Another nice, but slightly windy, week has passed and our fishing is getting better just about everywhere. The only negative is the wind sometime makes getting to them a rough proposition and occasionally an unsafe one. As good as the fishing may be; it's not worth endangering yourself. It is often very wise to postpone a fishing trip for a few days and wait for better weather and sea conditions.
I do not believe it was a weather situation, but a malfunctioning bilge pump, but a boat went down last week while on an offshore fishing trip and only one of the three fishermen has been found. Our prayers go out to their families and for them, but it has been long enough the Coast Guard has suspended rescue operations. This is a stark and rudely awakening reminder of what can happen on the ocean.
We will all be fishing this summer and enjoying ourselves. One of the easiest things to do to help the safety of your trip is to file a float plan. A float plan lists the area(s) you are planning to fish, a description of the boat and how many people are on board and when you plan to return. This plan can be left with friends, the marina, and even the Coast Guard. It gives a starting point for looking should you have difficulty and need assistance.
We had some storms and much needed rain as the weekend ended and into the mid-week. There are some possibilities of a little more rain and maybe some thunderstorms over the weekend, but it doesn't appear to be a big rain event. There is no reason to believe this should slow the good fishing we have been enjoying.
Fishing has been good almost everywhere this week. The offshore fishermen have tangled with a few billfish, but have caught lots of dolphin, blackfin tuna and wahoo. Yellowfin tuna are still very scarce in most catches, but they are encountered occasionally and are always welcome aboard most boats. Several locations mentioned often were the Point, the Rise, Swansboro Hole and the 800 and 850 lines, the Steeples, Blackjack Hole and the 100/400.
A little inshore of the Gulf Stream the bottomfish have been biting pretty well. It may not be quite as hot a bite as some folks expected after a winter of closures, but it isn't bad. I got an e-mail from one reader last week telling me how much fun he had on a recent charter and that offshore bottomfishing has become his new favorite way of fishing. The catch includes grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, grunts, amberjack, a few African pompano and even a bunch of red snapper that still must be released.
Regarding red snapper, word was received this week that the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council has extended the Interim Rule closing red snapper season for an additional 186 days. With this extension, red snapper season will not reopen until at least December 5 and most fishermen expect it to be closed then by provisions of Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. Visit www.safmc.net for more details.
Robert Beard was fishing with Captains Tommy Rickman and Chad Casteen of Southport Angler Outfitters (www.fishsouthport.com) and caught a Warsaw Grouper. This is a very unusual catch off our area and it was well away from where it should be. The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) says these grouper are caught from water 240 feet deep and offshore, but Beard landed his in 130 feet of water. Congratulations!
King mackerel fishing is going off! I don't know where they were, but they have moved into many locations just a little off the beaches during the last week. At the southern end of the state, the pier fishermen had another good week with kings. There were kings out around the Northwest Places, Jerry's Reef, Christmas Rock, Rock South of 13 Buoy Jesse's Ledge, 23 Mile Rock, Lighthouse Rock, 390/390, the Jungle and other places in similar depths.
As you can see by these locations, they have moved closer to the beach in southern areas. The fishermen who found the kings reported numerous limits and said the kings weren't too picky either. They were hitting frozen cigar minnows almost as readily as they attacked live baits.
I haven't received a report of a pier king in Crystal Coast waters, but it could happen at any time. It is becoming a regular occurrence at the Oak Island Piers. There was a report that a missed king strike was mixed with all the big bluefish at Bogue Inlet Pier early in the week, but it is difficult to verify the species of a fish that gets away. However, Herb Chilton of Reidsville landed a huge 70 pounds, 5 ounces cobia from Bogue Inlet Pier on Sunday. Fishermen on the pier said there was another larger cobia hanging around one day, but it sampled a bait and then spit it out without getting hooked.
The ocean temperatures are continuing to warm. They are almost as much above normal right now as they were below it only four weeks ago. This morning when I checked the water temperatures, Bogue Inlet Pier was reporting 72 degree water and it was almost 2 degrees warmer at Ocean Crest Pier. Offshore fishermen are now regularly seeing 74 to 78 degrees in the Gulf Stream and dolphin have arrived in good numbers to compliment the wahoo and blackfin tuna. There is an occasional yellowfin tuna and billfish being caught, but the numbers are low.
Cobia continue to bite well. The hottest spot has been finding them feeding in bait schools spread along Shackleford Banks from Beaufort Inlet to Cape Lookout. Cobia are also spread along the beaches from Cape Hatteras to the N.C. / S.C. state line.
Whatever you do, do not discount the quality of cobia. They may look like a cross between a shark and a catfish and be stubborn dogged fighters, but they have very mild and tasty white meat. The only way you can mess up cobia is to burn the steak or fillet. It can be prepared well by grilling, blackening, baking, broiling and frying. If you get the chance to have some, you'll like it.
Spanish mackerel are biting well too. Boaters trolling Clarkspoons and pier anglers casting Got-Cha Jigs are catching them well. Two good tips for Spanish are to use Clarkspoons in size 00 and to use Got-Cha Jigs with gold hooks.
Gray trout fishing is about to slow for the summer and that is good. At their meeting in Raleigh last week, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) voted to comply with the directives from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that were originally to have been enacted by May 1. These changes include reducing the recreational limit to a single fish per person per trip and reducing the commercial limit to 100 pounds per trip. The changes were implemented by proclamation from Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and became effective last Sunday, May 16. You can check for the proclamation and verify the limits at the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
Another proclamation issued after that MFC meeting is attracting a lot more attention. This proclamation, regarding changes in gill net regulations, was issued from the DMF Director Daniel on Thursday and was the final part of the settlement in the lawsuit between the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and the N.C. MFC and DMF. The proclamation issued numerous serious changes in how large mesh gill nets may be fished in N.C. inside waters. Large mesh gill nets are classified as those having a stretched mesh larger than 4 inches and up to 6 1/2 inches. These nets are primarily used to target flounder, but also catch red drum, stripers and entangle, and sometimes drown, sea turtles. The changes are to avoid interactions with sea turtles, but should also reduce the catch of red drum and reduce user conflicts in areas fished by commercial and recreational fishermen.
Under the terms of the new proclamation, large mesh gill nets may only be used if they meet the following requirements:
They may be set only on weeknights Monday through Thursday;
They may be set no sooner than one hour before sunset and must be retrieved (removed from the water) no later than one hour after sunrise the following morning;
They may be no more than 15 meshes in height;
They must not be fished without a lead core or leaded bottom line;
They may not have floats or other buoys except those required for identification north of the B. Cameron Langston Bridge on N.C. 58 in Emerald Isle.
Floats will be allowed on nets fished south of the N.C. 58 Bridge in Emerald Isle;
No fishing operation may use more than a total of 2,000 yards of net in any combination at one time in any waters north of the N.C. 58 Bridge in Emerald Isle.
No fishing operation may set more than a total of 1,000 yards of net in any combination at one time south of the N.C. 58 bridge in Emerald Isle;
No more than 100 yards of net may be set in a continuous line;
There must be at least 25 yards between separate lengths of net.
Puppy drum and flounder fishing is going well in inside waters. There are a few speckled trout also, but those numbers are not what fishermen had expected. The pups are being caught around flats in the sounds, along the edges of the Intracoastal Waterway and in many creeks and marshes. The flounder have been on the edges of the drops into channels and on the nearshore ocean rocks and reefs along the entire coast. The specks have been in the deeper spots adjacent to shallow water in the creeks and marshes, but have not been available in numbers like the past few years. There have also been good catches of pups and some nice specks in the creeks off the Neuse River around Oriental.
Live bait is helpful to catch pups, specks and flatties, but they will hit artificials. Soft scented plastics often work well when slowly eased across the bottom. An exciting way to catch pups and specks is with topwater lures such as the MirrOlure Top Dog. Suspending MirrOlures, such as the 17 MR and 27 MR MirrODyne Series will often catch both of these, plus flounder, but they suspend roughly a foot under the surface and don't draw the explosive strikes.
National Safe Boating Week is May 22 through 28 and N.C. will be participating. Two points that will be stressed by Wildlife officers during this time will be the requirement that all youths younger than 13 are required to wear a PFD and the new requirement that all boat operators younger than 26 who are operating a boat with a 10 horsepower or greater engine are required to have passed a safe-boating course or have otherwise met compliance with the statute.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 5 will be held in Morehead City on June 5. This is an opportunity to show our service men and women we support them and get to know some of them. Volunteers are needed for everything from setup and cleanup to persons who would like to provide boats to take the military folks fishing. For more information on the event and ways to assist, visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
For kayakers looking for a paddle outing, the Roanoke River Partners Paddle Days will be in Plymouth this Saturday, May 22. The weather forecast looks good and the Plymouth Downtown Development Association is promising lots of activities for the entire family. For more information and to register, visit www.roanokeriverpartners.org.
The Ride the Tide Kayak Float and Race was held Saturday at Oak Island. A crowd almost triple of what was expected caused the start to be delayed approximately a half hour, but the participants appreciated the assist of the falling tide along the 4.9 mile course. The 2009 event drew 36 kayakers and this year's event approached 100 participants.
James Smith of Wilmington won with a blistering time of 46 minutes to set a new record while claiming the Overall and Adult Under 50 Class wins. 2009 Overall winner Mark Rollins won the Adult Over 50 Class. Other single class winners were Ira Soltis in the Youth Class and Jerry Dilsaver in the Pedal Kayak Class. Tandem class winners were Gene and Cole Brittan in the Double Youth and Adult Class, Mike Malone and Tim Rackley in the Double Adults Under 50 Class and Fred and Janice Amman in the Double Adults Over 50 Class. The event included a poker run for the less serious racers and casual floaters.
The Far Out Shoot Out ran from Saturday, May 8, to Saturday, May 15, from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. This was an offshore tournament that spans eight days to allow each participating boat to pick a single fishing day that fits their schedule and allows for windy weather. The species in the tournament are tuna, wahoo and dolphin and the overall winner is the heaviest aggregate weight on one fish of each species. The windy weather prevented fishing a few days of the tournament, but many of the 35 boats in the tournament had good catches.
First Place Overall went to the Long Shot with 70.15 pounds. This included the second place tuna at 32.1 pounds (tie broken by weigh-in time) and the second place wahoo at 23.75 pounds. Second Place Overall went to the Blew By U with 52 pounds and included the first place dolphin at 21.8 pounds. Third Place Overall was claimed by the Rigged and Ready with 48.4 pounds and included the first place wahoo at 25.35 pounds. The Casual Water caught a 32.1 pound tuna to win that division and the Full Time caught a 21.3 pound dolphin to finish second in that division. The Don Leonard Memorial Billfish Award was awarded to Margaret Pennstrom who fought and released a sailfish on the Clearly Hooked. For more information, visit www.oifc.com.
The first of the 2010 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series Tournaments was held May 12 to 15 in Hatteras. The Hatteras Village Offshore Open included billfish points levels, heaviest billfish and gamefish categories. In both Billfish Division Points Levels, the Waste Knot placed first with a pair of blue marlin releases for 800 points. The Qualifier was second on both levels with 600 points for releasing one blue marlin and one white marlin. The Gambler took third place in the points divisions and won the Largest Blue Marlin Division with a 530 pound marlin caught by Wayne Wray.
The Daily Marlin Release Points Division was won by the Release on Wednesday with a single blue marlin and 400 points, the Annie C on Thursday with a single blue marlin and 400 points, the Wired Up on Friday with a single white marlin and 200 points and the Qualifier on Saturday with a single blue marlin and 400 points.
No tuna were weighed in the Gamefish Division during the entire tournament. The Release topped the Wahoo Category with a 39.7 pounder that was also the Top Wahoo on Saturday and was followed by the Sea Toy with a 34.4 pound wahoo. The Dolphin Category was won by the Impulse with a 39 pounder that also was the Top Dolphin on Wednesday, and the Frequent Flyer caught a 32.6 pound dolphin to finish second overall and claim the Top Dolphin for Thursday. The Sea Toy also had Friday's Top Dolphin at 30 pounds, while the Brother's Pride claimed that honor on Saturday with a 14.8 pounder. For more information, visit www.hvoo.org.
The Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman's Fishing Tournament was held Friday morning (May 14) at Kure Beach Pier. This event is sponsored by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club of Carolina Beach and is open to fishermen from the area. The tournament began many years ago with 30 participants and has grown steadily. Event organizers estimated the 2010 number at 300.
The winning fish for 2010 was a two pound cobia caught by Rudy Warren of Wilmington--just as time expired. After being weighed, Warren's fish was released. Bailey Parker, of Castle Hayne took 2nd place with a .85 lb flounder. Third through fifth place were bluefish catches and included Alice Whitaker in third at .65 pounds, Emma Garafola in fourth at .60 pounds and Larry Blackwelder in fifth at .50 pounds.
The first of three Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournaments was held Saturday from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. In spite of a forecast that included gusty southwest winds, 48 boats participated. Team Griffin Tree's Chuck Fonvielle and Captain Henry McFadden of Georgetown, S.C. are making a name for themselves among the N.C. anglers. They had a good year last year and began this one with a win. Their pair of redfish weighed 13.59 pounds.
Team True Lines, with Captain Rick Patterson and partner John Hislop of Swansboro claimed second place with a healthy pair of redfish that weighed 12.59 pounds. The third place team, Team Crystal Coast Graphics, with Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor, was also from Swansboro and brought a pair of redfish to the scales that weighed 12.56 pounds.
Gail Mace, of Team Beaver Tail, was the Top Lady Angler for the tournament with a redfish weighing 5.22 pounds. There was a TWT for the Heaviest Redfish and it was won by Captain Tommy Parkins and partner Lee Waters, with a 7.21 pound redfish. For more information, visit www.redfishaction.com.
Three tournaments are on tap for this weekend. Two are the IFA Redfish Tour Tournament and the IFA Kayak Tour Tournament from Surf City on Saturday and Sunday (May 22 and 23). Registration for both and the weigh in for the IFA Redfish Tour will be at the Beach House Marina and Yacht Club in Surf City. The IFA Kayak Tour is a catch/photograph/release event and the competitors will turn in their image cards and the awards will be Sunday afternoon at the Great Outdoor Provision Company store in Wilmington. For more information visit, www.redfishtour.com or www.ifakayakfishingtour.com.
The Hillsborough Sport Fishing Club's JWR Gaffer Dolphin Tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 22 and 23, from Hatteras to Swansboro. Headquarters are at Seawater Marina in Atlantic Beach, with additional weigh-in sites at Hatteras Harbor Marina in Hatteras and Dudley's Marina in Swansboro. For more information visit www.HillsboroughSFC.com.