I hate to sound like doomsday or that I'm waiting for something bad to happen, but usually by now our good late spring/early summer fishing has succumbed to the heat and tapered off some. This year it hasn't. While the species and locations have shifted somewhat, we're at the middle of July and the fishing is good--real good.
The variety continues to come in the form of dolphin, some blackfin tuna and a good scattering of assorted billfish from offshore, bottom fish and kings a little closer in, flounder on the nearshore reefs and rocks, Spanish macks from the beach out a few miles, kings tarpon and an assortment of bottom fish from the piers, red drum, black drum, speckled trout, flounder and sheepshead in inside waters and there are probably a couple of species that weren't mentioned. What is important is the fishing is good!
The inshore fishing, especially for puppy drum and flounder continues to go well. The pups are feeding through the marshes and inland creeks. The sloughs and flats just inside most inlets have been producing well also. They are on the feed and just about any bait holds promise. The most exciting strikes are topwater and Top Dogs, She Dogs, Zara Spooks and Skitterwalks are all producing. Live shrimp and mullet minnows under popping corks or on Carolina rigs are working well for those who can't "Walk-the-dog" with a topwater lure.
The summer flounder bite is on. There are surprising numbers of keeper flounder (15 inches north of Browns Inlet and 14 inches south of there) around the inlets and on the nearshore artificial reefs. Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach weighed several citation flounder last week, including an 8.5 and an 11 pounder that came from along the wall at the state port. A mullet minnow or peanut pogey on a Carolina rig is a great way to catch flounder.
The specks are a little harder to find and catch right now, but some knowledgeable fishermen are doing well. In the heat, specks generally prefer a little deeper water that the reds. While the reds are up in the shallows, the specks will be working the edges of the channels using the oyster rocks and drop-offs to hide out of the current and attack whatever comes by. They will hit a variety of soft plastics and have shown a preference for the 17MR and 27 MR suspending MirrOlures, but a live shrimp under a popping cork will draw strikes if trout are around.
Some tarpon are showing in the area. After several near misses from fellow anglers, Jacob Johnson of Danville, Va., landed one on July 10 at Bogue Inlet Pier. The tarpon's weight was estimated at 100 pounds. Lee Bryan, of Sophia, landed a tarpon estimated at 80-85 pounds from Oak Island Pier. Other pier fishing has been good also. In the last week, pier fishermen across the state have landed approximately two dozen kings and a variety of bottom fish including pompano, flounder, spots, drum and more.
It's time for the tarpon and big drum to be moving into Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. It's also time for tarpon to be gathering around the inshore end of Frying Pan Shoals and a few moving into the lower Cape Fear River. We should begin hearing more as we move through Tuesday's new moon and the moon begins brightening again.
As stated earlier the dolphin bite is excellent. There are gaffers and bailers and it isn't necessary to go all the way to the Gulf Stream to catch them. Some have been caught just offshore of the sea buoys, but the numbers are fairly consistent on the popular king spots 10 to 20 miles offshore.
Sailfish have moved inshore and are mixed with the kings and dolphin in these places. If you hook a sail, fight it as hard as you dare to ensure a successful release.
King mackerel are biting well. In addition to the excellent pier bite, there are kings being caught out to roughly 80 to 100 feet of water. Kings are hitting slow-trolled live baits, rigged (dead) natural baits and a variety of spoons and lures. Lure fishermen are catching lots of smaller kings, while the live bait fishermen are seeing some larger ones.
King mackerel fishermen are also reporting seeing large schools of spadefish on many artificial reef and wrecks. Spadefish look like big angelfish, but are determined fighters. They taste a lot like sheepshead too, so not many get released. The best way to catch spades is using small pieces of jellyball jellyfish for bait.
Amberjacks and a few jack crevalle are mixed with the kings also. Both are top notch game fish, but don't have a sterling reputation as table fare.
Fishermen headed to Pamlico Sound after tarpon and old red drum should be aware there are new regulations for this fishery that became effective on July 1. In general, the new regulations require a circle hook to be used when fishing between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. with any rig using a hook larger than 4/0. All drum rigs are also required to have a stationary sinker of a minimum of two ounces within six inches of the hook. These are all requirements to help prevent deep hooking large drum and keep the mortality rates low. The specific regulations and boundaries are available on line at www.ncdmf.net.
The public comment period for Amendment 15B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters is open until August 3 and all comments are welcome. After this period it will be reviewed and voted on. This amendment contains several actions that would negatively affect both recreational and commercial fishermen. The fishery bulletin on this action and more can be found at www.safmc.net and a copy can be obtained by contacting Kate Michie at 727-824-5305. Comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov until 5:00 P.M. on August 3.
Amendment 16 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters will become effective on July 29. The primary provisions of Amendment 16 include a January to April total closure on shallow water grouper, a November to March recreational closure on beeliners, reduces the recreational beeliner bag limit from 10 to five fish, reduces the recreational grouper bag limit from five to three fish and the black or gag groupers allowed in that bag from two to one fish, establishes a commercial quota for gag grouper and implements the commercial and recreational use of dehookers. For more information visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
I spoke with some folks from the Division of Marine Fisheries regarding the Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings on speckled trout over the last two weeks and was told the consensus from the meetings is to raise the minimum size from 12 inches to 14 inches by proclamation and wait for other changes to be made in the Speckled Trout Fisheries Management Plan. The MFC will consider this at their next meeting.
The MFC Advisory Committees will hold a series of meetings on changes in the flounder fishery during the first two weeks of August. The public and their input is welcome at these meetings. A complete list of Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings, including the times and locations, has been posted at the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The East Coast Got-Em-On King Mackerel Classic was held over the weekend from the Carolina Beach Boat Docks in downtown Carolina Beach. This is another tournament that featured a single day of fishing, but allowed participants to pick their preferred day of Saturday or Sunday.
The tournament was won by Richard Boles of Laurinburg and the crew of the Toes Up, with a 44.45 pound king. Boles and crew caught their king on Saturday and had to wait through the Sunday weigh-in before being pronounced the winners.
Second place went to Ricky Holden of Southport and the crew of the Reely Miss Behavin'. Their king weighed 38.35 pounds and was also caught on Saturday.
While the Toes Up is a 23 foot boat, because they won the tournament outright the award for the largest fish caught on a boat of 23 feet or less went to Larry Denning and the Screamin' Deacon crew for their 34.20 pound king. Denning and crew are from Smithfield.
The Top Lady Angler Award went to Carlette Stewart on the Black Cat for her 28.90 pound king. Charlie Permenter, on the Mining My Bidness, topped the Junior Anglers with a 22.55 pound king. Donald Johnson led the Senior Anglers with a 23.65 pounder caught on the Final Approach.
The second of the three Redfish Action Challenge Series tournaments was held in Beaufort over the weekend. The Dingbatters Fishing Team of Capt. Rennie Clark, Jr. and "Hurricane" Drew Arndt topped the largest Redfish Action field yet to claim the win. In addition to posting a 14.45 pound total weight, Clark and Arndt also had the largest redfish at 7.56 pounds.
Capt. Todd Streeter and Darin Strickland of Team Fin Chaser/Long Bay Boats finished a strong second with 14.09 pounds total weight and a large red that weighed 7.45 pounds. The field was 48 boats, with 36 bringing fish to the scales.
Vikki Pedersen, of Team Riley Rods, Topped the Lady Anglers with a red that weighed 7 pounds. Kyle Tobin, of Team Fishers of Men, claimed the Top Youth Angler Award with a 6.43 pound red. The team of John Boy Moore and Bryane Gerald won the Most Spots TWT with a redfish that had 13 spots.
The Village Grand Slam Tournament was held in Hatteras on Saturday. Capt. Steve Garrett and the Gambler won the event by catching (and releasing) two sailfish and one white marlin.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament will be held July 16 to 18 from the Beaufort Town Docks in Beaufort. This is the fifth of seven tournaments in the 2009 NC Governor's Cup Billfish Series. For more information call 252-808-2286 or visit www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.
The Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament that was originally scheduled for this Saturday, July 18, in Atlantic Beach has been rescheduled for the following Saturday, July 25, because of the weather forecast. Final Registration and the Captains Meeting will now be held July 24 under the tent behind the Tackle Box on the Circle at Atlantic Beach. For more information call 252-342-6100.
The Oak Island Parks & Recreation and Oak Island Pier will host a fishing derby on Saturday, July 18, from 9:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. at Oak Island Pier. The derby is free and open to all youth ages 15 and under. There will be many prizes for such categories as; most fish, largest fish, smallest fish, ugliest fish, shiniest fish, etc. Participants will need to bring their own rod and bait. For more information call 910-278-5518.