Those few days of northerly, northeasterly and east winds we saw at the end of last week and through the weekend have made a change in area fishing and most would say it has been for the good. I believe all the fishermen and fish were ready for a change and it provided it. No, things didn't change drastically, but the weather was cooler, the water cooled a degree or two and fishing picked up just a little.
Saturday I fished the TJM Celebrity Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament and found the water to be even warmer than I expected, but watched it cool a degree or two during the day. The tournament had boundaries close to Wrightsville Beach and since I couldn't fish my home waters, I chose to fish the Wilmington side of the Cape Fear River above Snows Cut. I was hoping the little bit of rainwater coming down the river had cooled it a little. I don't know what the water temperature was there earlier, but it was 90.8 degrees in the shallows when I launched and slowly dropped into the high 80s as the tide rose and the cloud cover increased.
Unfortunately, the fish were not in full attack mode. I tangled with a few short puppy drum and trout, plus numerous small sharks, but didn't land anything significant. The highlight of my day was a vicious strike that squealed the drag on my reel for a few seconds until the line became two-piece. I don't know what it was, but it kicked my adrenaline into high gear for a little while.
The speckled trout bite continues to be pretty slow. The good news is there continue to be short bursts of feeding right around first light and again just before dark. A live shrimp dangling under a popping cork is almost a guarantee of a strike, but it is often a small shark, pinfish, or something else less desirable. Artificial baits weed out many of the less desirable fish, but reduce the strikes to about a third. If you switch to topwater lures for this, you will enjoy it more. The fish miss almost as often as they hit the lures, but the strikes are much more exciting.
Drum and flounder are the two inshore fish that continue to be pretty reliable. Drum work the edges of grass lines during high tides and congregate around small creek mouths when the tide begins to fall. They are looking for the small crabs, shrimp and minnows that hide in the flooded grass and up the creeks, but must come out into more open water as the tide falls. When you find them, drum seem to almost always be willing to sample a bait or lure and will respond to a variety of lures from topwater to bottom draggers. Live baits and fresh cut baits will get drum's attention too.
Flounder have been biting pretty well and have made many fishing trips during the heat of the summer. Limits are few and far between and many of the flounder are undersize and must be released, but they are present and biting. Flounder may be caught from the edge of brackish water out to the ocean wrecks and artificial reefs.
Most fishermen prefer live baits for flounder, but thanks to some instruction and encouragement from Capt. Jimmy Price and Capt. Dale Collins, I'm becoming more successful catching them on artificial baits and am really enjoying it.
As I travel the N.C. Coast, I hear lots of tarpon stories. A few are caught, but the fact so many get away elevates them to a special status with Tar Heel fishermen. The tales of "the big one that got away," are lifetime memories for many who don't have the oceanic exploits of Santiago.
One thing I am thrilled to be hearing this year is how many more tarpon are being released, rather than being gaffed and brought in for pictures. This is even true with pier fishermen, who I believe face the toughest questions when it comes to catch and release of large fish. Many are being beached, a quick picture taken and the fish released through the surf to swim away. That's a good thing too as pier fishermen are having many close encounters of the tarpon kind this summer--just none this week.
The fishermen at Bogue Inlet Pier landed a few more kings over the weekend, but none so far during the week. Pier fishermen landed Spanish macks, bluefish and a good mixture of bottom feeders. Pompano and flounder led the bottom feeder catches. Many fishermen are catching lots of pompano this summer and they are tasty fish you will enjoy as the guests of honor at a summer fish fry. Red drum, black drum sheepshead and whiting bit during the day, with spots, croakers and blues biting at night.
Spanish mackerel continue to be the most consistent fishing in the nearshore ocean. Size 0 or 00 Clarkspoons trolled behind planers or trolling sinkers will usually catch limits of Spanish, especially when fishing early or late in the day. There are some larger Spanish around too and they will sometimes hit pogies being slow-trolled for kings. To target the larger Spanish, use slightly smaller live pogies on smaller rigs. They can be slow trolled or fished on light lines or under balloons while anchored. This is a great way to add a few Spanish to the fish box when fishing one of the nearshore artificial reefs for flounder.
The king mackerel bite had been fairly slow in the hot water, but fired up for the tournament fishermen on Saturday. A few real hogs were caught. King mackerel fishermen are still catching some dolphin and a surprising number of sailfish. Those surprise dolphin are a real treat on the dinner table, but hearing a reel scream and turning to see a sailfish grayhounding away is a real and reel thrill.
There is some bad news for inland fisheries, especially at Lake Norman. N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists are keeping a watch on a growing fish kill in Lake Norman. The unexplained kill is only affecting striped bass and currently approximately 1,600 dead stripers have been counted. The watch is two-fold; to find and stop the cause in Lake Norman and to prevent it from spreading to other lakes.
I had a rather interesting fishing trip last week in the Swansboro area, but my training for it began many years ago in Southport with Capt. Jimmy Price. Jimmy and I have known each other for many years and do a lot of shows and seminars together. He preaches catching flounder on bucktails and artificial lures and does well at it himself.
I was invited to flounder fish with Capt. Dale Collins of Bait Runner Charters in Emerald Isle and it was a great trip. Capt. Collins said he listened to Capt. Price many years ago and took it to heart, so he worked until he felt good about the technique too. I've never flounder fished with Capt. Jimmy, but Capt. Dale and I caught eight keepers in just a few hours and I can say he has the technique down pat.
I contributed to the catch, but must admit he caught the majority of them. We fished white five-inch Berkley Gulp jerkbaits on White Spro Jigheads. What I liked most was there was no waiting for the flounder to turn and swallow the bait. As soon as you felt it, you tried to set the hook. Several times we cast back to the same area and hooked a flounder we missed on the next cast.
The Coast Guard reported the buoys in Bogue Inlet have been relocated to make the inlet safer. A spokesman said a US Army Corps of Engineers Survey on July 28 showed the channel was shift and filling in places, so the buoys were repositioned appropriately.
You may remember that during the spring the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council voted to approve Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. This amendment stopped all fishing for red snapper along the Atlantic Coast and closed approximately 5,000 square miles of ocean bottom off Georgia and Florida to any and all bottom fishing. NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the amendment before forwarding it to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and is accepting public comment. Electronic copies of Amendment 17A may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Service web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov, the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov docket number NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
Written comments on Amendment 17A must be received no later than September 27, 2010, in order to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. They should be sent to: NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505--Attn; Kate Michie.
Electronic submissions must be sent to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov using the following docket ID in the search box: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. This is public record and may be posted along with any personal information included with the submission.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would like for hunters to provide input on regular waterfowl hunting seasons through an on-line comment system on the Commission's website. Regular waterfowl seasons begin in late September and include various seasons for ducks, Canada geese, snow geese, brant and tundra swans. The Commission's website also provides the federal frameworks from which seasons may be selected, a direct link to a map of North Carolina's Canada goose hunt zones, and a link to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2010 Status of Waterfowl video. Through August 16, comments on proposed dates for the seasons may be registered by going to www.ncwildlife.org and clicking on "Regular Waterfowl Season Comments."
The only N.C. fisheries meeting on the current August schedule is the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission meeting that is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, August 11 to 13 in Wilmington. The agenda is available on-line and there are times set aside for public comments at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday evening and 9:15 A.M. Thursday morning. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net.
Several federal fisheries meetings are scheduled for August in Charleston and Savannah. These include:
* August 10-11 - SAFMC Law Enforcement Advisory Panel Meeting;
* August 16-17 -- SAFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) Meeting;
* August 18 -- SAFMC Golden Crab Advisory Panel Meeting;
* August 6th, 13th and 24th - SEDAR 24: Stock Assessment for Red Snapper -- Ongoing Workshops and Public Comment Period.
For more information visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
The 26th Annual Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday from Jaycee Park on the Morehead City Waterfront. This year the tournament also featured a flounder tournament for inshore fishermen. The word was out there were some big kings around and with a good weather forecast the tournament drew approximately 145 boats.
The big kings were around too. The top two kings weighed more than 50 pounds and the leaderboard carried 30 pounds to 10th place. Even more exciting, the top two places were separated by only.04 pounds. This is approximately 1/2 ounce. She Said Yes, with Capt. Jamie Nelms and crew, caught a 51.30 pound king late in the day to displace early leader Capt. Skip Conklin and the Ocean Athlete, whose king weighed 51.26 pounds. Wow, that's almost too close to call. Jimmy Butts and the crew of the Jimmy Mack caught a 43.82 pound king to finish third.
Tim Newton, on the Deal king, topped the 23 and Under Class with a king that weighed 34.42 pounds. Capt. Benson Ybanez and the Wide Open crew caught the largest dolphin at 5.98 pounds, while the Have Mercy brought a 37.5 amberjack to the scales to top that category. Sandy Conklin earned Top Lady Angler honors while fishing on the Ocean Athlete and Margaret Merkling topped the Junior Anglers with a 33.28 pound king while fishing on the See Ya Outdoors.
The flounder tournament was won by Jason Harris on the Lady Luck, with a 2.50 pounder. Richard Knudsen on Slick Cam finished second at 1.96 pounds and Bill Stallings on Otter II was third with 1.86 pounds. For more information visit www.rswsc.org.
The 18th Annual Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament was held Saturday and Sunday from Whittaker Pointe Marina in Oriental. Thirty-four boats participated in the all-release tournament. An official catch requires fighting the tarpon to the boat and having someone touch the leader. There were four tarpon caught (and released) and four more tarpon that were hooked for at least one jump, but not landed.
Doug Sulc and crew combined their skills to land half of the tarpon caught during the tournament and claim the win. They caught one tarpon Saturday and another Sunday. Brynn Thomas and crew landed a tarpon on Saturday to finish second over Kandace Jordan and crew, who also landed a tarpon, but not until Sunday. Wade Gaskins and crew landed 44 pancake tarpon (cow nose ray) and were awarded the coveted Pancake Tarpon trophy. Another 150 pancake tarpon were landed during the tournament. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org.
The inaugural Cape Fear Flounder Classic was held from Southport Marina in Southport on Saturday, July 31. This tournament was presented by the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce and featured guaranteed prize money, just like the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament that is also hosted by the Southport-Oak Island Chamber.
There was a challenge of the second place fish, with another competitor charging the fishermen on that boat were fishing before starting time. The tournament committee met on Tuesday, August 3, to hear and discuss the arguments and made the decision the fish was caught within the rules of the tournament and would be allowed.
Michael Hill and Glen Hart of Southport fished on Hill's boat, Silver Bullet, and won the tournament with an 8.95 pound flounder. Their prize was $2,000 plus $1,170 from the Tournament Within A Tournament for a total of $3,170.
Dale Darnell and Chad Davis of Oak Island finished in second place with a flounder that weighed 8.75 pounds. They were fishing on Darnell's boat, Matt D. Wayne Crisco and Don Parker made the trip from Hampstead and caught a 6.7 pound flounder to finish third. They were fishing on Crisco's boat, Last Resort. For more information, visit www.southport-oakisland.com.
The TJM Celebrity Charity Kayak Tournament was held Saturday from Hook Line and Paddle Kayaks in Wrightsville Beach. Fishing was allowed from Topsail to Bald Head and up the Cape Fear River to River Road Park. Proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the North Carolina Alzheimer's Association.
The Flounder Division was the most hotly contested division with only 1/4 inch separating the top two fish and another 1/4 inch from second back to third. North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) founder, Mark Patterson claimed the win with an 18 5/8 inch flatfish, while Ken Maus scored second at 18 3/8 inches. Paul Clarke was third with an 18 1/8 inch flounder.
The Trout Division was also hotly contested, with all three placing fish being in the same 1/2 inch spread as the flounder, but with a slightly larger difference between first and second. Nathan Raycroft prevailed with a 17 3/4 incher, while Eric Bell was second at 17 5/16 inches and Ceila Nowicki scored third and one for the ladies at 17 1/4 inches.
In the Redfish Division, Joey Sullivan won with a 28 1/4 inch fish. Bob Dainton was second at 26 1/2 inches and Wayne Bradby was third with a 25 inch redfish. The Division winners all received new kayaks for their efforts while second and third place winners won paddles and kayak fishing gear. For more information visit www.hooklineandpaddle.com.
There was also a raffle for a very pretty Native Ultimate 12 kayak that had been wrapped to resemble a redfish. Mark Patterson had the luck on this drawing and immediately announced this kayak would not be used and would be raffled at the NCKFA/Oak Island Recreation Department Kayak Tournament On October 9. That tournament will benefit the Oak Island Turtle Program. Patterson said details are on the NCKFA website at www.nckfa.com.
The 11th Annual Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Classic was held Friday and Saturday from the Bridgetender Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This tournament benefits a New Hanover County family with special needs, plus Hospice of New Hanover County and the Sam Mann Foundation and more than $10,000 was awarded to these causes. Unfortunately a persistent east wind and falling barometer slowed the bite.
While fishing was slow, the Fish Repellant, with Lew Mowate, Dan Rahe and Hunter Rahe was anything but repelling fish. They caught (and released) two of the seven sailfish caught during the tournament in route to an overall win, Friday Daily Top Boat honors and the Top Junior Angler award for Hunter Rahe. The Horse, with Capt. Wes Edwards, was the top boat on Saturday and caught the last sailfish of the tournament.
There was also a Tournament Within A Tournament for dolphin. It was won by Kelly White and Glenn Healey on the Change order with a 16.75 pound dolphin. Eric Brewster and the Offshore Account crew were only a little behind in second at 16.48 pounds.
The 22nd Annual Ducks Unlimited "Band The Billfish" Tournament was held Friday and Saturday from the Morehead City Waterfront with 54 boats participating. This is the sixth of seven NC Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series tournaments for 2010. Many tournaments use time of catches as a tiebreaker, but the Band the Billfish Tournament uses the poundage of gamefish (tuna, wahoo and dolphin) as their tiebreaker and it came into play this year.
There was a three-way tie for first place with 550 points between Carolina Time, Megabite and Impulse. The difference was the Carolina Time, with Capt. Shane Brafford, weighed 26.90 pounds of gamefish, while the Megabite had 12.10 pounds and the Impulse slipped to third with 10.10 pounds. Gamefish proved to be the difference in the 22nd annual Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament as the Carolina Time broke a three-way tie for first with 26.90 pounds of the catch and carried home the $31,160 first prize of the almost $200,000 purse.
The fishing was better Saturday with 25 releases after just 14 on Friday. All of the Friday releases were sailfish while Saturday's catch included five blue marlin, seven white marlin and 13 sailfish. Crystal Davis fished on the Megabite and earned the Top Lady Angler Award.
The Sea Spud caught a 32.20 pound wahoo to win that division and the Run Off topped the dolphin division with a 23.50 pounder. No tuna were caught during the tournament. The Barbara B won the daily prize on Friday and the Chainlink won the daily prize on Saturday. For more information visit www.bandthebillfish.com.
There are four tournaments scheduled for this weekend and one that starts next week. The Alice Kelly Ladies only Memorial Billfish Tournament will be held Sunday, August 8 from Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com. Another tournament for ladies, the Long Bay Lady Angler King Mackerel Tournament, will be held Saturday, August 7, in Oak Island. For more information visit www.okifishingclub.ning.com
The Wrightsville Beach Wild King Classic will be held from Sea Path Marina in Wrightsville Beach on August 7 and 8. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com. The Top Dog Pinfish Tournament will be held Saturday, August 7. This tournament is for all ages. For more information visit www.topdoginc.weebly.com or www.oakislandpier.com.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament is the final tournament in the 2010 Governor's Cup Billfish Series and it will be held August 10 to 13 from Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.