I've been gone a while and while I was traveling the heat and wind conspired to make fishing uncomfortable or difficult a great part of the time.  Conditions have been better the past few days, but the temps are rising again and the forecast has it surging back into the upper 80s and lower 90s by this weekend.  This week started well, but there is also another drop in barometric pressure forecast for the coming weekend and this one has the wind beginning to build Saturday, but with clear conditions until after the weekend.  Hopefully the clear conditions part holds true and they miss on stronger winds.   

Even though the wind and thunderstorms have limited fishing opportunities, most fishermen that made the effort found some fish that were willing to bite.  Fishermen from the middle of the N.C. cot up through the Outer Banks have seen a lot more rain than along the southern coast, but all have seen their share of wind. 

As it has been for much of the summer, offshore bottom fishing is the most consistent ocean fishing.  Even on days the grouper want to be finicky, you can catch a bunch of black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.  Most bottom fishermen also catch an amberjack or two and sometimes a king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo or African pompano.  Most bottom fishermen use single grouper or double chicken rigs with cut or live baits, but these fish also respond to jigs worked vertically. 

There are a few king mackerel being caught just off the beach along the Outer Banks, but they are a little deeper farther south.  Some dolphin, plus an occasional sailfish or wahoo, are sometimes feeding with the kings and can be a pleasant surprise.  They make the reel sound different and dolphin and wahoo are welcome additions to the fish box.

Closer in there are Spanish mackerel along the beaches, plus around the inlets and artificial reefs.  When the water gets this warm, they sometimes don't like the same lures they hit a few weeks ago.  Often switching to smaller lures gets them to bite.  Several companies make 000 size spoons and small bucktails and the jigs from speck rigs will also often convince them to bite.

There have been a few reports of tarpon spotted along the ocean beaches and they moved into Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River last week.  There are also some overslot red drum along the shoals at Cape lookout, just off the beach around Oregon Inlet and moving into Pamlico Sound.    

Flounder have been biting at the nearshore artificial reefs and shipwrecks along most of the N.C. Coast.  Many fishermen use live baits, but Capt. Jimmy Price said they might improve their catches by vertically jigging a bucktail with a trailer.  Jigging is better for many fishermen as flounder hit the jigs hard and they can set the hook as soon as they feel them. 

With the windy days and threats of thunderstorms, many fishermen are staying inshore in waters protected from the wind and near shelter from lightning.  Still, even though they might not be going to their preferred spots, they are catching fish.  There are trout, flounder, drum and more in the creeks and bays, but they are moving about and can be difficult to locate.  If the weather will settle out some, they should start staying in certain area and be easier to pattern.  If you plan to keep any fish to eat, take your measuring board.  Many trout, flounder and drum are right at their short/barely legal lengths.

All of the inshore fish like live baits and it often makes fishing easier.  Fishing under a popping float for trout and drum helps many fishermen.  Flounder are bottom dwellers and fishing on the bottom should catch more of them.  I prefer live shrimp for trout and drum and minnows for flounder.  All will also hit soft plastics and drum and trout have been responding to topwater hard lures, especially from right after sunrise for a couple of hours.  With the water hot, many times fishing slower helps convince fish to bite.

Inshore fishermen are also catching a few sheepshead, tripletail and ladyfish.  Sheepshead are found along the entire N.C. Coast, but tripletail and ladyfish are mainly found in the southern part of N.C.  Tripletail and sheepshead taste good, but ladyfish are for fun only.  Sheepshead are usually around vertical structure like bulkheads, bridge abutments and pilings.  Tripletail like objects that create shade on the water and many are caught under and beside crab pot floats.  Ladyfish may be anywhere that holds trout or drum. 

There weren't many surf or pier fishing reports this week.  The nearshore ocean has been stirred up a lot lately, but dedicated fishermen are catching a few fish.  The heat doesn't help either.  One surf fishing tip is to find some sand fleas and fish them right at the back edge of the breakers for pompano. 

Saltwater Anglers May Receive Fishing Survey
           North Carolina recreational fishermen holding a current Coastal Recreational Fishing License may receive a survey conducted by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the coming months.  The survey will be sent by random selection, so not all fishermen will receive it.  Fishermen will be asked a variety of questions such as what species they commonly target, average fishing trip expenditures, demographic information such as education, age and household income, and their opinions on fisheries management and user conflicts.

          It is very important that anglers participate and answer as many questions as possible.  By completing the survey, anglers help ensure that fisheries managers receive the best possible information about the economic effects of regulations.  Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential.  Results from the study will be aggregated to present an overall view of the economic status of the recreational fishery and published in a report that will be made available to the public at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/social-economic-data-reports.       

          The survey is a follow up to a previously conducted data collection in 2009.  It seeks information on the economic characteristics of coastal recreational anglers’ fishing trips, as well as social and demographic characteristics.  The information gathered in the survey will be used in fishery management plans and in developing economic impact models to help fisheries managers make informed decisions on various fisheries topics.  The survey is being funded by the Marine Resources Fund which seeks to manage, enhance and protect the marine resources of North Carolina based on sound science and strategies.  For more information, contact Adam Stemle, NCDMF Economics Program manager, at 252-808-8107 or Adam.Stemle@ncdenr.gov.  

NOAA Fisheries Establishes Spawning Special Management Zones off N.C., S.C. and FL
Effective July 31, 2017, offshore bottom fishermen will be denied access to miles of productive fishing area in the South Atlantic.  South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin FB17-035, issued on June 30, 2017 and posted on the Federal Register as 82 FR 29772, contains the final rule from NOAA Fisheries that will establish five Spawning Special Management Zones in Federal Waters of the South Atlantic off N.C., S.C., GA. and FL.  Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region implements these spawning special management zones (SMZ) to protect spawning, or reproducing, fish and their habitat. 

The final rule for Amendment 36 will implement the following management measures:

* Implement five spawning SMZs in federal waters of the South Atlantic region off North Carolina (1), South Carolina (3), and Florida (1).

* Inside of the spawning SMZs, fishing for, retention, and possession of fish species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited year-round by all fishers.

* Anchoring inside all the spawning SMZs, except Area 51 and Area 53 off South Carolina, will be prohibited.

* Transit through the spawning SMZs with snapper-grouper species onboard will be allowed if gear is properly stowed.

* Most spawning SMZs would automatically go away in 10 years unless they are reauthorized.

* Modify the SMZ procedure in the fishery management plan to allow for the designation of spawning SMZs. In addition, modify the framework procedure to allow spawning SMZs to be established or modified through the framework process, rather than through plan amendments.

* Move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area to match the boundaries of the permitted site.

The Spawning SMZs include the following locations using corner coordinates:

North Carolina
South Cape Lookout: 33° 53.040N and 76° 28.617W; 33° 52.019N and 76° 27.798W; 33° 49.946N and 76° 30.627W; 33° 51.041N and 76° 31.424W (total of 5.10 square miles).

South Carolina
Devil's Hole / Georgetown Hole: 32° 34.311N and 78° 34.996W; 32° 34.311N and 78° 33.220W; 32° 32.748N and 78° 33.220W; 32° 32.748N and 78° 34.996W  (total of 3.03 square miles).

Area 51: 32° 35.250N and 79° 28.600W; 32° 35.250N and 79° 27.000W, 32° 33.750N and 79° 27.000W; 32° 33.750N and 79° 28.600W (total of 2.99 square miles).

Area 53: 32° 22.650N and 79° 22.250W; 32° 22.650N and 79° 20.500W; 32° 21.150N and 79° 20.500W; 32° 21.150N and 79° 22.250W (total of 2.99 square miles).

Warsaw Hole: 24° 22.277N and 82° 20.417W; 24° 22.277N and 82° 18.215W; 24° 20.932N and 82° 18.215W; 24° 20.932N and 82° 20.417W (total 3.60 square miles).

The details of the monitoring for these Spawning SMZs Monitoring details are outlined in a System Management Plan (SMP) that can be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website.  The link to this SMP is: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2016/am36/documents/pdfs/sa_sg_am36_app_n_smz_smp.pdf.   

WRC Hosts Ongoing Fishing Programs
          The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest.

          There are numerous evening and weekend classes and programs offered at the Pechmann Center each month.  For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.  The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page.  There are always interesting programs at the Pechmann Center that include kayak fishing, fly tying, lure making, fishing tips and boating safety.

N.C. Aquariums Offer Fishing Programs and Youth Summer Camps
         The North Carolina Aquariums offer a variety of fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.  The local aquarium is at Fort Fisher and the other aquariums are at Pine Knoll Shores and Manteo.  The summer programs for all ages include surf fishing, exploring the marsh, canoeing and more.  There are also summer camps for youngsters.  For more information, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select the Fort Fisher Aquarium.

Wildlife Photo Contest
          The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is accepting entries to its 13th annual Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine Photo Competition until 5 p.m., Sept. 1, 2017.  The contest is open to amateur and professional photographers of all ages, except for employees of the Wildlife Commission, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and their immediate families.  Entrants must be either current subscribers to Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine or younger than 18.

           Only photographs taken in North Carolina since Sept. 15, 2013 are eligible for the competition. The categories include birds, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, animal behavior, outdoor recreation, wild landscapes, wild plants and fungi, youth photographer 13-17 and youth photographer 12 and younger.

          Entries will be judged by a panel of staff from the Commission and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, as well as professional photographers.  The grand prize winner will have his or her photo published on the cover of the January/February 2018 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina and will receive a check for $200.  All winning photographs will be published in the magazine and exhibited at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.  First place in all categories pays $100; second place, $75; and third place, $50.

          The Commission is accepting entries online only — no slides, negatives or prints will be accepted by mail.  Entrants may submit a maximum of two photos per category.  Each photo must be in JPEG format and no larger than 2 megabytes each.

           For more information or to submit a photo, visit the Commission’s Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition webpage (www.ncwildlife.org/contest).  A video of the 2016s winning photos is posted on the Commission’s Facebook page.

USSA Schedules Kids Fishing Day for August 11 from Southport Marina
The United Special Sportsmen Alliance (www.childswish.com) will host their second event in the Southport area on August 10 and 11.  The first was a year ago and was a resounding success, so event 2 has been planned and volunteers are needed to take a terminally ill or severely sick child and their family, usually mom and dad, fishing for a few hours on August 11. 

After an arrival and welcome at Comfort Suites the afternoon and evening of August 10,fishing is scheduled for 8:30 to 1:00 the next morning from Southport Marina.  Lunch, provided by the Lions Club, will follow fishing.  This is not an offshore trip, but more of a nearshore or backwater experience and often simply being on the water is extremely therapeutic.  However, having some bites and catching fish puts an exclamation point on the experience. 

John Cranford of the Winston-Salem Saltwater Fishing Club is heading the local committee and can be reached at 336-312-3458.  More information on the event and USSA is available at their website, www.childswish.com.    

Ocearch Hosts Contest with Shark Tagging Adventure as Grand Prize
Ocearch, the organization that has been tagging and tracking sharks around the world for several years, has teamed with Costa del Mar sunglasses to host a contest with the grand prize of accompanying Ocearch scientists on a shark tagging trip and getting to name the shark tagged on the trip.  The winner will fly to New York and then join the Ocearch crew off the northeastern U.S. Coast.  This sounds very interesting to me and I have already entered.  If it intrigues you also, the details and entry form are on their website at www.ocearch.org.     

Fisheries Meetings
 August 1-3:  ASMFC 2017 Summer Meeting, The Westin Alexandria, Alexandria, VA., www.asmfc.org.     

August 8-10:  Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Philadelphia Courtyard Marriott, Philadelphia, PA, www.mafmc.org.    

August 16-17:  NC Marine Fisheries Commission, Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone-University Hotel, Raleigh, www.ncdmf.net.           

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 25:  Take a Kid Fishing, Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Swansboro, www.takf.com.   

July 26-29:  Carolina Boatbuilder's Tournament, Pirate’s Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.   

July 27-29:  Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish" Tournament, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.ncdubillfish.com.   

July 28-30:  Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.raleighkmt.com.

July 29:  TJM Kayak Fishing Tournament, Hook, Line & Paddle, Wilmington, www.hooklineandpaddle.com.

August 2:  North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Monthly Meeting, Great Outdoor Provision Company, Wilmington, www.nckfa.com.

August 5-6:  S.H.A.R.E. King Mackerel Tournament, Dockside Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.sharenc.org.  

August 11:  USSA Children's Fishing Day, Southport Marina, Southport, www.childswish.com.  

August 12:  Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  

August 12:  Hook And Bones Redfish Open/Pogies Redfish Series Tournament 4, Old Towne Square, Swansboro, https://swansboro.recdesk.com www.pogiesfishing.com.   

August 12:  CCA Youth Fishing Tournament, with the Hook and Bones Redfish Open/Pogies Redfish Series tournament, Old Towne Square, Swansboro, www.ccafishingforthefuture.com.  

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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