The little front that rolled in on us last weekend dropped the temperatures a few degrees, but did more to cool us during the week by bringing some dry air and reducing the humidity. It's been nice for a few days, but is forecast to be gone by the weekend. While I don't handle the temperature nearly as well as I used to, high humidity seems to almost choke me and really sap my endurance--and with the fish biting like they are, that isn't a good thing.
Early last weekend was rather gusty and made ocean fishing difficult, but the wind laid out overnight Saturday to make Sunday a really nice day. It seemed like the nice weather caught a lot of people off guard as the parking lots at area ramps weren't very full. Those of us who realized it early and took advantage of the change from the forecast were pretty pleased and the fish bit too.
This weekend looks to have pretty good weather for those who are planning to fish. The winds are forecast to be southerly and less than 15 knots all along the coast. In fact many areas will begin near calm and only add some breeze as the day warms and the sea breeze picks up.
The pier fishing, especially for kings and other fish caught from the ends, has been very good this year and it continues. It took them a while to get going, but once it began there have been kings caught every week from the coastal piers and this was no exception. A small jack crevalle was also caught this week, but it wasn't one of the big battlers that test fishermen and equipment. Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island has already tallied more than 100 kings for the year and several others also have good catch numbers.
Bottom fishing and plugging from the piers has been pretty good too. This past week pompano and spots were the primary bottom catches, but there were also some flounder, drum and trout. Several fishermen said they thought the bottom bite was better from late afternoon into the evenings. The pluggers also caught some really nice Spanish macks and said the early morning was usually best for them.
Speaking of Spanish mackerel, there has been a good bite of larger Spanish around AR 315 at Atlantic Beach. Fish to 3 or 4 pounds are being caught by fishermen trolling Clarkspoons and other lures, while fishermen slow-trolling or light lining live finger mullet and small menhaden have been catching them up to 7 pounds. That's a heck of a fight on light spinning tackle.
All along the N.C. coast kings have moved in to just off the beach and are joined by lots of dolphin as you move offshore. A good scattering of sailfish are also mixed in and surprising unsuspecting fishermen. Most are being caught on live baits intended for the kings. Just about any rock or reef from just off the beach on out could be holding kings. Some dolphin and sails have been caught within sight of the beaches and they get better as your move off a little.
If you just want to play tug of war with a fish, there are plenty of amberjack up to the challenge. The amberjack begin at about 50 feet of water and there seems to be at least one or two holding around most rocks, wrecks and reefs along the coast. They are a good way to stretch your string and test your endurance.
On the inshore side of things, puppy drum, specks and flounder are keeping many fishermen happy. The pups are marauding through most marshes, creeks and just inside the inlets. Other than being lucky, the key to success is spending some time and learning where they are at which stage of the tide. Once you locate them, it is rare to have pups that haven't been spooked refuse to eat.
I received several good reports on flounder this week and one common denominator was some big flounder in the State Port at Morehead City and in Snows Cut at Carolina Beach. The nearshore artificial reefs were also mentioned as good places to catch lots of flounder.
Specks are in many of the same areas, but just a few feet away in deeper water. Good water for specks doesn't have to be real deep. Some of the best advice I ever received for catching specks was that a good trout hole didn't have to be deep, just a little deeper than the water around it. This could be along the edges of channels, in scoured out areas around oyster rocks and drop-offs or holes along a bank. Channels through marshes near an inlet are usually really good places to try as the changing tide brings a new food supply every six hours.
Capt. George Beckwith said they were seeing and jumping some tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the Lower Neuse River. I was hoping to fish with him yesterday, but the fishing gremlins waylaid our plans. I fished at Southport with Captains Chad Casteen and Tommy Rickman on Sunday night and, while we didn't jump one, we all saw one tarpon in out chum line. The moon is on a dark phase right now and with lots of fishermen in the area for the Oriental tarpon tournament this weekend, I should have a good tarpon report next week.
There are also some big drum moving into Pamlico Sound and they should become more active in the next two weeks as the moon begins brightening again.
This week I spoke with a fair number of fishermen headed to Pamlico Sound after tarpon and old drum who weren't aware there were new regulations in place for this area and those fisheries. The new regulations became effective on July 1 and 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 requirements are 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.
There is still time to comment on Amendment 15B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters. The public comment period extends until August 3 and all comments are welcome. 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. Comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov until 5:00 P.M. on August 3, 2009.
Amendment 16 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters becomes effective next Wednesday, July 29. Amendment 16 includes closures on grouper and beeliners, reduced bag limits, a commercial quota for gag grouper and dehooker requirements and is important information for all offshore bottom fishermen. For more details, visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) will have their first-ever public meeting on Friday night (July 24) at Kings Barbeque in Kinston. Everyone is invited and the only charge will be for dinner if you choose to eat. The CFRG is a grass-roots organization whose focus is on saltwater fisheries and the changes needed to preserve them. There is no membership fee and interested persons will find more information and a link to register at the group's blogspot at www.cfrgnc.blogspot.com.
During early August, the MFC Advisory Committees will hold meetings across the state on possible changes in the flounder fishery. The public and their input is welcome at these meetings. A complete list of the times and places for these meetings has been posted at the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament was held July 16 to 18 in Beaufort. This was the fifth of seven tournaments in the 2009 NC Governor's Cup Billfish Series. The Barbara B crew released seven of the 49 billfish caught and released during the tournament to claim first place overall. There was a three way tie for second place with six releases, which was broken by a time-based tie-breaker. Second place went to the Stream Weaver, Builders Choice finished third and Caroline finished fourth.
Dalton Meyer, Jr., who fished on the Penta Gone with his grandfather Mike Meyer, released 4 billfish on Saturday to take the top spot in the Jr. Angler Billfish Division. Austin Lord, who fished aboard Maggie was the second place Jr. Angler with 3 releases.
Maggie also took home top honors in the Dolphin Category when Ran Johnston caught a 22.76lb dolphin. The Tuna Division was won by Nicolas Grisson who fished on the Sensation and caught a 9.6 pounder. The Wahoo division was won by Will VanSciver aboard the Run Off with a 23.56lb wahoo. VanSciver also won the Grand Slam Aggregate Weight category. The King Mackerel Division winner was Summer Garner on the Piracy with a 10.7lb fish.
Sailfish were the main catch in the tournament, which bodes well for next weekend's Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament. Of the 49 billfish released during the tournament, 41 were sailfish, with 6 white marlin and 2 blue marlin.
There are several tournaments along the N.C. coast this weekend. The closest is the Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament that was originally scheduled for July 18, in Atlantic Beach. It was rescheduled for this Saturday, July 25, because of the breezy winds last Saturday. Final Registration and the Captains Meeting will be held Friday afternoon and evening under a tent behind the Tackle Box on the Circle at Atlantic Beach. For more information call 252-342-6100.
The Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament is this weekend in Oriental. There have been some tarpon in Pamlico Sound for a couple of weeks and the moon is in a dark phase, so this tournament has a lot of potential. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org or call 252-249-0499.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament is being held at Wrightsville Beach this weekend. There have been good numbers of sailfish caught recently and this has a lot of promise to be a really good event. For more information, call 910-540-2624. There is also a link to the tournament information and a registration form at www.gottaflyguideservice.com.
The Dare County Boat Builders will also host their annual Challenge event from Pirate's Cove in Manteo. While a lot of fish are usually caught, this is an opportunity to see some of the latest custom boats from the Outer Banks boat builders. For more information visit www.pcbiggame.com or call 252-473-1015.
The Oak Island Parks & Recreation and Ocean Crest Pier will host the Oak Island Open Youth Tournament on Saturday, August 1, from 7:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. at Ocean Crest Pier. There will be four categories and five age group divisions. The categories include: Category 1 - pinfish, croaker, spot; Category 2 - whiting, pompano; Category 3 - bluefish, spadefish; Category 4 - trout, flounder, sheephead, drum. The age groups will be: Under 5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-18. Participants can fish anytime between 7:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., but they must be registered before 9:00 A.M. Saturday morning. The event includes free hotdogs, lots of prizes, and loads of fun! For information on how to register call 910-278-4747 or 910-278-5518.
Some of you may remember the Mity Might Tournament from last year. It was so much fun Capt. Jimmy Price is bringing it back again, but with a few changes to make it even more fun. The biggest change is this year's event will be for pinfish only. The tournament will be held Saturday, August 1, from 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. For more information, call 910-443-1211, 910-457-9903 or visit www.captainjimmyprice.com.