There is an old saying that goes roughly, "When the wind is from the east, the fishing is the least," and it sure was true last week. Of course, it was compounded a little by the fact the east wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots (or more) most of the time. However, that stretch of east wind cooled things for a few days and may actually be a good thing in the long run. I sure hope so.
You regular readers know I try to be an optimist and look at the glass half full or find a silver lining in the cloud and there was a pretty big silver lining in this one. The front that brought the east winds finally gave us a shot more rain to help control the forest fires before settling in and breaking the heat wave. The cool temps of Saturday and Sunday mornings were much more like we expect in late August and September.
Those cooler temps probably felt even nicer after so many days of extreme heat. I sat on the beach Friday night and watched the full moon rise and it was very pleasant. Some folks walked by wearing sweatshirts and light windbreakers and talking about how cool it was. That made me think of the fall and I'm looking forward to September for a bunch of reasons.
In addition to slowing the feeding of the fish, easterly winds are difficult to hide from along the N.C. coast. They are blowing down the beach below the capes at all the south facing beaches and directly onshore at the east facing beaches. East winds also seem to be blowing in exactly the wrong direction for easily fishing any of the marshes and creeks. Many fishermen avoided the frustration and saved their gas for different winds and that might have been very wise. The fishing isn't on fire, but there is a little more to report this week.
Before I get a bunch of calls and e-mails this week asking why the east wind is such a bad fishing wind, I'll try to answer. The real answer is I don't know, but have heard it since being a youngster and it sure seems to be true. My unscientific thoughts are that easterly winds usually indicate a change in weather and make the barometer unsteady. Sometimes fish will respond to slow changes in the barometer, but the unsteadiness seems to put them off their normal patterns. Think about this and you can agree or disagree. If someone has a different idea, I would like to hear it and may pass it on with your permission.
The puppy drum bite had been on again, off again for a while before the easterly winds last week, but has picked up a little after the full moon. Drum have been a little picky at times this summer and, while they will usually hit lures, live shrimp have been the bait they couldn't refuse. The problem was getting it past the pinfish and other bait thieves.
This past Friday was the full moon and it was time to pole up into the flooded grass and cast lures and flies to reds that were feeding there. The biggest problem was the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to spot the tails and pushes that are signs of pups in the grass.
If you haven't realized it, the nighttime tides around the full moon are higher than the daytime tides. From Friday on, the high tides were after dark and made fishing early in the morning the better option to get in the flooded grass. However, it was a matter of doing the best you could as the morning tides just weren't as high. The full moon was Friday night and for Friday and Saturday, the morning high tide gave the most time for fishing. Of course the east wind was howling and wasn't any help.
After sending last week's column in, I decided I had to go fishing Thursday evening. Unfortunately, the wind had switched to the east and blown up by then, so the main thing I got was a wind assisted drift across the flooded marsh. Several times, I thought I had spotted tailing or waking fish, but it was wind dogs or wind pushing blown down grass. Unfortunately there was so much ripple on the water, I thought I saw a few things but never confirmed a tailing or waking fish to cast to.
There still aren't many reports of speckled trout coming in. The reports are oneseys and twoseys in the local area, but no real consistency. The best inside reports are coming from Pamlico Sound behind the Outer Banks. That water is cooler and maybe that is the key and we'll see them in another month or two. I fished with some of the Marines in the New River at Camp Lejeune on Wednesday and one of them caught an 18 inch trout. I was thrilled to see it as it was the first speck I have seen caught since a little before the season opened on June 16. He probably hates me for it, but I talked him into releasing it.
The definition of a nice day might vary some, but one fisherman had a good shock a little north of Wrightsville Beach late one morning. As his charter with Capt. Jot Owens was nearing the end, Stu Basom, who was vacationing from Pennsylvania, felt a pretty solid thump on his line. Setting the line, he received a tug back like nothing else that morning. After several minutes of wondering what was on the other end of the line, Owens netted the 11 pound flounder that had engulfed Basom's bait. It was 31 inches long and 22 inches in girth.
Basom was fishing a six inch Berkley Gulp jerk shad. This is similar to what other fishermen have found flounder liking this summer. Sure, flounder are hitting live baits, but they are hitting artificials, especially the scented bio baits, hard. The other plus is that fishing the artificial baits allows for covering more water and potentially putting the bait in front of more fish.
Pier fishermen are plugging along in the hot and windy conditions, but enjoyed a little weather break over the weekend. Fishing is fair, but not great. There was a bit of excitement on Bogue Inlet Pier Monday when a 100.2 pound tarpon was landed. Dexter Barlow, Swansboro, and Chris Paul, Wilmington, shared a two hour battle before the exhausted fish was lifted to the pier planks.
Pier anglers also caught a scattering of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, pompano sheepshead, whiting, black drum, red drum and a few speckled trout. Most of the pompano are large and many are heavier that the two pound minimum for an exceptional catch citation.
Even with the water along the beaches reaching into the eighties, Spanish mackerel are still feeding. Small lures, such as 00 size Clarkspoons are catching them, especially mornings and evenings, but live larger mullet minnows and live three to five inch pogies are catching larger ones. The smaller Spanish seem to be in 25 feet of water and deeper and flounder fishermen on the artificial reefs and nearshore rocks have been drifting back the live minnows to catch the larger ones. Flounder are biting on the reefs. If you find a knot of them on a particular section of a reef, catching several limits is possible.
Several days this week the wind subsided enough to allow fishermen to head offshore, but the wind and seas may increase a little by the weekend. Some kings have been showing at about 60 feet deep along with a few small dolphin and an occasional sailfish. At about 80 feet deep, the bite got a little better, but never quite improved to good. If you found the kings and dolphin you had a great catch, but other boats, sometimes as close as within sight, might not do as well.
Offshore bottom fishing is good when the weather allows getting there. A few keeper sea bass have been caught closer in, but the best combination of action and keeper fish begins at roughly 80 feet and continues out to about 110 feet. Grouper limits have been filled pretty easily and some of them have been large fish. Remember that non stainless steel circle hooks are required for bottom fishing beyond three miles offshore and that dehookers are also required for bottom fishing in federal waters.
I mentioned the concerns about GPS service interference last week and feel it needs to be mentioned again. This is important to everyone, not just boaters. My alert came from BoatUS. After last year's decision to end Loran C, which was the electronic navigation predecessor to GPS, this is of special concern.
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 been shown to cause interference in hundreds of millions of GPS receivers across a wide range of uses.
A new report requested by the FCC comes to the finding that, "All phases of LightSquared's deployment plan will result in widespread harmful interference to GPS signals and service and that mitigation is not possible." While these problems would be serious enough if GPS was still primarily a marine navigation system, that is no longer true. GPS has become the only directional aid for aviation, emergency responders and turn-by-turn automotive navigation, plus industrial users such as delivery and trucking companies.
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.
This will be my last reminder that the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website has a new home. I don't understand the need to move it, especially if they are still redirecting from the old website address, but I'm not a state bureaucrat and obviously don't understand the inner workings of these things. It was already doubled at www.ncdmf.net and www.ncfisheries.net. The NCDMF is moving its homepage under the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources website as part of an effort to consolidate the agency's Internet presence. The NCDMF's new homepage is at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home. At least for the time being, those who go to the old homepages will be redirected to the new site.
This week, the N.C. Marine Fishery Commission announced three Advisory Committee meetings for next week.
* The Blue Crab 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 contact Sean McKenna at Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov, 1-800-338-7804 or Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov, 1-800-405-7774.
* The Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP) Steering Committee will meet July 28 at 10:00 A.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Jimmy Johnson or Anne Deaton at Jimmy.Johnson@ncdenr.gov / Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov, 252-948-3952 / 910-795-7315.
* The Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet July 28 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Chip Collier at Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov, 1-800-248-4536.
Last week a proclamation was issued closing the large mesh gill net season for Core Sound, Back Sound and other waters in that area effective on Monday, July 18 because of interactions between the nets and sea turtles. This may happen in several other areas at any time. Closures are done by proclamation and can become effective in as little as 48 hours. Fishermen wishing to stay abreast of this and other fisheries news can check the NCDMF (state) website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home or the SAFMC (federal) website at www.safmc.net.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament was held July 14 to 16 in Beaufort. This was 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. The tournament drew 60 boats that caught 35 sailfish and two white marlin, plus many offshore and inshore sportfish. As noted by its name, proceeds were donated to the Carteret County Boys and Girls Clubs.
The Sea Hag, with Capt. Alan Willis, amassed 2000 points by catching five sailfish on their way to winning the Billfish Category. The Bill Collector, with Capt. Stephen Draughon, also caught five sailfish and scored 2000 release points but released their last fish 58 minutes after the Sea Hag and had to settle for second place. Impuse, with Capt. Cameron Guthrie, tallied 1600 points to finish third. All were in the Charter Boat Division.
In the Gamefish Divisions, Ran Johnston caught a 40.3 pound dolphin while fishing on the Fightn' Lady, Avery Struyk caught a 10.64 pound blackfin tuna on the Piracy, Hunter Draughon Caught a 26.6 pound wahoo on the Bill Collector and Laurin Schad caught a 17.22 pound king mackerel on the Impulse. All were also the Top Junior Anglers for these species. Hunter Draughon also totaled 1200 points in billfish releases to win Top Junior Billfish Angler honors.
The Top Lady Angler was Natalie Petrilli, who earned 400 release points on the Carnivore. Ralph Moore fished on the Linda Gale and totaled 800 release points on his way to Top Senior Angler Honors. Builders Choice, with Capt. Harris Huddle, amassed 1200 release points and was named the Top Amateur Boat, while the Penta Gone, with Capt. Ed Szilagyi, also had 1200 release points and topped the Pro Boat Division.
This year the tournament also added an inshore Division. The largest Spanish mackerel was caught by Samantha Wainwright, who fished on the Fishing Partner and it weighed 4.02 pounds. Hayden Gizinski fished on the 10 Bravo and claimed the Largest Bluefish prize with a 1.22 pounder. Hunter Rice caught a .62 pound pinfish while fishing on the Genesis to top that category. For more information visit www.bartabillfish.com.
The second of three tournaments in the Redfish Action Challenge Cup was held Saturday at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. This was a team event that allows weighing a pair of slot size red drum per team and crowns a tournament winner at each tournament and a series champion at the end of the year.
In spite of a gusty easterly wind that refused to give any quarter, Capt. Rob Koraly and Joey Cartwright brought a pair of stud redfish to the scales and claimed first place with a weight of 13.27 pounds. Koraly's and Cartwright's largest fish weighed 6.71 pounds and also took the White Swan BBQ Red Hot Bite of the Day prize for the largest redfish.
The only other team to surpass 13 pounds was the Brock Boys. Dean and Muriel Brock, placed second with a pair of red drum that weighed 13.1 pounds and also won the Top Amateur Team award. Team Dingbatters, Capt. Rennie Clark and Drew Arndt, filled out the other top three place with two red drum that weighed 12.11 pounds. Gloria Ellis won Top Lady Angler and Top Senior Angler awards while Dustin Garner won the Top Junior Angler award. The final Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournament will be held September 24 and will also decide the Angler of the Year. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.
The Oak Island Kids Fishing Derby was held Saturday, July 16, at Ocean Crest Pier. There were a variety of ways for the kids to win and a variety of species were accepted. Unfortunately, the strong easterly wind affected this fishing also. It also made it difficult to feel bites. Even the more experienced pier anglers were having a tough time.
Tanner Haron landed a 13 inch whiting to claim the prize for the largest fish, while Michael Newman caught the smallest and Jordan Whaley caught the most fish of all the kids. In the novelty classes, Jacob Whaley caught the most extreme fish, Joshua Martinez caught the most exotic fish and Megan Newsome caught the fish with the most teeth. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com or www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
The only tournament listed on the NCDMF schedule for this weekend is the Carolina Boat Builders Tournament from Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. This is a release only billfish tournament, with a gamefish category. The tournament helps fund the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation whose mission is to develop, encourage and promote public awareness of the historical and cultural heritage of boat building in Dare County and to support educational opportunities for students. For more information visit www.dcbbf.org.