Unexpected catch makes fishing trip memorable

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Editor’s note: Fourteen-year-old Austin Aycock is serving as guest columnist this week in place of captains Brant and Barrett McMullan. Aycock works as a first mate aboard the Ocean Isle Fishing Center charter boats during the summer and is broadening his angling skill to include writing.  
By Austin Aycock
Special to The Beacon
The weather has been crazy. I was wearing long pants and a Windbreaker jacket late last week, and today I’m in shorts and a T-shirt and am sweltering. Although the cool weather initially brought winds and rough seas offshore, it has since opened the way for great fishing weather.
I’m sure the great weather we are having this week will come back to bite us somewhere, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the light winds and smooth seas that are forecast all week.  
The fishing last week was a bit tough because of the changing weather conditions, but as I’m writing this report I’m confident this week ahead will be very good. August usually means good fishing, but typically you have to go a little farther offshore to find it, focusing on depths of 80 to 100 feet.
Last week I was first mate to Capt. Derek Treffinger aboard the Ocean Isle Fishing Center charter boat Carolina Cat for a memorable day on the water. The day began with 10 to 15 mph southwest wind with a 2- to 4-foot sea on top of it. We left the inlet and looked for menhaden down the beach. However, they have become scarce off the southern end of the county this week. We decided to rely on dead cigar minnows.
The water was dark blue with about 25 feet of visibility. Treffinger and I started deploying lines. This consisted of three top lines and two lines on the down riggers. We trolled over the spot one time and produced two 15- to 20-pound king mackerel.
We sent our dead cigar minnows back on the down riggers. We trolled around for about 30 more minutes before getting another strike. Two reels started screaming, one with a king mackerel and one with a large barracuda. We put both fish in the boat, releasing the barracuda after a few snapshots.
While we were finishing cleaning up and the boat on a slow drift, something large jumped out of the water with one of our baits in his mouth. Out of instinct, Treffinger and I thought it was another barracuda. Upon further inspection, we discovered it was a sailfish.  The fish put on a great show for us, making long runs, jumping and splashing wildly. We estimated the sail around 80 pounds, which is large for our area.
Our party for the day was elated at the catch and quite lucky to have caught this great fish so close to shore. It is certainly not out of the normal to encounter sailfish from our area in August, but they are not a fish you expect to see. It was a pleasant surprise.   
We carefully brought the beautiful fish to boat side and took pictures and videos. After all this excitement, we were surprised to find our six-hour, half-day trip was all but over and it was time to head back in.
As we often do in the summer, we unloaded our crew, cleaned fish, shook hands and gave well-wishes. Then we met our next group and set up to try to do it all again. And would you believe that we went back out and did it again?  It was nearly a repeat with a mix of king mackerel, barracuda and, yes, another sailfish.  
As I said at the beginning of the report, last week was a tough week to fish with all the inconsistent weather, but this week is looking great. Already I am receiving reports of good wahoo fishing, and I’m ready to get out there.
This is my last week before school starts, so I’m ready to do as much fishing as I can before the summer officially ends. I’m sure captains Brant or Barrett McMullan will tell you about the great fishing that is likely to take place this week.