The wind has finally dropped out, but we have seen some bad thunderstorms and several areas of the N.C. Coast have seen them several times. The forecast has the chance for thunderstorms dropping, but the wind rising again during the middle of the week, before setting back out for the weekend. I'm ready for a bunch of days with light winds.
There have been some tarpon caught from piers along much of the N.C. Coast in the past week or so. A run of kings appears to be starting with several caught at Carolina and Kure Beach and one at Oak Island. It will be interesting to see how this week develops. There have also been several large Spanish mackerel caught on the kings rigs at the pier end. Pier fishermen also caught flounder, bluefish, pompano, black drum, sea mullet and other bottom dwellers.
The stirred up water moved Spanish mackerel and bluefish off the beaches a half mile or so, but the sea conditions are settling out and the fish have moved back in. There were good catches over the weekend and Monday. There have also been Spanish and bluefish caught inside Beaufort Inlet, the Cape Fear River Inlet and in the Hook at Cape Lookout.
Spanish and bluefish like small flashy spoons trolled behind small planers and trolling sinkers. Clarkspoons in the 00 and 0 size have been favorites for years and still catch well. Some fishermen are also catching them well with Mackerel tree rigs that have several hooks through bright pieces of surgical tubing forward of a Clarkspoon or Mackerel Master rigs that use a duster about 18 inches forward of a Clarkspoon.
There are flounder at the nearshore artificial reefs. Jigging a bucktail with a flounder strip or scented soft plastic bait has been producing well. Live mullet minnows and peanut menhaden fished on the bottom on Carolina rigs will also produce flounder - plus an occasional over slot red drum.
There are also spadefish over the nearshore artificial reefs. Small pieces of jellyball jellyfish are the best spadefish baits, but sometimes they will eat pieces of shrimp or clams.
Fishermen in smaller boats were able to get offshore over the weekend and they found fish. There are king mackerel from just off the beaches out to about 80 feet deep. A 44 pounder was caught on AR 285, just east of Cape Lookout Shoals on Monday. Kings, dolphin and sailfish have hit slow-trolled live baits, slow-trolled cigar minnows and rigged ballyhoo.
The boats that went farther offshore caught dolphin, blackfin tuna, a few yellowfin tuna and a few sailfish. There was also been a really good bottom bite. The bottom fish are hungry and chunks of squid or cut bait will score with most of them. The bottom catch includes grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, porgys and grunts.
Reports from inside the inlets have been inconsistent. That's both the reports and the fishing. The fish have just been difficult to pattern except for flounder. Places will hold lots of fish on one day, but not the next day on the same tide stage. I'm guessing fish are chasing bait and if the bait moves, the fish follow.
There is no doubt finding bait is the key to good fishing. Fish look for it like hungry fishermen look for buffets! There have been peanut pogies in lots of places, but many fish and fishermen prefer mullet minnows. Mullet minnows have been growing and are just starting to get large enough to catch in cast nets. As mullet minnows spread through the creeks and marshes, fishing should become more consistent.
Live shrimp are excellent baits, but every bait thief known to man likes shrimp and will attack them. If you plan to fish live shrimp, carry enough to be able to feed the bait thieves until the larger fish get excited and begin moving quicker.
The best exception to live bait preferences is fishing with pieces of crab. Drum, both red and black, like crabs. Drum have the best noses of the inshore fish and when they smell crab they come looking. Other fish eat crab also, but the smell of crab is like crack to drum. Soft shells are better than hard crabs, but are so expensive I can't bring myself to buy them for bait. Any soft shell crabs I buy will be headed home for dinner.
Trout reports have been sketchy, but slowly improving. In the past week I've heard of early morning Topwater bites from the Neuse River to the Cape Fear River. Fishermen are being decidedly vague on locations and I'm hearing Hushmouth Creek a lot. I can't blame anyone for protecting a favorite trout spot, especially as difficult as they have been to find this summer.
The bright spots in this week's inshore fishing has been flounder. The numbers and size are both increasing. Flounder like live baits, but will hit lures. I often catch them while casting gold spoons and soft plastics for puppy drum. Flounder can be anywhere from shallow sloughs in the inlets to laying against bulkheads, piling and other structure in deep water.
Sheepshead are biting too. Many folks find sheepshead difficult to hook. One of the old adages about sheepshead is you need to set the hook just before you feel the bite. That works pretty well - if you're psychic, but the rest of us need to feel the bite. Sheepshead like vertical structure and have the ability to bite so subtle they can suck a fiddler crab out of its shell without most fishermen feeling it. Fiddler crabs and sea urchins are favorite local baits and are readily available. I feel sheepshead bites better using sea urchins for bait.
Large red drum are arriving in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. Two ways to catch them are using jigs and soft plastics under popping corks during the heat of the day and chunks of cut bait on the bottom in the late afternoons and evenings. All red drum longer than 27 inches must be released and released drum longer than 40 inches can earn an outstanding catch citation.
Remember that until September 30 there are special regulations for fishing in Pamlico Sound and its tributaries between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. When using a hook larger than 4/0, the Owen Lupton style rigs are required. This rig has a barbless or compressed barb circle hook and a 2 ounce or heavier sinker pegged in place no more than 6 inches from the hook. Information on this regulation and the required rig is available under the "Red Drum Circle Hook Rig" tab in the Quick Links section at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.
It's also time for tarpon to make a showing in Pamlico Sound. They like the deepest water available and feed on chunks of mullet and spots fished on the bottom. There have already been a few caught along the beaches, so they can't be far away from their favorite haunts in the sound.
Seeks Applicants for Federal Fishery Advisory Panels
The SAFMC has eleven advisory panels composed of individuals who are engaged in the harvest of managed species, or are knowledgeable and interested in the conservation and management of the fishery or managed species. Panel members include recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens. Applications are now being solicited for the following panels: Golden Crab Advisory Panel (4 Open Seats), Habitat Advisory Panel (1 FL Conservation Seat and 1 Conservation Seat), Mackerel Advisory Panel (3 Open Seats), Law Enforcement Advisory Panel (1 Open Seat), Deepwater Shrimp Advisory Panel (10 Open Seats), Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel (2 NC Open Seats, 1 FL Open Seat, 1 Media and 1 NGO Seat), SEDAR Advisory Panel (Pool* - Open Seats). *Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.
Persons interested in serving as a member on the Council's advisory panels, should contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the Council office at 843/571-4366 or 866/SAFMC-10. Application forms are available from the Council office and may also be downloaded from the Advisory Panel page of the Council's website at www.safmc.net. Applications should be mailed to Kim Iverson, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405 or submitted via email at the address above.
Applications are due by July 31 and AP members will be selected during the Council's September 14-18, 2015 meeting in Hilton Head Island, SC.
Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
The Draft Blueprint for the South Atlantic Snapper/Grouper Fishery is now available at the SAFMC website (www.safmc.net) and fishery stakeholders are again being asked to provide Council with input during a series of webinars and comment station meetings running from July 7 through July 30, 2015 and a public comment Period that extends through September 1.
The Draft Vision Blueprint consists of proposed objectives and actions under the four broad goals of: Science, Management, Communication and Governance. The SAFMC would like to know which action items are supported or not supported and why. They would also like any other ideas or possible solutions for managing the Snapper/Grouper Fishery. The plan is that after the meetings and public comment period the actions will be separated into short-term and long-term action items. Short-term action items will then be prioritized and developed into an amendment to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2016.
The webinars were held last week, but the Comment Station Meetings are scheduled for late July. Participation for the Comment Station Meetings can be via webinar or in person. If participating by webinar, registration is required and available at the Visioning Project page on the SAFMC website. The Comment Station Meetings begin at 6 P.M. Three Comment Station meetings are scheduled for North Carolina in Wilmington on July 28, Morehead City on July 29 and Wanchese on July 30.
Written input and ideas will also be accepted via mail addressed to the Council's mailing address and through an online comment form that will be available on the Council's website once the webinars and comment station meeting begin on July 7, 2015. For more information contact Amber Von Harten, SAFMC Outreach Specialist at email@example.com or 843-571-4366.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 16 to 18: Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament, Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Beaufort Town Docks, Beaufort, www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
July 17: Cape Lookout Flyfishers, Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
July 17 to 18: Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
July 17 to 19: Cape Lookout Shootout, Tournament 1, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.
July 23 to 25: Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish” Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.bandthebillfish.com.
July 24 to 25: CCCF Spanish Mackerel Challenge, The Boat House, Beaufort, 252-222-6222.
July 24 to 25: Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.rswsc.org.
July 24 and 25: Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament, Bridgetender Marina, Wrightsville Beach, 910-256-6550.
July 28: Take a Kid Fishing, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, www.takf.org.
July 31 to August 2: Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open, Motts Channel Seafood, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.