Who would have thought back in late January when the salt water froze it could be this hot this soon. That’s not a complaint, but a statement. It’s called summer and it begins every year about this time. For 2014, the magic day is June 21, with the summer solstice forecast to be at 6:51 A.M. It dang sure hasn’t snuck up on anyone.
Summer brings high heat and humidity. Use plenty of sunscreen, wear sun protective clothing and drink lots of WATER. That combination of heat and humidity is a breeder for severe thunderstorms, so keep an ear on the weather and an eye on the sky while fishing and try to avoid being caught out in a storm.
Tuesday was Take a Kid Fishing Day for 2014 and hundreds of less fortunate kids came to Morehead City and the surrounding area for a day of fishing. Some stayed on the piers, while other fished on boats, but the good thing is everyone had a really good time. Unfortunately I was obligated elsewhere and was unable to attend. Thank you to all the volunteers that work so hard to make this a special event.
Dolphin have been biting well and fishermen have been chasing them every day ocean conditions allow. The water around the Gulf Stream has warmed well into the 70s and dolphin have broken out of the Gulf Stream and are following bait inshore. Currently some scattered dolphin are being caught within 20 miles of the beach and they often move closer.
There is still billfish action offshore, with sailfish moving inshore much like the dolphin. A few wahoo and blackfin tuna are also being caught, but the numbers are declining as the water continues to warm.
Offshore bottom fishing is really good too. The bumpy seas make it difficult to keep baits on the bottom without bouncing sinkers, but when you can the catch includes grouper, black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts, porgys, amberjacks and occasionally an African pompano. Keeping a light line or two behind the boat while bottom fishing offshore can add king mackerel, dolphin and more to the catch.
Fishermen are catching king mackerel, but the bite isn’t hot. There are occasional hot days, but the same spot may be slow for several days before firing off again. The better concentrations of kings are far enough offshore that most fishermen forsake them to chase dolphin. The kings have been holding in 60 to 100 feet of water.
There has been an unexpected run of cobia off Brunswick County this week. Numerous fishermen have reported catching several each trip while fishing the rocks and wrecks in 50 to 65 feet of water. These cobia are moving north and should show farther up the N.C. Coast in the next few weeks.
There were several reports this week of fishermen catching what they thought were large Spanish mackerel that were later determined to be small kings. Be careful. Kings must be 24 inches to keep and it is an expensive ticket. There are several ways to tell the difference, but the easiest is with the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin. If there is a black spot of the forward edge of the dorsal fin, the fish is a Spanish mackerel, but if the dorsal fin is all gray, the fish is a king mackerel.
Smaller Spanish mackerel and bluefish are biting around the inlets and along the beaches out to the nearshore artificial reefs.
“Hatteras” blues to 12 pounds put in a good showing this week at several piers. Other pier catches include Spanish mackerel, and bluefish on plugs, plus red drum, black drum, whiting, pompano and more on bottom rigs.
Flounder fishing is beginning to pick up. There are flatfish in the creeks, inlets, on the drops into deeper channels and on the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom areas and the numbers are growing. Flounder are feeding aggressively and are readily hitting live mud minnows and small menhaden and a variety of soft plastics. With the live baits you have to allow them time to turn the baits to begin to swallow them to be sure they have the hook, but with the soft plastics you can set the hook as soon as you feel the bite.
Puppy drum have been biting well for a while. They are feeding in the shallows in the creeks and marshes inside most inlets. There are also numerous stories of hungry puppy drum feeding in flooded marshes during the full moon tides last weekend
Puppy drum like live baits. Shrimp are their favorite and they can be fished suspended under a cork or on the bottom. Mullet minnows, peanut menhaden and mud minnows are all just below shrimp on the favorites list for red drum and are rarely refused. All can be fished either on the bottom or suspended under a float. Flounder and trout will eat these same live baits fished the same way.
When I fish a live bait suspended under a cork, I like popping and rattling corks and the Back Bay Thunder from Cajun Thunder Floats is a great one to use. It combines a popping cork and a rattling cork and can be fished subtly as a rattling cork in small pockets or as a combination popping and rattling cork in larger water.
I think trout respond better to suspended baits and especially shrimp. Even when I don’t have live baits, I like to fish shrimp shapes, like the Billy Bay Halo Shrimp from Betts Tackle. I slather the plastic shrimp up with Pro-Cure scent to be sure they smell good and trout can’t refuse them.
If anyone doesn’t know - Speckled trout season reopened at 12:01 A.M. Sunday morning, June 15, across all of N.C. The season has been closed since early February due to a freeze stun and kill event. The limit is four trout with a minimum length of 14 inches. The proclamation stating this is posted on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net under the Proclamations tab.
Recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic states will have an 8 day red snapper season in 2014. The recreational red snapper season will be three weekends during July, with the first two weekends being three days each, Friday through Sunday, while the final weekend will only be Friday and Saturday. The weekends are July 11-13, 18-20 and 25-26. Fishing will open at 12:01 A.M. on Friday morning and close at midnight on Sunday the first two weekends and close at midnight on Saturday the final weekend.
The recreational red snapper catch limit for 2014 is 22,576 fish. The bag limit is one fish per person per day and there is no minimum size limit for red snapper.
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries biologists will be collecting red snapper carcasses for research at carcass collection centers from Calabash to Hatteras. DMF biologists request that fishermen clean their red snapper leaving the head and tail intact on the carcass and take them to the collection centers. DMF biologists will examine the carcasses and provide the information gathered to NOAA Fisheries for use in an upcoming red snapper stock assessment. The research is to determine the health of the South Atlantic red snapper fishery and how it is progressing toward recovery.
The carcass collection program will operate as it has in the past three years with a citation and rewards for bringing a red snapper carcass and filling out the information card. Freezers will be stationed at the collection sites with instructions on how to deposit carcasses. There will be information cards to complete and pack with each carcass. The information requested will be basic information pertaining to how and when the fish was caught.
The carcass collection centers will be located at:
* Hurricane Fleet – 9975 Nance St. – Calabash;
* Ocean Isle Fishing Center – 65 Beach Causeway – Ocean Isle Beach;
* Carolina Beach Fishing Center – 313 Canal Drive – Carolina Beach;
* Tex’s Tackle – 215 Old Eastwood Road – Wilmington;
* Dudley’s Marina – 106 Cedar Point Blvd. – Swansboro;
* Capt. Stacy Fishing Center – 415 Atlantic Beach Causeway – Atlantic Beach;
* Carolina Princess Fishing Center – 604 Evans St. – Morehead City;
* Oden’s Dock – 57878 N.C. Hwy 12 – Hatteras.
A map of these locations is posted at the DMF website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/snapper/freezer-locations.
Tournaments, Meetings and Events
June 16 to 20: Hatteras Marlin Club Blue Marlin Release Tournament, Hatteras Marlin Club, Hatteras, www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
June 20: Cape Lookout FlyFishers, Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Dinner 6:00 P.M. and Meeting 7:00 P.M., Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
June 21: Southport Inshore Challenge, Flounder and red drum, Southport Marina, www.fishermanspost.com.
NOTE: The Jolly Mon King Classic and all associated events have been postponed one week due to an early weather forecast that was less than favorable. The dates below reflect the new dates as of June 18, 2014. For more information visit the Ocean Isle Fishing Center website at www.oifc.com.
June 25: Jolly Mon Rock the Dock, Kids 12 and under dock fishing tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
June 26: Junior Jolly Mon, Kids 16 and under king, Spanish, cobia and dolphin tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
June 27 to 29: Jolly Mon King Classic, King mackerel, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
July 15: MFC Finfish Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., NCDENR Regional Office, Washington, Jason Rock 252-948-3875 or Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey Knight
252-948-3871 or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.