This is one of those years where the printed calendar and the holiday calendar conspire to spread the Fourth of July holiday across two weeks. Today (Friday) is July 2 and I would consider this to be the July 4 weekend. However, with the 4th falling on Sunday, many of the celebrations and the federally mandated holiday will be on Monday. This gives us a longer weekend and many fishermen and recreational boaters will combine to make this the busiest weekend of the year on the water. At least the temperatures have cooled a few degrees.
On the July 4 holiday, all along the North Carolina Coast sees an influx of people like no where else and no other time of the year. Lines are double length everywhere and highway traffic is as busy as on the water. This is a time to be on your best behavior. A little common sense, courtesy and patience will go a long way to making your boating adventures enjoyable. Driving and boating carefully and defensively is priority one.
If you aren't aware, July 4 is a free fishing day in N.C. On this holiday, you can fish in either salt or fresh water without a license. This is for N.C. residents and non-residents alike. All other regulations remain in effect.
There is some big fish news from Bogue Inlet Pier at Emerald Isle this week. Earlier in the week, Cleve Price of Goldsboro landed a 37 pound, 8 ounce king. This is the largest king on record from Bogue Inlet Pier. The king bite has slowed, but Spanish mackerel are still biting well for pier fishermen. However, the Spanish have become more active early and late in the heat. Other catches include flounder, puppy drum, and pompano.
I didn't hear of any more tarpon landed from the piers, but several pods have been sighted near the Sloughs that cross Frying Pan Shoals at Cape Fear and around the Cape Lookout Jetty. Fishermen in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound are also seeing a few more. It sounds like tarpon fishing is about to jump up a few notches--and that pun was intended.
Fishermen in the Pamlico Sound areas should be aware that as of July 1, it is unlawful to use any hook larger than 4/0 from 7:00 P.M. through the night to 7:00 A.M., unless it is a circle hook. This rule, which is to protect the large red drum that spawn in the sound, is in effect until September 30 in the internal coastal fishing waters of Pamlico Sound and its tributaries. This includes all waters south of the Albemarle Sound Management Area, as defined in 15A NCAC 03R .0201, and north of a line beginning at a point 34 59.7942 N - 76 14.6514 W on Camp Point; running easterly to a point 34 58.7853 N - 76 09.8922 W on Core Banks. This provision is for using natural bait and also requires the hook's barb to be compressed or removed and the rig to have a fixed sinker of at least two ounces, secured within six inches of the circle hook.
It shouldn't be long before these drum arrive in numbers and become a mainstay of the Pamlico Sound fishing. They are usually spread from Core Banks into the Neuse River and the area around Cedar Island is a popular spot to catch them. When the tarpon are biting during the daytime and the big red drum are feeding in the evenings, it is a fishery like no where else.
The wind breezed up a little last week and made conditions a bit tough for smaller boats to get very far offshore. That wasn't too bad though as some dolphin continue to work their way inshore and they get a little closer all the time. Last week some scattered dolphin were caught just beyond most sea buoys and numerous reports came from as close as within sight of land. A few sailfish were caught (and released) and more were hooked for a jump or two. More sails should be moving into waters closer to the beach with the water as warm as it is. There are also good king catches in most of the areas that are holding dolphin.
Bottom fishing has also been good beginning at about 80 feet deep and moving offshore. There are some black sea bass closer in, but most are shorts and must be released. The catch in deeper water includes grouper, beeliners, pinkies, grunts, porgy, triggerfish and an occasional red snapper that must be released.
Flounder are biting well and are spread from Nags Head to Calabash. Unfortunately many of them are a little short to keep. The puppy drum are biting too. There are flounder in most area creeks and marshes, but the best action has been on the edges of channels near the inlets and at the nearshore artificial reefs. The pups are well represented in the shallows of the creeks and marshes and some were seen tailing well up in the grass during last weekend's full moon high tides. A few more specks are being caught, but the numbers aren't really good yet. The specks have near the drum in channels and holes in the creeks and marshes.
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. One of the two N.C. meetings was held June 29 in Manteo and the other will be 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 during the next week. Those meeting include:
* July 6, 6:00 P.M., MFC Southeast Regional Advisory Committee Meeting
While I didn't know it at last week's deadline, there was a disqualification at the Jolly Mon King Classic, held June 19 and 20 at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. It didn't involve anywhere near the amount of money as in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, but it involved a fish that would have won. I'm guessing it was because there wasn't as much money involved, but the news certainly didn't spread with the same velocity.
Jolly Mon Tournament director, Capt. Brant McMullan, said unfortunately he had to disqualify a potential 36.15 pound winning fish on Sunday. This tournament allows fishermen to pick whether they want to fish Saturday or Sunday, but they can only fish one of the days. The Just Dozin' Fishing Team was set to fish the tournament on Sunday and encountered boat problems while catching bait on Saturday. They borrowed a boat to fish the tournament, but didn't check the rules closely enough and borrowed a boat that was ineligible to fish.
McMullan said the tournament allows replacement boats, but has a specific rule (Rule 7) which states a boat may only be fished one of the two days of the tournament and the boat the Just Dozin' Team borrowed had participated in the tournament on Saturday. The boat was not eligible to fish again on Sunday. To those who feel this rule is inconsequential and should have been ignored, I must point out it was emphasized at the captains meeting and is in bold print in the rules. The reasoning is to prevent someone from entering twice and fishing both days of a tournament that allows competitors a choice between one of two days.
The Carteret Community College Foundation Spanish Mackerel Challenge was held June 26 in Morehead City. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit Carteret Community College. This is the third running of this tournament and 52 boats participated. The fishing was good everywhere with the top two fish coming from AR 315, which, as the crow flies, is only a few miles from Carteret Community College.
Capt. Skip Conklin was glad he added Holly Paquin to the Ocean Athlete crew for this tournament. The 5.18 pound Spanish she landed won the Overall and Lady Angler prizes, plus the TWT and collected a total of $1,335 in cash and prizes. Richard Hall was second with a 4.55 pound Spanish and Sharp Kemp, from the 2009 winning team, was third with a 4.48 pounder.
The Top Kids Angler (0-8) was Fuller Howard with a .895 pounder. Jacob Wade led the Junior Anglers (9-16) with a 2.46 pounder and Kitty Dunn topped the Senior Anglers by landing a 1.405 pound Spanish. In the Bluefish Category, Sabrina Weirs reigned supreme with a 1.455 pound snapper blue.
This tournament is lots of fun and offers prizes through 10 places overall and five places in the other categories. It is an opportunity to help Carteret Community College, have a good time and maybe even recover your expenses for a day's fishing trip and a little extra. Those who missed it this year should put it on their calendar for 2011.
The Swansboro Rescue Squad King Mackerel Tournament was held June 26 at Dudley's Marina in Swansboro. The proceeds from this tournament benefit the Swansboro Fire and Rescue Departments. Billy Brock and the Skin It Back crew won the tournament with a 21.11 pound king. Mike Garb and the Black Magic crew were second with a 10.00 pound king, while Todd Matthews and the crew of the Right One Baby, finished third at 9.30 pounds.
Scott Wilson and the Pura Vida topped the Dolphin Class with a 14.11 pounder. The Unreel, with Capt. Steve Squires, caught the second place dolphin at 6.91 pounds.
Many of the fishermen leaving the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament headed straight to Hatteras for the Hatteras Marlin Club Blue Marlin Release Tournament that Began June 20 and continued through June 26. This isn't a Governor's Cup event, but the fishermen really look forward to it anyway. The tournament featured five possible fishing days from Monday through Friday and participants were allowed to pick their three.
Fishing picked up on Tuesday for the Caroline, with Capt. Watson Caviness of Fayetteville, with five sailfish releases. This was a lead the Caroline never relinquished as they added another sailfish release and a blue marlin release on Friday to claim the win with 1300 points. Page Robertson of the Caroline also caught the largest dolphin and Beggie Caviness received Top Lady Angler honors.
The Outlaw, with Capt. Ken Miller of Hatteras, was the 2009 winner, but had to settle for second place this year. They scored 600 points for four sailfish releases that were all on Monday. The Fishing Partner, with Capt. Everette Daniel of Lynchburg, Va., finished third with 550 points for releasing a blue and a white marlin. The largest wahoo was caught by Fin Nominal and the largest tuna by Mike Manring. For more information visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.
The second of five Top Dog Flounder Series Tournaments was held Saturday, June 26, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. Top Dog promoter, Capt. Jimmy Price, said the 35 fishermen in the tournament weighed 60 flounder and said the fishing was really good. The Top Dog Flounder Series features five monthly tournaments from May to September and a championship tournament in October. The top three places in Top Dog tournaments are all based on the heaviest fish. After that, there are eight places based on the weight closest to selected weights, a top lady angler and boy and girl youth angler prizes and three wild card prizes for Top Dog members.
Proceeds from all the Top Dog tournaments will be donated to the Brunswick Children's Fund to help bring Christmas to underprivileged children in Brunswick County. Price said, "We'll have Christmas a little early, on December 11, at Wildlife Bait and Tackle.
Jason McDowell caught a flounder that weighed 8.18 pounds to claim the win. McDowell also collected a special weight prize for 1.5 pounds with an exact match. Blake Stone was just a handful of ounces behind with a 7.88 pound flounder to finish in second place and also collect a special weight prize for 2.50 pounds with another exact match. Zack Warren, who is only 12 years old, showed the adults that kids know how to fish too as he scored a third place overall finish with a 5.36 pound flounder and was the Top Male Youth Angler. Unfortunately, none of the youth girls in the tournament weighed a fish.
Olen Ivey finished in eighth place, which was for the flounder closest to three pounds without going over. Ivey's flounder weighed 2.96 pounds and in addition to the prize for eighth place, this was one of the wild card places and earned Ivey an additional 20 Top Dog Series points, plus a home entertainment center. Two other wild card places were drawn, but the persons in those places were not Top Dog Series members.
Anthony Bridgeman caught a 3.80 pound flounder and collected the special weight prizes for 4, 4.5 and 5 pounds. Anthony Hickman collected the 3.50 pound special weight prize with a 3.18 pound flounder and Chris Taylor matched the 2.0 pound special weight prize to win it.
There is only one tournament scheduled for this weekend. The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament is the fourth of seven N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series Tournaments for 2010. It began with the captains meeting yesterday (July 1) and the fishing days are today and Saturday, with daily weigh-ins at Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.