Hot, hotter and hottest are the adjectives I've heard used to describe our weather this week. Unfortunately, the only snappy comeback I have reflects on the weather being smoking hot since we've all seen the smoke from the fires the lightning caused in Dare and Pender Counties. However, I don't like to joke about the forest fires and hope Wednesday's rain helped put a damper (that pun was intended) on them.
The weather has been so hot that the only folks doing well are the power companies, sunscreen manufacturers and the bottlers of water and sports drinks. We are all hoping the cycle will break, but the forecast through the July Fourth Weekend is for hot and dry.
The rain on Wednesday was welcome everywhere, but it was scattered and didn't fall everywhere. Eastern North Carolina could use a long soaking rain -- even if it came on a holiday weekend. This helped, but many places are approaching being a foot of rain in arrears.
The northeast wind on Wednesday night and Thursday was nice and settled the ocean a little. Unfortunately, it only dropped the temperature about three degrees and it is forecast to come right back up. With the current heat, that is about like backing down from broil to bake. Maybe at least the mornings and evenings will be noticeably cooler.
I just noted the Fourth of July weekend is coming up. While I hope everyone celebrates the independence of our country and enjoys the holiday, I'll warn everyone that there will be crowds everywhere. The roads will be crowded, with nasty traffic, stores will be crowded, the waters will be crowded and area ramps will be way beyond crowded. I can't suggest much to help with crowds on the roads and in the stores except avoiding them.
This might be a good time to consider renting a slip at one of the area marinas and leaving your boat in the water. That way you only have to endure the ramp confusion once to launch and again to retrieve your boat. Sure it costs a little, but the lower blood pressure, lack of stress and time saved should be welcome trade-offs. Most of the marinas also have ethanol free fuel and that will be better for your boat too.
The state of North Carolina is giving everyone who doesn't have a fishing license a gift for July Fourth. There is free fishing everywhere in N.C. that day. Take advantage of it.
A week plus of mainly gusty winds have prevented most smaller boats from heading very far offshore. Some have hunkered down and made the run at a greatly reduced speed. They have caught a few fish, but took a butt-whipping to do it. Bottom fish are the most consistent catch, but some dolphin and kings are also in the mix.
Without current reports, it is difficult to suggest places to go, but the areas around 14 Buoy to the 90 Foot Drop and the ledges to the east and offshore of Frying Pan Tower have consistent histories and should be good options. At least they should get you to roughly the right depths.
Determined fishermen have been working their way through the inlets and finding some Spanish mackerel just off of them and scattered along the beaches. That should continue as long as the surf zone doesn't get too stirred up.
While some Spanish have moved through Beaufort and the Cape Fear River Inlets and can be caught inside, most folks really believe the ocean is the spot to catch them. Often you don't need to go farther than the tide lines around the inlets.
Dale Walston of Haymarket, Va. got a nice surprise on Bogue Inlet Pier this week. He caught and released a tarpon estimated at 90 pounds. Pier fishermen caught some Spanish this week also, but the big news was a bunch of sheepshead. Those Sheepshead taste good too. A few flounder and pompano were also caught from the piers, but it seems the hot water is affecting pier fishing too. Other pier catches this week included sea mullet, black drum and spots.
For a couple of weeks flounder have been the highlight of the inshore fishing and that continued again this week. Citation flounder were weighed at almost every weigh station. Some big news comes from Brunswick County with a pair of nine pounders caught over the weekend. Those nine pounders were really big. It makes you wonder how big Harold Auten's 20 pound state record looked. It had to be huge!
Speckled trout season opened on June 16 and a few nice trout are being caught each week, but the action isn't hot. Live shrimp suspended under corks seem to be the key to getting the trout's attention.
Red drum are biting too, but occasionally get a little picky during the heat of the day. Red drum are loads of fun to catch on topwater lures early and late in the day. Walking the dog with a MirrOlure Top Dog Junior in the 808 color is usually productive if there are puppy drum where you are fishing. Along grass lines at higher tide stages is a great place to catch pups on topwaters.
A Kayak Fishing Meet & Greet Outing was held Saturday, June 25, from the Federal Point Ramp at Fort Fisher. The event attracted kayak fishermen from all across the state. The founder of the event, Ashley Williams of Greenville, said there were almost 70 kayak fishermen pre-registered and there were some who attended that hadn't registered in advance. It was definitely a big crowd.
The winds were gusting from the southwest and could have been a problem, but the kayak fishermen didn't allow it. Their first leg to get where most wanted to fish was to paddle directly into the wind while crossing the Basin. Once across this stretch of open water, the kayak fishermen paddled into the marshes around Zekes Island and Second Bay and fanned out. Unfortunately the fishing was rather slow. A few red drum, flounder, black drum, croakers and such were caught and there were tales of the strikes that didn't hook up and others that got away.
After a morning of fishing, the group met for a hot dog lunch and time to discuss fishing and examine rigging ideas near crossover number 2 of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. After lunch, the fishing continued as the group fanned out again into the creeks between the Basin and Buzzard Bay before calling it a day. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The N.C. General Assembly adjourned Saturday (June 18) without discussing several bills important to fishermen. This was a session marked with various kinds of legal wrangling and numerous gubernatorial vetoes. In a last-minute move to not lose the hard work done relative to HB 353, it was included as part of a study bill package in HB 773, titled the "Studies Act of 2011."
Because it was a study bill, this legislation is not subject to the crossover date requirement and will be discussed when the lawmakers return after the July Fourth recess. The progress of this (and other) bills and the schedule for committee meetings, plus the contact information and committee assignments for all state legislators can be found on the N.C. General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net. Fishermen should contact their legislators and let them know how they feel about fishery issues.
Part XLVIII of this bill forms the Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee. It will consist of four members of the Senate, appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Committee was charged with studying the following points and making a final report to the 2012 Regular Session of the 2011 General Assembly that includes findings, recommendations, and legislative proposals relating to its study.
Points assigned to the Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee include:
1. The potential impact to both the State's fisheries resources and the State's economy related to the designation of Red Drum, Spotted Sea Trout and Striped Bass as coastal game fish.
2. Changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
3. Creation of a hook and line commercial fishery.
4. Elimination of the trawl boat fishery in North Carolina.
5. Entering into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions with regard to the conservation of marine and estuarine resources; and regulating placement of nets and other sports or commercial fishing apparatus in coastal fishing waters with regard to navigational and recreational safety as well as from a conservation standpoint.
6. Entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the Service.
7. Potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.
8. Whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission or the Wildlife Resources Commission.
9. Other findings that promote the allocation of the State's resources to the optimum use.
10. Any other matters the Committee deems relevant.
There are no N.C. Marine Fishery Commission meetings next week due to the holiday. They will begin again the following week. For more information on these meeting or any marine fishery issues, visit the NCDMF 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. NMFS said public comment will be accepted through July 20. Comments 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 also 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 (ASMFC) website at www.asmfc.org, under Breaking News, or by contacting the Commission at 703-842-0740.
The North Carolina meeting regarding this was held June 21, but public comment is still being accepted by ASMFC through 5:00 PM (EST) on July 20, 2011. Comments should be forwarded to Danielle Brzezinski, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should read Draft Omnibus Amendment.
On June 24, NOAA Fisheries posted a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery Actions and to Conduct Public Scoping Meetings on the Federal Register. NOAA officials are concerned there are too many fatal interactions with protected and endangered sea turtles in the trawl fishery for shrimp. Part of preparing the EIS will involve a series of public hearings across the Gulf Coast and up the Southeast Coast to Morehead City. There will also be options for a 45 day window for fishermen that cannot attend the meetings to offer mail, e-mail and faxed comments.
Fisheries Bulletin FB 11--054 regarding this is posted at the NOAA Fisheries website at www.sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. The Morehead City meeting is scheduled for July 18, from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.
The Carteret Community College Foundation held their annual Spanish Mackerel Challenge on June 26, in Beaufort, but with a new twist. At the request of tournament participants, the tournament added a dolphin division that also included king mackerel. The wind was blowing a little too stiff for fishing on Saturday, so fishing was postponed until Sunday. In spite of the blustery winds, 70 boats entered the tournament and 18 also entered the dolphin and king division.
The top two Spanish mackerel were citation size fish and the third place was just under. Richard Hall and his crew on Team 20 Grady White led all comers with a Spanish that weighed 6.45 pounds. Just a quarter of a pound behind, Caitlin Hamer and the Smackerel crew weighed a 6.19 pound Spanish to finish second. It wasn't all bad though as Hamer also claimed the Top Lady Angler award for the fish. The Lady Lou, led by Jim Massengill, finished third with a Spanish that weighed 5.59 pounds. Massengill also collected the Top Senior Angler prize.
Stewart Dudley claimed the largest dolphin honors with a 26.92 pound bull. Mike Edwards was second at 14.84 pounds and Kerry Youngblood scored third with a 9.42 pounder.
Only two king mackerel were weighed. Chris Conklin paced the field with a 13.42 pound king and Brandon Mitchell was second with a king that weighed 11.46 pounds. Mitchell also won the Top Junior Angler award for catching a Spanish mackerel that weighed 4.77 pounds.
Even the small fry fished and competed. Cason Collins was the top fishermen of the kids through eight years old by catching a Spanish that weighed 1.53 pounds. Steve Byres weighed a 1.73 pound bluefish to earn the prize for the largest bluefish. For more information visit www.carteretsmt.com.
The 52nd Annual Hatteras Marlin Club Blue Marlin Release Tournament began Monday, June 20, and fished through Friday, June 24. This tournament is hosted by the Hatteras Marlin Club in Hatteras Village and is an all-release format. Points are awarded as 400 for a blue marlin and 100 for a sailfish.
The Retriever, owned by Brent Wright of Raleigh, was the winner. The Retriever totaled 900 points by releasing a blue marlin, three white marlin and two sailfish. Brent Wright also received Top Male Angler Honors for the tournament.
The Catbaby, owned by Randy Hoft of Raleigh finished in second place with 600 points. The Catbaby was tied with Eye Catcher at the end of day four, but added a white marlin release on the final day to pull ahead. The Catbaby released a blue marlin and two white marlin.
Eye Catcher, owned by Ray Hales of Clayton finished in third place with 500 points. The Eye Catcher released three white marlin and two sailfish. The Top Female Angler for the tournament was Deidre Bell. For more information visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
The Third Annual Jodi Tynch King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26, in Wrightsville Beach. The tournament was originally scheduled for Saturday only, but with the windy forecast the tournament directors made the change to allow fishing either day. The tournament raises money for Cape Fear Hospice in honor of Jodi Tynch, who succumbed to cancer several years ago.
This tournament has a guaranteed first place of $5,000 and, new this year, a Spanish Mackerel Division with $1,000 guaranteed for first place prize. The big winner was Michael Lucas and the Collision Course crew who won the King Mackerel Division with a 35.1 pound king, won the Spanish Mackerel Division with a 3.1 pound Spanish mackerel, placed second in the Dolphin Division and Austin Lucas won the Top Junior Angler award. Reely Miss Behavin', with Ricky Holden and Richard Clark was second with a 25.3 pound king and Leslie Davis and Outcast finished third with a 23.6 pounder. Timberwolf, with Stacy Peele and crew, won the Dolphin Division with a 10.8 pound fish.
The Wildlife Bait and Tackle Spots In The Slot Red Drum Tournament was held Saturday, June 25, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle on Fish Factory Road. This unusual tournament was based on catching the slot size redfish (18 to 27 inches) with the most spots. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not particularly good and the participation was as good as had been hoped. Still some money was raised for Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Brunswick County Children's Christmas Fund and the fishermen that participated had a good time.
Capt. Jimmy said most of the competitors caught slot size drum during the tournament, but they only had the standard two spots. One competitor, who will remain unnamed, was on his way in with a drum with multiple spots, but encountered some difficulty and didn't make the cutoff time.
Wes Heafner and his son Jon, of Boiling Springs Lakes, were the winners with a 22 1/2 inch drum that had three spots. The Heafners were the only contestants to bring in a drum, so in addition to the $1,000 first prize, they also won $517.50 in Tournament Within the Tournament prizes. The Heafners donated $300 of their winnings to Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Brunswick County Children's Christmas Fund. For more information visit www.wildlifetackle.spruz.com.
The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament will be held June 29 through July 2 at Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This is the fourth event in the 2011 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. In addition to prizes for the largest billfish and most billfish release points, there are also categories for the largest dolphin, tuna and wahoo. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
Happy Fourth of July and good fishing.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver