We often make jokes about our coastal N.C. weather and say things like "If you don't like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change," but that hasn't been the case for the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, no serious change is in immediate sight either. We are firing up (no pun intended) for the Fourth of July Weekend and if nothing changes, it will indeed be a hot time in the old town.
Last week I made some suggestions regarding dealing with the heat and I urge everyone to heed them. If nothing else, drink water until you feel bloated and slather every inch of exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen. It's also good to remember that shade is your friend.
Last week I reported the water temperatures had risen to the point some of the summer fish were arriving. One of the fish I mentioned then was tarpon and they are the big news this week. Since last week, several attacked baits intended for king mackerel over the weekend, but pulled free after a couple of jumps. This is the usual outcome with the smaller hooks used for live bait fishing for kings, but there were several success stories. It is a little early for this much tarpon action, but it might be time to get going if your desires include catching one of these silver kings.
Danny Glover of Emerald Isle caught and released a tarpon estimated at 90 pounds from Bogue Inlet Pier on Monday. It was a fitting beginning of summer and quite a feat fro Glover. More tarpon are on the way too. A pair were caught and released from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island over the weekend. One was sight estimated at approximately 120 pounds, while the other was beached and measured before being released and the measurements calculated to 118 pounds. Several more were hooked and lost, including one that was fought for two hours and would have won Category Three in the Oak Island Open Pier Tournament, until the hook broke and it escaped. Capt. Gary Dubiel has already seen some in Pamlico Sound, so the bite should be firing up soon.
Keeping with tarpon, the NC Kayak Fishing Association had fishing trips in the ocean off Oak Island Thursday and Friday and all of the kayak fishermen reported seeing tarpon. One fisherman said a huge tarpon rolled right beside his kayak and really surprised him as it gulped air. The kayak fishermen were hoping to catch some king mackerel, but would have been pleasantly surprised with a tarpon. Unfortunately they didn't catch either, but got a lot of ocean fishing experience from sharks.
If you separate the nasty thunderstorms from the rest of our weather last week, the fishing conditions were really good. Because of this, fishermen were able to go just about anywhere and the results show the fishing was pretty good most of the places they went.
The offshore bite is still going strong, but has turned primarily to dolphin. There are a few blackfin tuna, a few wahoo and a growing number of billfish. Any discussion of offshore fishing right now quickly becomes dominated by questions, speculations and opinions about the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and I'll deal with that a little later.
Dolphin are also following bait pods and weed lines closer to shore and finding their way into many fish boxes. Most of these dolphin are caught while trying to filch a pogy or cigar minnow from a king mackerel fisherman. There have already been a few sailfish caught this way and that number should increase over the next few months also. African pompano are another surprise for king mackerel fishermen in deeper water, but they should be added to the fish box while sailfish are released. Bottom fishing is also good in those areas from about 80 to 125 feet deep, with the catch including, grouper, snapper, grunts, porgy, triggerfish and an occasional hog snapper.
The king and Spanish mackerel bite begins at the ends of the piers and goes out. Several fishermen have reported seeing and catching kings while Spanish fishing along the beaches. The better king action is still a few miles off the beach at spots like the Northwest Places, Jerry's Reef, the Southeast Bottoms, Jesse's Ledge, 23 Mile Rock, 15 Mile Rock and the Jungle. At many of these places, you will usually find a few dolphin.
In addition to tarpon, pier fishermen are continuing to catch a few kings, lots of bluefish, some Spanish mackerel, flounder, pompano, black drum and more. The Oak Island piers are enjoying a run of speckled trout almost every morning.
Inside the inlets, the flounder and puppy drum are biting well. Many of the flounder are just shy of keeper size, but a few more doormats are being caught. Some specks are being caught also and that number is slowly increasing. The pups aren't spread out over large areas, but when you find them it is rarely just one or two. Several fishermen in Saturday's redfish tournament reported catching fish until they were tired.
Some big news for offshore fishermen is that the sealed-bid government auction for Frying Pan Tower has been closed and Frying Pan Tower has been sold--again. The difference this time is that the new owner, Richard Neal of Charlotte, plans to complete the sale and renovate the tower. I was able to speak with Richard briefly early this week and he sounds sincere in his desire to renovate the tower and make it into something that is beneficial for fishermen and divers.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is holding a series of meetings along the Atlantic Coast regarding Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The Amendment would increase commercial striper allocations, even though all the biologists and fishery managers oppose it. The N.C. meetings are scheduled for June 29 at the small auditorium at Roanoke Festival Park in Manteo and July 7 at the Division of Marine Fisheries office in Morehead City. For more information visit www.asmfc.org or www.ncdmf.net.
Several Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled in the next week. Those meeting include:
* June 28, 6:00 P.M., MFC Shellfish Advisory Committee Meeting, NCDMF Central District Office - Morehead City, NC.
* June 29, 1:00 P.M., Strategic Habitat Area Region Two Committee Meeting, NCDMF Central District Office - Morehead City, NC.
* June 29, 5:00 P.M., MFC Inland Regional Advisory Committee Meeting
NCDMF Central District Office - Morehead City, NC and via conference call.
* July 1, 6:00 P.M., MFC Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, NCDENR Regional Field Office - Washington, NC.
For more information on any of these meetings visit www.ncdmf.net or call the MFC Office at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8023.
A Meet and Greet for kayak fishermen was held Saturday at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area near Wilmington. It went well in spite of some early morning and afternoon thunderstorms. The kayak fishermen launched at the newly refurbished Federal Point Ramp at the end of Hwy 421. FYI for kayakers--while this ramp and parking area has been improved for boaters, it is not as kayak friendly as it used to be. It still works, but just not as well.
After a morning of fishing, a hot dog lunch and gear trading session was held at Access 3 of the Fort Fisher ORV trail. More fishing followed lunch, but was interrupted by the afternoon storm. Puppy drum fishing was excellent in Second and Buzzard Bays and some participants caught nice flounder. A few specks, sheepshead and black drum were also caught. For more information visit the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) website at www.nckfa.com.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament began Monday, June 14, with a bang. The Citation, with Capt. Eric Holmes of Buxton, brought an 883 pound, tournament record, blue marlin to the scales. While no one wanted to admit it as such, that big fish took the wind out of most fishermen's sails and they thought they would be fishing for second place in the tournament that continued through Saturday, June 19. Unfortunately, during the polygraph session on Saturday afternoon it was discovered that the mate didn't have a fishing license at the time of the catch and, after a thorough investigation and consultation with the N.C. Attorney General and the Division of Marine Fisheries, the catch was eventually disqualified.
The committee's decision moved Carnivore, with Capt. Ed Petrilli of Swansboro into first place with a 528 pound blue Marlin and Wet-N-Wild, with Capt. Tony Ross of Beaufort into second place with a 460 pound blue marlin. There were only three blue marlin weighed during the tournament, so the blue marlin prize money was reconfigured to be split two ways instead of three. The Wet-N-Wild also caught the largest tuna of the tournament. Sea Creature, with Capt. Steve "Creature" Coulter from Hatteras, was the 2009 winner and struck again this year by winning the Dolphin Division and a Winner-Take-All TWT for the Largest Dolphin and pocketed more than $100,000. For more information visit www.thebigrock.com.
Everyone has an opinion regarding what happened and the committee's decision. There are a couple of indisputable facts and then things get fuzzy. Big Rock rules specifically state that everyone in the boat's crew must have a N.C. fishing license and one of the Citation mates did not have a license at the time of the catch. However, he had purchased a license (by internet or phone) by the time the fish was offloaded and weighed.
This is where the fuzziness begins and where everyone begins pointing fingers. According to N.C. Fishing regulations, a charter boat can have a blanket license to cover all on the boat while under charter. If the captain or owner is on a non-charter outing, everyone must have individual licenses. The Citation was formerly a charter boat, but was sold last fall and is no longer working as a charter boat, so no blanket license is available.
In an interview with WNCT TV in Greenville, the mate in question, Peter Wann, said he had previously fished another tournament with this captain and owner and was never asked about a license then or in preparing for the Big Rock. Wann said he actually brought up the subject of licenses first when he asked Capt. Holmes, if the boat had a blanket license during the ride to the scales after catching the fish. He said Holmes replied that the boat didn't have a blanket license and then asked if he had a personal license. It was after this that Wann said he checked by internet to see if his license was current and subsequently purchased (or renewed) a license. Wann said he thought his license was still valid, but renewed it just to be sure. NC Division of Marine Fisheries said his license had expired in 2009.
Was this an honest mistake or an attempt to sidestep a $15 license that backfired horribly? I don't know any of the fishermen involved in this and I doubt that anyone outside that group will ever know all the details. Mates working on charter boats are covered by blanket licenses and it's not too far a reach to believe that Wann thought the Citation was still a charter boat and he was covered. Unfortunately, this is an expensive lesson to be learned by a 22 year old mate, an experienced captain and a boat owner. Everyone has their own interpretation, but I believe they all share in the mistake and I believe the tournament made the only decision they could when presented these facts. One thing is for sure though--the debate on this will go on for quite a while.
The True Line Utilities Fishing Team normally pairs Rick Patterson and John Hislop of Swansboro for competition in the Redfish Action Challenge Cup and nearby Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) Redfish Tour events. The tournament in Beaufort on June 19 was to be their first HT Series Redfish event, but commitments prevented Hislop from competing, so Patterson asked his dad, Richard, to fill in. It was a wise decision as they brought a pair of 27 inch redfish to the scales and collected first place overall, plus the bounty on the largest redfish in the tournament.
The Patterson's catch totaled 14.38 pounds and the big red weighed 7.79 pounds. They collected checks for $3,000.00 and $220.00 for topping the 16 boat field.
Capt. Jeff Cronk, Swansboro, also had an alternate angler as his usual fishing partner, Capt. Mike Taylor, was busy fishing the final day of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. Daniel Vinent, the area representative for Pure Fishing, joined Cronk and they tallied 12.12 pounds to finish in second place. Lee Padrick and Dwayne Smith weighed 11.07 pounds to finish third.
Big Rock winning angler John Parks, Jacksonville, pulled double duty this week and after catching a 528 pound blue Marlin on Wednesday, he teamed with David Brown on Saturday to catch a pair of reds that weighed 11.19 pounds. However, one of their fish died between being caught and weighed and, after being assessed a half pound penalty, they slipped to fourth place with 10.69 pounds. The father-son team of Ray and Capt. Matt Lamb, Atlantic Beach, compiled 10.56 pounds to finish fifth.
The Jolly Mon King Classic was held Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20, from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. There were numerous special activities including a Kids Jolly Mon on Friday. The tournament is for king mackerel and has a unique format where fishermen are allowed to choose either Saturday or Sunday to fish. Most of the 306 boat field fished Saturday, but the top several fish were caught on Sunday.
Jeff Beck, Ocean Isle Beach, and the crew of the Do Work caught a 33.65 pound king to win the tournament. They said the king hit a double pogy in the propwash while fishing near the Cape Fear Sea Buoy shortly after noon on Sunday. Keith Clapp and Team Autocraft of Asheboro finished in second place with a 33.05 pound king and Ken Strickland and All In of Greensboro caught a 31.06 and were the leader after Saturday, but slipped to third place on Sunday.
The Hooked, with Capt. Eddie Eubanks and Junior Angler Reagan Eubanks of Ocean Isle Beach, scored double by winning the 23 and Under Class and the Top Junior Angler Award with a 27.70 pound king. Heather Stover, Oak Island, fished on the Liquid Asset and caught a 29.30 pound king to claim Top Lady Angler honors. Roy Strickland, Greensboro, collected Top Senior Angler honors for the All In with a 31.60 pound king. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Oak Island Open Pier Tournament was held on the Oak Island piers Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20. This tournament was run by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department and allowed fishermen to fish from either Oak Island Pier or Ocean Crest Pier.
The tournament featured three categories and fishermen could enter one, two or all three. Category 1 includes spot, croaker, whiting, spade, pompano and pinfish. Wayne Eastman won the category with a one pound whiting. Second place was decided by a first fish caught tiebreaker as Rakene Chowdhury (second place) and Brady Story (third place) both caught whiting that weighed 11 ounces.
Category 2 included Spanish, bluefish, sheepshead, trout, red drum, black drum and flounder and was dominated by sheepshead. Garrett Bell, a teen angler, caught a three pound sheepshead to claim the win. Another tiebreaker was required to separate second and third places in this category. Barry Crews (second place) and Keith Ramer (third place) both caught 2 pound, 13 ounce sheepshead.
Ties were the order of the day and first and second place in the Junior Angler Division required another tiebreaker. Edward Cook claimed the win while Joel Parnell finished second even though both caught 13 ounce bluefish. Cagney Hodge caught a four ounce pinfish to finish in third place.
Category 3 included king mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle, amberjack and tarpon. Unfortunately, no fish in this category were landed. The names of the participants were put into a drawing and the prizes were awarded by the drawing. Robert Capps was first, Monty Robinson was second and Jeremy Hodge was third. For more information visit www.oakislandpiertournament.com.
The eighth annual Carousel Flounder Tournament was held Saturday, June 19, from Inlet Watch Marina in Carolina Beach. The tournament is held to raise funds for the Carousel Center for Abused Children and this year's tournament raised approximately $15,000 from entry fees, raffles and sponsor donations. The tournament drew 94 anglers.
A mere.15 pounds or about approximately 2.5 ounces was all that separated the top two anglers. DeWayne Kirby had the heavier flounder, a nice 5.5 pound fish. John Theodorakis landed a 5.35 pounder, but had to settle for second place. Mike Accattato caught a 4.9 pound flatfish to finish third, while Matt Davis and Mark Armstrong were fourth and fifth with 4.2 and 4.0 pound flounders respectively.
A handful of tournaments are scheduled for this week and weekend. The Hatteras Marlin Club Blue Marlin Release Tournament began Monday June 21 at Hatteras and will fish through Saturday, June 26. This is the 51st annual running of this event. As of my deadline, the tournament leaderboard showed the Caroline, with Capt. Watson Caviness of Fayetteville in the lead on the strength of five sailfish releases for 750 points. I'll have the final standings next week. For more information visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
The Carteret Community College Foundation Spanish Mackerel Challenge will be held June 26 in Morehead City. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit Carteret Community College. For more information call 252-222-6222.
The Swansboro Rescue Squad King Mackerel Tournament will be held June 26 at Swansboro. The proceeds from this tournament benefit the Swansboro Fire and Rescue Departments. For more information call 910-382-8047.
The Second Annual Jodi Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament will be held June 26 at Wrightsville Beach. This tournament is organized by Mike Tynch in honor of his wife Jodi, who was a cancer victim. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. For more information call 910-284-3140.
The second of five tournaments in the Top Dog Flounder Series will be held this Saturday, June 26 at Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. The proceeds from the Top Dog Tournaments are given to the Brunswick County Underprivileged Children's Fund to purchase Christmas presents for the children. For more information call 910-443-1211.