Everywhere I have been recently, fishermen are talking about the heat. It has been particularly hot for this early in the summer and at mid week the surf at Bogue Inlet Pier was reported at 81 degrees. I fished a little farther offshore on two days and we saw 77 and 78 degrees pretty consistently. June began with temperatures and weather conditions much like we usually see in July and August. The weather has been hot and humid and managed to create some nasty thunderstorms a couple of afternoons.
Because of the heat and some concerns with it, I'm going to offer a couple of weather warnings before going on. The first is that when the temperature and humidity are as high as they have been the past 10 days or so, there is always a possibility of a fast-forming thunderstorm. When you are fishing, or enjoying other outdoor activities, be aware and keep an eye looking skyward for those storms to form. They often begin with just a couple of gray clouds pushing together and give us time to make it to shelter if we are paying attention.
On those days when offshore and not paying good attention, or a quick forming storm blocks the direct path to shelter, it is much wiser to navigate around the edge of the storm and then head for shelter.
My other weather warning is about the sun, with its heat and harmful rays. Use a good sunscreen, re-apply it every few hours, stay in the shade when possible, wear sun protective clothing and keep yourself hydrated. Last week I saw numerous fishermen with nasty sunburns. Those could have been prevented with judicious sunscreen use and wearing protective clothing. I occasionally catch some flack from fishing in long pants and long sleeves, but since I realized about the suns rays and began taking better care, I rest easier at night. My aloe bill has greatly reduced too!
Hydration is also a must. Water is best, with sports drinks next. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages can actually promote dehydration. I am not the most practical about drinking water, but find I think of it more when I have some flavor packs to give it a boost. Cool fruit, such as chunks of watermelon and cantaloupe, or grapes are also good ways to stay hydrated in extreme heat.
Danny Glover landed the first Bogue Inlet Pier king of the year on Saturday. It weighed 20 pounds and 7 ounces. Glover also caught a cobia that weighed in the mid-teens. There were also a couple of pier kings caught at Wrightsville and Topsail Beaches and one at Oak Island.
Several fishermen remarked the water was warm and clean enough for someone to catch a tarpon and it happened last week at Oak Island. Charles Peeples landed a 72.3 pound tarpon that was 62 inches long at Ocean Crest Pier on June 2 and a fisherman at Oak Island Pier hooked but lost another one. This first push of tarpon up the beach is a little early, but sure is welcome. We may see more this week.
Pier fishermen continue to catch Spanish mackerel and small bluefish. Toss out a Got-Cha plug and retrieve fast to catch Spanish or slow down the retrieve and catch bluefish. There were a few chopper blues caught last week, but most fishermen feel the water has warmed to the point they should be moving on. Other species pier fishermen caught this week included flounder, some early speckled trout, sheepshead, black drum, whiting and pompano.
Spanish mackerel are favorites of boaters also. They can usually be found around the inlets and scattered along the beaches. Most folks troll for them with Clarkspoons in sizes 0 and 00 are the favorite lures. However, a growing number of fishermen are live bait fishing for them. Trolling usually produces a few more Spanish, but live baiting usually produces larger ones.
Several guides said they had been light lining or balloon fishing a couple of smaller baits for Spanish mackerel while flounder fishing on the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs and doing well. In addition to some nice Spanish, they are also occasionally catching a king or cobia.
While the kings moved inshore in many areas this week, the cobia seem to have moved offshore and to the north. While Cape Lookout cobia reports are slowing down, they are picking up at Cape Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. Wherever you are fishing in the ocean, it would be wise to have an outfit rigged with a bucktail and curltail or plastic eel ready to throw if a cobia surprises you.
With the warming water and more bait showing up dolphin are moving closer to the beach. I didn't see as many mongo dolphin pictures this week, but there were a lot of 12 to 20 pounders caught. Quite a few fishermen reported catching a dolphin or two inside of 25 miles. Most were reported by king mackerel fishermen who said the dolphin tried to steal a king bait. One fisherman even reported catching a couple of dolphin within sight of the high rise buildings off Ocean Isle.
Many fishermen said the first week of black sea bass season was excellent. While the ones closer in were generally smaller and you had to wade through a lot of shorts for some keepers, they were biting strong on most of the rocks and artificial reefs from about 5 miles off the beach and out. As of my deadline, the limit is still 15 per person. Fishermen should check the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) website at www.safmc.net to verify the limit before heading out. I will include the change here as soon as notification arrives.
Beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys are also biting well and can be kept. I went on a trip this week with the Fairfield Harbor Fishing Club and some Wounded Warriors from Camp Lejeune. We fished the Nancy Lee V out of Swansboro and had a great day and everyone brought home dinner. While there are some fish much closer in, the best mixture and larger fish have been in approximately100 feet of water. Remember that non-stainless steel circle hooks are required for all bottom fishing beyond three miles from shore.
This next story also happened in that approximately 100 foot depth that is producing so well right now. Capt Brant McMullan and his wife, Capt. Amy, of Ocean Isle Fishing Center, had an unnerving experience last week while diving and spearfishing a "secret" wreck. Brant said shortly after they passed through a thermocline into much cooler water, Amy tapped him and gave the shark sign. He looked out and saw a large shark. He said they often see sand tigers and other sharks, but those are usually near the bottom and they are sometimes curious, but not threatening. This one was large and suspended at about 40 feet and definitely checking them out.
Brant said he started running through the shark ID pictures in his mind and it didn't quite match anything until he reached the last page. That last mental page was a shark he never expected to see in N.C. waters -- a great white. Brant said the shark was 12 to 14 feet long and never made a threatening move towards them, but as soon as he identified it, he wanted to be out of the water. He said he pointed Amy to the surface and followed closely watching alertly.
Brant said the shark did not follow them back through the thermocline to the warmer water above, but it was on his mind until they were back onboard the boat. He said that later he spoke with several commercial fishermen who had seen great whites while working offshore.
I don't know how many others have been encountered, but I remember being around when two great white sharks were brought in to Morehead City during the 1980s. There was also one fall in the 1990s when fishermen off Oregon Inlet were only getting in the heads of 150 pound class bigeye tuna that had been bitten cleanly off by something very large. This year we have already seen video of Orcas attacking tunas off Cape Hatteras and now this. I have a friend who used to do back flips off the transom to cool down before heading in at the end of the fishing day and this is another reminder of why I didn't.
On the inshore side of fishing, flounder are the hot topic. Flounder catches slowed a little from the piers this week, but they were biting well from the sandbars and channel edges around inlets and around creek mouths into the backwaters. Flounder are also biting well at several nearshore artificial reefs. Several successful fishermen said they thought flounder were hitting artificial baits better and harder than live baits. Even better, a high percentage of the flounder are keepers. The bite is on from Cape Fear to the S.C. state line.
Puppy drum are biting well and are my favorite inshore quest. They are scattered through many of the bays and creeks from Hatteras to Calabash. The pups don't seem to be too particular about lures and baits. They have been hitting hard topwater lures, a variety of soft plastics, spinnerbaits, spoons, cut bait and live baits. Some black drum are mixed with the reds, especially in those places with slightly deeper water.
Many folks continue to be concerned about speckled trout. The season opens next Wednesday (June 15) and there haven't been many reports. Trout numbers aren't always good during June, but usually some of the largest trout of the year are caught then. When the season opens, the minimum size for speckled trout will be 14 inches, with a limit of six trout per person.
I believe the report on the North Carolina Sportsman website regarding the political trading of HB 353 for votes to have a veto proof budget has proven itself to be true. House Bill 353 is the bill that would have granted gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass. If it does not meet the crossover deadline of June 9 to be passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate, it cannot move forward this session. This bill has sat in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development since March 22 and Chairman McComas, who was a co-sponsor of the bill, has not called it to discussion or vote. There is some last minute legal maneuvering as I am writing this on June 9, but it is highly unlikely the needed action will take place in time.
On May 26, North Carolina Sportsman Magazine broke the story on their website at www.northcarolinasportsman.com, that five eastern Democrats would cross party lines and support the Republican budget in exchange for quashing HB 353 in committee. The budget votes crossed and HB 353 appears to be doomed to die in committee. The reports have continued but the outlook is not good for those favoring the bill and the deadline in its current form is the weekly adjournment Thursday evening, June 9. There was reported to be majority bi-partisan support in both houses to pass HB 353 had it been allowed to exit the committee and come to a vote. See more on HB 353, plus the contact information for all state legislators on the N.C. General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is requesting public opinion regarding a commercial hook and line fishery for ocean-caught striped bass. At their recent meeting the Commission voted to take the issue to its four regional advisory committees and its Finfish Advisory Committee to receive input from the fishing public. The Commission will consider the gathered input at their August meeting. The Commission said they have not yet decided if they want to create this fishery.
The list of meeting dates for this includes:
* June 14, 6:00 P.M., Central Regional Advisory Committee, DMF Central District Office, Morehead City;
* June 15, 10:30 A.M., Finfish Advisory Committee, DENR Regional Field Office, Washington;
* June 16, 6:00 P.M., Southeast Regional Advisory Committee, DENR Regional Field Office, Wilmington;
* June 28, 6:00 P.M., Inland Regional Advisory Committee, Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building, Raleigh;
* June 30, 6:00 P.M., Northeast Regional Advisory Committee, County Commissioners' Meeting Room of the Dare County Administrative Building, Manteo.
For more information visit the Commission's website at www.ncdmf.net.
The N.C. Marine Fishery Commission Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will be meeting June 13 at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Sean McKenna at Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7804 or Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-405-7774. Meeting times and agendas are posted on the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
On April 20, NMFS filed with the Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the National Standard 10 Guidelines and is requesting public comment on potential adjustments to the Guidelines. National Standard 10 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act states "Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea." The National Standard 10 Guidelines are the primary source of NMFS guidance for the consideration of safety issues in fishery management.
A public meeting was held May 19 at the NOAA Science Center in Silver Spring, MD. Additional public meetings may be scheduled around the country during the comment period. Comments must be received by July 20, 2011 and may be submitted on-line via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (Identifier "0648-BA74"), by Fax, attention Debra Lambert, at 301-713-1193 or by mail, attention Debra Lambert, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13403, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
North Carolina is required to participate in gathering input for a Draft Omnibus Amendment for spot, speckled trout and Spanish mackerel for management in a joint federal/state manner. Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Omnibus Amendment either by attending public hearings or providing written comments. The Draft Amendment can be obtained via the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's website at www.asmfc.org, under Breaking News, or by contacting the Commission at 703-842-0740.
Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on July 20, 2011 and should be forwarded to Danielle Brzezinski, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should read Draft Omnibus Amendment.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is holding a public meeting regarding the Draft Omnibus Amendment for spot, speckled trout and Spanish mackerel on June 21. It will be at 6:00 P.M. at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Michelle Duval at 252.726.7021.
The Oak Island Open Pier Tournament was fished Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5 from Ocean Crest Pier and Oak Island Pier. This tournament is divided into three categories by groups of species and fishermen could enter their favorite or all three.
Chuck Brown won category 1 with a pompano that weighed two pounds and four ounces. Another pompano, this one weighing a pound and nine ounces was caught by Scott Coe to claim second place. Dennis Darnell caught a whiting that weighed a pound even and finished third. Category 1 included spot, croaker, whiting, spadefish, pompano, and pinfish.
Category 2 included Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sheepshead, trout, red drum, black drum and flounder. Fishermen scored with sheepshead to bookend the results with a black drum, which looks similar, sandwiched between. Barry Crews won Category 2 with a sheepshead that weighed four pounds and 14 ounces. Ben Agner finished second with a black drum that weighed four pounds and four ounces. Garrett Bell finished third with another nice sheepshead that weighed three pounds and 13 ounces.
Category 3 was for the fishermen at the end of the piers and included king mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle, amberjack and tarpon. Unfortunately, none of these species was caught. The Category 3 prizes were awarded by drawing between the fishermen competing in that category.
Joel Parnell claimed Top Junior Angler honors for catching a nice bluefish. For more information, visit www.oakislandpiertournament.com.
The 20th Annual Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo was held June 2-4 on Bald Head Island. The event featured wahoo, dolphin and tuna and attracted 13 boats from across N.C. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the preservation of Old Baldy, North Carolina's oldest lighthouse.
Capt. Mike King and the Stream Weaver crew caught a combined, two day weight of 247.0 pounds to claim the win and $4,680. Capt. Rick Edwards led the Abigail II to second place with a catch of 134.00 pounds. The Hooked Up, with Capt. Joe Seegers and crew, caught 122.68 pounds of offshore gamefish and finished third.
Kelly George fished aboard Stream Weaver and won the Lady Angler trophy by catching a 34.24 pound dolphin. Brad Mulahy fished aboard Over Equipped and caught the only billfish of the tournament, a white marlin, to earn the Catch and Release Billfish award.
The Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge was held June 4 from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. Proceeds from the tournament, which features flounder and red drum, will be donated to the Marine Tech Club at Cape Fear Community College.
While flounder catches were up in number, they were not as large as in past years. Jake Scourzo topped the Flounder Division with a flounder that weighed 4.76 pounds. Only a half pound separated the top three flounder as Wayne Crisco was second at 4.49 pounds barely eaking out Karl Anderson at 4.48 pounds.
The Red Drum Division was just as close -- actually a little closer. Barry Fowler topped the drum fishermen with a nice fat 7.05 pounder. J.J. Khoury was a few ounces back at 6.88 pounds for second and Fred Davis was another two ounces back in third.
Fred Davis claimed the win in the Aggregate Division, with a flounder and drum that weighed 9.85 pounds. Barry Fowler tallied a drum and flounder total of 9.53 pounds for second place and Adam Sellers was third with 6.02 pounds.
The Top Lady Angler was Valerie Fowler with a 7.05 pound redfish and M.C. Fowler was also aboard to earn Top Senior Angler Honors for the 7.05 pound fish. Paul Arvidson was the Top Junior Angler and caught a 2.85 pound flounder. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com or call 910-452-6378.
The S.H.A.R.E. King Mackerel Tournament was held from the Dockside Restaurant in Wrightsville Beach June 4 and 5 to benefit the S.H.A.R.E. Foundation of N.C., which assists special needs children and their families. The tournament was a one day tournament that allowed participants to choose either Saturday or Sunday as their fishing day.
The top two boats fished on Saturday. Richard Clark led the Reely Misbehavin' to a 38.00 pound king topped the tournament and grabbed Top Junior Angler honors for Hunter Holden. Reely Misbehavin' earned the guaranteed $10,000 for the tournament win. The Ron-Jon, with Capt. Ronnie Miller and crew finished second with a 28.40 pound king. Ronald Sutton and the Hammer crew were the top boat on Sunday and their effort netted third place with a 27.10 pound king.
The top finishing 23 feet and under boat was the No Name, with David Gardner and crew. Their king weighed 10.20 pounds. The Top Lady Angler award was won by the Let It Ride, with Capt. Thomas Vangrits III, for an 11.90 pound king. The Top Dolphin weighed 18.00 pounds and was caught by the Eight Sins, with Capt. Tim Conley. Brandon Sewell and the Been Hott crew caught a 39.3 pound cobia to top that division. For more information visit www.sharenc.org.
There is another trio of tournaments this weekend, with another lasting all of the coming week and two are for ladies only. The Queen of Kings Pier King Mackerel Tournament will be held on Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island June 10 through 12. This is a ladies-only tournament for kings and other fish caught from the pier's end. Early in the week there were a few spots remaining. For more information or to register, call the pier at 910-278-6674
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament kicks off Saturday with the 14th Annual Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament. The Big Rock will begin on Monday, June 13 and will fish through the following Saturday, June 18. In addition to prizes for the heaviest blue marlin and billfish release points, there will also be categories for gamefish (tuna, dolphin and wahoo). Daily weigh-ins will be each afternoon at the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront. For more information visit www.thebigrock.com.
The NC Spanish Mackerel Championships will be held Saturday, June 11, from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. Tournament prizes will be based on the aggregate weight of each boat's three heaviest Spanish mackerel. The number of places to be paid will be determined by the number of entries. For more information, e-mail the tournament director at email@example.com.