Summer is Not Over Yet

With these last few cool days and a full crop of acorns on the trees, I am hearing predictions of an early winter.

I seriously doubt the Crystal Coast is ready to let go of summer that easily. While September did seem to turn a weather page, we will not be enjoying seventy-five degree high temperatures for much longer.

After Friday, September 11, the long range weather forecasts have the high temperatures in the mid to low eighties for the next two weeks. In case anyone has forgotten, it has been only a few weeks since
heat was what we got every day.

We were begging for some cooler temperatures with less humidity. Right now we are getting those cooler temperatures. We will be warm again very soon. However, there are few questions worth exploring.

The first question among the beach walkers is whether or not the water will warm back up? At the moment that does not look promising. Water temperatures at Hammocks Beach have already dropped to seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit.

The only thing that can reverse that is a number of warm nights when the air temperature stays above eighty degrees. I only see a couple of days when the air temperature is going to stay above seventy at night in the next couple of weeks.

With those cool evening temperatures, it is going to be hard to warm the ocean back to the eighties unless we get some really warm weather in October. That is not out of the question, but it is also not likely.

The next question is whether cooler water temperatures really matter?

At this point the beaches are really nice for walking, very refreshing if you go wading and pretty nippy if you go swimming. However, we all know that most of the people who enjoy swimming in the water are back in school.

Those of us who love to walk the beaches, look for shells, and cast for a few fish are not impacted by the cooler water temperatures. In fact, we fishermen welcome the cooler water temperatures. The fish are much more active which means they are more likely to take a bait or hit a lure.

The rains of last Monday did not help the situation a lot. If you dump eight inches of cool rainwater into the ocean it is likely to have some impact. While
the river handled it easily, there was still an impact on the water temperatures.

However, with temperatures climbing to the mid-eighties for the next couple of weeks, the Crystal Coast will be nearly a paradise for most people which is why so many of us live here the whole year.

We still have enough visitors to keep us on our toes, but we are definitely past the peak of tourist traffic. This is actually the time of year when you might have a few more conversations with visitors. Things are not as rushed or crowded so people are a little more likely to strike up a conversation.

This is a very pleasant time of the year. We will not be using the air conditioning very much. I have the windows open at our house tonight. Still as long as the temperatures are getting into the eighties, I refuse to declare summer over. The waters might be a little cooler, but the people living here are just as warm and friendly as they are in mid-July.

Eighty plus degrees in September is a pretty nice temperature. Just check with my friends in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Canada. They had frost warnings last night.

We are certainly in no rush to see summer disappear, and if past falls are any indication we might still be rewarded with some great beach weather over the next few months.

fall keeps winter at bay even in December. I for one am counting on it. My second crop of tomatoes has only been in the ground three weeks. I already have a green tomato so my hopes are high.

Also I might need plenty of time to catch that red drum I want this fall.

The Gateway to Fun

We all have places we go to have fun. There are usually points along the way that signal that the fun is about to begin.

For me one of those places that triggers the feeling that the fun is about to start is the narrow passage from Raymond's Gut to the White Oak River. With just a few strokes of the paddle, you go from the safe harbor at Bluewater Cove to
the huge expanse of the White Oak River.

The river looks very different sitting a few inches off the water in a kayak than it does from behind the center console in our skiff. The Friday before Labor Day weekend, I went out a couple of times in the skiff.

On Saturday morning I paddled my kayak out in the river to fish for red drum at high tide. The experiences were completely different, but both were fun in their own way.

I have been itching to get back on the water. Weather and some busy days at work have conspired to keep me on shore. Monday of this past week, I vowed that I would find a way. On Wednesday I consulted with Brian, one of my fishing buddies. Our considered opinion was that based on schedules and forecasts, Friday was our best bet.

Thursday night we talked, and it looked like a front might be hanging just off the coast on Friday. I also got a call from another friend, Dean, who fishes with me a lot. I had been with him earlier in the summer when he bought his wife a new fishing rod. We both had been hoping to get her out in the boat so she could test her skill. He said they could fish Friday afternoon.

Friday morning dawned with some clouds but just a light wind. Just after breakfast I decided to get some shrimp for bait and check out the Intracoastal at the same time. I drove down to Clyde Phillip's between the bridges and bought the shrimp after I had surveyed the waters and determined that they were calling my name.

I pulled into Dudley Marina's for a few weights and hooks. I was the only customer vehicle parked at Dudleys. I commented on that as I walked in and was told to come back in a few hours if I wanted crowds.

When I got back in the truck, I called Brian, my morning fishing buddy to see if he was still available. I told him we could go for a couple of hours before I had to come in for some real estate work. That worked well with him since he had some things to do in the afternoon. I headed back to our house after picking up some ice.

We had the boat loaded and pulled away from the dock by 10:30 PM or just before high tide on the White Oak. We had decided to make this a reconnaissance trip with the hope that we could spend a full day fishing the week after Labor Day.

As luck would have it, we had to stop and catch a couple of bluefish in Swansboro Harbor to satisfy ourselves that all the ones breaking the surface all over the harbor were too small to keep.

We checked out the Inlet and surveyed the changes since we had fished there earlier in the summer. We fished a little more and then decided to go up the Coast Guard Channel before heading home. We saw more boats in the water there than we had seen anywhere.

As we were going under the bridge and heading back up the White Oak, three jet skis were coming out of the White Oak and heading into the Intracoastal. That made it feel a lot more like a holiday weekend.

We got home, docked, and I grabbed a sandwich. I finished the work I had to do just as my friend Dean and his wife pulled into the driveway. We loaded their stuff in the boat and headed back down to Swansboro. After looking at a couple of spots, we picked an inlet just off the Intracoastal. Dean's wife, Gail, actually caught a fish before Dean and I even got our lines in the water. We went on to catch over twenty croakers and assorted bottom fish. We threw them all back, but we had lots of fun catching them.

As we made our way back to Swansboro and up the river, it became clear from the increased boat traffic that this was going to be a boating weekend in spite of the clouds that had rolled in during the afternoon.

Saturday morning blue sky once again held sway on the White Oak. At my Friday stop at Dudley's I had purchased a couple of top water lures to use in chasing red drum, We have some big oyster rocks not far from Bluewater Cove. When they flood at high tide, they are a pretty good place to chase red drum.

As I slid my kayak in the water I had high hopes that I might be at the right place at the right time in my red drum chase. With the north wind at my back, I had an easy paddle out to the river. There were a couple of boats already fishing in the general area, but they were not in the spot that I had in mind. Just as I got in position, I noticed the wind starting to pick up.

I was probably 100 yards or more from the marked channel that takes you from the Whtie Oak to the Intracoastal, but the combination of half a dozen boats headed out the river at full throttle and an increasing wind made kayak fishing a marginal proposition. While small wakes are mainly an annoyance in a skiff, in a kayak they cannot be ignored. After forty-five minutes of fighting to stay in position, I headed back towards the quiet waters of Raymond's Gut and Bluewater Cove. It ended up being a hard paddle since I was paddling right into the wind, but it was good exercise.

It probably took me as long to paddle home from the middle of the river just outside our inlet as it did for us to come the three and one half miles from Swansboro in the skiff at full power on Friday. Still both were lots of fun. I posted
some pictures of my kayaking adventure.

I feel like I am tuned up and ready for the fall fishing season. Now if the weather will just cooperate, I suspect that my pulse will start to race each time that I head through my gateway to fun. It will not matter if I am in the skiff or the kayak, I will be ready for some action.