Tropical Storm Andrea is bearing down on us as I write this and will be passing as most of you read this on Friday. It doesnít appear to be much of a storm, with winds of 40 to 60 knots, but there is potential for a lot of rain and scattered tornadoes. Without the tornadoes, the rain can be more detrimental than tropical storm force winds. Be sure to take proper precautions.
Some of you regular readers may remember that several times last year I suggested watching Mikeís Weather Page on Facebook for accurate storm forecasts. Mike had this one predicted almost two weeks ago. Iíll recommend checking it out again.
Most fishing operations are thinking they will get back to normal maybe as early as Saturday, but certainly by Sunday. Letís hope the wind doesnít stir things up enough to interrupt the good fishing we have been enjoying for a couple of weeks.
The great weather that began in the middle of last week continued through the middle of this week. It was rather common to see bay boats and small center consoles at some of the popular fishing spots 20 to 30 miles offshore. There were fish at most of those places too.
For those fishermen wanting to stay within sight of land, the cobia bite has been unreal. Many fishermen are saying it is the best action they remember and the bite is hot along the entire coast. A few cobia have been within range of pier fishermen, but they have been in range of anglers in just about any boat.
Cobia arenít pretty. They look like a cross between a shark and a catfish and more than one has been mistaken for a shark and cut off or broken off intentionally early in the fight. Cobia are very strong and naturally curious. King mackerel fishermen slow trolling live baits often report them swimming right up to the back of the boat and following them. Sometimes they seem more interested in the spinning propeller than the baits.
Cobia follow bait schools along the beach, cruise the tide lines around the inlets and hold around artificial reefs and wrecks. Some even swim through the inlets with what appears to be spawning on their minds. Sight fishing for them as they cruise the tide lines and follow bait schools is exciting. Fishermen use a bucktail jig of a couple of ounces and tip it with a large (6 or 8 inch) curly tail grub, plastic eel or live eel. This jig can be cast to the bait school or sighted cobia and worked back. White and chartreuse are usually good colors for the jig.
Cobia are big strong fish that sometimes donít fight particularly hard or long. Generally they make a decent first run, then play a little tug-of-war before allowing themselves to be led in. Most will circle the boat at least once to try to figure out what is pulling on them.
Beware that almost all cobia save one last burst of energy for when they are gaffed or feel the deck. Some go absolutely crazy once in the boat. There are numerous tales of the damage done by a cobia in a boat.
My suggestion is to have your fish box open and try to get the cobia in it immediately and then have the angler stand or sit on the fish box until the fish calms. Iím not exaggerating here. Most cobia hold some surge of energy for when gaffed and brought aboard and a few go ballistic.
Cobia taste excellent! They have pretty white meat that can be cooked in any way you like. Iíve hade it fried, baked, broiled, grilled, blackened and more. The only way you can mess up cobia is to overcook or burn it. That is one reason they are so popular with fishermen.
For the past week, many fishermen have been headed offshore to the 20 to 30 mile range. The rocks and reefs have been loaded with hungry 10 to 25 pound amberjacks. Dolphin have also followed bait inshore from the Gulf Stream and are in the same waters. The triple threat is black sea bass, whose season opened on June 1, and they are plentiful on most rocks and reefs beyond about 60 feet deep. All of these fish have size and number limits that can be found on-line at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
I didnít hear of an Atlantic Bonito being caught in the past week. They like cooler water and with the nearshore ocean reaching 74-76 degrees last week, it is time for them to move on. There are some false albacore still around and feeding. More king mackerel are arriving each week, with most staying just a few miles offshore.
There is something going on off Atlantic Beach. This week there was the third unusual catch of a blackfin tuna near shore. Jim Owens of Beaufort caught a 30 pound, 4 ounce blackfin tuna on June 4 while casting a jig to a bait ball for cobia. Owens was fishing with his son, Nathan, when the big blackfin hit and they were between Atlantic Beach and AR 315. It took him a little while to wear it down, but he was smiling when it tugged the scales to just past 30 pounds. 20 pounds is the minimum weight for an outstanding catch citation for a blackfin catch. Congratulations!
There has also been 1 dolphin caught in this same area off Atlantic Beach near AR 315. Does anyone have any ideas why?
Dolphin numbers are on the rise too. Dolphin are spread from the Gulf Stream to well inshore and are a pleasant surprise for anglers anywhere. Dolphin have moved well inside 100 feet deep in many areas. We caught one that would run around 10 pounds in 70 feet last Saturday and missed a couple more. We also saw some that didnít hit for whatever reason.
The dolphin range from a couple of pounds to some really big boys that tug the scales to 50 pounds plus. The larger ones still are along the edges of the Gulf Stream. Offshore trollers are also catching a few wahoo and tuna and are beginning to see more billfish.
Spanish mackerel have been consistent around the inlets, along the beaches, around the nearshore artificial reefs and some are even moving inside the inlets in places. Spanish are feeding on small baits so use small lures, like the 00 and 0 size Clarkspoons for them. Troll the Clarkspoons from 5-8 miles an hour on long mono leaders behind trolling sinkers and small planers. Spanish will also hit small jigs that are cast and retrieved quickly.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of fish. Pier fishermen from the southern piers to Bogue Inlet Pier caught cobia last week and the southern piers are catching a few kings. Unfortunately, the passing of Tropical Storm Andrea will stir up the water and probably push them offshore for a few days. Pier fishermen have been catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish casting and retrieving jigs, plus a mixture of bottom fish have been biting shrimp and cut bait. The pier catches include red and black drum, flounder, pompano and more.
Flounder are being caught on the artificial reefs, nearshore hard bottoms and inside the inlets. While some may be on the flat on the top and some in the deepest areas, flounder like to lay on the slope dropping down to channels. Current is concentrated in these areas and sweeps more bait by them.
A few flounder, sheepshead, gray trout and bluefish are being caught along the edge of the wall at the Morehead City State Port and around the pilings of both Morehead City high rise bridges and the railroad trestle from Morehead City to Radio Island. Bluefish arenít particular and will eat just about any bait. The flounder and gray trout prefer live minnows and sheepshead like fiddler crabs and sea urchins.
Iím getting some mixed reports on specks and puppy drum. There should be pups about everywhere, but that isnít the case. Someone said the strange spring weather had scattered them and they hadnít gotten back to normal patterns yet. Maybe so.
Someone said the most reliable way to catch drum is to anchor at the mouth of a smaller creek on the falling tide and wait for the drum to have to move from the small creek into deeper water. He said they will move sometime during the falling tide, but not always at the same time.
Drum usually arenít particular once you locate them and will hit a variety of baits. Live baits can be cast and allowed to sit while they do their thing or slowly crept across the bottom back in. Moving the live bait increases the chance of getting a flounderís attention. Two of my favorite puppy drum lures are weedless gold spoons and spinnerbaits.
As the water warms, live shrimp become a better tool for catching specks, pups and more. Many times they are the only thing that will convince reluctant specks to bite. Of course, everything else, including all the bait thieves, likes shrimp too. Trout will strike live pogies and minnows, plus some soft plastics and hard lures too, but just not with the enthusiasm they hit live shrimp.
The stripers have returned to New Bern after spawning and they are hungry. They are in shallow water in the Neuse and Trent Rivers and the larger creeks and will readily hit soft plastics and sometimes wreak havoc on topwater lures. Occasionally there may be a few specks or pups feeding with the stripers.
Some spawning stripers are returning to the rivers around Wilmington too. They also are hungry and feeding. Remember there is a moratorium on stripers in the Cape Fear River System and they canít be kept regardless of their size.
The World Fishing Network poll for the Ultimate Fishing Town has ended. Hatteras was leading headed into the final day. The results were to be announced on the WFN website at www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/homepage.php on June 4, but on June 6 the notice there says votes are still being verified and tabulated and the results will be announced later. Good luck neighbors, weíre pulling for you.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee staying in the warmer water just inshore of the Continental Shelf off the Southeastern U.S. In the past week she has moved between off Charleston, S.C and Savannah, Ga. Lydia is still well offshore, but had turned back towards the U.S. last week, but has dipped to the southwest and is now approximately a couple of hundred miles northeast of Bermuda. 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.
Speaking of sharks, a potential world record 1,323 pound shortfin mako shark was caught by Jason Johnston off Hunting Beach, Ca. earlier this week. Johnston is applying for an IGFA record and is donating the shark for research.
According to the N.C. Legislature website, www.ncleg.net, as of Thursday morning the Senate Finance Committee substitute bill for Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) is still in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. If approved there, it will then go to the House Finance Committee and, if approved there, back to the house floor for votes two and three. This is the bill that proposes to raise boat registration fees and include a little Highway Excise Tax to pay for shallow inlet dredging.
SB 58 has become particularly important as the future of HB 983 became very doubtful last week and it is the only other bill that includes provisions for funding the dredging of the shallow draft inlets. Complete details can be found at the N.C. Legislature website, www.ncleg.net, as can the contact information for your representatives and senators.
Youíve got to either love and/or hate the twists and turns of politics. On May 29 there was a Republican caucus in Raleigh and the decision was made not to pursue HB 983. It was decided that HB 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 where it is now assigned. HB 983 would give 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 for commercial fishing 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.
There are two twists to this. The first is that House Speaker, Thom Tillis, has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator to face incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in the next election. Tillis was in Greenville the night after the decision to allow HB 983 to perish in committee for his first stop and fundraiser for his senatorial campaign and was told that unless HB 983 was returned to an active status with the opportunity to move forward, he would receive no support or funding from that area. That presents him with a strange dilemma and it will be interesting to see how he responds.
The second is that SB 58 was assigned to the House committee co-chaired by the primary sponsor of HB 983. It may be all speculation, but do you think he is anxious to move forward on SB 58, as it is needed by the same coastal legislators who put on the pressure to kill his bill? I love to hate politics, but realize this would make a good scenario for a TV sitcom.
Details, wording and the progress of these two bills can be found at the N.C. Legislative website, www.ncleg.net. It may be too late to influence your legislators on HB 983 - or it may not. The way to have your opinion heard regarding SB 58 or HB 983 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. Marine Fisheries Commission Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet June 19 at 1:00 P.M. at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Trish Murphey or Chris Stewart at 252-808-8091 or 910-796-7215 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Chris.Stewart@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda for the meeting may be downloaded from the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Sea Turtle Advisory Committee will meet June 20 at 6:00 P.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. 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 N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet June 24 at 12:30 P.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Tina Moore or Trish Murphey at 252-808-8082 or 252-808-8091 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Trish.Murphey@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 (MAD) held their MAD 8 event in Morehead City on Saturday, June 1. This is a day to show appreciation to the active members of all branches of the armed services. Approximately 600 troops from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy and a roughly equal number of family members attended. There were pier, inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing trip for the troops and onshore activities and sightseeing rides for the families, plus fishing from the docks for the kids.
The Morehead City MAD event set a record as the largest all volunteer event of its kind. MAD booked the three Morehead City and Atlantic Beach head boats and there were 117 private boats volunteered to take the troops fishing. I was there and it was a lot of smiling people. Many of the larger smiles were on the faces of the volunteers. The really good news is both the fish and the weather cooperated.
I ran the cockpit for Pat Klug, Frederick Granger and Justin Douglas, who caught a variety of fish including dolphin, amberjack, false albacore, bluefish and more. The weather was really nice, the fish were hungry and the family events were fun for all ages. The next MAD event will be in Southport on September 21. For more information and details on MAD or either event, visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org.
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.
On June 8 there will be a Kayak for the Warriors Kayak Race held in Pine Knoll Shores. This event will include kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. For more information visit www.kayakforthewarriors.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 next event 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.
On June 14, I will be doing a kayak fishing seminar at the Marine Corps Exchange at Camp Lejeune. I will be there from early morning to mid afternoon for random questions and with my fully rigged Hobie Pro Angler 14 on display. The actual seminar will begin at 11:00 and run until 1:00 or a little later and cover inshore saltwater fishing, plus launching through the surf for kings and more. For more information contact the Camp Lejeune Base Exchange at 910-451-5030.
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 and now June 9 also. With Tropical Storm Andrea approaching and forecast to pass late June 7, the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament Committee met Thursday and decided to make the tournament a captainís choice event for either Saturday or Sunday. 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. For more information visit www.thebigrock.com.
The Carousel Center Flounder Tournament that was scheduled for June 8 at Texís Tackle and Inlet Watch Yacht Club in Carolina Beach has been postponed until June 29 due to the arrival of Tropical Storm Andrea. The Carousel Center is a non-profit organization committed to assisting victims of child abuse, providing critical care services to children from approximately 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. This was cancelled prior to Tropical Storm Andrea forming and a decision has not yet been made to reschedule in the fall. For more information visit www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
The Sudan Daredevils Shallotte Point Flounder Tournament will be held June 13-15 at the Shallotte Point VFD in Shallotte Point. For more information call 910-512-4397.
The Jolly Mon King Classic will be held June 14 Ė 16 from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. This tournament is a one day event, but allows participants to choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday, whichever is best for them. It is the first tournament in SKA Division 9. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will hold a Kids Fishing Derby on Saturday, June 15. The tournament, which is for kids 13 and younger, will be held at Oak Island Pier from 10:00 A.M. until noon. There is no registration fee and kids may register that morning, but participants must furnish their own rod and reel and bait. Prizes will be awarded by age groups and fish species. After fishing there will be pizza for the kids. For more information call 910-278-5518.
The East Coast Sports Kids Tournament will be held Saturday, June 15, at Soundside Park in Surf City. There will be a variety of age groups and special prizes. For more information visit www.eastcoastsports.com.
On June 16, the Southeastern King Mackerel Club will host their annual Fishing With Special Friends outing on Johnnie Mercerís Pier in Wrightsville Beach. For more information visit www.southeasternkingmackerelclub.com.