The second big beach weekend and the unofficial start of the summer of 2016 is upon us. With the fish biting a lot of people have beach plans this weekend, but there is a weather gremlin in the works and no one knows yet just how it will affect us. Be prepared for long lines everywhere, especially at the boat ramps, and do whatever works for you to chill out. Pay special attention when on the roads and water. Just as you drive responsively and defensively, boat the same way. Also remember that good old fashioned courtesy and common sense goes a long way.
The Memorial Day holiday on Monday, May 30, is a day to honor those who gave their lives serving our country. While we have family gatherings, cookouts and our beach or trips, we should all pause a minute to say a prayer for and thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could enjoy our freedoms and way of life.
Our early weather forecast for the weekend is somewhat confusing and still forming. Early in the week the weekend looked pretty good, but as we get closer it has changed to include the probability a tropical or sub-tropical system will form somewhere between Georgia and North Carolina and bring us lots of rain from sometime Saturday on. Up until Wednesday night the National Hurricane Center only gave this system a 10 percent chance of forming, but Thursday that was upgraded to an 80 percent chance of formation. This isn't good news.
If this system reaches tropical storm strength, it will be named TS/Hurricane Bonnie. You may remember that Hurricane Alex formed well out in the Atlantic during the winter.
Keep your eyes on this as it will definitely affect the weekend weather and sea conditions. The website for the National Hurricane Center is www.nhc.noaa.gov and its Facebook page is NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center. Another site with good information is Mike's Weather Page at www.spaghettimodels.com or Mike's Weather Page on Facebook. How and when this system forms and moves will dictate the weekend's weather.
Inshore fishermen enjoyed some surges in fishing this week. Black drum remain around in good numbers, with better flounder and speckled trout catches. Time will tell if this improvement will stay with us, but fishermen were glad to see the improvements last week. Even better, these improvement came with only a few fishermen chasing them as many fishermen spending their time in the ocean chasing cobia and dolphin.
Several fishermen reported good trout catches at locations from Pamlico Sound to Southport. Flounder have been an early bright spot too. Fishermen weren't limiting out on flounder, but most who tried caught a couple for dinner and some of the flounder specialists caught near limits with several larger fish.
A king mackerel was landed from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island on Thursday, but it is the only pier king or cobia I've heard of this week. There have been a few lulls, but other pier fishing has been pretty good so far this year. Spanish macks and bluefish continue to lead the catches, but fishermen are also catching whiting, spots, pompano, and drum (red and black). The water temp has finally reached 70 along all the coast, so fishing might get real good at any time.
Fishing just off the beach was fairly good this week. There were cobia caught from Oregon Inlet to Little River Inlet and some of them were really healthy. Cobia regulations changed this week and several of the changes are significant. There is a section below just for the new regulations and I would suggest taking the time to read and understand it.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are biting around the inlets, but sometimes the action is sporadic. I haven't received many details on tide stages for the best action, but it is often the last hour or two of the rising tide or during the falling tide. There are frequently tide lines out from the inlets and the best action will usually be in the first few feet of the clean side of the line. Several fishermen had great days this week wading knee to waist deep water along Cape Lookout Shoals and casting, rather than trolling. There might be some similar fishing along the shoals off the other capes.
Flounder are being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs and some of the nearshore hard bottom areas. Many fishermen prefer to jig vertically with bucktails and soft plastics or strips, but there are others who prefer fishing with live baits. Both work.
When you are fishing for flounder on these areas, I would suggest trailing a live bait in the current behind the boat. There are lots of Spanish mackerel and bluefish, plus some kings and cobia that visit these reefs occasionally and you have a chance to hook one if you have a bait out. Your odds are pretty much zero otherwise.
Some king mackerel were caught closer in this week on several of the rocks and wrecks off Cape Fear, especially off Oak Island.
Several dolphin were caught by king fishermen around hard bottom areas and artificial reefs as close as 10 miles offshore at Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches and not much further out of Oregon Inlet. The water is warming and dolphin are following baitfish inshore.
Offshore bottom fishing is good when the sea conditions allow making the trip. Bottom bouncers are catching grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts and porgys. There are also a few hog snappers and African pompano in the catches off southern N.C. Don't forget to drift a light line or two behind the boat while bottom fishing. This often produces a wandering king, dolphin or cobia to add to the catch.
Gulf Stream fishermen are finding the dolphin bite red hot. Most of them were nice size gaffers. Wahoo and blackfin tuna are still biting too. Dolphin are moving inshore. If you are heading off and find some debris or a weed line in clean water at 80 feet or deeper, it might be wise to check it out with a few baits before venturing on.
A few sailfish and white marlin were released this week too. If the impending weather system doesn't interfere, there may be really good action during the Swansboro Blue Water Tournament.
Check for Weather Cancellations and Postponements
Unexpected New Cobia Regulations Became Effective May 23
The new cobia regulations were approved last Thursday and began this past Monday, May 23, by proclamation. The new regulations hit recreational anglers in personal boats the hardest, reducing them to 1 cobia per person per day, with a max of 2 cobia per boat per day and only allows retaining cobia on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Surf and pier anglers are limited to one cobia per day and can fish every day. The new regulations were obviously geared towards allowing charter boats to continue to possess cobia as charter boats may fish every day and keep one cobia per person per day up to 4 cobia for the boat. There is a new and larger minimum size for all N.C. fishermen. Cobia must now measure 37 inches fork length (up from 33 inches).
The federal closure that will begin on June 20 is still in effect for waters beyond 3 miles offshore. At that point, the additional restriction of no possession of cobia in waters beyond 3 miles offshore also begins. In a discussion earlier this week, one tackle shop owner pointed out that since N.C. still doesn't have a federal joint enforcement agreement, all checks would be done in state waters and state regulations must be followed, even in federal waters. The only difference after June 20 is the additional restriction that no cobia can be kept in waters more than 3 miles off shore.
I followed this up with Col. Jim Kelley of the N.C. Marine Patrol and he verified it is correct. The federal closure will prohibit keeping cobia in waters beyond 3 miles offshore beginning June 20. In all waters until then and in state waters (0 to 3 miles offshore) after June 20, N.C. size and number regulations will apply. Kelly also asked that if a cobia must be handled to be released to try not to use a gaff. If a gaff must be used to control the cobia to release it, please only lip gaff them. Gaff holes in muscle tissue can cause infections that might kill the fish.
No Red Snapper Season for 2016
NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
A Family Fishing Workshop will be held June 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. This is for families with children 7 and older wanting to learn basic fishing skills. The workshop is "hands-on" and will cover casting, riggings, tying basic knots, collecting bait, catching and releasing fish and properly handing fish. It will include fishing in the Pechmann Center's stocked ponds.
Pre-registration online is required and check-in begins 30 minutes prior to the start of the program. For more information contact Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A "ladies-only" Beyond BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) Shooting Sports Workshop is scheduled for June 11 at the Wake County Wildlife Club near Durham. The workshop will highlight safety and shooting skills for using bows and arrows, shotguns and rifles. For more information contact B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638 or email@example.com, or visit the "Learning" section of the Commission’s webpage at www.ncwildlife.org.
National Fishing and Boating Week Events to be Held Across N.C.
The grand prize in the random drawing is a lifetime sportsman’s license donated by Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston. This includes freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges, plus hunting privileges. The first prize, donated by Trout Unlimited, is a lifetime freshwater fishing license. Local sponsors for many events will provide prizes and gifts to registered participants as well.
“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.”
A list of events is available on the Commission’s Fishing page or by calling the Inland Fisheries Division at 919-707-0220. For more information about National Fishing and Boating Week, visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s website, www.takemefishing.org.
Military Appreciation Day
Registration for MAD 10 is open for volunteers and troops. 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 something special and rewarding. I take some 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.
June 14-16: Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) meeting, Courtyard by Marriott, Newark, DE, www.mafmc.org.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
May 7 to June 18: Hatteras Village Cobia Shootout, Pelican's Roost, Hatteras, www.facebook.com/Hatteras-Village-Cobia-Shootout-1054821231255937/timeline.
May 26 to 29: Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Water Fishing Tournament, N.C. Governor's Cup, Swansboro Rotary Civic Center, Multiple weigh locations, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.
May 27 to 30: Cobia Clash, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
May 28: Blackbeard's Spring King Bash, Blackbeard's Restaurant, Sneads Ferry, Postponed until June 4, www.blackbeardskmt.com.
June 1-4: Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Wrightsville Beach, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
June 2 to 4: Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo, Bald Head Marina, Bald Head Island, https://www.facebook.com/BhiRodeo.
June 3-4: Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.fishermanspost.com.
June 10-18: Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Morehead City Waterfront, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.
June 11: Keli Wagner Lady Angler Billfish Tournament, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.
June 15: Jolly Mon VIP, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
June 17: Junior Jolly Mon, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
June 18 and 19: Jolly Mon Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.