Offshore fishing at the edge of the Gulf Stream is going strong, and dolphin and billfish two fish that jump and run and really test a fisherman's desire are at the heart of it. The difference is at the end of the fight, the billfish are released to thrill someone else, while dolphin go in the fish box for filets to take home.
"We have some really good offshore fishing right now," said Capt. Bruce Armstrong, Jr.
"Dolphin have moved in on the weed lines and current rips all along the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. They are always fun to catch, and most of them are gaffers. Our clients really like how they run and jump, and while dolphin test them pretty well, it isn't like pulling on a big blue marlin for a couple of hours.
"However, we've also got the marlin," Armstrong said. "It's been a real strong billfish bite since early in the spring. There haven't been but a couple of days one of the boats in the fleet hasn't released a marlin or a sailfish. They thrill our fishermen too, but tend to really wear them out. Landing even an average blue marlin is a job. Sailfish and white marlin are a little easier, but the fishermen really know they've been fishing."
Armstrong (252-904-7385), who shares captain duties on the Blue Fin, said dolphin are holding over the wrecks and along weed lines off Diamond Shoals Tower and out toward the Rock Pile. Pulling a Sea Witch rigged with a 12-pack ballyhoo down the edge of a current rip or weed line is a sure way to locate them. When one or two hit, they circle around for more. Armstrong said where you find a dolphin you usually find more.
"Typically, the billfish are farther offshore and in deeper water, but they sometimes follow the bait and other fish inshore," Armstrong said. "If we were fishing specifically for them, we would rig different and fish different places. Right now, they are feeding on the smaller dolphin and competing with the larger ones for food. It really makes them aggressive, and we get a lot of strikes. Getting them hooked up and then to the boat is a different thing altogether."
Armstrong said they are also catching wahoo, blackfin tuna and some occasional yellowfin tuna targeting the weed lines and rips. He said they fished the warm side of the line in the spring, and now all the water is warm, so they concentrate on the cool side of the line. He said there are days that a half degree makes all the difference in the world.
"If we get too close to one of the wrecks, we often hook up with a bunch of amberjacks," Armstrong said. "They are rugged fighters and give fishermen all they want. We occasionally have fishermen that only want to hook up with something big that pulls back. That request is tailor made to put him on an amberjack."
Armstrong said the amberjack were plentiful and never stray far from the wrecks. When a fisherman asks for a fight they pull up over the wreck and drop jigs to the fish. He said it only takes a few minutes to get one (or more) hooked, but takes quite a bit longer to get it to the boat.
Armstrong said the offshore fishing off Hatteras has been good all summer and with a variety of fish. He expects it to stay that way for a while.