I like it when we have a week when weather cooperates to help with the fishing report and forecast. This week the weather has been pretty good since last weekend, but the early forecast has the wind puffing up a little again this weekend. There are some shower chances too, but neither is as bad as last weekend. However, as drastically as last week’s forecast changed late in the week, the only thing we can say for certain about weather this summer is when talking about weather we have already had. If this weekend’s weather changes, the potential is just as good for it to improve as to deteriorate.
Even though it broke up earlier in the week, last weekend’s wind and rain was directly related to Tropical Storm Chantal. When the storm broke up, it split into two small lows and one of them sped up and reached here in time to dampen the first half of the weekend and blow the entire time.
This week has been pretty nice, with lots of sunshine, just also really hot and humid. It’s been a while since we had these conditions, so let me remind everyone to be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. Liberal applications of sunscreen, a big wide brim hat and high UPF rated clothing are your friends.
Earlier in the week, someone remarked that the fish may be getting used to the dirty water. That brought a couple of startled reactions, but in general many species appear to be biting better this week. This may be a timely thing as most of the coastal rivers are swollen to overflowing and there is still water flowing downstream that will continue to be above normal for another week or more. It is going to be a while before all the dirty water in the rivers, sounds and along the beaches goes away.
This week’s high water warning is to keep a careful watch for trees, stumps and other debris floating right at or only an inch or so below the water’s surface. This is the first time the rivers have been at this high a stage in several years and things that have been mired in the flood plain are being floated out and carried downriver. It has been serious enough the Coast Guard is mentioning it in their local notices to mariners. Please be careful. In addition to the damage to your boat or motor from striking one of these obstacles, passengers can be thrown about or even overboard and injured.
While the ocean was rough over the weekend, the tournament boats had a pretty good showing of fish and fishermen were looking forward to a forecast with calmer seas during the week. That forecast happened and some nice fish were caught. More details will come later, but some of those fish were caught where they weren’t really expected to be.
In general, it took running a little farther to find cleaner water, but there were fish in the ocean. One example of this is Spanish mackerel. Several fishermen said the Spanish had moved from around the inlets and along the beaches out 4 to 5 miles. This was true early in the week, but by Thursday, Spanish were moving back closer to the beaches. The water hadn’t cleared noticeably to the fishermen, but the fish decided they liked it and were there and feeding. When this happens, wise fishermen don’t ask questions, they go fishing.
Last weekend and early this week, most fishermen were heading offshore 20 miles or more to find any concentration of king mackerel. They aren’t thick inshore yet, but some are moving back in and there have been several kings caught from the piers from Emerald Isle down to Kure Beach.
There were also some dolphin mixed with the kings and even a couple of encounters with fish of the sailfish kind. The dolphin have moved in a little too, but the sailfish are still holding out where the water begins to turn blue. Pods of baitfish suspended in the water are the signal you have run far enough. The flip side is that if there aren’t markings of suspended baits, the fish won’t be there either.
Bottom fish were biting in the ocean also. Black sea bass seem to be everywhere, but most fishermen said they are going to 60 feet of water before consistently finding limits of keepers – and they still have to work through a lot of shorts. Grunts and porgies can be found in these depths too, but get better at 80 feet or so and are joined by some beeliners and a few groupers. While a few grouper are being caught shallower, the grouper bite gets better in deeper water and most fishermen are saying 100 feet plus.
There were also some nice catches and some big fish caught from the piers this week. The big fish were a summer run of kings and the tarpon we have been waiting for. Herb Chilton landed the first king of the year at Bogue Inlet Pier and it was a nice one at 35 pounds and 7 ounces. More were caught at Topsail and Wrightsville Beaches. Lynn Chilton and Brenna Houston caught and released almost identical tarpon that were estimated at 110 pounds from Bogue Inlet Pier and several more have swirled on baits and not gotten hooked. .
There were also some larger Spanish mackerel caught at Bogue Inlet Pier this week. They didn’t compare with the tarpon and kings in actual size, but several around 5 pounds were caught and that’s a nice Spanish.
Bottom fish were also biting. Fishermen caught limits of speckled trout off the Topsail piers on live baits. Flounder are moving into the first slough off the beach and in the pockets around the pier pilings and several nice ones were caught. Red drum like that first slough off the beach too. There was also a run of small to medium spots along most of the coast that caught a lot of fishermen by surprise.
There have also been a few fishermen jumping some tarpon in the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound. The preferred area has been from approximately where the ferry crosses from Cherry Branch to Minnesott Beach in the river out to Brant Island Shoals in the sound. Some big red drum should begin to arrive in this same general area in the next few weeks.
Sheepshead are still biting well in the Morehead City area and some of them are genuine big fellows. One of the favorite spots is along the wall at the State Port. Fishermen are also doing well dropping right beside the pilings for the Radio Island Train Trestle and the high rise bridges. The hot baits for sheepshead have been sea urchins and fiddler crabs. Most fishermen, especially beginners, will do better with sea urchins as it is far more difficult for the sheepshead to steal the bait without being felt.
The water hasn’t miraculously cleared, but there has been an upturn in inside fishing over the past week or so. Several fishermen said they had good luck with speckled trout and red drum fishing topwater lures. They said the water was very stained and in come cases dirty, but the trout were feeding. The New River around Sneads Ferry has been a topwater trout hotspot for several weeks.
Most fishermen say they like the aggressive strike of any fish hitting a topwater lure. One clue to give topwaters a try is when bait is scattering along the surface from being chased by fish. Understand that not all topwater lures are created equal. There are different sizes and actions, plus some have rattles and not all the rattles are the same. Almost all of the reports of trout hitting topwaters were from fishermen using baits with higher frequency rattles and multiple rattles. There are some of these in the Zara Spook family and in the MirrOlure family it is the She Dogs and She Pups.
Still more fishermen reported catching trout using rattling and popping corks. Thee common denominator here was suspending the bait 18 to 24 inches below the cork. Some fishermen did well with soft plastics, especially the scented ones, and some used live minnows and shrimp.
There is almost always some good action with puppy drum and flounder in the creeks and bays with deeper water nearby. While they are also caught in other ways, pups and flounder readily fall for the live and artificial baits suspended under corks. With live baits, the cork only needs to be moved enough to make its noise, while with artificials the move is a little greater to give some action to the lure.
This week’s tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia moving almost together off the southeast Coast. Mary Lee has been just inshore of the Continental Shelf off Savannah, Ga. for almost two months and this week moved up the coast a little to just above Charleston, S.C. Lydia has returned from a mid-ocean trip and reached the Continental Shelf off Cape Lookout about a month ago. Since then, she worked her way south as far as off Charleston, S.C., but this week had moved back north to off Cape Fear.
Every where I go, I am asked about these sharks. I certainly am no expert, but find it really interesting that they have moved to similar warm water areas during the summer. Prior to this, the general thought on great white sharks was they prefer colder water. I have always felt fish behaviors tended to center on a good food supply and this makes me think there must be an abundance of food just offshore of our Continental Shelf. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could be conditioned to eat lionfish? 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. If you don’t think something needs to happen pretty quickly, take a low tide trip down to Bogue Inlet.
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.
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 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.
There is a summer outdoor show coming up in Greensboro next weekend. The Big Buck Expo will be in the Special Events Center at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on July 26 to 28. There will be special appearances by Troy, Elizabeth and Jessica of Swamp People on the History Channel. For more information visit www.southerntrophyhunters.com.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament is currently underway from the Beaufort Town Docks in Beaufort. This tournament was originally scheduled for July 19 and 20, but the 18th was added as an additional fishing day this week after the winds were forecast to increase on Friday and Saturday. 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 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.
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 Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" tournament will be held from the Morehead City Waterfront on July 26 and 27. This is the seventh of eight tournaments in the N.C. Governor’s Cup Billfish Series and there are also prizes for offshore gamefish. For more information visit http://www.ncdubillfish.com/.
The Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel and Flounder Tournament will be held July 27 and 28 from Jaycee Park in Morehead City. This is actually two different tournaments and fishermen may enter either. The king mackerel tournament is the first of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 1. For more information visit www.rswsc.org.
The Oriental Rotary Club Inshore Slam and Tarpon Tournament will be held July 26 to 28 from the Oriental Marina and Inn in Oriental. These are actually two different tournaments held on the same weekend. The Inshore Slam is for puppy drum, trout and flounder and fishes on Friday, July 26. The Tarpon Tournament is an all release tournament featuring tarpon and fishes on Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament will be held July 26 and 27 from Bridge Tender Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This is a limited area tournament that also has prizes for dolphin. For more information visit www.bridgetendermarina.com.
The TJM Celebrity/Charity Kayak Fishing Tournament will be held July 27 at Wrightsville Beach Park in Wrightsville Beach. This is a catch, photo release format tournament, so fishermen will fish at their favorite area spots and bring their cameras with pictures to the check in. For more information visit www.hooklineandpaddle.com.
The Carousel Center Flounder Tournament that was originally scheduled for June 8 will be held July 27 at Inlet Watch Yacht Club at Carolina Beach. For more information visit www.carouselcenter.org.