It appears that at least southern NC is recovering from the monsoon rain of several weeks ago and the rivers that connect through the sounds are beginning to fall. That's good news! The inland lakes are still very full, but water has been released and the level is dropping in the lakes and rivers. Those who would like to track the flow and river levels, the information is available on the Wilmington Corps of Engineers website (www.saw.usace.army.mil) under the Missions heading at the top of the page.
Some of the river systems will take a while to get back to normal, but at least they're headed that way. I traveled to northeastern N.C. this week and all the rivers were really high. I was headed to Northampton County for the final week of turkey season and the farm I was hunting borders the Roanoke River and part of it I was planning to hunt was flooded. While this changed my plans, I was particularly worried about the turkeys and other ground nesting wildlife whose nests had been flooded. Hopefully this happened early enough in the breeding cycle they have an opportunity to try again when the flood waters recede.
The weather has been surprisingly good for the past few days and looks to stay pretty good except for a chance of some nasty thunderstorms on Saturday and maybe breezing up a little early next week.
The flow of the rivers slowing will allow them to clear up and should improve fishing along the coast. It might take a while to spread for the whole state, but it's happening already in some places.
There were a few kings caught from Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island late last week, but I didn't get a report of any more or a pier cobia. There are still big blues and big red drum at the Outer Banks Piers. All piers are reporting smaller bluefish, some scattered Spanish mackerel and a bottom catch led by whiting (sea mullet, Va. mullet) and black drum, with a few flounder, trout, smaller red drum and pompano. This should improve as the water clears.
Surf fishermen have been landing a few fish in spite of the dirty water. The most frequent surf catch has been black drum, but there have also been bluefish, a few whiting and pompano, some scattered and mostly short flounder, and even a cobia or two.
Spanish macks and cobia are biting off the beach along the entire state and there are kings just a little offshore up through Cape Lookout. The hot spots for cobia have been around Cape Lookout and from Cape Hatteras up to Oregon Inlet, while the king bite is better on both sides of Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear. Kings and Spanish are legal anywhere, but fishermen should remember that cobia can only be kept in state waters, which range from the beach offshore to 3 miles. Effective May 1, the limit on cobia dropped to 1 fish per person, not to exceed 4 fish per boat. The minimum size increased to 36 inches fork length (tip of nose to middle of fork in tail).
Originally, 2017 cobia catches were to be required to be reported, but that was changed and the Division of Marine Fisheries is now only requesting cobia catches be reported. That can be done at a N.C. weigh stations or by using a form that can be downloaded at www.ncrecfish.com/cobia. The proclamation on cobia and regulations on all saltwater fish can be found at www.ncdmf.net.
A memo sent last week from DMF headquarters in Morehead City announced that N.C. would be adding a release citation for bluefish, with a minimum size of 34 inches. This will begin on May 15.
Grouper season opened on May 1, but the wind was strong enough no one got out until the following day. The grouper were still there and hungry. Different grouper species have different regulations and it is wise to know them before keeping one. A size and limits regulation sheet can be downloaded at www.ncdmf.net. Other bottom catches include black sea bass, grunts, porgys, beeliners, triggerfish, amberjack and an occasional African pompano.
The wind finally let up and let fishermen make a comfortable run to the Gulf Stream. They found wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna south of Cape Hatteras, with a few yellowfin tuna joining the catch around Cape Hatteras and lots more from Cape Hatteras up to Oregon Inlet. The dolphin numbers are increasing almost daily and these are mostly nice gaffer dolphin too.
The inshore reports were mixed this week. Some folks had issues finding fish and some found them. I didn't receive reports of folks catching limits, but folks were catching a trout or two, or some whiting, black drum, or a flounder or puppy drum for supper. If you could find a spot out of the wind, fishing was a lot better that staying home and working on your honey-do list. The weather and maybe even fishing too, should be a little better this week.
Whiting are my favorite panfish and there are still some to be caught. They are in the surf and being caught from the piers. Boat fishermen may find them in other places, like in the ocean just outside the Cape Fear River, between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout and many places inside the inlets. Whiting are bottom feeders that locate much of their food by smell, so they will be biting when you find them. They like pieces of shrimp on a double drop bottom or speck rig and fishermen have also been catching them well using pieces of Fishbites synthetic bloodworms.
The inshore action is a bit scattered right now. There are a few flounder, red drum, black drum and speckled trout in many places, but there doesn't seem to be a huge concentration in any one place right now. Using natural baits with scent and lures with scent and/or sound and active live baits will help catch them.
When the water is dirty and the action is slow, like it is now, one suggestion from many good fishermen is to fish a float line. With a float, the bait or lure is held approximately a foot off the bottom to be more visible and it can be allowed to drift with the current to cover more water. There are a variety of styles and sizes of floats, from simple clip-ons to rattling and popping floats.
I like the Back Bay Thunder float from Cajun Thunder. This float is made on a stainless steel wire, with brass beads below it and glass beads above it. These beads will click and rattle when the cork is lightly jerked. This cork has a slightly concave top, so it can also be used as a popping cork. In open water, I lay my rod tip over near the water and give a sharp jerk with my wrist to get the cork to pop and rattle. In smaller creeks, where that much noise could be spooky, I keep the rod tip high and give a wrist jerk that rattles the beads only. It's versatile and effective.
Many fishermen prefer to use live shrimp under a cork, but almost any active live bait will work to some degree. Fishermen along the Outer Banks and in many more southern states like to use small spots and croakers under their floats. Lures, primarily soft plastics, will also catch well suspended under floats. I like shrimp shapes, but the various minnow shapes will work too. Drum will often respond to a piece of shrimp, a whole shrimp, or a piece of cut bait suspended under a float. This style of fishing makes your bait more visible, allows scent to flow freely, and allows you to add as much or as little action as you like to lures.
Use the float rig at places where bait will congregate or be swept along. Casting into creek mouths and letting it be carried out by the falling tide is my favorite. If you do this, don't just fish the immediate creek mouth, but let the tide carry it along the bank a ways once out of the creek. Fish will feed where the currents collide. You can also drift along an oyster rock, a section of sharply cut bank, or just about any other structure.
I mentioned topwater lures last week and they are also effective when the water isn't clear. Most topwater lures have rattles and the splash and rattle attract fish much the same as the Back Bay Thunder float.
Chasing Thunder Chickens
To fill both of my turkey tags on back-to-back days is something I've never done before and probably won't do again. These were nice birds with beards of 10 and 10 1/4 inches and spurs of more than an inch. After pictures and a celebration at the lodge, I had to spend the night and drive home the next morning. If you aren't a member of a local hunting club or only want to go a couple of times a year and not have to do club maintenance, I heartily recommend Occoneechee Lodge (www.deerhuntingnc.com). The deer hunting is excellent and I like the turkey hunting even better.
Checking Real Time Weather and Sea Conditions
Free Kids’ Fishing Events Scheduled around National Boating and
“The Commission is stocking fish, such as trout and channel catfish, in support of many of the events surrounding National Fishing and Boating Week,” said Christian Waters, chief of the agency’s Inland Fisheries Division. “We are very grateful to everyone — from sponsors Neuse Sport Shop and Trout Unlimited to the many cooperators who are hosting a kids’ fishing event — for making these events possible. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The Wildlife Commission will conduct a drawing for prizes at the end of June and will publish a list of winners on its website, www.ncwildlife.org, in July. The grand prize in the random drawing is a lifetime sportsman’s license. The license, donated by Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston, includes freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges, as well as hunting privileges. The first prize, donated by Trout Unlimited, is a lifetime freshwater fishing license. The Commission is donating an additional 100 prizes, such as fishing towels, playing cards and mini-tackle boxes, plus local sponsors for many events will provide prizes and gifts to registered participants as well.
To find your closest fishing event or for more information on freshwater fishing in North Carolina, visit the Commission’s Fishing Page at www.ncwildlife.org or call the Inland Fisheries Division at 919-707-0220. For more information about National Fishing and Boating Week 2017, visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s website at www.takemefishing.org.
WRC and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
There are numerous evening and weekend classes and programs offered at the Pechmann Center each month. For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab. The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. There are several interesting programs scheduled for the next few weeks at the Pechmann Center that include kayak fishing, fly tying and boating safety.
The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head. The local aquarium is at Fort Fisher and the other aquariums are at Pine Knoll Shores and Manteo. Approaching summer the aquarium will offer programs on surf fishing, exploring the marsh, canoeing and more. For more information, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select the Fort Fisher Aquarium.
Military Appreciation Days 2017
Troops participating in MAD 10 will have options to fish inshore or offshore from boats or from a kayak. Military Appreciation Day is open to all active duty military personnel from all branches of the military. There will be shoreside activities for family members at several of the MAD events.
Registration for the 2017 MAD events is open for volunteers and the Morehead City MAD is open for troops to register. Volunteers are needed for all aspects of the event, from taking troops fishing, helping with the many land-based activities and even cleaning fish. If you can spare a day, or even a few hours, it will be appreciated by the organizers and really appreciated by the service men and women and their families. Helping at a MAD event is special and rewarding. I take troops fishing and always feel like I have as much or more fun than they do. Anyone who would like to help can visit www.militaryappreciationday.org and register.
WRC Schedules Forums to Discuss White-tailed Deer
In recent years, Commission biologists and technicians have intensified harvest and biological data collections to evaluate buck and doe age structures, population trends, and timing of the rut across the state. Information about this biological evaluation of the herd was presented at public deer forums across the state during the summer of 2015. As part of the evaluation process of the state’s current deer season frameworks, the Commission also conducted a statewide survey of deer hunters in 2016 to understand the most critical component of deer management – the expectations and desires of deer hunters.
These forums will be used to present the 2016 survey results, discuss potential management options and solicit additional feedback from hunters and others interested in deer management. It is important to note these forums are not public hearings, and the potential management options presented are not proposed regulation changes. These public discussions are critical to management efforts and will help determine the best way to meet the desires of the state’s constituency while maintaining a healthy deer herd. The Commission will utilize the data gathered through the multi-year biological evaluation, deer hunter survey, and these forums before determining if any changes in deer hunting regulations will be presented at public hearings in January 2018.
The dates and locations for the forums are:
"Submitting an alligator observation is very easy," said Alicia Davis, of the NCWRC. "If you see an alligator and can take a picture, you simply upload the photo to iNaturalist and add it to the NC Alligators project. If the picture was taken with a Smartphone, the iNaturalist platform automatically gathers data on when and where the photo was taken. If you take the picture with a traditional camera, you can drop a pin where you saw the alligator using the Google map on the website."
Those wishing to report alligator sightings other than through iNaturalist can e-mail their pictures and information to Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should include: a photo, the date and time, the location (GPS coordinates are best, but a detailed location description is acceptable), and an estimation of the alligator's size.
Davis cautions to keep a safe distance away when photographing alligators and that enticing them with food for a better picture is dangerous and illegal.
The public can also help the Wildlife Commission learn more about alligators in North Carolina by reporting locations of alligator nests and providing access to private property for alligator surveys. For more information, contact Davis at the e-mail or phone above or read the Wildlife Commission's report, "Coexisting with Alligators" that is available on their website at www.ncwildlife.org.
May 17-18: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, BridgePointe Hotel and Marina, New Bern, www.ncdmf.net.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other
May 9-13: Hatteras Village Offshore Open, Hatteras Harbor Marina, Hatteras, www.hvoo.org.
May 13: Ride the Tide Kayak Race and Fun Paddle, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com.
May 18-20: Bald Head Island Rodeo, Bald Head Island Marina, Bald Head Island, www.bhirodeo.com.
May 19-21: Hillsborough Sportfishing Club Offshore Challenge, Crow's Nest - Atlantic Beach and OBX Marina - Wanchese, www.hillsboroughsfc.com.
May 19-21: Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, N.C., www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.
May 20-21: Rebel Pier King Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
May 20-26: National Safe Boating Week, www.safeboatingcouncil.org.
May 25-28: Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Water Fishing Tournament, Swansboro Rotary Civic Center, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.
May 26-28: Ron McManus Memorial Fishing Tournament, Harbourgate Marina, North Myrtle Beach, www.ronmcmanusmemorialreef.com/fishing-tournament.
May 27: Pogie's Redfish Series Tournament 2, Pogies, Swansboro, www.pogiesfishing.com.
May 28: Pogie's Kayak Redfish Series Tournament 3, Pogies, Swansboro, www.pogiesfishing.com.
May 29: Memorial Day.
May 31-June 3: Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament, Wrightsville Beach Marina, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
June 3-11: National Fishing & Boating Week, www.takemefishing.org.