Wow, our weathermen missed the forecast last weekend, didn't they? As late as Thursday evening they were giving us a pretty nice forecast with a maximum of 10-15 knot winds and scattered thunderstorms. Then, that group of thunderstorms off Florida and Georgia began circulating rather than moving in a line and we went from nice weekend to Tropical Storm Cristobal weekend.
What can I say? This is one of those coastal weather anomalies. While storm formations like this are not common, they can happen. This is just another in a long line of examples why you always make a final weather check before leaving on a fishing trip.
This weekend's weather looks good today (Friday) and Saturday, but has some potential to breeze up on Sunday and Monday. There is a better forecast for the far southern N.C. coast, so what exactly happens is dependent on just how far and fast the fronts move. The current forecast uses Surf City as the dividing line for Sunday, so if the front slows the good weather may hold for the entire coast on Sunday.
As your regular readers know, I have been posting weekly updates on the boat trailer legislation that passed the N.C. House and Senate last week. Yes, H 2167 was ratified by both legislative chambers last week and forwarded to Governor Easley. The votes were near unanimous too. The final vote in the Senate was 43-0 and in the House was 108-5.
Unfortunately, Governor Easley is still threatening to veto the bill! When the legislature is in session, the governor has 10 days to sign or reject a bill or it becomes law by default. The legislature adjourned last Friday and this extends the governor's decision time to 30 days.
The provisions of H 2167 allow boat/trailer combinations up to 120 inches (10 feet) wide to be towed without a permit on any day. Boat/trailer combinations up to 114 inches (9.5 feet) wide may also be towed at night. Boat/trailer combinations greater than 120 inches wide would require a permit and could only be towed during the day. The provisions of the bill are to allow for an additional foot of boat width to be towed at night, to allow towing of boats on Sundays and holidays and to not require an over width permit for boats less than 120 inches wide.
Currently, boats wider than 102 inches (8.5 feet) require an over width permit and may not be towed at night, on Sundays and from noon the day before a holiday until noon the day after the holiday. Using Labor Day as an example, folks with boat/trailer combinations wider than 102 inches, which includes some skiffs, pontoon boats and many smaller runabouts and fishing boats, would not be able to trailer their boats from dark Saturday evening until noon on Tuesday.
These restrictions have potential to seriously curtail weekend, and especially holiday weekend, plans during a time when the economy is extremely slow and areas that rely on boating tourism are already suffering. They will also affect boat sales in a state with numerous boat builders.
The current regulations have been in effect for approximately 30 years, but were considered to be for commercial motor carriers and not applied to recreational boats until fall of 2007. During that time, boats wider than 102 inches were towed regularly and with an exceptional safety record. Several adjoining states have similar motor carrier laws, but exempt recreational boats. Several states have also addressed the issue and created specific standards for recreational boats.
Even though all the votes were near unanimous and showed tremendous bipartisan support for this legislation, there is significant concern in both houses the governor will veto it. Our Senators and Representatives are recommending all boaters contact the Governor's Office and voice their support (or disapproval) of H 2167.
The Governor's office may be contacted at the following:
An article dedicated just to this bill, which lists several southeastern states that allow boats wider than 102 inches to be towed without permits and at night, may be seen at www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
2008 has been a good year for billfish and the bite is picking up again. Marlin are in the deeper blue water, while sailfish have been following bait inshore and encounters with them are increasing almost daily.
Dolphin are a primary offshore fish during the summer and there are good numbers in many areas. The numbers of big bulls has dropped as the water warmed, but lots of shingles and bailers are around. The smaller dolphin often move closer inshore as they are feeding and following baitfish schools. While the stretch of water from 14 Buoy to the 90 Foot Drop is a pretty reliable area for dolphin they are caught closer in every day. Most of the favorite king mackerel rocks will hold a few dolphin.
Our offshore bottom fishing remains pretty good. Grouper and snapper are the offshore bottom fish most fishermen like to brag about, but they aren't the only ones being caught. Most of the others taste good too. Black sea bass, beeliners, porgys, triggerfish, a variety of grunts and an occasional hog snapper are some of the other offshore bottom fish. Occasionally a school of dolphin crash the party while anchored and pandemonium breaks out. Kings and more also hit light lines drifted behind the boat.
King mackerel fishing has been good at times, but in the heat it tends to be somewhat hit or miss. During the CCSA tournament over the weekend there were some kings caught on the east side of Cape Lookout Shoals, in the Beaufort Inlet Channel, in the Dead Tree Hole and I also heard of several being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin. Three or four more were caught from Bogue Inlet Pier, the latest being Tuesday, so there are at least a few kings working the beaches. There are kings are around, they are just spread out and not concentrated. Several experienced fishermen said the well-known spots in 60-80 feet of water should be holding good numbers of small to medium kings.
In addition to the kings, the piers are having a slow but steady mixed catch of fish. A few tarpon are being sighted, but none caught. Spanish mackerel are another good pier catch, but you need to be an early bird and high tide is usually best. Flounder are crossing the railings at piers also, but many are going back across because they are too short to keep. Remember that coastal flounder must be 15-1/2 inches to keep north of Browns Inlet (14 inches south of Browns Inlet and in the western waters of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds).
If you haven't realized the ocean fishing piers are disappearing all too quickly, take note because they are. The N.C. Aquarium is working with the state to keep or rebuild piers in the Nags Head, Emerald Isle and Carolina Beach areas, but otherwise pier owners and fishermen are on their own. In trying to help the town of Oak Island raise money to purchase Yaupon Pier, the North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpafonline.com) will host the Dog Days Surf Fishing Tournament on August 23. The tournament, which will be held at the farthest west beach access on Oak Island, will begin at 8:00 and run through 1:00. For a map and more information visit http://www.ncfps.com/Save_Yaupon_Pier.html or call 803-396-7867.
Tarpon and large drum are biting in Pamlico Sound off Cedar Island and in the lower Neuse River. The tarpon are biting in the early morning through mid-afternoon, while the drum seem to get hungry about mid-afternoon and bite into the evening.
The Navy is forging ahead with a plan to enlarge the perimeter of their bombing ranges at Brant Island Shoal (BT-9) and Rattan Bay (BT-11) and make all the expansion area off-limits to boats. This is some of the best fishing area in the sound and will seriously hamper both recreational and commercial fishing, plus affect navigation through the area. For more information on this action, see the story at www.northcarolinasportsman.com. Opposition of this action may only be forwarded by letter or fax. The address to contact is: Susan Admire--Naval Facilities Engineering Command--6506 Hampton Boulevard--Norfolk, VA 23508, or fax to (757) 322-4894.
Inshore fishing continues to be pretty good. Puppy drum are hitting topwater plugs with abandon and trout are jumping on live shrimp. The pups are spread from the surf to the backs of brackish creeks and working the edge of the marshgrass and under docks. Trout are in the deeper holes in many of the same areas. Flounder fishing is good too, with the amount of shorts in the catch varying from week to week. The flounder in the ocean generally tend to have a higher percentage of keepers, but some occasional big flounder are being caught around the Morehead City State Ports, in the drain at Cape Lookout, in Snows Cut and along the Southport waterfront.
Capt. Jeff Cronk has been doing well on sheepshead around the Swansboro bridges. They should also be holding on many other bridges along the coast. Fiddler crabs are good bait and the intuition to know when they are going to bite helps also.
The Sea Marie took the overall trophy for the 5th Annual Barta Boys & Girls Club Billfish Tournament. They caught a pair of sailfish. Ten year old Jr. Angler George Rose, who fished aboard the Yellow Fin with Capt. Jeff Garner, took home the winning trophy from the 5th Annual Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament. Rose released two sailfish; one on Friday morning and another one on Saturday morning.
Congratulations also to Capt. Mark Yokeley of Raleigh and the crew of the Materhead. They caught a 35.85 pound king mackerel to win the Carteret County Sportfishing Association King Mackerel Tournament on Saturday.
There is a little bit of everything happening this weekend on the tournament front. The second of three Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournaments will be held at Harkers Island. Friday is the Captains Meeting and Final Registration and Saturday is the fishing day. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com or call 252-342-3074.
The Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament will be held in Oriental this weekend. Fishing days are Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org or call 252-745-4422.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish tournament is being held at Wrightsville Beach. Call 910-256-6550 for more information. Also in Wrightsville Beach, with fishing on Saturday, is the Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament. Visit www.gwkmt.com or call 910-350-0952 for more information.