with scattered sargassum weed and very few baitfish. He and crew managed several dolphin and blackfin tuna up to 20 pounds while trolling.
They later switched over to deep-dropping live baits in 200 feet of water and caught grouper up to 30 pounds along with some big sharks and amberjack. Several other anglers reported similar catches, with a few wahoo peppered in as well. Sunday the seas were a bit rougher, but Ocean Isle fishermen Daniel Simmons and wife Amber decided to give the Gulf Stream trolling a shot. They started at the black jack hole area and had little luck until 10:30 a.m., when the fishing picked up strong just a mile north of the black jack. Daniel and Amber boated three wahoo up to 37 pounds, along with several dolphin and blackfin tuna.
They reported good Gulf Stream bluewater and favorable conditions. Their catch, hopefully, will lead us into a consistent late April and May Gulf Stream fishery with action from tuna, dolphin and wahoo. As the fish-rich Gulf Stream waters flow over the edge of the food-rich continental shelf, more and more fish will move and hold off our area. If we can just keep all the west winds away and bring more east and south winds, we’ll be set. Closer inshore, the bottom-fishing for big sea bass and snapper is continuing good in the 80- to 110-foot depth range. The water is still on the cool side at 62-65 degrees, but as it warms, this area will see an influx of king mackerel and cobia as well.
Close to shore, the Spanish mackerel actually made a surprise appearance on Friday and, to a lesser extent, on Saturday. Despite water temperatures being a chilly 62 degrees, fishermen trolling along Yaupon beach found plenty of action from Spanish mackerel. However, on Saturday the action slowed considerably, and by Sunday they had disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
I have no answer for their arrival or disappearance, as typically the water temperatures need to reach 66-68 before we see the first Spanish. Also of note, I was in the Southport area on Sunday and was happy to see the mouth of Cape Fear full of pogies.
That’s pretty much the scoop for this week. The inshore guys are really starting to hammer the big speckled trout as a duel has unfolded among Ocean Isle Fishing Center year-round fishing rodeo participants Kyle Hughes, Brian Aycock and Brandon Sauls. The three vie for the annual top spot on the leader board for largest speckled trout, and this year the competition has really heated up.
Saturday, the three fished head-to-head. Brian weighed a 6.1-pounder, Kyle weighed a 6.1-pounder and Brandon, who was last year’s champion, weighed a 6-pounder.
Sunday morning, Brandon snuck out early and undetected and posted a 6.5- pounder to retake the lead. This bragging-rights competition is what the OIFC fishing rodeo is all about.
Other species such as flounder, king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo and grouper are all hotly contested species. Anyone can participate, and all that is required is to be signed up at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center and to weigh your fish there to receive credit for the catch. The tournament started March 15 and will end December 31. I will have an update next week.
BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.