Fishing is pretty good with a wide variety of fish from the backwaters to the blue water. The opportunity to have your line stretched and have fresh fish for dinner is good, so get up and get going.
Our weather will remain hot and humid for the next week (and probably the next two months) but there is a cool front in the forecast and we may be a few degrees cooler over the weekend and into next week. Mainly afternoon thunderstorms stay in the picture though.
July 4th is next Friday and many people will be vacationing next week and the one following. Please be aware that everything will be crowded and traffic will be moving slowly and allow extra time.
July 4th is one of the busiest times on area waters. To get all those boats on the water, area launching ramps will be filled to overflowing. Be prepared to use the ramp when you get in line and don’t stop on the ramp to move fishing rods, coolers and such from the tow vehicle to the boat or to put them back when you return. Have everything ready to go before approaching the ramp and when you return, pull up and out of the way to tie down and make ready to leave. A little bit of forethought and common courtesy goes a long way in crowds this large.
King mackerel had been about 20 miles and farther offshore, but a few have moved closer in recently. There were king caught around the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy and the over the live bottom area just offshore of it this week, plus a few at the shark hole and the 90s off Brunswick County. Some of the kings down south were nice ones, which sets up well for the Jolly Mon King Classic this weekend. There were also a few cobia caught mixed with these kings and around the nearshore artificial reefs.
Many king mackerel fishermen have been catching a dolphin or two in the 15 to 20 mile range and the dolphin action is even better once out far enough the water begins to have a little blue in the color. Many of the early Gulf Stream dolphin were large and some large ones are still in the offshore catch, but bailers and shingles are mixed with them now.
This has been an excellent year for billfish and that continued last week. There were reports of white and blue marlin encounters along the entire N.C. Coast. A few sailfish are breaking away from the Gulf Stream and moving inshore. They are following bait and sometimes are found in odd places. I have caught two sailfish on July Fourth weekend while fishing within sight of the beach in king mackerel tournaments.
Grouper are biting and the lighter winds and calmer seas of the upcoming week should make for a good time to catch them. In addition to grouper, offshore bottom bouncers are also catching black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts, porgys, and amberjack. Off the southern part of the state you can add occasional hog snapper and African Pompano to the possible bottom fish to catch.
I said it last week and emphasize it again. Keep a light line or two floating in the current whenever bottom fishing. It doesn’t require much effort and often produces a king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo or other surprise while you’re concentrating on the bottom fish.
Spanish mackerel are on the tide lines around the inlets, scattered down the beaches and around some of the nearshore artificial reefs. Spanish aren’t hard to catch and are excellent on the dinner table. Trolling size 0 and 00 Clarkspoons behind small planers and trolling sinkers is the standard way, but there are some specialty rigs, such as the Christmas Tree Rig, which have multiple lures and hooks. In some places there are mixed schools of larger Spanish and smaller kings.
Here’s another repeat piece of advice from last week. You must know how to tell the difference between small kings and large Spanish. If that huge Spanish turns out to be an undersize king when the Marine Patrol Officer checks it, it could result in an expensive ticket. There are several ways to tell the difference between kings and Spanish, but the easiest is to check for a black spot on the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin. If the fish has a black spot of the forward edge of the dorsal fin, it is a Spanish mackerel and if the dorsal fin is all gray, it is a king mackerel.
Pier fishermen are seeing a mixture of fish. There were some large Spanish mackerel and a cobia or two caught by pier fishermen this week, plus stories of a tarpon strike or two. The pluggers on the ocean piers are catching a few Spanish mackerel and bluefish on Got-Cha plugs. Bottom bouncers are catching a mixture that includes flounder, red drum and black drum on live baits and pompano, sea mullet and more on pieces of shrimp and cut bait.
Flounder fishing is picking up and they are being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs, in the inlets, on sections of nearshore hardbottom, around the pilings and bulkheads of bridges and around the mouths of many creeks. The flounder are hungry and are feeding aggressively. They will hit live baits and a variety of artificials.
Many fishermen do better using live baits for flounder, but they will also hit artificials and you don’t have to wait to set the hook with artificials. Many are caught as bycatch when puppy drum fishing with soft plastics, spinnerbaits and weedless gold spoons.
Puppy drum are biting in most of the creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and the coastal rivers from Manteo to Calabash. They are usually feeding, but occasionally get a little picky about lures. Scented soft plastics or soft plastics with scent added will usually entice them to bite. They’ve been hitting topwater well, especially early in the morning. Pups will usually eat a chunk of fresh cut bait or live baits too.
Trout season is open and I heard some stories and saw a few pictures of nice specks that were kept, but it wasn’t quite as many as I was expecting in the first week of open trout season since early February. Hopefully that will improve, but I’m still looking forward to incredible fall speck fishing.
Specks get really picky in the heat and sometimes seem to hold out for live baits. I prefer to suspend my live bait under a float and let the current drift it to the trout. Mullet minnows and peanut menhaden will work, but shrimp are my favorite live bait for specks.
Our legislators are still arguing over the budget (SB 744) and don’t appear to be making any progress. In addition to all the other things, there are fisheries items in both versions that aren’t good. The synopsis to this point is the Senate approved a budget bill, the House re-wrote it and the Senate rejected the House re-write. Last week, House and Senate Budget Resolution Committees were formed to work out the differences between the two budget Bills. I have some concerns with the real intent to resolve these issues, but time will tell.
I would suggest checking this bill out for yourself. I had a lot of issues with the Senate version, and don’t like everything in the House version, but feel it is a lot better on the fishing issues. The bill, with its full history can be found at www.ncleg.net. It is one of the hot topics and is on the home page when the website opens. The is section stating the intent to take interest from several funds is noted in the first few pages and the section on fishing begins on page 134 in the House version and on page 136 in the Senate version.
Let your legislators know how you feel about this and all bills. The listings and contact information for all N.C. legislators can be found at www.ncleg.net.
Tar Heel Fishermen and other fishermen in the South Atlantic states will have a limited red snapper season in 2014. Recreational fishermen will have a total of eight days to pursue the tasty snapper and commercial fishermen will have a season that begins a few days later and runs until the catch limit is filled.
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 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.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) is seeking individuals to serve on the Sea Turtle Advisory Committee and provide advice on various issues related to sea turtles. Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every three months and participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. Advisers will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
The duties of this committee will include, but are not limited to:
* Providing recommendations on reducing sea turtle interactions in commercial and recreational fisheries;
* Reviewing information on sea turtle strandings and interactions; and
* Assisting with public education.
Applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees or at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications should be returned by July 18 to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, Attention: Lauren Morris or e-mailed to DMF.Advisors@ncdenr.gov. Committee members will be appointed by the MFC Chair and will serve three-year terms.