Fishing action may have slowed a little in places early last week, but by the weekend it was back and going strong. Yes, the water in many rivers is still off color - and got another dose of rainwater runoff this week - but the fish are ignoring it and that's what matters. Now it looks like we'll have a week or more of sunny weather and hopefully everything gets cleared up.
The wind forecast looks good for a while too. It's difficult to accurately predict any weather more than a few days out, but the forecast is shaping up to be sunny, with light and slight winds and seas for a while. Summer is still almost two weeks away, but the wind forecast is classic summer. It should be really light in the mornings, add just a breeze around late mornings and build a little in the afternoon as the land warms and creates the sea breeze effect.
It's early, like really early, but the first tarpon encounters of the season happened over the weekend. Locally, my neighbors, Jimmy and Tim Richardson from Monroe, had two try to steal flounder minnows Saturday in the lower Cape Fear River. One jumped to give the positive ID and the other stripped and broke the line on a small spinning reel a few minutes later. A tarpon was caught and released from one of the Topsail piers Saturday and several fishermen reported seeing pods of them headed north just off the beaches.
Pier fishing has been good this week, especially along the southern N.C. Coast. Steve Sanders at Ocean Crest Pier said the speckled trout bite was hot, with many fishermen catching their limits. He said they were also catching good numbers of pompano, black drum and a mixture of other bottom fish. Keith Raynor caught an 11 pound, 7 ounce king mackerel on Saturday that was his first from Ocean Crest Pier.
There were many good catches of king and Spanish mackerel this week. Spanish macks are along the entire N.C. Coast and are closest to the beaches. They and have been running from about 12-15 feet deep out to about 30 feet deep. There are some larger Spanish along the tide lines around the inlets. Most fishermen are trolling for the Spanish and Clarkspoons in the 0 and 00 size are catching well. Some fishermen are using Christmas Tree rigs, which are a longer rig with several small pieces of colored surgical tubing, with gold hooks, in front of a Clarkspoon. Some days the Spanish like the tubing better than the spoon.
King mackerel bit well, especially in the waters around Frying Pan Shoals. They are a bit farther offshore in 50 to 80 feet of water. Many king fishermen slow troll live baits and cast net them from schools of pogies spread along the beach. The kings are also hitting dead cigar minnows trolled at slow speeds and these can be purchased frozen from your favorite tackle shop.
The offshore bottom fish action is red hot. There are some within sight of the taller buildings on the beach, but they are mainly shorts. The best action begins at about 80 feet and deeper. I can't remember when there have been so many nice scamp grouper caught. There are also some nice gags and reds. The offshore bottom catch also includes beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgys and more. Amberjack sometimes try to steal a fish being reeled to the surface and fishermen have been jigging a few African pompano.
Dolphin have already moved inshore of the Gulf Stream. They have been biting well most days just offshore of the 90 Foot Drop at the end of Cape Lookout Shoals. The trick seems to be to find dark blue or blended water along a rip or temperature break. There haven't been a lot of strong grass lines lately, but if you find one, it should hold them too. There are also a few wahoo and blackfin tuna in this area.
Billfishing has been good too. The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament was held from Wrightsville Beach Thursday through Saturday and fishermen landed multiple billfish. The first and second place boats both released a pair of blue marlin and the third place boat released a blue marlin and two white marlin. Numerous boats caught a single marlin. If you run to 100 fathoms or deeper, there is always the possibility of a billfish hitting your bait so be ready.
Inshore fishing may have slowed a little early last week, but it rebounded by the weekend. Fishermen caught flounder, speckled trout, red drum and black drum. Almost all of the teams in the Carolina Elite Redfish Tournament held from Morehead City weighed two healthy pups each day. Yes, the water was stained in some places and dirty in others, but the fish were biting when found.
Ordinarily I would expect the flounder catches to be best in the current water conditions, but this year has been unusual and it continues. There was good trout action last week and some of them were big girls. I say girls because June is the peak of the trout spawn and they had bellies that were full of more than food. You can judge for yourself in the pictures.
There were a good number of citation specks (5 pound minimum) weighed at tackle shops along the entire N.C. Coast and that should continue for a few weeks. Some fishermen believe the trout spawn peaks on the June full moon and that is this Friday. If you're chasing a big speck, the time is about as right as it will get. The big specks were feeding and weren't particular. They were hitting live shrimp and minnows, soft plastics and suspending hard lures.
Flounder are biting well too. There are flounder in the creeks, around bridges, along almost any rip-rap, in the inlets, at the nearshore artificial reefs and at the nearshore secret and not-so-secret wrecks. Most fishermen are using live minnows or peanut pogies, but they will also respond to soft plastics worked slowly across the bottom and bucktails jigged vertically. There are enough citation flounder (5 pounds minimum) in the mix you shouldn't be surprised to catch one.
Even though the catch for last weekend's tournament was good, red drum haven't really settled in for the summer. Usually you can pattern them by now, but they haven't gotten consistent in their feeding habits yet. The most reliable spots are at the mouths of smaller creeks that empty into larger creeks during the falling tide. However, they are also working the grass lines in bays and feeding along oyster rocks that break up the current. I like to drift a bait along the bank or down the oyster bar with the current to find out where they are each day and then move into casting distance.
Pups aren't usually picky about what they eat, but occasionally they have an off day. Live shrimp and minnows are as close to a sure things as you'll get, but they will also hit soft plastics, weedless spoons, spinnerbaits and hard lures. Scent helps with everything, but pups have the most sensitive noses in the marsh and a bait that smells good will definitely draw strikes.
Black drum should be moving to deeper water as the water warms, but they will often feed with pups and specks, especially early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Black drum prefer live or natural baits, but will sometimes hit soft lures, especially those that smell good.
Sheepshead are beginning to make a good showing. They like vertical structure, which means docks, bulkheads and bridges. For big ugly fish, with human-like teeth, they have a very subtle bite. Fiddler crabs and sea urchins are good sheepshead baits and I like sea urchins better. They have to crunch them to get the urchin out and the bite is much easier to feel.
The first tripletails were caught in the lower Cape Fear River this week. They will hit lures, primarily soft plastics and I prefer shrimp shapes, but rarely refuse live baits. Tripletail like any structure that makes shade. Crab pot buoys, day markers and range markers are good places to look for them. Stop a ways off and look for shadows in the water. If you get too close, they tend to spook.
Saltwater Anglers May Receive Fishing Survey
It is very important that anglers participate and answer as many questions as possible. By completing the survey, anglers help ensure that fisheries managers receive the best possible information about the economic effects of regulations. Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential. Results from the study will be aggregated to present an overall view of the economic status of the recreational fishery and published in a report that will be made available to the public at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/social-economic-data-reports.
The survey is a follow up to a previously conducted data collection in 2009. It seeks information on the economic characteristics of coastal recreational anglers’ fishing trips, as well as social and demographic characteristics. The information gathered in the survey will be used in fishery management plans and in developing economic impact models to help fisheries managers make informed decisions on various fisheries topics. The survey is being funded by the Marine Resources Fund which seeks to manage, enhance and protect the marine resources of North Carolina based on sound science and strategies. For more information, contact Adam Stemle, NCDMF Economics Program manager, at 252-808-8107 or Adam.Stemle@ncdenr.gov.
WRC and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
There are numerous evening and weekend classes and programs offered at the Pechmann Center each month. For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab. The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. There are several interesting programs scheduled for the next few weeks at the Pechmann Center that include kayak fishing, fly tying and boating safety.
The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head. The local aquarium is at Fort Fisher and the other aquariums are at Pine Knoll Shores and Manteo. Approaching summer the aquarium will offer programs on surf fishing, exploring the marsh, canoeing and more. For more information, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select the Fort Fisher Aquarium.
Wildlife Photo Contest
Only photographs taken in North Carolina since Sept. 15, 2013 are eligible for the competition. The categories include birds, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, animal behavior, outdoor recreation, wild landscapes, wild plants and fungi, youth photographer 13-17 and youth photographer 12 and younger.
Entries will be judged by a panel of staff from the Commission and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, as well as professional photographers. The grand prize winner will have his or her photo published on the cover of the January/February 2018 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina and will receive a check for $200. All winning photographs will be published in the magazine and exhibited at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. First place in all categories pays $100; second place, $75; and third place, $50.
The Commission is accepting entries online only — no slides, negatives or prints will be accepted by mail. Entrants may submit a maximum of two photos per category. Each photo must be in JPEG format and no larger than 2 megabytes each.
For more information or to submit a photo, visit the Commission’s Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition webpage (www.ncwildlife.org/contest). A video of last year's winning photos is posted on the Commission’s Facebook page.
Wildlife Commission Schedules Public Forums Seeking Input on Alligator
A copy of the Draft Alligator Management Plan may be downloaded at http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Conserving/documents/Profiles/AMP Draft V1-2 2017-05-01.pd. Each sentence of the plan is numbered to make commenting on specific portions of the plan easier. Reviewers can refer to the line number when providing comments. Comments on the plan will be accepted until June 25. An online comment form is available for those who cannot attend a public forum but would like to offer input. You may also mail or email comments to Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1722 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1700.
All Alligator Management Plan Forums will begin at 7:00 P.M. Below is a list of
the remaining dates and locations:
The Alligator Task Force, along with the Commission, will present the final draft of the N.C. Alligator Management Plan to Wildlife Commissioners at their July 26-27 business meeting in Raleigh. For more information on alligators in North Carolina, visit www.ncwildlife.org/conserving, or download the Co-Existing with Alligators document.
N.C. Reopens and Expands Nationwide Search for Division of Marine
The position, which was reposted June 6 on the state’s job posting website, will remain open until 5 p.m. June 23. Those interested in applying for the state Division of Marine Fisheries’ position or learning more about it can visit: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/northcarolina/jobs/1760722/environmental-program-manager-ii?department=Dept%20of%20Environmental%20Quality&sort=PositionTitle%7CAscending&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
June 14: Jolly Mon VIP, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
June 15: Jolly Mon Rock the Dock, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
June 16: Junior Jolly Mon, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
June 17 -18: Jolly Mon King Classic, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.
June 17-18: Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open, Wild Wing Cafe and Motts Channel Seafood, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
June 21: First day of summer, 12:24 A.M.
June 24: Youth Fishing Derby, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, www.oakisland.recdesk.com.
June 25 - July 1 Hatteras Marlin Club Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament, Hatteras Marlin Club, Hatteras, www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
July 6-8: Hatteras Grand Slam, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Village Marina, Hatteras, www.hatterasgrandslam.com.
July 8-9: East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Carolina Beach Boat Docks, Carolina Beach, www.gotemonliveclassic.com.