They say that allís well that endís well and if so we had a Memorial Day Weekend that went real well. The winds got a little breezy when the cold front rolled in on Friday and took a while Saturday to wind down, but Sunday and Monday were days to go fishing wherever you wanted. The slightly cooler weather was welcome as the cool mornings warmed into comfortable days.
I rode by a couple of launching ramps Saturday and Sunday and Iím pretty sure Iím glad I wasnít there. I held off getting out on the water until late Monday and still had a pretty busy ramp when I launched. One of the benefits of being local is fishing until dark and pulling out once everyone leaves. My trip Monday was just long enough and there were less than a dozen trailers left when I returned.
Hopefully last weekendís cold front was the last hiccup in the weather for the spring. The cooler weekend was nice, but we are moving into the summer and it should be warm. The warm returned on Monday and the forecast is pretty much light and slight through the weekend. South and southerly winds around 10 knots with increases to 15 knots with the sea breeze in the afternoon and sunny days with the high around 80 are the early forecast through the weekend. Maybe the weekend of June 1 will be really nice and without the severe crowds on the water?
Speaking of June 1 - black sea bass season opens on June 1. Itís been a long wait since it closed last fall. The limit is 5 fish per person with a minimum size of 13 inches total length. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to increase the annual catch and hopefully it passes review from the Secretary of Commerce soon. For more information on these or other limits, visit www.ncdmf.net.
The proverb is that as one door closes another opens, but it seems to the reverse of that in fisheries management and as black sea bass season opens, the season for snowy grouper closes. While they are generally caught in water deeper than 150 feet, snowy grouper are a favorite of some fishermen. The restrictions on snowy grouper limit the season to the number of fish that can be caught and for 2013 that was 523 fish. The snowy grouper season will close on May 31 and reopen on January 1, 2014 with a new annual catch limit. For more information visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council website at www.safmc.net.
Last week cobia were the highlight of this report and even though they had a stutter-step with the cold front over the weekend, the cobia bite began picking up again on Tuesday and has improved since then. It should be really good for the weekend. The cobia fishing is good everywhere and better in a few places. One of the spots it is better is around Cape Lookout.
I spoke with Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasiní Tales Outdoors and he said he had weighed cobia every day for several weeks and last weekend and Monday were the slowest days in quite a while. However, he said they couldnít have been but so slow as he had registered more than 70 citation cobia in the past 10 days and all of those fishermen had other cobia in their catch. The largest cobia Lamb has weighed yet is 91 pounds, but he is expecting to see one that tops 100 pounds at any time.
The spring Atlantic bonito run should be about over, but it is still a wise investment to buy a fish ID book and learn to tell the difference between Atlantic bonito and false albacore. Both are cousins in the tuna family and often travel in mixed schools. Both also like shiny lures that are trolled or retrieved quickly and put up an excellent fight for their size. Atlantic bonito are good table fare while false albacore are just a little too strong flavored for most people.
Another blackfin tuna was caught less than a mile off the beach at Atlantic Beach this week. This blackfin weighed 30 pounds and was a pleasant surprise. This is very close and very unusual, but Iíll bet it tasted as good as if it had been well offshore.
Dolphin are quickly becoming the number one catch for Gulf Stream fishermen. There have been a few days this week that were slow, but most catches were still in double digits. Some also caught limits or approached 60 on charter boats. Offshore trollers are also catching wahoo and tuna and some billfish.
Dolphin are moving closer in. There were several good catches this week from 14 Buoy out to the 90 Foot Drop. One dolphin was caught Thursday about a mile off the beach at Cape Lookout. It was even more lost than the blackfin tuna.
Billfish are arriving too. Many boats have one in the spread, hook, or fight and release either a marlin or a sailfish occasionally. Earlier this week off Cape Lookout, the Run Off with Capt. Brian Harrington had a billfish day he hopes they can repeat during the upcoming Big Rock Tournament. The Run Off released four blue marlin and one white marlin.
While there hasnít been one caught at the closest artificial reefs or from one of the piers, king mackerel are moving towards the beaches. As the water warms and baitfish move closer inshore, the kings follow them. The kings are hitting live baits and frozen cigar minnows.
In the waters from 80 to 120 feet deep there is a good mixture of bottom fish. Beginning Saturday, fishermen can keep black sea bass, which have been biting well all spring. In addition to the black sea bass, there are also grouper, snapper, triggerfish, grunts, and porgies.
Spanish mackerel are feeding around the inlets and along the beaches. Some larger ones were caught this week, but 0 and 00 size Clarkspoons are still the favorite lures for them. The secret is to troll quickly with them on long leaders behind trolling sinkers and small planers. Fishermen who prefer to cast have been having good luck with Got-Cha Jigs. Red, green or chartreuse heads, with white bodies and gold hooks have been the most productive.
Flounder are the main fish on the nearshore artificial reefs right now. They are hitting live baits and bucktails with trailers. There are also some bluefish and Spanish mackerel around the reefs.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of fish. Kings and cobia are being caught from Oak Island to Topsail, but they havenít arrived farther north yet. Pier fishermen are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish using Got-Cha plugs and a variety of bottom fish on shrimp and cut bait.
There was a 21.5 pound permit caught in the surf at Topsail Beach on Wednesday. Permit are a member of the pompano family, but are very rare this far north. Usually they are found in southern Florida, the Keys and the Gulf of Mexico. Last year N.C. fishermen caught snook and bonefish, which shouldnít be here, and someone has already caught a permit this year. It could be an interesting year. The good news for the lucky angler is that permit are good to eat.
Redfish and flounder are in the bays and creeks. Redfish have been inside for a while and the bite is getting fairly steady with a stable weather pattern. Flounder are moving in almost daily, but there are still a lot of shorts. Look for them where a small creek runs into a bay or a larger creek. It might take some patience to wait them out, but theyíll usually come by sometime during the falling tide and may stake it out again on the rising tide. Live baits are just that and their action is hard to imitate. They will hit soft plastics and occasionally a hard bait that comes by looking good.
Trout are more difficult to pattern. With the water warming, they should be looking for some deeper spots with cooler water. However, theyíll also be in or close to a hole or hiding behind some piece of structure that breaks the current. Trout like live shrimp, but will also hit live minnows. At this time of year I often drift a live shrimp through an area under a cork, but either donít rattle the cork or only rattle it every 30 seconds or longer. Trout will also take a soft plastic suspended under a cork. I like using shrimp shapes under corks.
The World Fishing Network poll for the Ultimate Fishing Town has ended. Hatteras was leading headed into the final day. The votes are now being re-checked and verified and the winner will be posted on the WFN website at www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/homepage.php on June 4.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee enjoying the warmer water just inshore of the Continental Shelf off Charleston, S.C. During the past week she made a swing down to the Ga./Fla. border, but appears to like Charleston as she has returned to off there. Lydia is still well offshore, but has turned from her swim towards the middle of the ocean and is headed back in the general direction of the U.S east of Cape Cod. To keep an eye on the travels of Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks from around the world, open the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
According to the N.C. Legislature website, www.ncleg.net, as of Thursday morning Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) is still in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. This is the bill that proposes to raise boat registration fees and include a little Highway Excise Tax to pay for shallow inlet dredging.
The word from Raleigh is that House Bill 983, whose specific title is the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act, but is generally referred to as the gamefish bill, will not be brought to discussion and a vote in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. The report is there was a Republican caucus Wednesday night and the decision was made not to pursue the bill. HB 983 gives gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and estuarine striped bass, plus includes provisions to pay for the shallow channel and inlet dredging, observer funding and to compensate commercial fishermen for any documented lost income for three years and to purchase commercial fishing gear that can no longer be used.
Details, wording and the progress of these two bills can be found at the N.C. Legislative website, www.ncleg.net. Apparently it is too late to influence your legislators on HB 983, but the way to have your opinion heard regarding SB 58 is to call, write or e-mail your legislators. The contact information for all legislators and the members of each committee can be found at www.ncleg.net.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will host a public meeting on the commercial fishery for summer flounder at 6:00 P.M. on June 4 at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office in Washington. For more information contact Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda for the meeting may be downloaded from the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will have its summer meeting June 10-14 at the Hutchinson Island Marriott in Stuart, FL. For more information call 1-800-775-5936. A copy of the agenda may be downloaded from the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
Military Appreciation Day is this Saturday, June 1, from the Morehead City Waterfront. The day includes fish for service members, land based activities for family members and an end of the day gathering for all. The response has been fantastic and more than 600 service members have registered for the fishing trips and many are bringing their families for the shore festivities. The total number of registered participants already exceeds 1,300 which makes this the largest all volunteer event of its kind.
With the number of troops and family members registered, there are still openings for volunteers to do anything from taking troops fishing, to helping shore side, including cleaning fish. If you are interested in spending the day thanking those who protect our freedoms, visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org and volunteer.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, in partnership with Neuse Sport Shop, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service, is supporting more than 35 free fishing events for kids from late May through early June. To give kids a better chance of catching fish, the Wildlife Commission is stocking fish at many of these sites before the events ó from trout in the mountains to channel catfish and bluegill in Piedmont and coastal public waters.
The events, which are held throughout the state each year in celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week (June 1-9), are listed on the Commissionís website, www.ncwildlife.org, alphabetically by county. A Kidís Fishing Day at Cedar Swamp Pond on June 8 is the only event scheduled for Carteret County. For more information contact Rachelle Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-638-5628, ext. 4014.
Young anglers registered at any fishing event can enter a statewide drawing for a chance to win one of more than 150 fishing-related prizes. The grand prize is a lifetime sportsman license, which includes freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges, as well as hunting privileges, donated by Neuse Sport Shop, located in Kinston. The first prize is a lifetime freshwater fishing license, donated by the N.C. State Council of Trout Unlimited.
Neuse Sport Shop also is donating tackle boxes, rod-and-reel combos and fishing line, while the Wildlife Commission is donating prizes, such as fishing towels, playing cards and mini-tackle boxes. Local sponsors for many events will provide prizes and gifts to registered participants as well. The Wildlife Commission will conduct the drawing for prizes at the end of June and will publish a list of winners on its website, www.ncwildlife.org, in early July. For more information about National Fishing and Boating Week 2103, visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundationís website, www.takemefishing.org.
Heroes on the Water (HOW, www.heroesonthewater.org) is a national organization that focuses on helping veterans recover through kayak fishing. There had been two chapters is N.C., one near Ft. Bragg and one near Camp Lejeune, and they have just merged into Heroes on the Water Ė Combined Forces NC.
There are several HOW events coming up and there are many different ways to volunteer and help. The first event is the Hammocks Beach Military Appreciation Day on June 1 at Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro. The second is the Shell Rock Landing Fish-n-Meet at the Shell Rock Landing Wildlife Ramp near Swansboro on June 15. For more information or to volunteer with HOW, connect with Heroes on the Water Ė Combined Forces NC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeroesOnTheWaterCombinedForcesNC?fref=ts.
If you are looking for a reason to visit the Outer Banks, maybe the Outer Banks Boat Sale & Expo, which will be held in the parking lot at Pirateís Cove Marina on June 8 and 9, will tip the scales in favor. They are expecting a lot of boats, plus fishing and marine merchandise. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
This weekend will be a busy one for tournaments. The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament has new dates for this year. It has been moved ahead roughly a month and will be held May 30 to June 1 from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This will be the third tournament in the 2013 NC Governors Cup Billfish Series. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
The SHARE King Mackerel Tournament will be held May 31 to June 2 from Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This tournament has two fishing days, but participating teams choose one or the other depending on weather, their schedule or whatever reason they like. Proceeds go to SHARE NC to assist children and their families in five eastern N.C. counties who are facing difficult circumstances. For more information visit www.sharenc.org.
The Second Annual Spanish Mackerel Tournament will be held by the Cape Fear Fishing Club at Inlet Watch Marina in Carolina Beach on June 1. This yearís tournament will be in honor of Horace Sikes, a club member who succumbed to a long bout with cancer earlier in the year. For more information call (631) 834-4511.
The Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge will be held June 1 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. This is a flounder tournament that is the first of a series of five tournaments that will be held between Ocean Isle Beach and Topsail Beach. The tournament also recognizes red drum as a Tournament Within A Tournament species. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The 2013 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament begins on June 8 in Morehead City and continues through June 16. The first event is the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament on June 8. The Big Rock Tournament begins on June 10 and there will be daily weigh-ins at the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront in Morehead City. Fore more information visit www.thebigrock.com.
The Carousel Center Flounder Tournament will be held June 8 at Texís Tackle in Wilmington and Inlet Watch Yacht Club in Carolina Beach. The Carousel Center is a non-profit organization committed to assisting victims of child abuse, providing critical care services to children from eight counties throughout southeastern NC and this is one of their fund raising events. For more information visit www.carouselcenter.org.
On June 8, the Step Up For Soldiers 8th Annual Kids Tournament will be held at Kure Beach Pier in Kure Beach from 6:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. Step Up For Soldiers is an all volunteer group providing renovations, recreation and recognition for recently disabled veterans and this is one of their annual projects. For more information visit www.stepupforsoldiers.org/kidsfishing.
The Ocean Crest Pier Fun Fest Tournament scheduled for June 8 and 9 at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island has been cancelled. For more information visit www.oceancrestpiernc.com.