It seems like the unusual weather, like the tropical low that rolled in on us last weekend, just won’t go away. Thankfully this system was mostly rain – even though we have had plenty. While the rain is good in some ways, it will keep the inshore and nearshore waters muddy for a while longer. The good thing is that fishermen are getting out and are finding some fish anyway.
This weekend will be the start of the July 4th holiday, but the weather forecast is a little nastier than last weekend. The forecast continues with showers and thundershowers and one National Weather Service graphic has predicted 5 to 7 inches of rain from Myrtle Beach to Cape Lookout over the next week. Hopefully the forecast will improve as we go forward.
The forecast also includes a lot of wind. As of Thursday, the long range forecast for Topsail to the north includes a Small Craft Advisory through Monday afternoon. The wind forecast south of Surf City is similar, but they haven’t included the SCA just yet.
This is the first of two weekends that will be associated with the July 4th Holiday. Even with the less than stellar forecast, we should get prepared for larger than usual crowds for a couple of weeks. Lines will be long everywhere, especially at the boat ramps. Understand this going in and be prepared to relax and wait.
I believe that most boat ramps will be crowded to overflowing, so I’m going to offer a suggestion for working around the crowded ramps. Set your schedule to use the ramps early and late in the day when the crowd is smallest.
Even better, if you have a friend who has told you to use their dock whenever you want, this might be a good time to take them up on their offer. In addition to the rain and wind, the temperature and humidity will be high, so it is a good time to do whatever it takes to keep your pulse and blood pressure lower.
Last week’s super moon was a special intro to summer. It was very pretty when the clouds parted and you could see it. The abnormally high lunar tides with this full moon weren’t the highest of the year, those are usually around the September and October full moons, but they flooded the marshes and let fish and fishermen head into areas they often couldn’t. From Thursday through the weekend the high tides were a foot or more above normal and there were numerous fishermen in shallow draft boats well up in the marshes.
Fishermen found several species of fish in the flooded grass, but their primary quarry was the puppy drum that were feeding on fiddler crabs, shrimp and smaller minnows in areas they usually couldn’t get into. The pups often stand on their nose to feed on these delicacies and when they do they expose their tails. This is where the term tailing redfish comes from and there were pockets of tailers along the entire state.
I remember when catching a pup was almost rare and appreciate their ongoing recovery. I enjoy getting up in the shallows and finding tailers to stalk within casting range. I would rather catch one pup this way than 10 in a spot where I just cast a bait and wait. There are a lot of other fishermen who also enjoy this, so I tried to avoid known hotspots and the crowds they attract.
I got to go twice and found the fish on the day with the strongest wind, but not on the calmer day. However, on the calmer day the water was deeper and I got far enough back in one flooded section of marsh to find a spot with several acres of shrimp that were moving and jumping. There weren’t any fish in them that afternoon, but I’ll bet that in a couple of weeks when they are larger, the fish will find them as they move out of the marsh on falling tides. I plan to spend some time at the mouth of that creek and I’ll be back to check them out on the July full moon too.
There has been so much rain in the last few weeks that most of the coastal water has a reddish tint. There definitely is some stirred up mud and sand in places too. As you plan your fishing trips, remember that flounder and drum tolerate the dirty water better than trout. Also remember that baits that are bright, loud, active or with an attractive scent usually catch better in these conditions.
Bright baits include colors like electric chicken and white, pearl or glow. Loud baits are anything with a rattle, propeller or blade that generates noise – don’t forget popping corks. Active baits are those with a lot of movement like topwaters for artificial baits and live baits that struggle against the hook holding them. Scent is just that and is generated by live baits, scented bio baits and scents added to baits.
Puppy drum and flounder often hold in similar places in the creeks. Both seem to like spots with some current in less than six feet of water and usually in less than four feet. In channels and around inlets, flounder may be shallow and deep, but pups will usually stay shallow.
Now that the water has warmed, trout generally prefer slightly different areas with depths of 6 to 12 feet. However, during the early mornings and late afternoons, they will often venture into the shallows to feed. These are good times to catch them on topwater lures.
Sheepshead fishing is good in many places. One of the hotspots is the high-rise bridges and wall at the State Port in Morehead City. The hot baits for sheepshead are sea urchins and fiddler crabs and they must be fished immediately beside the piling or structure.
Pier fishermen are finding a mixture of bottom fish that includes flounder, sea mullet, black drum, red drum, pompano and such. Pier fishermen are also catching some bluefish and Spanish mackerel near the pier ends. There have been some larger Spanish caught at Bogue Inlet Pier this week.
The ocean water has warmed (79-80 degrees) to the point the run of cobia is probably gone, even though there might be a few incidental cobia catches. Kings may come to the beach at any time, but usually move the closest with the cleaner and cooler water of the rising tide. It is also time for the king fishermen on the pier ends to begin seeing some tarpon and jack crevalle.
I pointed this out last week, but it bears repeating… Some small kings are mixing with schools of Spanish mackerel and, while small kings and large Spanish look very similar, the size and number limits are different and you must be able to tell the difference. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look for a black area at the front edge of the forward dorsal fin. Spanish macks have this and kings are all gray on their dorsal fin.
The limit for Spanish macks is 15 fish with a 12 inch minimum, while for kings it is 3 fish with a 24 inch minimum. The measurement is from their nose to the V of their tail.
While gusty winds have been a major hindrance for all but the largest boats, fishing from a few miles off the beach out to the Gulf Stream has been pretty good. There have been kings, some dolphin, lots of amberjack, a few scattered cobia and lots of bottom fish.
While some scattered kings will be caught inshore, the more consistent king mackerel fishing begins at about 60 feet of water and heads offshore. The good news is that many of the spots holding kings are also holding a few dolphin and lots of hungry amberjack. A few sailfish have been caught in these depths off the southern N.C. Coast and should be spreading up the coast.
Offshore bottom fishing has been and continues to be good. The most difficult thing is feeling their bites in a rocking and rolling boat and the calm days have been few and far between. The bottom fish being caught include black sea bass, grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys. There may also be an occasional hog snapper and they are a genuine prize. Fishermen will also be allowed to keep a red snapper several weekends during July.
Always keep at least one light line baited with a live bait or frozen cigar minnow trailing in the current when bottom fishing. It can be surprising how many king mackerel, dolphin and other fish are caught on the light line.
As the water warms closer in, there isn’t much difference between it and the Gulf Stream. The biggest thing is the quality and color of the water. There are still some good pods of dolphin, but the wahoo and tuna have scattered and Gulf Stream fishing has slowed some. Marlin are holding in the stream, but sailfish are pushing inshore following bait.
Many offshore fishermen are beginning to look for the water conditions they want well inshore of the stream itself and slow and start fishing when they find them. The good thing about this is it lessens the travel time and increases the fishing time. Dolphin are the primary catch and have moved well inshore. Many are being caught while feeding with kings in 60 to 100 feet.
It’s time for those schools of bailers and shingles to get thick so everyone comes home with mahi-mahi. It’s also time for the winds to fall out and the seas fall out while we complain about not even having enough breeze to keep us cool while fishing. Quite a few fishermen are hoping both of these things happen soon!
This week’s tagged great white report finds Mary Lee continuing to enjoy the warmer water just inshore of the Continental Shelf off Savannah, Ga. She has been in the general area between Charleston, S.C. and Jacksonville, Fl. for more than a month. There must be an abundance of food there. Lydia had returned to the Continental Shelf off Cape Lookout for a few days, but pinged Thursday near the Steeples off Cape Fear. To keep an eye on the travels of Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks from around the world, open the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
According to the N.C. Legislature website, www.ncleg.net, as of Thursday morning there had not been any more movement of Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) or House Bill 983 (2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as the gamefish bill). Reports from Raleigh say HB 983 will not be allowed out of committee this session, but action on SB 58 is expected. If the legislators hope to wrap up the session by July 4 as some have said, action will have to come quickly.
Details, wording and the progress of these two bills, which could have a serious effect on fishing and fishermen along the N.C. Coast, can be found at the N.C. Legislative website, www.ncleg.net. The contact information for all legislators can also be found at www.ncleg.net. Contact your legislators and the committees and let them know how you feel.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting applications for proposals for the 2013-14 funding cycle from the N.C. Marine Resources Fund. The fund, which receives proceeds from the sale of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses, provides grants for projects that help manage, protect, restore, develop, cultivate and enhance the state’s marine resources. Only universities, local and state governmental entities in North Carolina, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are eligible to apply. Others must partner with one of these eligible entities.
Proposals will be evaluated based on the Coastal Recreational Fishing License Strategic Plan for the Conservation and Improvement of North Carolina’s Marine Resources. The plan considers priority research needs identified in fishery management plans approved by the Marine Fisheries Commission, issues identified in the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan and research needs identified cooperatively with other agencies. The strategic plan can be found on the Division of Marine Fisheries’ website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=585d10cc-7591-408c-b5a0-f44ff893673e&groupId=38337.
Projects submitted for this funding cycle should fall under one of three programmatic areas:
* Fish — Projects that estimate recreational fishing effort, harvest and mortality of important coastal recreational fish species, the socio-economic attributes of coastal recreational fisheries or the characterization of catch and release mortality;
* Habitat — Projects that improve the effectiveness of existing environmental programs or that identify, designate or protect coastal recreational fish habitat;
*People — Projects that provide increased access to recreational fisheries resources and enhancement structures or provide better public education and enrichment products.
All proposals must be submitted to the director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries by 5 p.m. July 31. Directions for submitting a proposal and an application form can be downloaded from the Division of Marine Fisheries’ website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/crfl-grants-projects-applications-procedures. For more information, contact Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Project Coordinator Beth Govoni at 252-808-8004 or Beth.Govoni@ncdenr.gov.
There has been some confusion this week regarding a Marine Fisheries Commission meeting to discuss a petition for rulemaking that requests rules be adopted to make all of North Carolina’s internal coastal waters permanent secondary nursery areas, unless they are currently designated as primary nursery areas or special secondary nursery areas. The petition doesn’t call for it, but one of the things this would do is to effectively ban inshore trawling as trawling is not allowed in waters designated as nursery areas.
Initially, N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) Chairman Rob Bizzell called a special MFC meeting for Friday, June 28. On Tuesday afternoon, this meeting was cancelled and the decision was the MFC would not discuss this until their regularly scheduled meeting, August 28 to 30 in Raleigh. In the time prior to this meeting, this issue would be discussed by several of the standing MFC Advisory Committees and their feedback would also be reviewed by the MFC at the August meeting. The advisory committee meetings have not yet been set, but I hope to have the schedule by next week.
The petition for rulemaking has been deemed complete and was presented to the MFC on June 20. MFC Regulations require the MFC to act on the petition within 120 days. For more information visit the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
If anyone is looking for an excuse to head to Las Vegas for a few days in the mid-July heat, ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) will be at the Las Vegas Convention Center July 10 to 12. This is where fishing tackle manufacturers from all over the world will debut their product lines and new products for 2014 and numerous N.C. companies will be there. Baseball Hall of Fame member Johnny Bench will be the keynote speaker for the convention. For more information visit www.ICASTfishing.org.
Several tournaments that were scheduled for this weekend have already contacted me to say they will be postponing the tournament for a week. There is a Small Craft Advisory posted for most of the N.C. Coast for Thursday afternoon through Monday. I would advise checking with the tournaments before traveling or making purchases specifically for the tournaments.
The Carteret Community College Foundation Spanish Mackerel Challenge that was scheduled for June 29 from The Boat House in Beaufort has been rescheduled for July 27. In addition to Spanish mackerel there will also be categories for other fish. All proceeds will benefit Carteret Community College programs or students. For more information visit www.carteretsmt.com.
The Jodi Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament that was scheduled for June 28 to 30 from Motts Channel Seafood in Wrightsville Beach has been postponed because of the Small Craft Advisory posted for the weekend. The tournament will be held July 5 to 7 will all else remaining the same. This is a one day tournament and participants will be allowed to choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday. Proceed from the tournament will be donated to the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. For more information visit www.joditynchkmt.com.
The 3rd annual "Catch Two' Flounder Tournament is scheduled for Saturday June 29th out of Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach. This is an aggregate tournament with the winner determined by the combined weight of the two heaviest flounder per boat. For more information call 843-602-3376.
The HOW- Combined Forces NC Cup Kayak Fishing Tournament is scheduled for Sunday, June 30 in Swansboro. This is a team tournament held by the N.C. chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW, www.heroesonthewater.org). For more information on the tournament or to volunteer with HOW, connect with Heroes on the Water – Combined Forces NC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeroesOnTheWaterCombinedForcesNC?fref=ts.
Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo has the Pirate’s Cove Small Fry Tournament scheduled for June 27 and 28. The tournament is for kids from 3 to 15 years old and prizes will be awarded for the best catches of spots, bluefish, trout and flounder. They fished on the 27th, but hadn’t returned by my deadline for this. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
There are two tournaments scheduled for July 4 through the weekend. The Surf City Pier Kids Tournament will be held July 4 at Surf City Pier in Surf City. This will include multiple species and concentrate on the fun of fishing. For more information visit www.surfcityoceanpier.com.
The Harkers Island Fire & Rescue Fishing Tournament will be held July 6 at Harkers Island. The tournament will feature divisions for flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and pinfish. For more information call 252-838-1126.