Unfortunately, the slightly cooler weather after the storms that passed through Sunday night and Thursday morning isn't supposed to last. In addition to dipping the temperature a few degrees, there was rain in some areas, but it didn't blanket the area.
The hot afternoons usually bring some sea breeze, which is great to cool us a little, but sometimes builds to uncomfortable levels for fishing in smaller boats, especially in the open sounds or ocean. The explanation generally offered for the dynamics that create sea breeze is that warmer temperatures over land causes air to rise, which creates a vacuum over the coast and sucks the sea level air in from the ocean to fill the space left by the air rising over land.
Many days the mornings will start calm and then sometime from late morning until around 1:00 P.M. the breeze begins to develop and gets stronger until just before dark. On the days the afternoon sea breeze builds to velocities too choppy to fish, fishermen are technically correct when they say things like, "This wind sucks." I bet you never thought about wind like that before and maybe it made you smile.
We had a few more of those calm mornings that gradually got breezier this week and fishermen took advantage of them to run many places in the ocean. Some big fish were caught and one of them was just a few ounces shy of a state record. Jeffrey King, Sr., Charlotte, caught a 40.40 pound (40 pounds and 6 ounces) African Pompano while fishing with Capt. Wally Trayah on the Fish Whistle out of Oak Island. The state record is 40 pounds and 10 ounces and is held by Brandon Matthews of Southport, with a fish he caught in 2003.
The big talk over the weekend and into this week has been about the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. After three big blue marlin were brought in on the opening day, Monday, the fishing has been a little slower. One of the three fish from Monday had to be disqualified because at some point it was struck by the boat's propeller and cut badly. The tournament has a rule regarding mutilated fish not being allowed and it had to be enacted. This is not a cheating offense, but simply an issue that occurred while fighting the fish so no penalty was assessed and the boat was allowed to continue fishing. A third blue marlin was weighed on Wednesday.
I'm putting this together on Thursday, to give an update for land-locked fishermen, so the Big Rock standings are subject to change again, possibly even several times, before the tournament ends on Saturday. The Double B, with Capt. Kenny Sexton and angler Travis Stephenson, is in the lead with a marlin that weighed 652.8. The Blue Water, with Capt. Grey Hall and angler Jeffrey Gregg is second with a blue Marlin that weighed 580.6 pounds and has already collected $284,750 for being the first blue marlin surpassing 500 pounds to be weighed. Third place was the marlin caught Wednesday by Capt. Tim Day and angler Kevin Travis on the Sushi that weighed 467.4 pounds.
In the Big Rock Tournament anglers are reporting lots of dolphin, but no huge ones. A few wahoo were also caught. Dolphin were good surprises to king mackerel anglers all along the coast this week. The water has warmed and baitfish are moving inshore, so hungry dolphin are following them. Many mid depths rocks were mentioned and several fishermen mentioned a weed line that formed between 14 Buoy and the 90 Foot Drop was holding a lot of dolphin.
King mackerel are also moving closer in. I didn't hear of a king caught from a pier this week, but some have been caught just offshore of them. Capt. Matt Lamb said there were some small kings caught just outside Beaufort Inlet and along the beach off Shackleford Banks up to the Dead Tree Hole. Justin Conrad said there are kings from Lighthouse Rock on off at Southport.
Spanish mackerel are around in good numbers from not quite keeper size to a few that meet or exceed the minimum citation size of six pounds. They are popular with pier fishermen and fishermen trolling from boats. The lure of choice for trollers is Clarkspoons in size 00 or 0 and for casters it is Got-Cha Jigs and Polecat lures. A tip for catching Spanish is that if you are catching bluefish, you can speed up your retrieve or trolling speed and usually reduce the number of blues, while increasing the number of Spanish.
Pier fishermen had a good week too. There were a few battles, but news of only one exceptional landing had reached me this week. David Phillips and Sasha Sparks of Indianapolis, In., double teamed a 36 pound cobia that tried to steal a spot they were catching on a bottom rig. Flounder catches continued at the piers and some large pompano were added. Other pier catches included sheepshead, black drum, whiting and bluefish.
Fishermen anchoring at the nearshore artificial reefs and fishing the bottom for flounder, have been catching some nice Spanish mackerel while light lining or balloon fishing a couple of smaller baits. There aren't any huge flounder being caught, but some nice ones are in the mix. The Spanish caught with live baits are typically larger and sometimes a king, cobia, tarpon or something else decides it has to have that bait.
Most fishermen are saying the offshore bottom fishing is excellent, but you have to get a ways offshore for the best results. There are a few keeper black sea bass (12 inches tail length) within five to ten miles of the beach, but you must work your way through a lot of shorts to find them. By continuing offshore to around 20 to 30 miles, the percentage of keepers increases dramatically, plus there are some fat boys mixed in. Grouper, beeliners, hog snapper, triggerfish, grunts and porgys are also biting well.
On Wednesday, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) sent a press release that effective June 22, the limit on black sea bass will decrease from 15 to 5 fish per person. We have known this was coming for a while and now we know when. For more details, visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net. Remember that non-stainless steel circle hooks are required for all bottom fishing beyond three miles from shore.
Speckled trout may become a big part of the inshore fishing news in the coming week. Speckled trout have shown along much of the coast in improved numbers and with a few larger fish during the past week or so. The season opens on Thursday, June 16, after being closed since January 14.
The whole thing with speckled trout and the closure has been a particular peeve to me. I believe the season should have been closed, but I believe it should have been closed to everyone and in December when the first of the severe stuns and kills was reported. I also do not think the bycatch provision should have been allowed for commercial fishing. I might feel different about a couple of fish, but fifty pounds is enough to create targeted fishing.
Finally, as another slap in the face, the opening date was changed nine days before the season was to open. Yes, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) proclamation (FF-30-2011) of February 14, which allowed commercial fishermen to keep speckled trout during a closed season, also said the recreational season would reopen on June 15. People made vacation and trip plans based on that and guides booked trips for opening day. Then, only nine days before the season was to open, another proclamation (FF-57-2011) was made on June 6 to delay opening the recreational season one more day until June 16. A spokesman for NCDMF said the first proclamation was in error and the new proclamation was issued to correct the error.
Flounder continue to be a big part of the inshore and nearshore fishing. They have already been mentioned as holding around the nearshore artificial reefs and this should improve a little. They seem to have moved out of the surf a little, but pier fishermen are catching some. On the inshore side, they are around lots of structure, including rocks and bulkheads. Flounder are aggressive right now and are hitting soft plastics and lures as well as live baits.
I fished Saturday morning with Tommy and Margaret Johnson of Greenville in our kayaks and we smoked the flounder. I was the slacker, but they more than made up for me. We caught a bunch and all but 3 were legal. We each lost at least one that was large enough to spin our kayaks around, but those are the reasons you keep going back. We only kept six for a couple of meals and mine were excellent twice already. I was surprised to see so many flounder in the shallow water we were fishing. It was way too shallow for boats and we occasionally rubbed bottom, even with the kayaks.
Puppy drum are biting well and they can usually be found somewhere in most coastal bays and creeks. Because they will usually feed when presented with a bait, then fight well and are hardy enough to withstand handling and release, they are my favorite fish when kayak fishing inshore. I fished one day last week with Gary Sundstrom of Charlotte and was beginning to question my choice of fishing locations. We just weren't seeing many. We caught a flounder early and missed a couple of strikes, then the bite really slowed.
After catching some peanut pogies for live bait, we made another move and waited for the last hour of the falling tide to flush some pups out of the smaller nearby creeks. I was about to think they weren't coming out to play that day when the fishing changed like someone flipped the switch. For the next hour we caught pups pretty regularly.
Then, as soon as the tide stopped flowing, someone flipped the switch back to off and it ended as quickly as it has begun. That was alright though. Gary had caught (and released) six and I managed to catch one between maneuvering to net his.
According to the N.C. General Assembly website (www.ncleg.net), HB 353, the bill to grant gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass, did not make the crossover date to be discussed in the Senate. This effectively means it has died in committee again. CCA-NC, which mounted the primary effort behind the legislation, said it wasn't over yet, but the General Assembly website doesn't show any movement at my deadline.
The General Assembly website also does not show progress on HB 136, the bill to grant exception to Amendment 1 to the Speckled Trout Fishery Management Plan exemption from having to meet the requirements of SL 2010-13, passed last summer. This bill was also supposed to have crossed to the Senate by June 9, for negotiations to continue.
As it was explained to me, the failure of HB 136 to meet the crossover date and advance means that Amendment 1 to the Speckled Trout FMP must be immediately redone to meet the provisions of SL 2010-13. This will require much tighter restrictions to both the commercial and recreational regulations for speckled trout.
With the Governor vetoing the budget and the five coastal democrats to crossing ranks again to vote with the republicans to override the veto, the next few weeks of N.C. politics could prove even more interesting than usual. You can follow these political actions, plus find the contact information and committee assignments for all state legislators on the N.C. General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.
The N.C. Marine Fishery Commission Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet June 27 at 6:00 P.M. 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. More information is available on the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.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 remaining meeting dates for this include:
* 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 email@example.com. The subject line should read Draft Omnibus Amendment.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament kicked off the tournament week on Saturday, June 11, with the 14th Annual Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament. The ladies on the Fin Hunter caught and released a sailfish an hour into the tournament and that proved good enough for the win.
The Fin Hunter sailfish was worth 125 points, the same as the sailfish caught by the lady anglers on the Stream Weaver and Fight-N-Lady, but doing it first proved to be the turning point. These were the only billfish caught during the tournament and tiebreaker rules favor the boat that scores their points earliest in the tournament. Fin Hunter won $7,118.75 for their catch.
A field of 66 boats filled with lady anglers fished the tournament and six more teams paid entry to support the event, but didn't fish. The tournament raised $18, 000 for the Raab Cancer Center at Carteret General Hospital.
The sea was a bit rough early, but settled out as the day went on. Stream Weaver caught their sailfish next and finished second, while Fight-N-Lady was the last to score and finished in third place.
The biggest cash prize went to the lady anglers on Bankwalker, who won the Winner Take All Dolphin Division. They scored the win with a 29.3 pound dolphin caught by Texanna Montague.
The lady anglers aboard the Dancin' Outlaw caught the tournament's only wahoo in two years and received and extra $2,727 that had been rolled over from the 2010 KWLA. Since no tuna were caught for the second straight year, $5,100 will rollover in that division to the 2012 tournament.
The NC Spanish Mackerel Championships was held June 11 in Swansboro. Tournament prizes were based on the aggregate weight of each boat's three heaviest Spanish mackerel. The crew of the Bubbalicious won the tournament with a trio of Spanish that weighed 13.22 pounds. That is an average of 4.41 pounds per fish. Those were nice Spanish.
Jeff Naylor continued his streak from the Sneads Ferry Spring King Fling. He won the Spanish Division there and finished second this week with three Spanish that weighed 12.78 pounds. Naylor, who fishes the Reel ‘Em N also won the prize for the largest Spanish, with a fish that weighed 5.34 pounds.
The crew of the Reel Outdoors finished in third place with 11.36 pounds. Michael Bishop, Raleigh, won the Top Junior Angler award. For more information, e-mail the tournament director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Queen of Kings Pier King Mackerel Tournament was held on Ocean Crest Pier June 10 through 12. This was a ladies-only tournament for kings and other fish caught from the pier's end. The ladies fished all day Friday and Saturday and until 3:00 P.M. on Sunday, but no kings were caught. The tournament prizes were awarded based on the largest qualifying other fish and that was Spanish mackerel.
Chloe Grant landed a four pound, 11 ounce Spanish on Saturday to claim the win. The other 20 competitors tried to best it, but the fish would not cooperate. Libby Featherston was second with a Spanish that weighed four pounds and five ounces and raised some eyebrows as she carried it to the scales, but she came up a few ounces short. Amy Ledford landed a three pound, eleven ounce Spanish to finish third.
As mentioned above, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament began on Monday (June 13) and will fish through 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 Jolly Mon King Classic will be held June 17 through 19 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. The Jolly Mon allows fishermen to fish one day and they may choose either Saturday or Sunday based upon weather or personal schedules. The Jolly Mon also has a Junior Jolly Mon Tournament on Friday for kids only. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The 52nd Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament will begin before our next report. This tournament is hosted by the Hatteras Marlin Club at Hatteras and will fish Monday through Friday, June 20 to 24. For more information visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.