Fishing has been good and some of the fish that have been biting slower showed up in good numbers in a lot of places during the past week. It isn't quite officially summer by the calendar, but summer temperatures and humidity have arrived and the threat of pop-up thunderstorms will be with us until the weather begins cooling in the fall. Keep an eye on the sky whenever you are on the water.
This is Big Rock week, so the big news should be blue marlin - and it is. Monday was a bang up day at the Big Rock and the marlin at the top of the overall leader board at my deadline were caught then. If I were part of the crew on the Viking 62, I would feel like I had a target painted on me. They hooked the leading 680 pounder shortly after lines in on Monday and were back at the scales by lunchtime. You know they've been fishing with one ear tuned to the radio since then. 680 is a very big marlin, but we've seen 700 and 800 pounders and they can't relax.
On Thursday the EZ Boy backed into the weigh-in slip with its triple outboards and offloaded a 556.3 blue marlin to move into second place overall and first place in the new Outboard Division.
Two other marlin surpassing 500 pounds were landed on Monday and the crew of the Shenandoah knows they will be receiving a check for $365,500 for weighing the first blue marlin heavier than 500 pounds even though they have slipped out of the top three. The Viking 62 actually weighed first, but was not entered in the Fabulous Fishermen Division, which awards this prize.
Other offshore fishing is also good, but most of the boats in the area are concentrating on billfish. Dolphin are biting well from the Gulf Stream to about 10 to 15 miles off the beach. The water is warming and they're headed in with it. Offshore trollers are also catching some tuna and wahoo. A 134.3 pound yellowfin tuna was brought to the Big Rock Tournament Scales on Thursday by the Big Oil and it generated almost as much attention as some of the marlin.
Offshore bottom fishing is very good. There are grunts, black sea bass and porgeys a little closer in, but the bottom bite begins picking up at about 80 feet and gets consistent around 100 feet. The bottom catch also includes grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, and more. When you are bottom fishing, it is always smart to keep a light line or two drifted back in the current. The excitement of fish being reeled in often gets the attention of curious kings and dolphin and when they see your trailing baits it's game on.
King mackerel aren't getting much attention this week, but the action is picking up. They haven't moved close enough for pier fishermen yet, but they are on many of the rocks and wrecks in 40 to 80 feet of water. They are also deeper, which is why they are being caught on light lines by bottom fishermen. I haven't heard of a really big king in a while, but there are a lot of 5 to 15 pounders. They were caught with live baits, rigged natural baits and lures. There are also some cobia mixed with the kings and they are always a pleasant surprise.
Spanish mackerel are biting well around the inlets, along the beach and at many of the nearshore artificial reefs. There are also some bluefish mixed with them and I heard of a few small kings being mixed with the Spanish. If you catch what appears to be a large Spanish, check it well to be sure it isn't a small king.
The easiest way to tell between Spanish and kings is to lift the forward edge of the front dorsal fin and if there is a black spot it is a Spanish. If the front dorsal is all gray, it is a king. The minimum size for kings is 24 inches (fork length) and the limit is 3 fish, while it's only 12 inches for Spanish and you can keep 15. Make sure those big Spanish actually are Spanish or that they are legal size kings.
Cobia are biting slowly but consistently around Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, but the bite is really good around Oregon Inlet. Most of the cobia caught this week near Cape Lookout were caught fishing on the bottom with chunks of menhaden. Off Cape Fear, most of the cobia were caught by king mackerel fishermen slow trolling live baits. Cobia are hitting jigs and eels around Oregon Inlet.
Flounder are biting well on the nearshore artificial reefs from Southport to Atlantic Beach. There haven't been many huge flounder, but the percentage of keepers is better than half and there have been some nice ones.
Vertical jigging a 2-3 ounce bucktail with a soft plastic trailer is growing in popularity and produces well. One big advantage is the ability to drift and cover more water. Jigging vertically helps prevent hang-ups. Some fishermen prefer using live minnows and peanut menhaden and they catch well too, but they hang up more.
A good mixed action bite continues on the piers. In the past week, fishermen at the pier ends have caught kings at Oak Island, a tarpon at Topsail and Hatteras blues at Bogue Banks. I didn't get a report from any of the Outer Banks piers. The bottom action at the piers is a mixture of flounder, sea mullet, croakers, black drum, red drum, pompano, bluefish and more, plus bluefish and Spanish mackerel are hitting jigs cast and retrieved quickly. Some of the Spanish are running 3 to 5 pounds.
Sheepshead fishing is getting good and there are some big ones. A 10 pounder was caught at the Morehead City State Port and smaller ones are being caught along most of the coast. Sheepshead live around docks and bulkheads where the structure has a lot of barnacles and crabs. Many fishermen use fiddler crabs as their sheepshead bait of choice, but I catch more using sea urchins. They have to crunch the sea urchin shell to get the urchin out to eat and I feel the bite better. They can suck a fiddler crab out of its shell without twitching your rod.
Inside fishing saw a little surge this week. Flounder fishing seems to be picking up the best. There are still a lot of short flounder, but the number of keepers is increasing. Several citation size (5 pounds) flounder were caught at Southport, Carolina Beach and Morehead City.
Live minnows and peanut menhaden have been the best baits for flounder. Flounder can turn and swallow a mud minnow or small mullet minnow pretty quickly, but it takes them a while to turn a 3 to 5 inch menhaden, so don't get impatient and try to set the hook too quickly. Flounder are also hitting soft plastics, weedless spoons and spinnerbaits that are retrieved slowly.
Red drum fishing has been slow this spring, but also appears to have picked up a little recently. When red drum decide to feed, they aren't picky. They will hit topwater lures, suspending lures, soft plastics, weedless spoons, spinnerbaits and more. They will also hit pieces of cut bait and live baits. A chunk of cut mullet, a piece of shrimp and anything between a pogey fished on the bottom for flounder or a shrimp suspended under a cork for trout is fair game.
Black drum have been biting well and they like pieces of bait. For smaller black drum, live shrimp is top of the list, then live minnows, and cut bait. Occasionally black drum will hit soft plastics, but they prefer meat. Black drum range from the shallows to deep and may be found in concentrations of their own or mixed with red drum or speckled trout.
It hasn't been a major surge, but several fishermen said speckled trout fishing picked up a little this week. Some said they caught some specks early and late casting topwater lures. Once the sun gets up in the sky, specks retreat to deeper water and move a lot slower. They will still bite during the heat of the day, but the bait needs to look good and smell good. Live shrimp, suspended under a cork (I like popping corks) is usually the best trout bait.
I say this often, but it's true and becomes more important as the water warms and fish become less aggressive about feeding. I believe that bait with a good fresh natural scent is important. After live and natural baits there are baits that are made with scent and some that look good and have great action that you need to add scent. There are days this makes the difference between fishing and catching.
Flounder Supplement Public Hearing on June 17
The options developed by the MFC are multi-faceted, detailed and affect every type of flounder fishing. They are listed on the Marine Fisheries Commission website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf under the "Hot Topics" tab at the upper right.
The public meeting for comments on the Supplement will be Wednesday, June 17, from 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. at the New Bern Convention Center in New Bern. Speakers will receive a maximum time of 3 minutes each until time expires. It is advised to carry your comments in written form in the event there is not time for you to speak.
Written comments may be submitted between June 10 and July 10 by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and by mail to Southern Flounder Comments - c/o Nancy Fish - P.O. Box 769 - Morehead City, N.C. 28557.
Donates Thermal Night Vision Camera to NCDMF Marine Patrol
Col. Jim Kelley, head of the Marine Patrol, said the camera, with its ability to show different temperatures in different colors, would be very helpful in monitoring fishing activities at night and for search and rescue operations. Kelly said the camera was greatly appreciated and had already been assigned to an officer in the field who reported it worked as anticipated.
Greg Hurt, Chairman of CCA-NC, said CCA-NC is pleased to provide the Marine Patrol with law enforcement tools that it otherwise couldn’t acquire under current budget constraints. He said CCA-NC wants to help the Marine Patrol officers with enforcement issues and make it safer for the officers. CCA-NC has previously donated eight pairs of Leupold binoculars and a night vision scope to the Marine Patrol that were funded with proceeds from the tournament.
Snapper Season for 2015
The monitoring process will continue to determine if there will be a season in South Atlantic waters in 2016. The next assessment of the South Atlantic red snapper population is scheduled to be completed in 2016 and allowable harvest may change as a result of the population assessment. For additional information visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/red_snapper/index.html.
Tilefish Season Closed June 10
Resources Commission Seeks Members for NC Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
Nominees for the Expert Affiliate Seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina. Nominees for the At-Large Affiliate Seat should be qualified individuals from land trusts serving North Carolina, federal natural resource agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-governmental conservation organizations, industries with operations and/or management that have landscape-scale effects on wildlife, or other organizations that provide a stakeholder voice in wildlife resource conservation. Individuals should have a comprehensive knowledge of nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.
To nominate an individual for the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee, submit a nomination form with information regarding affiliation and expertise, a résumé, if available, and a cover letter. The nomination form can be downloaded from the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, by clicking on the "Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee" icon on the home page. Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee, Attn: Shauna Glover, Division of Inland Fisheries, MSC 1721, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721. Submit electronic nominations to email@example.com. For more information about the committee or the nomination process, e-mail Glover or call her at (919) 707-0064.
Resources Commission Seeks Public Comment on Early Migratory Game Bird Seasons
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the framework from which state fish and wildlife agencies select respective hunting season dates. After reviewing public comments, Wildlife Commissioners will select season dates for North Carolina during their July 16 meeting.
The comment period will begin June 1 and extend through June 21. For more information on migratory game birds in North Carolina, visit www.ncwildlife.org. To comment on the proposed season dates or falconry, open the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and click the “Submit Your Comments” tab.
Resources Commission to Host Deer-Management Forums
“White-tailed deer are the most popular hunted species in North Carolina, with more than 200,000 hunters annually taking to the field in pursuit of deer,” said Brad Howard, a wildlife biologist with the Commission. “The forums are excellent opportunities for North Carolinians to learn about deer in their respective parts of the state. We also want to provide an opportunity for deer hunters and other stakeholders to discuss deer-management issues as we plan for the future.”
The closest of the forums will be in Orringer Auditorium at Craven Community College in New Bern on June 16. The forums are scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. A listing of the dates and locations is posted on the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.
Fisheries Seeks Public Comment on Magnuson-Stevens Act
“The proposed revisions clarify and streamline the National Standard guidelines, address concerns raised by partners and stakeholders during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility to address fishery management issues,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The proposed revisions, if implemented, will result in better-managed and more sustainable fisheries.”
The National Standard 1 guidelines provide guidance on preventing overfishing while achieving the optimum yield (the amount of fish which will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities) from each U.S. fishery. The National Standard 3 guidelines provide guidance on managing a stock as a unit throughout its range, and the National Standard 7 guidelines address minimizing costs and avoid duplication in fisheries management.
The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require councils to revise their current fishery management plans. Rather, they offer additional clarity and potential flexibility in meeting current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates.
The proposed revisions include:
● Increasing flexibility in setting timelines for
Public comments on the proposed rule are due June 30, 2015. To learn more and read the proposed rule as well as to submit comments, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/national_standards/ns1_revisions.html.
June 17: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Public Hearing for Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Supplement, 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., New Bern Convention Center, New Bern, http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.
June 18: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Sea Turtle Advisory Committee Meeting, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.
June 25: Marine Fisheries Commission Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Steering Committee, 10:00 A.M., N.C. DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Jimmy Johnson at 252-948-3952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
June 5 to 13: Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Big Rock Landing, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.
June 13: Beyond BOW - Fly-Fishing Basics for Women (Ladies-only), John E. Pechmann Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.aspx.
June 14 to 19: Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament, Hatteras Marlin Club, Hatteras, www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
June 16: Wildlife Resource Commission Whitetail Deer Management Forum, Orringer Auditorium, Craven Community College, New Bern, www.ncwildlife.org.
June 19: Cape Lookout Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
June 19 to 20: Southport Inshore Challenge, Southport Marina, Southport, www.fishermanspost.com.
June 19 to 21: Jolly Mon Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean isle Fishing Center, Ocean isle Beach, www.oifc.com.