There are two signs this week we are in the late spring and about to enter summer. The good one is the arrival of big concentrations of gaffer dolphin and the not so good one is the appearance of the chance of thunderstorms in the weather forecast for almost every afternoon.
The chance of thunderstorms is something we have to learn to live with. Iím not a meteorologist, but know enough to understand that when the temperature and humidity begin surpassing 80, it triggers something in the atmosphere that creates thunderstorms. Some of them can be very severe and it is always wise to get off the water during thunderstorms whenever possible.
The big fishing news this week was the arrival of gaffer dolphin. Everyone I spoke with who trolled offshore in the past few days said they caught at least 10. Many of these were 15 to 25 pound dolphin and they are fun to catch and delicious to eat.
Offshore trollers also caught some wahoo and blackfin tuna, but the numbers were down from the past few weeks. Both will continue to be around through the summer, but not in the numbers they have been during the spring. They will pick back up during the fall as the water begins to cool.
More good reports of assorted billfish came from along the entire N.C. Coast this week and the action was hot off Hatteras for the first two days of the Hatteras Village Offshore Open. Many trollers said they had one on for a while or had one in their baits and the reports ranged from blue marlin to sailfish. Even a couple of bottom fishermen said they had billfish, including one positively identified as a blue marlin, swim by and check out their light lines.
In addition to grouper, offshore bottom fishermen are also catching beeliners, grunts, porgies, triggerfish and more. Grouper have been caught as shallow as 80 feet of water, but the best action was from about 100-115 feet deep.
King mackerel are flirting with moving inshore. There were a bunch of them caught 25 to 40 miles off last week and over the weekend, but a few more have been caught at several of the rocks and wrecks closer in. The water is warm enough and there is food for them, so we may see a strong nearshore run at any time.
A pretty good king run has already begun along the southern N.C. beaches and piers. One pier said they had already landed more kings that during all of last year. Iím taking that as a good sign.
Those kings holding farther offshore will usually hit spoons, swimming plugs and frozen cigar minnows pretty readily. They will also hit these sometimes closer in and along the beach, but they seem to be much more likely to attack a live bait closer in. Schools of menhaden have been spotted along the beaches from Sunset Beach to Atlantic Beach and more are in the Intracoastal Waterway so they are fairly easily available. At this time of year, I like to use bluefish and find it is usually worth my time to spend a few minutes around the inlet catching some.
There were more cobia caught this week and they should be a welcome addition to anyoneís fish box. Understand that they save one final burst of energy for when they hit the deck, so be prepared. Another thing to understand with cobia is they have a minimum size of 33 inches from their nose to the fork in their tail. Some fair size fish must be released. Also, the limit is two per person per day.
Spanish mackerel numbers have been increasing for a few weeks and now some larger fish have arrived. I havenít heard of a citation size (6 pounds) Spanish yet, but there have been a good number of three and four pound fish. This is a nice Spanish mack and is some excellent eating.
One of the most popular ways to catch Spanish is trolling 00 and 0 size Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons behind planers and trolling sinkers along the beaches and around the inlets. Fishermen from the piers do well casting Got-Cha plugs and the ones with gold hooks really do catch more fish than silver hooks. Casting Got-Chas also works from a boat and ups the fun quotient a few notches, especially when paired with trout outfits.
A few more Hatteras or chopper blues were caught this week from the piers at Oak Island up to Emerald Isle. There are also a few being caught in the surf, especially around the jetties at Fort Macon. If you catch one, be careful. They love to chomp on fingers if you relax and arenít paying attention.
Pier fishermen caught cobia this week, but some didnít quite make keeper size. The water temperature is in the low seventies, so more cobia, Spanish macks and kings should be arriving at any time. In addition to these and some Hatteras bluefish, pier fishermen are also catching a few flounder, pompano, sea mullet, sheepshead, small blues, sand perch, blowfish, skates, sharks and more closer to the breakers.
I know itís a little early, but the flatfish are biting pretty well. Fishermen are catching limits of 2 to 4 pound flounder at the nearshore artificial reefs and rocks. A 2 ounce jig with a white 4 inch gulp shrimp has been the hot ticket for the ocean flounder. Jig it vertically and hold on. Flounder are also biting in the inlets, and around the mouths of many creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal rivers. The inside flounder are hitting live baits and soft plastics fished slowly right along the bottom.
With the water warming, the trout bite has slowed some, but there are still a few hotspots. The hot combination is a hole or place barely out of the current where the trout can hold and see what the current sweeps by. Live shrimp have been the best trout bait all spring, but soft plastics, especially the scented bio baits, and suspending MirrOlures, Rapalas and Bombers have been catching pretty well also.
Puppy drum have spread through the creeks and marshes. There are a few concentrations, but in many places they are spread out. Good places to find them are where baitfish and shrimp move into the marsh grass as the tide rises and then move out when the tide falls. Some of these spots are obvious and some are subtle, but all may produce well. Mouths of smaller creeks are some of the more obvious places to try.
Puppy drum usually arenít too choosy about what they eat. If it looks good they will try it. Live shrimp and minnows certainly will catch them. They will also hit many of the same soft plastics and lures as specks. One thing that works well for pups, especially when the tide is high and they are moving through the marsh grass is weedless spoons. Gold and bronze are my favorite colors.
Surf fishing has been pretty good at times. The big fish are some overslot red drum from Cape Lookout up to Frisco and Hatteras bluefish almost the whole coast. Surf fishermen are also catching some sea mullet, pompano, bluefish, flounder, blowfish and small sharks. Sometimes it takes working a whole tide to be there when the fish decide to move and eat, but a fisherman spending a whole tide at it should catch fresh fish for dinner.
Last Friday, May 11, I had the pleasure of assisting at the 6th Annual Boots on the Boards Fishing Day that was held at Sea View Pier in Topsail Beach. The event, which was attended by 20 Marine and 19 Army Wounded Warriors and Warriors in Transition, is a joint project of Fishermen in Support of Heroes and Sea View Pier.
Unfortunately the fish didnít cooperate particularly well. The servicemen and women (yep, there were a few ladies too) caught a mixture of small bluefish, whiting, blowfish, sand perch, flounder and skates, but all said they enjoyed the day out. Another event is being planned for the fall that is for all active duty military and their families. For more information visit www.fishheroes.org.
If you arenít aware of the Military Appreciation Day (MAD) organization, you should be. This group hosts fishing trips for active duty military personnel each year. They do a spring event in Morehead City and a fall event in Southport. This is the seventh year and MAD 7 Morehead City will be on Saturday, June 2.
Currently there are more servicemen who would like to go fishing than they have boats to take them. This does not require a captainís license, but is for fishermen who would just like to show their appreciation by taking servicemen and women fishing. They also need volunteers to assist on land with getting things organized and having lunch ready when the fishermen return. If anyone is interested, please visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org and apply through the forms or contact information there.
The Got-Em-On Fishing Club of Carolina and Kure Beaches hosted the 14th Annual Cape Fear Disabled Sportsmen Pier tournament on Friday May 11 at Kure Beach Pier. A report from the club said an incredible 295 fishermen and fisher ladies attended and all had a great time in the beautiful weather. For more information visit www.kurebeachfishingpier.com or www.got-em-on.com.
The North Carolina Public Access Foundation was formed to help keep public access to areas for boating and fishing. This week they donated $1,000 to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to help fund a new Wildlife Boating Access Area on the New River at Highway 17 Business in Jacksonville. For more information or if you have an idea or area you think should be preserved for public access, you can contact them through their website at www.ncpaf.com.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) met May 9-11 at the Clam Digger Inn in Pine Knoll Shores and several significant actions came out of the meeting. The one with the most impact for the Crystal Coast involved dealing with large mesh gill nets and incidents with sea turtles. Several species of sea turtles received an endangered species listing several years ago and others are classified as threatened. A federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP) is required to allow a limited number of interactions with endangered species and the N.C. permit for sea turtles expired in 2010 and an extension expired at the end of 2011.
As a provision of the settlement of the suit brought by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) applied for a statewide ITP roughly a year ago. They received word on May 3 the proposal was not acceptable and they needed to rewrite the proposal and reapply. DMF officials were told they needed to reduce the number of interactions in the proposal and specifically address hotspots.
Dr. Louis Daniel, DMF Director, said they were counting on having this ITP in effect by June 1 and now that didnít appear possible, but the DMF staff was working diligently to get it done. Daniel said there currently was not an ITP for sea turtles in N.C. and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) could shut down all large mesh gill netting in the state for a single interaction with a sea turtle.
The area known as D-1 to netters and gill net managers includes lower Core Sound, Back Sound and the North River. This area has been identified as a major hotspot and accounted for 53 percent of the sea turtle interactions with gill nets during 2010. Seeing this as the easiest and quickest way to reduce the number of incidents and eliminate a hotspot, the MFC voted 6-3 to continue a closure already in effect in D-1. The same motion and vote also reduced the amount of large mesh gill net allowed per fisherman from 2,000 to 1,000 yards in the D-2 area, which includes the waters from Lennoxville Point near Beaufort to the Hwy 58 Bridge between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle.
Daniel said, "We hate to do this to the fishermen in this area, but it is definitely a hotspot with a lot of turtle/gill net interactions. Thankfully it is a small area and there are areas close by the fishermen can fish."
In a surprise action, the MFC voted 5-4 to stop the practice of multi-vessel purse seining in N.C. waters. Purse seining is a fishing method used to catch menhaden that uses smaller boats to encircle a school of fish with a net, attach the net together and then "purse" the net together at the bottom son the fish canít escape. The captured fish are then pumped into a mother ship for transportation to a reduction facility. This is not a food fishery. Menhaden are cooked and reduced to fish meal and fish oil.
There has not been a reduction facility in N.C. since Beaufort Fisheries closed in 2005. An incident in 2009, when boats menhaden boats from Omega Fisheries Corporation in Reedville, Va. trapped and killed a school of large red drum while using a purse seine off Cape Lookout galvanized the side of this argument. A recent study released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (www.asmfc.org) shows menhaden as being severely overfished and overfishing continuing to occur.
The MFC also passed a motion 8-1 to direct the DMF to begin the rulemaking process to create potential management options to protect Atlantic sturgeon to send to the commissionís regional advisory committees for feedback. A full report of the meeting should be posted soon at www.ncdmf.net.
The N.C. Legislature convened its 2012 Short Session on May 16. While primarily a session for handing interim budget matters, there had been hope the Gamefish Bill, HB 353, would have been recommended by the Marine Fisheries Committee to be brought out of its House committee and voted on by the House and sent to the Senate. Due to the latest round of political maneuvering, that doesnít seem likely at this point. For more information on N.C. legislation, lawmakers, and committees or to follow the progress of any bill, visit www.ncleg.net.
Several interesting events are scheduled for this weekend. The Crystal Coast Boat Show will be held May 19-20 in Downtown Morehead City. There will be boats in the water and on land, plus a classic car show, entertainment for the kids and live music. For more information and a schedule of the events, visit www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.
The Turtle Triathlon and First Crawl Environmental Festival will be held at Oak Island on Saturday, May 19. The day begins with the Turtle Triathlon that includes kayaking, cycling and a run/walk segment. The main festival begins at 10:00 A.M. and includes numerous displays, seminars, food, music, entertainment for the kids and more. I will have a booth displaying kayak fishing and will give a short seminar on the basics of kayak fishing. For more information contact the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department at 910-278-5518 or 910-278-4747 or on-line at www.oakislandnc.com/recreation/index.htm.
The Chasiní Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge began on April 1 and runs through June 11. ChasiníTails also added a Spanish and Flounder Challenge that began May 1 and runs through August 31. They didnít send leaders for the Spanish and Flounder Challenge, but the Cobia Challenge leader is Anthony Nelson, Beaufort, with a 69 pound cobia. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
Capt. Joe Shuteís Bait and Tackle Shop is sponsoring a Cobia Tournament that runs through the end of May. Greg Marquart is currently leading this tournament with a 52 pound cobia caught last Saturday. For more information stop by the store or visit www.captjoes.com.
The Fishers of Men Inshore Trail Rose Bay Special Tournament was held in Hyde County on May 12. This tournament will feature speckled trout, puppy drum and flounder. There were 19 boats carrying 38 fishermen and 5 kids in the tournament. Unfortunately no puppy drum were weighed.
In the Kids Division, Ethan May caught the Largest Flounder at 1.800 pounds and Carson Tawes caught the Largest Speckled Trout at 1.300 pounds.
The competition was tight in the Pro Division with only ounces separating the top finishers. Chris May and Ethan May won the Speckled Trout Category with an aggregate weight of 4.820 pounds. Bobby Hinnant and Marshall Shingleton were right on their heels in second with 4.775 pounds and Dale Goff, Josh Richardson, Brent Radford and Barry Radford (Kid) finished third with 4.760 pounds.
Mitch and Tommy Bunn topped the fishermen in the Flounder Category with 5.550 pounds. Joe and Imry Balaszi and Scott Thomas scored second with 5.300 pounds of flounder, while Dale Goff, Josh Richardson, Brent Radford and Barry Radford (Kid) scored another third place with 5.190 pounds of flounder. The big fish of the tournament weighed 2.545 pounds and was caught by Jason Price and Ray Melvin. For more information on the Fishers of Men Inshore Trail or this tournament, call 252-230-0359, 252-236-1592 or 252-883-9392.
The Far Out Shoot Out began May 12 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach and runs through May 19. Tournament participants may choose one of the eight days to fish based on weather or their schedule. There was still time to catch the big fish, but it is quickly running out.
The Aggregate Division leader is Team UBS/OIFC, with Captains Barrett and Rube McMullan. They caught a total of 63.25 pounds from one dolphin and one wahoo. The Oil Slick, with the crew of Capt. Jamie Milliken, Capt. Joe Seegers, Kyle White and Robbie White leads the Wahoo Division at 41.15 pounds. Grumpy, with Dan Wilson and crew, leads the Dolphin Division with a 25.65 pound dolphin. No tuna have been weighed. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Hatteras Village Offshore Open began Wednesday, May 16, and will fish through Saturday, May 19 from Hatteras Harbor Marina in Hatteras. This is the first 2012 N.C. Governorís Cup Tournament of the year and features billfish and offshore gamefish. The weather didnít cooperate early and several fishermen are hoping for better weather for Friday and Saturday.
The early leaders in the billfish division were Hammertime and Sea Striker who both released blue marlin on Wednesday. Builders Choice released a pair of blue marlin on Thursday to move into the lead. When the scales opened Thursday, the Galot 3 was there and weighed a 515.9 pound blue marlin to slip into second place in points and first in largest fish.
No tuna or wahoo were weighed on Wednesday or Thursday. Trust Fun led the Dolphin Category after Thursdayís fishing with a 26.0 pounder. For more information visit www.hvoo.org.
The Heroes on the Water - Armed Forces Day White Oak River Paddle Fishing Tournament scheduled for this Saturday, May 19, in Swansboro has been postponed until Sept. 29. For more information visit www.flatwaterspaddling.com.
The World of Outlaws/Carolina Kingfish Spring Classic scheduled for this Saturday, May 19, has been postponed and will be rescheduled for sometime in the fall. For more information visit www.carolinakingfishclassic.com.