The weather is again a big part of this week’s fishing news, but for a change some of it has been good. However, shower chances are building for the weekend and there is an elephant in the room down south. I’ll talk more about that later, but right now let’s focus on the good.
Last week, a Bermuda High was pushing towards the U.S. and it moved in just far enough that it pushed the rains, which had been falling for most of a week, inshore of the coast. For the most part, beginning the afternoon of July 3 our skies cleared and the winds backed off to give us a nice holiday, a better weekend and it continued until mid week this week.
Unfortunately, the Bermuda high just pushed the wet clouds streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the rain continued for many folks from I-95 to the west. The weather maps showed a cloud border that ran roughly from Charleston, S.C. through the N.C. Piedmont and the good weather was only on our side of that line. Rainwater is still streaming down the rivers to the ocean and many rivers are above flood stage.
One fisherman from upstate summed it up really well at the boat ramp Saturday morning. He said, "That is happening there and many of us are on vacation and are here right now. I’d much more rather it is nice here, while I’m here on vacation. We’ll deal with it next week when we go home."
While it wasn’t a perfect ocean, as the clouds gave way the winds began to subside and folks got to go fishing in the ocean again. No, it wasn’t flat cam, but it was possible to go fishing and stand up in the boat. Even better, there were fish biting, but the greater part of the action didn’t begin until passing the dirty water along the beach.
The elephant in our room is Tropical Storm Chantal. So far, it organized and increased in strength enough Sunday that it received a name. It intensified some Monday and Tuesday, before running into some serious wind shear and blowing itself out Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday night and early Thursday forecasters were only giving its remnants a passing remark, but Thursday afternoon it had stumbled back to its feet and was showing signs of reforming and possibly building to tropical storm strengths again. That is where it was as I assembled this report.
Mike of Mikes Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) had been following TS Chantal for a while since it was merely Invest 95 and forecast the strengthening to tropical storm strength, but didn’t think it would make it to the U.S. at tropical storm strength. This afternoon he is as surprised as anyone that it shows signs of re-intensifying. The National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) won’t begin tracking and projecting it again unless it reaches tropical storm strength. However, it looks like it may still affect us in some way even if it doesn’t regain tropical storm status.
The early forecast for the weekend has the rain and thunderstorm chances increasing, with the winds moderating. If nothing changes, it is shaping up to be a pretty good weekend to go fishing – and maybe even catching too. You might get wet, but you might sweat some too from reeling in fish…
As the weather began to improve late last week, fishermen and other boaters headed out and the traffic at ramps and on the waterways began to build. In general, the inshore fishing was a little slow, the nearshore ocean fishing was unpredictable, but once past about 20 miles offshore the water began to clean up and the fish were hungry. The ocean was still a little bumpier than the forecast, but a mixture of bottom fish, kings, dolphin and more were biting.
The run to find clean water has been 10 to 20 miles plus. The fishing begins to improve once the water starts to take on a green color and the prettier the color, the better the action. There are some Spanish mackerel and bluefish along the beach in most places. King mackerel and amberjacks are the first fish encountered out of sight of land. Dolphin join the catch when the water mixes a little with some blue. There were also a couple of reports of sailfish once the water was primarily blue, which was around 100 feet deep and 25 to 30 miles offshore. Dolphin and billfish are in the deep water at the edge of the Continental Shelf as are a few wahoo and small tuna.
Bottom fish weren’t affected as much and their catches began with flounder at many of the nearshore rocks and reefs, then improved through grunts, porgies and black sea bass out to around 80 or so feet, with some grouper and beeliners added beyond 80 feet deep.
An important reminder to everyone is that the red snapper season proposed to begin July 12 will not open. The federal fishery managers have delayed the opening and noted they will send a Fishery Bulletin with all the details at least 30 days before the season will open. The red snapper season is still expected to be several weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) with a limit of 1 fish per person and no minimum size.
Pier fishing has been a little slow and the temperature in the surf is fluctuating. It may be down to 78 or 79 one day and then up to 84 the next. This time of year it is usually in the 80s. The thought regarding this is that the rainwater runoff is cooler and slugs of it are moving into the ocean before breaking up and blending with the salt water. There definitely are some really red spots in the ocean and red water usually indicates fresh water.
I was sent a few pictures of some jack crevalle caught from the piers, but the big news was the estimated 50 pound tarpon Colin Eimers landed and released from the Jolly Roger Pier in Topsail Beach last week. There are usually some tarpon hanging around many of the piers by now. They may be there, but the water is just too stained to see them.
Speaking of tarpon, there has been an early push of them into Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. They had to come by the most of the piers to get there, but Eimers has been the only report. Tarpon are one of the fish an influx of fresh water doesn’t bother too much. They often swim well into brackish water when feeding. There were several jumped over the weekend and Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service, who is considered one of the local experts, said he sees the tarpon action improving and this being a good summer for them.
There has been really good sheepshead fishing around Morehead City. Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasin' Tails Outdoors said he has weighed a bunch this week that were close or made the 8 pound minimum for a citation. Most are being caught along the walls at the State Port or beside the pilings for the Radio Island train trestle and high rise bridge.
While they are occasionally caught on shrimp or other baits, the hot baits for sheepshead are sea urchins and fiddler crabs. Most fishermen will do better with sea urchins as the sheepshead must crunch them to get the meat out and that bite is easier to feel. They can suck a fiddler crab right out of its shell without bouncing the rod tip.
The better trout and redfish action has been in areas without a lot of flow from rivers draining the soggy Piedmont. Wrightsville Beach to Swansboro is an area that immediately comes to mind and the fishing has been good there. As odd as it may seem with the current water conditions, flounder fishing has been really good around Southport. The broken record on the best baits keeps spinning, but live baits and lures that are bright enough to stand out in the off color water are the best bait choices right now.
This week’s tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia almost together off the southeast Coast. Mary Lee has been just inshore of the Continental Shelf off Savannah, Ga. for almost two months. Lydia returned from a mid-ocean trip and reached the Continental Shelf off Cape Lookout several weeks ago. Since then, she has worked her way south and has been just offshore of the Continental Shelf off Charleston, S.C. for about a week. It is really interesting to me to see these two supposed cold water sharks converging on an area where the water is 80 plus degrees. I don’t know what it would be, but there must be an abundance of food there. 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.
As the small inlets continue to fill in there is still no good word from the N.C. Legislature. Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) and House Bill 983 (2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as the gamefish bill) are both in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. Reports from Raleigh say HB 983 will not be allowed out of committee this session, but action on SB 58 is expected. Something needs to happen pretty 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.
Something that will affect fishermen in the southern part of our reading area was announced Wednesday. Effective beginning the evening of Sunday, July 14, all N.C. internal waters south of the Hwy 58 Bridge (Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle) will be closed to the large mesh gill net fishery until at least September 1. This is the gill net fishery for flounder. Drop nets, smaller mesh sizes and nets set and retrieved within 30 minutes will not be affected. The closure is because of the capture of six endangered sea turtles in large mesh gill nets in Topsail and Stump Sounds and the New and White Oak Rivers. For more information, contact the the Division of Marine Fisheries Protected Resources Section Chief Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.
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.
The Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet July 16 at 1:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. For more information contact Trish Murphey or Chris Stewart at 252-808-8091 or 910-796-7215 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Chris.Stewart@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda for the meeting is available at www.ncdmf.net.
The River Herring Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet July 19 at 6:00 P.M. at the Chowan County Cooperative Extension in Edenton. For more information contact Amy Larimer or Kathy Rawls at 252-264-3911 or Amy.Larimer@ncdenr.gov or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda for the meeting is available at www.ncdmf.net.
There will be a joint meeting of the Finfish, Habitat and Water Quality, Shellfish/Crustacean and Sea Turtle Advisory Committees at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center in New Bern on July 30 at 12:30 P.M. This meeting will be to gather and discuss public comment regarding the petition for rulemaking the MFC received requesting that all inside coastal waters not already designated as nursery areas be classified as secondary nursery areas. As trawling is not allowed in nursery areas, this would effectively ban inshore trawling. For more information contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov. For more information visit the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) is wrapping up today at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is where fishing tackle manufacturers from all over the world display their product lines and debut new products for 2014. Area tackle and accessory manufacturers Calcutta, Sea Striker and Star Rods have been there, will be there. New product releases are coming and I will have some previews in the coming weeks. For more information visit www.ICASTfishing.org.
I don’t usually get into tournament results, but these are exceptional so I’ll make an exception. The new 77 foot Jarrett Bay Sportfisherman, Blank Check, which was completed and splashed just in time for the Big Rock this year, has been in Bermuda fishing the Bermuda Blast and World Cup Marlin Tournaments. Hey caught a 668 pound blue marlin on July 4th and released a bunch more on their way to winning the World Cup Tournament and the Heaviest Blue Marlin Category in the Bermuda Blast, plus the Release Points in the Bermuda Billfish Release Cup. Captains Randy Ramsey and Joey Johnson were part of the team. Congratulations!
Another Carolina boat, the Waste Knot, captained by Capt. Pizza Kannan, finished third in the Bermuda Billfish Release Cup. Waster Knot junior angler, J.T. Coley earned Top Junior Angler Honors for the tournament. Congratulations!
An Oregon Inlet Boat, the Sea Toy with Capt. Bull Tolston, claimed the win (release points) in the Bermuda Blast. Sea Toy lady angler Nancy Kohl claimed both Top Angler and Top Lady Angler Honors for the tournament. The Sea Toy also landed the third largest marlin in the Heaviest Blue Marlin Category. Congratulations! This is an impressive showing for N.C. fishermen.
The Onslow Bay Spanish Mackerel Tournament will be held from the Nancy-Lee Fishing Center in Swansboro on July 13. The tournament will be based on the aggregate weight of three Spanish mackerel. There will not be a captains meeting so fishermen must register in advance. For more information visit www.obsfc.us.
The NC Summer Redfish Shootout will be held July 13 from the Wildlife Boat Ramp at Fulchers Landing in Sneads Ferry. This is a team redfish tournament. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/events/455217301230839/?ref=3.
The Hatteras Grand Slam Tournament will be held from Village Marina in Hatteras village on July 12 and 13. This will be the fifth of eight tournaments in the N.C. Governor’s Cup Billfish Series. There will also be prizes for offshore gamefish. For more information visit http://hatterasgrandslam.com.
The East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament will be held July 13 from the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin in Carolina Beach. This is one of the longest running king mackerel tournaments in N.C. and benefits the fire department. It is the second of five tournaments in the SKA Division 9. For more information visit www.gotemonliveclassic.com.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament will be held from the Beaufort Town Docks in Beaufort on July 19 and 20. This is the sixth of eight tournaments in the N.C. Governor’s Cup Billfish Series. There will also be prizes for offshore gamefish. For more information visit www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
The Dare County Boat Builders Tournament will be held July 18 to 21 from Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo. This is a billfish and offshore gamefish tournament. For more information visit www.pcbgt.com.
The Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge will be held from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach on July 20. This is the third tournament in a five tournament series for flounder. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.