We survived the beach rush for the Fourth of July crowd and after a couple of weeks are tapering back to our usual summer busy "normal." For boaters and fishermen, that means you can get to the ramps and find a parking place after 8:00 A.M. and can usually retrieve your boat with less than an hourís wait. Thatís just one of those prices to pay while living in or visiting our little piece of heaven.
Thankfully the temperatures have dropped a little from those super hot days, but when combined with the high humidity there is always the possibility of sudden and intense thunderstorms. Keep an eye on the sky and monitor the weather or marine radio when out fishing and head for shelter at the first sign of a storm. Trust me; you donít want to be caught in a thunderstorm on the water!
Through all this, the fishing has been very good and bordering on excellent. There have been good catches in the inshore waters and in the ocean.
On the inshore side, the flounder bite has been excellent. There are lots of flounder and most are keeper size. There are also good numbers of flounder on the nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs.
Live bait has been a staple of flounder fishing and will continue to be. Flounder will bite almost anything from a mud minnow of several inches to a large finger mullet or spot, croaker or pogy up to about six inches. When fishing with larger baits, they pretty much rule out the shorts and barely legal flounder. You also have to give flounder time to turn the larger baits so they can swallow them. Donít try to set the hook too quickly with live baits, especially larger ones, or youíll come up empty handed.
More and more fishermen are catching flounder with soft plastics on jig heads. This allows covering more bottom by slowly retrieving the bait. Soft plastics allow setting the hook sooner. The soft baits fold and go into the flounderís mouth and carry the hook. Just pause a second and set the hook.
Flounder fishermen often catch puppy drum and vice versa. These two fish are often feeding in the same areas, especially in the creeks and marshes. The good news is puppy drum will gladly hit live baits and soft plastics. Some black drum and an occasional trout are also feeding in the same areas.
Trout will hit artificial baits and lures, but generally respond better to live baits in the hot summer conditions. They like shrimp, finger mullet, small spots and croakers and small pogies. Trout will also hit mud minnows, but they are low on the list of favorites when the other fish are around. By November, mud minnows will become much more attractive again.
Flounder, red drum, black drum, pompano and more are biting at the piers. Live shrimp are deadly baits, but all the bait thieves like them too. Minnows generally last a little longer and are easier for flounder to catch.
Pier fishermen are also catching Spanish mackerel. Some are average size and some are large enough to eat baits intended for king mackerel. There hasnít been a king mackerel reported from one of the piers in a while and that could change at any day. It is also time to be hearing tarpon stories from the pier fishermen. Most tarpon throw the hooks, but several are caught by pier anglers each year.
The tarpon bite has started in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. They have been rolling for a couple of weeks and several have been caught in the past week. Large drum are also being caught in the Pamlico Sound and lower Neuse River.
Spanish mackerel are favorites of the nearshore trollers and should be. They are tasty and usually hungry. Most days filling the liberal 15 fish limit is just a matter of finding a school. Reports say there is a mixture of Spanish from small to citation size (six pounds) and they are along the beaches and around the inlets. Spanish will usually hit small Clarkspoons, Drone Spoons, Got-Cha plugs, swimming lures and more.
Occasionally some small king mackerel mix with schools of Spanish. Learn to tell the difference as the limit on Spanish is 15 fish at 12 inches (fork length) while the limit on kings is 3 fish at 24 inches (fork length). The mistake can lead to an expensive ticket. The best indicator of species for me is the black spot on the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin on Spanish mackerel. King mackerel have dorsal fins that are all gray.
King mackerel fishing was excellent over the weekend, especially off Cape Fear. Fishermen in the East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel tournament landed a dozen or more kings heavier than 30 pounds plus one 40 pounder and one huge 56 pounder.
While the kings arenít right up on the beach, they arenít too far offshore and range from about 50 feet of water and out. The best bite seems to be in 60 to 70 feet of water and live bottoms are holding more fish than wrecks and artificial reefs.
Lots of dolphin and a few sailfish are mixed and feeding with the kings, especially in areas 60 to 100 feet deep. Some of the dolphin are nice size, but there are some smaller ones. The limit is 10 and there isnít a minimum size, so if it is big enough to clean, you can take it home.
Sailfish are fun to catch, but take a picture and release them. They are best released in the water. If you have to handle a sailfish, be careful not to hurt it or let it hurt you. The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Classic will be held next week, July 27 and 28, at Wrightsville Beach. This is an all release tournament, with a limited fishing area aimed at attracting the center console crowd. For more information call 910-256-3636.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent. Fishermen are regularly catching limits of black sea bass, grouper, beeliners, grunts and porgies. The action begins at about 65 feet deep or so and continues to the edge of the continental shelf. Many of the ledges just offshore of Frying Pan Tower and the knuckle buoy at Cape Lookout Shoals are producing well.
Last week I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the 2012 ICAST show. ICAST is the acronym for the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. This is where manufacturers display their tackle and accessory lines for the coming year and any new tackle and other equipment for 2013 is unveiled.
Simply walking in this show was impressive. There was slightly more than 375,000 square feet of display space and it was crammed full. Manufacturers from all over the world display here and some of the items are so new they are prototypes and may have another change before reaching production. Some will not be available until late fall. Several N.C. manufacturers were present and with new items. Iíll be mentioning these over the next few weeks.
One of the spotlight portions of every ICAST show is the New Products Showcase. This is where new products are displayed for the first time and it open for a sneak preview the evening before the show. I wasnít standing in line for it to open, but entered shortly after the line thinned.
Awards are given in numerous categories for the new products. Buyers and media representatives from all over the world cast these ballots and this year I was one of the voters. I agreed with the majority on some products and disagreed on others. I guess thatís why they have such a diverse group selecting the awards.
The Hobie Pro Angler 12 kayak won the award for the Best Boat of Show and also claimed the highest honor of Overall Best of Show. This is a very special kayak with lots of unique features, including a seat that even has lumbar adjustment.
The Pro Angler 12 is the little sister (itís a boat and boats are female) of the original Hobie Pro Angler that debuted at ICAST in 2009 and also won the Best in Show award. That model has now been renamed the Pro Angler 14. Both the Pro Angler models are propelled by Hobieís patented Mirage Drive. The Mirage Drive mimics penguin flippers and is foot powered, which allows fishermen to have their hands free for fishing.
Once the original Pro Angler was in production, kayak fishermen asked Hobie to add a model that was a little smaller and lighter. That is where the Pro Angler 12 originated. It is two feet shorter, two inches narrower and almost 25 pounds lighter. While the basic shape remains similar, tackle and rod storage were redesigned also.
Other than size, the most outwardly noticeable difference between the Pro Anglers is the seat. The seat in the original Pro Angler was designed for comfort and served that purpose well. It was made with a frame that elevated it slightly above the deck and used a large mesh cloth to allow air flow for cooling and for the seat to adjust to different body shapes.
The new seat expands the comfort to levels never before thought possible on a kayak. Named the Vantage Seat, the Pro Angler 12 seat uses an aluminum frame and mesh seating to offer low and high seating positions, plus adjustments for seatback angle, seat edge height and angle and even uses a BOA system to adjust the amount and angle of lumbar support. The Vantage Seat can be removed and used for camping, visiting the beach or whatever reasons an outside chair is used.
The Hobie Pro Angler 12 is truly a unique fishing kayak with a serious intent to be functional and comfortable. Great Outdoor Provision Company is the main N.C. Hobie Kayak dealer and they have stores in Wilmington, Greenville, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. Not all the stores stock the Pro Angler 12, so it would be wise to call in advance. They also do paddle days through their Charlotte and Raleigh stores at least once a month, so you could try one there. The Pro Angler 12 can also be seen online at www.hobiecat.com.
Other Best in Show winners from the ICAST 2012 New Product Showcase include:
* Apparel - Columbia Sportswear, Airgill Chill Zero Long Sleeve Shirt;
* Boating Accessory - JL Marine Systems, Inc., Power-Pole Drift Paddle;
* Combo Rod and Reel - Pure Fishing, Inc., Penn Battle Combo;
* Electronics - Johnson Outdoors, Humminbird 360 Imaging;
* Eyewear - Costa, Costa 580 P Sunrise Lenses;
* Fishing Accessory - American Premier Corporation, The Ultimate Line Winding System;
* FishSmart Tackle Category Ė Finovation Inc., The SeaQuilizer;
* Fly Fishing Accessory - Luna Sea, LLC, Master Guide Fly Rod "Cush It";
* Fly Fishing Reel - Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle, Wright & McGill Sabalos Saltwater Fly Reel;
* Fly Fishing Rod - G. Loomis, NRX Fly Rod;
* Freshwater Reel - Pure Fishing, Inc., Abu Garcia Revo;
* Freshwater Rod - St. Croix Rods, Legend Xtreme;
* Giftware - 3D Picture Store, Inc., Jigsaw;
* Kids' Tackle - Pure Fishing, Inc., Shakespeare Hide-A-Hook Bobber Kit;
* Line - Pure Fishing, Inc., Berkley Trilene XL/XT;
* Hard Lure - Koppers Fishing & Tackle Corporation, Live Target Frog Popper;
* Soft Lure - Lunkerhunt LP, Bento Baits;
* Saltwater Reel - Pure Fishing, Inc., Penn Spinfisher V;
* Saltwater Rod - St. Croix Rods, Legend Inshore;
* Tackle Management - Magnetic Marine Products, Inc., Gear Grabbar Lure Hangar Kit;
* Terminal Tackle - Pure Fishing, Inc., Berkley Gulp! Jig Heads.
For more ICAST information visit www.ICASTfishing.org.
There were several fishery meeting scheduled for the next week or so, but some have been cancelled due to legislation that was passed in early July that will restructure the Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees. Some meetings remain as scheduled. Some committees are being restructured and combined and those meetings will be announced as soon as the committee selections have been made. A list of meetings for the next week is below:
* The MFC Inland Regional Advisory Committee meeting that was scheduled for July 23 at 6:00 P.M. in the Archdale Building Ground Floor Hearing Room in Raleigh has been cancelled.
* The MFC Southeast Regional Advisory Committee meeting that was scheduled for July 24 at 6:00 P.M. at the NC Department of Natural Resources building in Wilmington has been cancelled.
*The MFC CHPP Steering Committee will meet July 24 at 10:00 A.M. at the DMF Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information call 252-948-3952 or 910-796-7315 or e-mail Jimmy.Johnson@ncdenr.gov or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.
* The MFC Finfish Advisory Committee will meet July 25 at 11:00 A.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information call 252-808-8074 or e-mail David.L.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.
* The DMF Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet July 25 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information call 252-808-8014 or e-mail Catherine.Blum@ncdenr.gov.
There will be a time for public comment at each meeting.
Four tournaments are scheduled for this weekend. The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament begins Friday and will fish Saturday, July 21 also. Weigh-in is at the Beaufort Town Docks in Beaufort. This is the fifth tournament in the 2012 Governorís Cup Billfishing Series and features billfish and offshore gamefish, plus an inshore division for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and pinfish. For 2012, participants can fish from all N.C. Inlets. For more information visit www.bartabillfish.com.
The Morehead City Inshore Challenge is the third of five tournaments in the Fishermanís Post Inshore Challenge Series. The tournament will be held from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort on Saturday, July 21, and features redfish and flounder. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Fishers of Men Inshore Trail Swan Quarter Showdown tournament will be held Saturday, July 21 from the Swan Quarter Wildlife Ramp. This tournament will feature speckled trout, flounder and red drum. For more information call 252-230-0359.
The Carolina Boatbuilderís Tournament will be held from Pirateís Cove Marina in Manteo on July 19 to 21. The tournament features a release only billfish competition and offshore gamefish divisions. For more information visit www.pcbgt.com.