The good fishing action continued through last week and fishing was good along the entire Tar Heel Coast.  Once the rain and thunderstorms stopped on Thursday, even the weather cooperated.  A lot of water was still off color, but good numbers of fish were ignoring it and feeding anyway. Last week I was concerned the rain coming in would mess things up, but there were good catches throughout the weekend and into this week, so maybe it won't.

The early forecast for the upcoming week includes the mention of thunderstorms several days.  The possibilities are around 50 percent most days and the rainfall prediction is light, so hopefully it won't be too bad.  There is also some wind in the long range forecast for the end of the weekend and early next week, but that's a long way out and has plenty of time to change.

Summer officially arrives Wednesday.  The forecast is already summerlike with sea breeze winds and the possibility of scattered thunderstorms.  Thankfully it hasn't gotten overly hot yet, but the key word there is yet.  The heat is coming and its cousin, high humidity, won't be far behind.

Take plenty of water with you and stay hydrated while on the water.  Also use sunscreen liberally and wear sun protective clothing.  There is lots of sun protective clothing on the market that isn't too hot, works well and isn't too expensive.  A hat with a big bream and polarized sunglasses should always be considered the uniform of the day.

Fishing was good inside and outside this week.  Dolphin have arrived in good numbers, so I'll start there.  Almost every offshore fisherman I spoke with talked of big bull dolphin and a 69 pounder was caught at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on Tuesday.  The offshore water is warm enough dolphin are breaking away from just being along the Gulf Stream and are moving around following bait.  They will begin to move inshore and it won't be long before king mackerel fishermen begin catching a few on most trips. 

There are still some large dolphin in the mix, but more smaller ones are arriving too.  If you find something floating, there will usually be a few dolphin around it.  There is often one big bull dolphin that is staying deep around this flotsam too.  The big dolphin holds out of sight and is watching to see what the floating debris attracts that it might want to eat.

There are still scattered wahoo and blackfin tuna around the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream too.  Billfish are still around too.  The bite was excellent Monday and boats at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament released 50 some on Monday and boated 3, including a 533 pounder that instantly won $460K for Capt. Brian Harrington and the crew of the Run Off.  At the time I am writing this, the Ron Off's fish is still leading the tournament and that could push the prize money total beyond $1 million.

There are 177 boats entered and expectations are high for a bunch more releases and probably a few more big girls getting a boat ride to the scales.  The ladies fished on Saturday and released 38 assorted billfish.

Offshore bottom fishing was excellent again.  The catches include grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgys and more.  This year there have been a lot of nice scamp grouper in the catch.  Scamps are one of the prettier groupers,  with their pointed fins and trailing edges of their tails.  They taste really good too.

Richard Armistead is moving to Oak Island and received a nice welcome Saturday while fishing the offshore bottom with Capt. John Dosher.  He caught a rock hind that isn't large by grouper standards and probably won't receive a citation, but it was huge by rock hind standards at 5.22 pounds.  Capt. Dosher said it was the largest he had ever seen.  This isn't a really common fish and the Division of Marine Fisheries hasn't established a citation size or a state record.  Armistead was encouraged by Capt. Dosher and Capt. Jimmy Price, who weighed it at Wildlife Bait and Tackle, to check with Marine Fisheries and possibly establish a state record.  If that happens, you can read it here.     

King mackerel are biting in 50-80 feet of water and Spanish mackerel are a little closer in.  The kings like live baits that are trolled slowly and will hit frozen cigar minnows and lures, but to a lesser degree.  Spanish macks like small flashy lures, like Clarkspoons in size 0 and 00, that are trolled quickly.  Spanish macks also like mackerel tree rigs and will hit Got-Cha jigs that are cast and retrieved quickly.

Pier fishing has been pretty good.  The ocean water is off color from rainwater and sediments in the runoff, but fish are biting.  The big things at the southern N.C. piers has been an excellent trout bite and some days multiple fishermen have limited out before 8:30.  Pier fishermen are also catching flounder and pompano, plus other bottom feeders and a few Spanish and bluefish.  There were a few cobia caught from piers this week, primarily along the Outer Banks, but tarpon have been seen swimming along the beaches and there could be a tarpon blitz at any time.

Surf fishermen are catching a mixture of fish.  These are mainly bottom fish, like flounder, drum and pompano, but a couple of cobia were caught in the surf at Atlantic Beach.      

Inshore fishing remains good.  The water is brown to red, but there are fish and they are biting. 

Many fishermen reported good catches of trout, flounder, red drum and black drum.  The action was good just about everywhere as reports came from all over.  Many fishermen said they were using live baits, but some said they caught their fish using soft plastics and suspending hard baits.  A few fishermen caught some aggressive pups and specks on topwaters.

When the water is dirty or stained, scent and noise help fish find your baits.  This has to be good noise though.  Live baits have their own scent, but there are scented baits and scents that can be added to any bait.  Shrimp make a clicking noise that is imitated by rattles in baits.  Some lures come with rattles and there are rattles that can be added to soft baits.  Topwater lures all splash and some rattle and there are rattling and popping corks that also splash on the surface.

For all inshore fish, look for something that is holding bait and gives the fish a place to hold nearby without having to constantly fight the current.  Good examples are oyster rocks, sand bars, creek mouths and docks.   

Sheepshead are biting too.  These guys can be hard to catch as they have a very subtle bite for big ugly fish.  They have almost human looking teeth that work well to separate barnacles from pilings and crush them to get the meat out.  They also like fiddler crabs and sea urchins.  Sheepshead will sometimes be on oyster beds and submerged rip-rap, but they like vertical structure like pilings and bulkheads.

The old saying about sheepshead fishing was you have to set the hook just before you feel them bite.  With the advances in rod technology and ultra sensitive braided lines, you can feel their nibbles a lot better, but you'll still miss some.  You have to be paying attention to consistently catch sheepshead.

The first tripletails of the year were caught in the lower Cape Fear River last week.  These are southern fish that like shade and are attracted to things that make it.  This can be as simple as crab pot buoys and range marker stands.  If you get too close, they spook, so stop well away from the buoy or pilings and cast to them.  Tripletails will hit artificials, primarily soft plastics, but prefer live shrimp or minnows.  Cast it naked or put it under a small cork that won't splash much when it lands.

Tripletail fight hard and taste great.  They also get pretty big.  Most caught in the river run 3-10 pounds, but some big ones are close by.  The N.C. state record of 27 pounds, 7 ounces was caught by Thomas Cutler from Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island in 2009.

Saltwater Anglers May Receive Fishing Survey
North Carolina recreational fishermen holding a current Coastal Recreational Fishing License may receive a survey conducted by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the coming months.  The survey will be sent by random selection, so not all fishermen will receive it.  Fishermen will be asked a variety of questions such as what species they commonly target, average fishing trip expenditures, demographic information such as education, age and household income, and their opinions on fisheries management and user conflicts.

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
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest. 

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 always interesting programs at the Pechmann Center that include kayak fishing, fly tying, lure making, fishing tips 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
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is accepting entries to its 13th annual Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine Photo Competition until 5 p.m., Sept. 1, 2017.  The contest is open to amateur and professional photographers of all ages, except for employees of the Wildlife Commission, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and their immediate families.  Entrants must be either current subscribers to Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine or younger than 18.

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 Management Plan
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Alligator Task Force, established by resolution of the Commission, will host six public forums in June to present a draft of the N.C. Alligator Management Plan and receive public input on the plan.  The draft Alligator Management Plan, developed by the N.C. Alligator Task Force, provides biological information on alligators in North Carolina, identifies knowledge gaps and additional research needed on alligators, identifies areas where alligators may be overpopulated, and recommends biological and social strategies to address alligator management issues.  One of the alligator management strategies being considered is a strictly managed, permit only, limited alligator hunting season in southeastern N.C. where their numbers are highest.

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 allen.boynton@ncwildlife.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:
June 15, Jacksonville, Sturgeon City Environmental Education Center, Jacksonville,
June 20, New Bern, Craven Community College, Orringer Auditorium, New Bern,
June 21, Washington, Goose Creek State Park, Visitor Center, Washington.

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.

WRC and NC Trappers Association Offer Trapper Education Course
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Trappers Association are offering a free half-day Basic Trapper Education Course on Saturday, June 17, at the Chatham County Wildlife Club in Bear Creek.  The course will begin at 9:00 A.M. and run through 1:00 P.M.  The course, which will provide new and experienced trappers information on basic and updated trapping techniques, will include outdoor trapping and fur handling demonstrations.  Students must complete the online North American Trapper Education Program prior to coming to the class.  This will increase the time that can be spent outside the classroom with trapping demonstrations.  For more information contact Casey Gray at casey.gray@ncwildlife.org

N.C. Reopens and Expands Nationwide Search for Division of Marine Fisheries Director 
Officials with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality have reopened and expanded their nationwide search for a director for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.  The DMF Director is responsible for managing North Carolina’s marine and estuarine resources.  This includes managing 320 full-time, seasonal and temporary employees and a $36 million annual budget.  Among its responsibilities, the Division of Marine Fisheries regulates fish and shellfish harvests, sets catch limits for fishermen, monitors fish harvests, and inspects seafood processing and distribution facilities.   

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[0]=Dept%20of%20Environmental%20Quality&sort=PositionTitle%7CAscending&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs.

Fisheries Meetings
June 12-16:  South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Sawgrass Marriott, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL., www.safmc.net.       

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
June 11-17:  Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Tournament 4 of N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Big Rock Landing, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.   

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 21:  Cape Fear Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, St. James Community Center, Southport, www.capefearflyfishers.com.  

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.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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