The offshore fishing is trying to pick up a little, but the wind keeps threatening to do the same. The forecasts have been for windier conditions, but several days have been very fishable since the weekend and some fishermen have been able to take advantage of them. The key seems to be getting out before the sea breeze builds and then having it on the stern for the ride back in.
The front that rolled across the coast Wednesday evening has at least temporarily broken the heat wave that had us in its grip. However, some new records of triple digit temperatures were set before the heat broke. A trailing effect of the front is several days with forecasted easterly winds. The winds are forecast to be in fishable velocities, but easterly winds are typically not good winds for fishing.
With the storms of the weekend and Wednesday, we are making a little headway into the drought conditions in eastern N.C., but there is still a long way to go. Most areas are double digits behind in inches of rain. I'd gladly give up a day or two of fishing to have a long slow soaking rain, without any wind or lightning.
While the rain has given a little respite to the drought and watered crops and lawns, it has done the most for the firemen fighting the forest fires around us. I was reminded of the fires again on Wednesday when I made my weekly trip to Camp Lejeune. I had to drive through smoke from about Holly Ridge to Sneads Ferry. The latest report on Thursday was that the Holly Shelter fire was about 85 per cent contained. That is good news.
North Carolina has a new state record. This isn't record that has been broken, but one that has just been initially established. Tim Cox of Greensboro now holds the initial N.C. record for queen triggerfish with a 10 pound, 5 ounce fish he caught in June at the Same Ole Hole, off Wrightsville Beach. Cox's fish was 30 inches long and had a girth of 23 inches. The world record for queen triggerfish is 14 pounds, 3 ounces and was caught off Cancun, Mexico in 2009.
Fishermen headed offshore are still catching dolphin. Dolphin have moved well inshore of the Gulf Stream and it is not a surprise to catch one anywhere from about 50 feet deep on out. A few have even been caught in the channel on the beach side of the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy.
Last week I mentioned bailing dolphin and received a question on the adjectives used to describe the sizes of dolphin. If you aren't already aware, dolphin are one of the fastest growing fish in the ocean. They regularly grow from a few inches to 20 pounds plus in a year. The most significant dolphin growth recorded was one individual at the Monterey Aquarium that grew to 39 pounds in a year. Dolphin are almost always hungry and this one had all the food it wanted.
As for dolphin sizes: Bailers are those smaller dolphin that gather around structure in huge schools and readily respond to pieces of squid and baitfish thrown over. They would be up to five pounds or so. Slingers are a little larger than bailers, but not too large to take a wrap on the leader and be slung into the fish box. Shingle dolphin are exactly that, the length of a roofing shingle. Gaffers are those dolphin of roughly teen weights and up into the mid twenties that need to be gaffed to be sure they can be raised from the water to the boat.
Dolphin larger than this are all gaffers, but may be referred to as pigs or hogs or studs; whatever term comes to the mind of the person describing them and we all know it means large. Bull dolphin are the males and have the high squared forehead. Cows are the females and have rounded heads.
There was a good scattering of sailfish caught this week from off Cape Fear to off Hatteras. Much like the dolphin, sailfish have moved well inshore from the Gulf Stream while following bait. Considering the bumpy sea conditions we've had to deal with for a while, this is pretty good news.
Those sailfish that break out of the Gulf Stream and follow bait closer to shore make excellent surprises for fishermen. Many are hooked by king mackerel fishermen slow-trolling with live baits. Occasionally there is even a report of one being hooked by a pier king angler.
My closest in sailfish catch was about 15 years back, when the Jolly Mon King Classic was still held on July Fourth Weekend. My wife donna, Dieter Cardwell and I caught one at McGlammery Reef early on the Saturday morning of the tournament. I have also caught a couple more just a few miles off the beach. One was during the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament at the 4 Mile Rock off Drum Inlet and the other was in late September at 45 Minute Rock off Swansboro.
Several days during the past week the ocean was a bit bumpy and many fishermen stopped a little short of where they intended. Good mixtures of dolphin, kings and bottom fish were found in the 80 to 110 foot range. There are still some kings in the 60 foot depth range, but last week being a little deeper made it more likely to add a few dolphin.
The ocean water is warm, really warm. Wednesday, it was 84 degrees in the surf at Bogue Inlet Pier and got warmer heading offshore. Several knowledgeable fishermen said they expected to see the rain of the past week help the nearshore fishing out a little. They said the rainwater coming down the rivers should flush some bait out into the ocean. They said that same rainwater was cooler and might drop the water temperature a degree or two. This doesn't sound like much, but often it is just enough to start the fish feeding.
I had a couple of reports that the Spanish mackerel were still biting, but had moved off the beach to a little deeper water. The magic depth range was 25 to 30 feet just about everywhere. There wasn't a lot of surface activity, but the strikes were coming pretty regularly around the inlets and between the Cape Lookout Jetty and Cape Lookout Shoals and at the southern end of the state between Lockwood Folly Inlet and the location of the former Long Beach Pier. Size 0 and 00 Clarkspoons were the best lures and it didn't seem to matter if they were silver or gold.
Pier fishermen also caught Spanish mackerel. Some where on Got-Cha jigs and some were on live baits. Pier fishermen also caught some flounder, pompano sheepshead, whiting, black drum, red drum and a few speckled trout.
I didn't hear of any more tarpon releases by pier fishermen this week, but they have moved into Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. Large red drum catches are also becoming more consistent in Pamlico Sound and the Lower Neuse River. The full moon Friday night may slow the tarpon fishing for a few days, but fishermen expect it to be a jumpstart for the large red drum fishing.
The first good speckled trout reports of the year are starting to come from Pamlico Sound behind the Outer Banks. This is contrary to what we think would happen as this is the northern end of the range of fish that suffered from cold. While these reports defy logic, I'll look to them as a good sign and hope we see better trout numbers as we move through the summer and into fall. A few scattered speckled trout are being caught in various locations, but there hadn't been any reports of concentrations of them until the ones this week from Pamlico Sound.
Flounder again were one of the most consistent catches of the week. There weren't limit after limit caught, but some were caught by a variety of people over a wide area. Around the inlets has been consistent all along the state. The Turning Basin in Morehead City and Snows Cut at Carolina Beach have been pretty good too. Several citation size fish were caught all along the state and one 11 pounder came from just north of Wrightsville Beach.
Several fishermen said they thought the flounder were biting better and more aggressively on the scented, bio artificial baits than on live baits. The scented artificial baits have taste and smell and most fishermen agree you can try to set the hook far quicker than with live baits, which flounder have to turn to head-first to swallow..
Red drum have been the other fish that have been consistent all summer. The days of catching (and releasing) lots of them have been widely scattered, but most days there have been a couple to be caught. Live bait has been popular and drifting a live shrimp or minnow down a bank or oyster rock might produce a puppy drum, a flounder or a trout.
I like to cover ground a little faster and fish artificial baits to do it. Two of my favorites involve using gold spinners to create a little flash in dingy inside waters. One of them is the Betts Pogy Spin and the other is simply adding an in-line spinner to a weedless spoon. The soft bait uses the flash and thump of the spinner and the vibration of the shad tail of the bait to draw strikes. The spoon relies on flash and thump of the spinner and flash of the spoon, but being weedless, it can be cast along rocks and into pockets in flooded grass.
Speaking of catching drum in pockets of flooded grass, the full moon is Friday and we are looking at high tides right around dark and in the early mornings for several days around it. The evening tides are usually a little higher, but either should be enough to allow shallow draft boats to pole through flooded marshes after pups. To make this work, you need to move slowly and cautiously and look often for wakes and tails.
Occasionally you can sneak very close to fish you see, but most fishermen would do better to cast as soon as they are within range and not risk spooking the fish. Braided line is better for this as it is more resistant to cutting on the sharp edges of the marsh grass. I like a short leader between the braid and the lure and generally use a little heavier dark green mono than I would in open water.
Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasin' Tails Outdoors said the sheepshead are biting well. He suggested trying along the wall at the State Ports when there isn't a ship berthed there, but said they were also at the high-rise bridges and the Radio Island Train Trestle. Lamb suggested using sandfiddlers as bait on a very sharp hook.
I received a notice this week from BoatUS that there are concerns with the future reliability of the Global Positioning System (GPS) across the U.S. In January the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted an unusual conditional waiver to LightSquared, a broadband wireless communications company, to use a frequency bandwidth that is directly adjacent to the frequencies used for GPS and is known to cause interference with the GPS signals.
LightSquared has proposed to build 40,000 ground stations using the satellite frequencies and the high-powered ground-based transmissions from these stations have shown to cause interference in hundreds of millions of GPS receivers across a wide range of uses. GPS is no longer just a marine navigation system, but has numerous additional uses including aviation, emergency response and turn-by-turn automotive navigation, plus industrial users such as delivery and trucking companies.
A new report requested by the FCC says, "All phases of the LightSquared deployment plan will result in widespread harmful interference to GPS signals and service and that mitigation is not possible."
BoatUS, the nation's largest recreational boaters group, said boaters could have a hard time avoiding treacherous shoals or simply finding their way home if GPS signals are interfered with, and is urging boaters to speak out during the 30-day comment period. Boaters and other GPS users can log on to www.BoatUS.com/gov and send their comments to the FCC and their members of Congress. More information is available through the Coalition to Save Our GPS at www.saveourgps.org.
Fishermen looking for answers on regulations and such should be aware the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website has a new home at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home. At least for the time being, those who go to the old homepages at www.ncfisheries.net and www.ncdmf.net will be redirected to the new site.
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.
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 email@example.com. The subject line should read Draft Omnibus Amendment.
Capt. Joe Shute's Bait and Tackle will be presenting free red drum fishing seminars Saturday, July 16, at the Crystal Coast Civic Center. There will be several seminars throughout the day and into the evening. For more information or to register call Capt. Joe at 252-240-2744. Space is limited.
The Hatteras Grand Slam was held July 7 to 9 from Village Marina in Hatteras. This is a billfish tournament, scheduled in the middle of the Outer Banks billfish season and done in the Hatteras way. It was begun locally to support civic and charitable causes in the Hatteras community. Sailfish were the fish of the day for both days of the tournament and no one caught more than one. The Release, with Capt. Rom Whitaker and crew, caught the first sailfish of the tournament just after noon on Friday and used the time of the catch as the tiebreaker to claim the win. For more information visit www.hatterasgrandslam.com.
The East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament was held July 8 to 10 from the city docks in Carolina Beach Yacht Basin. This tournament is the major fundraiser for the Carolina Beach and Kure Beach Fire Departments. While the tournament includes two fishing days, participants chose the day that better suits their needs or schedule as their day to fish. A hundred and sixty some boats entered the tournament and all but five waited for the calmer seas of Sunday to fish
The winner was Brent Gainey and Miller Time crew with a king that weighed 36.75 pounds. The early leader was the Silverspoon with Michael Davis and friends who caught a 30.00 pound king. Davis and crew only slipped one place and finished second. The third place king weighed 29.05 pounds and was caught by Chad Morris, family and friends on The Sea Horse.
Ashley Jones and crew on the Miss Teny won the small boat division with a 20.30 pound king. Cole Edens, fishing with his dad Randall on East Coast Sports won the Top Junior Angler Award with a 16.30 pounder. Amanda Norman fished on the Water Boarder and claimed Top Lady Angler honors with an 18.45 pound king. Robert Wright caught a 14.75 pound king while fishing on the Mad Mouse to win the Top Senior Angler Award. For more information, visit www.gotemonliveclassic.com.
A pair of tournaments are on tap for this weekend. The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament will be held July 14 to 16 in Beaufort. This is the fifth tournament in the N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series and is named for Tred Barta, a noted fisherman with a show on T.V. For more information visit www.bartabillfish.com.
The second of three tournaments in the Redfish Action Challenge Cup will be held this weekend at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. This is a team event that weighs two red drum per team and crowns a tournament winner at each tournament and a series champion at the end of the year. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.