Fishing has been pretty good since Hurricane Arthur, but the wind has made it difficult and uncomfortable for small boats to head offshore most days. For weeks I have been reporting the offshore bottom fish has been good and it still is. On the Tuesday before Hurricane Arthur I made a trip with Capt. Butch Foster on the Yeah Right out of Southport. The ocean conditions were as good as they ever get, which made the trip and fishing easy. The weather was almost too good and several times the comment was made that a little breeze would be nice. It was difficult to believe there was a hurricane two days away and heading our way.
The fish cooperated too. There is a difference between merely going fishing and going catching and this was definitely catching. This was a bottom fishing trip with constant action and the only way the fishermen got a break was to put the rod and reel in a rod holder and step away from the rail. When bait went to the bottom, there was often something biting it by the time you clicked the reel back into gear.
The fishermen filled a 150 quart cooler with grouper, snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgies, a pair of almaco jacks and a cobia. Another cobia was lost just out of gaff range and the fishermen landed a several hundred pound leopard shark and released a tiger shark that was a little larger. The action was non stop all day and some tired fishermen took a well-deserved nap on the ride back in. This same action is available all along the coast and booking a trip on one of the many head boats allows enjoying offshore bottom fishing without having to book the entire boat.
The 2014 red snapper season opens at 12:01 A.M. this Friday, July 11. This year we will have a total of eight days over three weekends (July 11-13, July 18-20 and July 25-26) that red snapper can be kept. The limit will be one per person per day with no minimum size. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is collecting red snapper carcasses for study and details on how to get carcasses to them are in a segment below.
The wind has been a little breezy since the storm passed and smaller boats have to pick their days carefully, but the fish are still there. Everyone who goes offshore is catching dolphin and usually lots of them. Dolphin are moving closer in too. At Cape Hatteras they are within sight of the beach, while at Cape Lookout they begin showing at about 10-15 miles and at Cape Fear they are within 20 miles of the beaches. Anyone who uses this weekend’s weather window to head offshore should catch at least a few. The report is there are a few dolphin mixed with king mackerel on many of the popular king rocks and wrecks from about 60 feet and out.
King mackerel aren’t thick anywhere, but they are spread about in a lot of places. It has been a while since any were caught real close to the beaches, but there are reports every week from a variety of rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs in approximately 60 feet of water and out.
Right after Hurricane Arthur passed the nearshore water dirtied up a little around the inlets, but it has begun cleaning up some the past few days. The good news of that is Spanish mackerel and bluefish are biting. There are also some bullet mackerel around Cape Lookout.
Bullet mackerel look a lot like skinny false albacore. Some research on them lists bullet mackerel as a popular nickname for bullet tuna. In checking for food value, I saw references for everything from poor to good. Good or bad, they look too much like false albacore for many people to try them.
The tide lines around the inlets and the ship channels at Morehead City and Southport have been holding lots of Spanish and bluefish. They have mainly been on the cleaner side of the tide lines, but occasionally push into the dirtier water.
Tide lines are where the dirtier water running down the rivers and out the inlets pushes against the cleaner water in the ocean. They form closer to the beach when the tide begins to fall and push their way offshore while the tide is falling. Baitfish and shrimp are carried out the inlet by the falling tide and the Spanish and bluefish swim the clean side of the line looking for an easy meal. There may also be king mackerel, cobia, sharks and more feeding along the tide line.
Pier fishing has slowed some in the heat of the summer. The big waves from Hurricane Arthur stirred up the nearshore water last weekend, but it is clearing. A couple of pier fishing reports mentioned flounder and red drum. Flounder like live minnows fished on the bottom from the surf line out and around pilings is a good place to find them. Red drum like minnows too, but have an excellent sense of smell and can really home in on a piece of mullet or other oily fish that is fished on the bottom.
Some Spanish mackerel and bluefish, plus a few pompano, spots and other bottom fish are also being caught at the piers. The fishermen at the pier ends are hoping to see kings and tarpon and Garrett Carter of Clinton caught and released a tarpon earlier this week from Bogue Inlet Pier. Both are special catches from the piers, but the wild runs and jumps of tarpon make them a little more special.
Last week I mentioned flounder fishing was taking over the inside fishing and that continues. Flounder fishing is also good on the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs when conditions allow fishing there. Even with the interruption of Hurricane Arthur, there were lots of good flounder catches in the last week and many of them are citation size (5 pounds and larger).
Several fishermen have suggested the bulkheads and pilings of the many coastal bridges as good places to find flounder. The wall at the Morehead City State Ports is another good place to find them. When fishing bulkheads and sea walls for flounder, pull up to the wall and drop straight down immediately beside it. Sometimes the flounder are so close it seems they are leaning against the wall. Often if you catch one flounder there will be more in the same spot.
Flounder will hit lures, especially soft plastics, but most fishermen do better using mullet minnows and mud minnows as live baits. Some fishermen prefer small spots, croakers, pinfish and menhaden as flounder baits. When fishing with live baits, you must allow a little time for flounder to turn them so they can swallow them. Trying to set the hook too quickly brings back those baits that look like they have been scaled – and no flounder.
The slow trout fishing was probably slowed a little more by rainwater runoff from Hurricane Arthur. That appears to be passing and the water clearing. After the storm, it appeared many trout had moved a little farther into the marshes and area creeks that wouldn’t collect a lot of runoff. The rain from the storm may flush some shrimp down the rivers and Intracoastal Waterway, so trout fishing could spike at any time.
I think the hot way to catch trout is with a live shrimp suspended under a float. The float helps your bait move at the same speed as the current and it looks natural but struggling and easy to catch. Trout may fire up and feed aggressively around the full moon this Saturday. This could be a really good week to use a popping or rattling cork and use the noise to help trout zero in on your bait.
If you prefer to use lures, you can help yourself out by adding a good scent. Most of the fishermen I speak with highly recommend Pro-Cure.
In the heat is a good time to downsize lures. Many fishermen like the suspending MirrOdine series from MirrOlure. The MR 17 size usually works well, but this could be a good time to use the smaller MR 14 size. It matches the current size of the minnows better and appears easier to catch.
Scented soft plastics, especially shrimp shapes, suspended under a popping or rattling float are also good and this is a good time to switch from the 4 inch to the 3 inch size. Artificial shrimp have no motion of their own, so work the float every 10 to 15 seconds to help fish find them.
The puppy drum action seems to have fired up a little over the past week. Not only are there slot size fish for those who want to enjoy a meal of blackened redfish, there are some real bruisers of 30 inches plus roaming the creeks and marshes. These guys will give you all the fight you want on a trout or flounder outfit. Puppy drum are in many of the same general areas as flounder and trout, but tend to be on shallower water of the flat rather than the deep edge. This week they are also using the full moon high tides to cruise the flooded marsh grass looking for minnows, shrimp, and fiddler crabs. They will bite on any moving tide, but seem to be the most aggressive when the tide is falling.
I’ve received several good reports of sheepshead this week. Sheepshead like vertical structure and will be around large docks, bridges and bulkheads. Many fishermen use fiddler crabs or green crabs as sheepshead bait and they work well, but sheepshead can sometimes suck them right out of their shells without fishermen feeling it. Several years ago Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasin’ Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach taught me about using sea urchins for sheepshead bait. Sheepshead like them just as well, maybe even better than fiddler crabs, but have to crunch the shell to get the sea urchin out and fishermen feel this better so they catch more.
2014 Red Snapper Season and Carcass Collection
The first of the eight day 2014 red snapper season begins Friday, July 11. Recreational fishermen will have a total of eight days over three weekends to pursue the tasty snapper. The commercial red snapper season will open Monday, July 14 and run until the catch limit is filled.
The recreational red snapper season will be three weekends (July11-13, 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.
The 2014 commercial red snapper season will open at 12:01 A.M. on Monday, July 14, with no set closing date. The commercial catch limit is 50,994 pounds gutted weight and the season will close by NOAA Fishery Bulletin when this limit is estimated to be approached. The commercial daily trip limit is 75 pounds, gutted weight, and there is no minimum size.
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 to determine the health of South Atlantic red snappers, the red snapper fishery and how it is progressing toward recovery. This information will be provided to NOAA Fisheries for use in an upcoming red snapper stock assessment.
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.
NCDMF Needs Sea Turtle Advisers
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.
July 15: MFC Finfish Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., NCDENR Regional Office, Washington, Jason Rock 252-948-3875 or Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey Knight
252-948-3871 or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings and Events
July 1 to August 31: Chasin’ Tails Sheepshead Challenge, Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
July 9 to 12: Hatteras Grand Slam, Billfish and offshore gamefish, Hatteras Harbor Marina, Hatteras, www.hatterasgrandslam.com.
July 12: Cape Lookout Shootout King Mackerel Tournament Series, Tournament 1 of 3, King mackerel, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, http://capeshootout.weebly.com.
July 12: All American Flounder Tournament, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, www.wildlifebaitandtackle.com.
July 12 and 13: East Coast Got-Em-On Classic, King mackerel, Carolina Beach Boat Docks, Carolina Beach, www.gotemonliveclassic.com.
July 18: Cape Lookout Fly Fishers Club, Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
July 18 and 19: Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament, N.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Beaufort Town Docks, Beaufort, www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
July 18 to 20: Carolina Boatbuilders Tournament, Billfish and offshore gamefish, Pirate’s Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.
July 19: Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.