Part of a fisherman’s job is to constantly complain about the weather. The conditions are never just right. If its not one thing, its another; and in the memorable words of my Alabama fishing friend Marcus Kennedy, “It seems like if a pelican craps off the wrong side of the piling it shuts the bite down.” However, in those rare moments when the pendulum is swinging from its extremes, it passes the middle and conditions get just right. And that’s what keeps us fishermen continuing to come back for more.
This week the weather conditions and the good fishing culminated to provide anglers with outstanding experiences. Light to slight southerly winds, calm seas and good water conditions put the fish in the feeding mood. Mid July is typically a month where we see good catches of King Mackerel with Dolphin, Cobia and Sailfish mixing in. Fishermen have been focusing their efforts in the 65-80 foot depth range, where schools of bait fish have been holding near bottom structure. The Jungle was the hot spot this past week for King action as anglers reported a great bite from above average size class Kings. Local angler Chris Campbell sent me pictures on Thursday of a flat calm sea and big King Mackerel he had caught while fishing that morning. He reported a steady bite from fish in the 20-30 pound class. The Ocean Isle Fishing Center charter fleet has been giving similar reports along with mixing in some of the above referenced “bonus” species. I also got a report last week of some improving Grouper fishing. The Grouper bite has been slow thus far, and that is likely due to all the freshwater runoff. Scuba divers had been reporting near zero visibility close to the bottom as the more dense freshwater would sink and thus affect the bottom conditions. Most bottom fishermen don’t take this variable into consideration. They pull up on some good bottom structure in 100 feet of water and the surface is blue and everything looks good. However, as I diver myself, I can tell you that what is going on 30+ feet below the surface can be a whole other world. I think that as improved bottom fishing reports are coming in, it is evidence that the effects of the rain are continuing to wear off. The other fishery that has been hit hard by the rains have been the near shore bite from Spanish Mackerel. They too are beginning to get their act together as reports are coming in of Spanish being caught in the 20-30 foot depth range. All in all, you can see that fishing is continuing to get even better. The one area that is struggling, which is typical for this time of year, is the Gulf Stream. This time of year we typically see a lull in action as most of the Pelagic migrating fish have moved North or spread inshore. The bite out there will start back up in late August with the arrival of the Wahoo.
As I left the report last week, my family and I were heading down to Alabama to fish in the “world’s largest fishing tournament”, the Alabama Deep Sea Rodeo. I will say for certain it is a rodeo, but I’d deem it more like a goat rodeo. I’m not knocking the event, it is a fishing tournament, and there are a lot of very good fishermen that fish very hard for top honors. But as far as the format and organization, the name fits. Sign up is on Thursday and after waiting an hour for the entry forms to arrive, and then waiting in three separate lines to enter the three different levels, we got out of there. Fishing opened on Friday morning and the format says you can weigh Friday, Saturday or Sunday; but there is not rule that says you must weigh your fish the same day in which they were caught. That is a foreign rule to our area, but it is understandable as many of the boats are fishing blue water species, which requires runs upwards of 100 miles offshore and overnight stays are the norm. In addition to unusual, eligible species include: King Mackerel, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Marlin, Barracuda, Blue Runner, Shark (biggest one put on the dock of any species), Cobia, Jack Crevalle, Vermillion Snapper, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper, White Trout, Yellowtail Snapper, Lookdown, Pompano, Grey Snapper, Speckled Trout, Redfish……………whew, I can’t type anymore, but I assure you there are more. I thin you get the jist of where I’m going with this. Anyway, we left out of Dauphin Island Friday morning and fished very hard for three days. We were hoping the forecast of calm seas and the previous week’s reports of great fishing would hold; of course, they did not. We got beat up for three days and struggled hard to catch fish. Conditions were unfavorable and without great knowledge of the area and its fisheries, we were little more than out-of-towners fishing a locals event. It was humbling. But, as Lloyd Christmas once said, “So you’re saying there’s a chance,” and thus we gave it our all to try to produce that lightning strike bite. Instead though, all we got was the lightning strike. As is always the case, regardless of the success, we had good times and learned more about the fishery. Thus, Team OIFC is back to rock bottom, and happy to be back in the Carolinas. If you’ve ever wanted to fish in a goat rodeo, where basically the rules are there are no rules, I’d give the Alabama Deep Sea Rodeo a try.
- Capt. Brant McMullan