The weather forecast for most of the next week is good and should allow fishing wherever you want to go except for maybe on Wednesday. It includes a couple of days with chances of rain and the possibility of thunderstorms, but none look to be rainouts. Look forward to seeing lots of sunshine with warm temperatures with daytime highs in the low 80s.
The water flow is slowing in the rivers, which is allowing them to return to near normal levels and that should continue to improve. The weather has been odd enough this year that I'm not sure what "normal" really is, but it seems we are returning to good conditions and that's a plus. After starting the year severely behind the rainfall curve, we are several inches ahead as of last week and with no severe rains in the extended forecast. Maybe we're approaching "normal." That sure would be nice!
Offshore fishing is hot and the sea conditions have allowed getting there comfortably and there look to be more good days coming up. The water around the Gulf Stream is warming and many fishing are pushing to the inside edge of the stream and wandering the rips, eddies, color changes, temperature breaks and weed lines along that inside edge. For most of the N.C. Coast, wahoo and blackfin tuna have been the primary catches for several months, but dolphin are steadily taking over. There are lots of dolphin being caught and the numbers seem to grow almost daily - weekly for sure. There is a hot yellowfin tuna bite, with a few bigeyes mixed in, out of Oregon Inlet.
The exciting Gulf Stream addition last week was billfish. There were marlin and sailfish caught from off Charleston to off Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks. This is really good news for the Swansboro Rotary Blue Water and Cape Fear Blue Marlin tournament coming up the next couple of weeks.
A little closer in, offshore bottom fish are biting well. Structure is the key to congregating them and that can be a ledge, a rock, an artificial reef or a wreck. Some bottom fish, like beeliners and triggerfish, prefer taller structure, while others like lower relief, as long as there are rocks and plants that hold smaller fish, crabs and other things for them to eat. The bottom fish catch includes grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts, porgys, amberjacks, a few African pompano, and a few cobia that must be released in federal waters beyond 3 miles from the beach.
King mackerel are biting pretty well. They aren't quite spread from the deep to the beach, but should move back in closer as the water continues to clear this week. Hopefully they'll make it back to the piers for the Rebel Pier King Tournament at Ocean Crest Pier this weekend. Slow trolling with live bait has been very productive and there has been lots of pogies in the lower river and along the beaches. Kings will also hit dead cigar minnows, spoons, sea witches rigged with strips and swimming lures.
There are cobia in many of the same areas as kings, especially around the artificial reefs and near then inlets. The cobia action is good off southern N.C., better around Cape Lookout and red hot from Hatteras Inlet to Oregon Inlet. Cobia season is only open in state waters from the beach out to 3 miles. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries is requesting that fishermen report all cobia catches at official weigh stations or using a form found on-line at www.ncrecfish.com/cobia.
Spanish mackerel are biting close to shore. Bluefish are mixed with the Spanish in places. Trolling quicker eliminates many bluefish strikes.
Clarkspoons are the long time favorite lures for Spanish macks and more fishermen are adding mackerel tree rigs in front of the Clarkspoons. Most of the action has been below the surface and a mixture of number 1 and 2 planers and trolling sinkers up to 4 or so ounces will get lures at different depths until you find them. Longer leaders of 20-25 feet move the lure far enough back the fish forget about the disturbance of the planers or sinkers and are ready to bite.
Pier and surf fishing has been slow, but fairly steady for the past week or so and should improve as the water continues to clear. There have been kings caught off the southern N.C. piers and cobia from most N.C. piers. In the surf and closer in on the piers, fishermen have been bluefish, black drum and whiting, with a few pups, specks and flounder.
Whiting, or sea mullet or VA mullet, have been biting in the surf, plus in the lower Cape Fear River at Southport and in Beaufort Inlet and the Morehead City Turning Basin at Morehead City. They are usually in small schools and should mark along the bottom on your fishfinder. A double drop or speck rig baited with small pieces of shrimp or Fishbites synthetic bloodworms and a little patience and luck is all you need.
Inshore fishing continues to be mixed, but improving. With the water clearing, fish are moving around more and more fishermen are finding them. Black drum are the most reliable, but catches of red drum, speckled trout and flounder all increased last week.
Flounder usually lay on the bottom, but a surprising number have been aggressively rising to hit live baits and lures fished under floats. Last week I suggested using a Back Bay Thunder float to help attract fish and fishing about a foot above the bottom whether using live baits or lures. Several fishermen texted or e-mailed to say it really worked and they were catching flounder under the corks too. Apparently the pop or click alerts the flounder and they spot the bait drifting by. While it was originated to catch trout and drum, one thing for sure is this technique allows covering more water than a bait resting on the bottom.
In many places, especially in several feet of water and less, the specks and pups are hitting topwater lures. This action is usually best in the early morning and late afternoons, but there have been days the fish were still feeding on top during the middle of the day. A caution to those new to topwater fishing is not to try to set the hook by sight, but wait until you feel the fish hit. Many times you see the fish striking before it hits the lure and it's easy to get excited and jerk the lure away from it.
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.
Unfortunately, there is not an event close by. The closest I can find are at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville on June 3 and the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville on June 10. Another event is tentative scheduled for Jacksonville, but the date and time has not been announced. 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.
Wildlife Commission Schedules Public Forums Seeking Input on
Alligator Management Plan
A copy of the Draft Alligator Management Plan may be downloaded at http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Conserving/documents/Profiles/AMP Draft V1-2 2017-05-01.pd. Each sentence of the plan is numbered to make commenting on specific portions of the plan easier. Reviewers can refer to the line number when providing comments. Comments on the plan will be accepted until June 25. An online comment form is available for those who cannot attend a public forum but would like to offer input. You may also mail or email comments to Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator, at email@example.com or 1722 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1700.
The Alligator Management Plan Forums will begin at 7:00 P.M. at the following
dates and locations:
The Alligator Task Force, along with the Commission, will present the final draft of the N.C. Alligator Management Plan to Wildlife Commissioners at their July 26-27 business meeting in Raleigh. For more information on alligators in North Carolina, visit www.ncwildlife.org/conserving, or download the Co-Existing with Alligators document.
June 6-8: Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, The Norfolk Hilton on Main, Norfolk, VA., www.mafmc.org.
June 12-16: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Sawgrass Marriott, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL., www.safmc.net.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other
May 17: Cape Fear Flyfishers, St. James Community Center, Casting Clinic at 5:00 and Meeting at 6:00, www.capefearflyfishers.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, Wrightsville Beach, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
June 2-3: Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
June 3-11: National Fishing & Boating Week, www.takemefishing.org.