With the nice days and breaks in the wind, fishermen have headed offshore and they have been finding fish.  The weather is cooling a little too!  It isn't cold, but after high 90s and heat indexes in excess of 100, it's surely welcome.  Daytime highs are supposed to drop into the 80s and the chance of thunderstorms will lessen, but not go away. 

We've had some pretty nasty thunderstorms pop up quickly.  Four Corners at Atlantic Beach flooded Thursday afternoon.  It was barely passable and should have been a No Wake zone.  The threat for thunderstorms isn’t over, but should reduce a little with cooler temps.  We should always keep an eye to the sky when the summer atmosphere is so volatile with the hot temperature and high humidity.  Thunderstorms can be really nasty with microbursts, waterspouts and lightning and, as we have seen the past several weeks, they can pop up very quickly and at any time.

I've been saying tarpon should move into the Pamlico Sound, Neuse River and Cape Fear River for a couple of weeks and finally have some confirmed reports.  Capt. Mitchell Blake, John Logelfo and Clay Willis caught and released a tarpon to claim the win the Pamlico Invitational Tarpon Tournament on July 18 and Capt. Noah Lynk was in Southport filling in on the Southport - Fort Fisher Ferry and saw a tarpon sky several times while chasing bait in the ferry basin.  They're here, now get out and catch them! 

There are also growing reports of large red drum in the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound.  They are biting during the morning for fishermen using jigs and soft plastics under popping corks.  Once the sun begins to drop a little and shadows get long in the afternoons, the big reds move into the 6 to 10 foot depths and fishermen have better luck fishing chunks of mullet and menhaden on the bottom.  

Flounder fishing is pretty good along the entire N.C. coast.  There haven't been a bunch of citation flatfish caught, but there are a few and there are a lot of four and five pound flounder caught that are never weighed and mentioned.  Many of these fish are taken home and eaten with little fanfare except thanks to the cook. 

Flounder are biting inshore, in the inlets and at the nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom areas.  There have been nice 2 to 4 pound flounder caught in the ocean and this week some citation doormats joined them.  Many of the inshore flounder fishermen are soaking live mullet minnows and peanut menhaden on Carolina rigs, while fishermen on the reefs and hard bottoms are jigging bucktails with flounder strips or scented soft plastics.  Both techniques have been working well.

If you would like some excellent info on flounder fishing, pick up a copy of the August North Carolina Sportsman Magazine.  There is an article featuring Capt. Dale Collins fishing in the Swansboro area and an interview with North Carolina's resident flounder guru, Capt. Jimmy Price of Southport.  It's an opportunity to sharpen up on flatfish info and techniques.

King mackerel are beginning to bite well.  There weren't any 50 pounders caught in last weekend's tournaments, but there was one 40 and a bunch of 30 pounders.  Kings are being caught from the nearshore artificial reefs out to about 100 feet of water.  They will occasionally hit lures, but generally prefer meat.  Live menhaden, cigar minnows and bluefish are excellent baits and kings are also hitting frozen cigar minnows and small to medium ballyhoo.  Dolphin and a few sailfish are mixed with the kings, so don't be surprised.

The outstanding catch of the week was the 65 pound king mackerel C.J. Rice of Manteo caught from Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head Saturday afternoon.  The big king, which ate a 10 inch bluefish, was 61 inches long, with a 26.5 inch girth.  This is a record for that pier, but not for the state.  There aren't any official pier records, but many pier king anglers remember that Chris Hollins landed a 68 pounder from Avon Pier in 2004.  Still, catching a 65 pound king is quite a feat and is an exceptional pier catch.  Rice's king is number 2 from a pier and in the top 10 in N.C. for all king mackerel.  Congratulations!

Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent.  The offshore bottom catch is a mixture of grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts and porgeys.  Most bottom fish will hit pieces of squid and chunks of cut bait.  Many fishermen prefer live menhaden or pinfish for grouper.  The best spots were on live bottom areas, wrecks and ledges in 80 to about 115 feet of water.

With the lighter winds, more smaller boats have joined the larger charter boats offshore.  The catches have been up and down a little, but include dolphin and a few wahoo.  I also keep hearing of a few yellowfin tuna biting early in the day from Cape Lookout to the north and that makes it well worth getting up early to me.  For those seeking encounters of the billfish kind, I've noticed a fair number of release flags in pictures.  

Spanish are biting well close to the beaches.  Some days they don't care for the heat either and only want to bite early and late, so be prepared.  They are also getting very size specific about what they eat.  If you see Spanish jumping and feeding, but they aren't biting your lures, it is often because they are feeding on small baitfish and the lures are too big. 

Many times you can solve this problem by going to smaller lures.  Clarkspoon makes lures down to size 00, but Huntington Drone and Nungesser make 000 size spoons.  If you can't find the small spoons, try trolling small bucktails.  Many times the bucktails from speck rigs will catch Spanish when they ignore larger lures.

There are also some larger Spanish being caught using live baits.  A few have hit menhaden intended for kings, but most times they like smaller menhaden and mullet minnows.  If you go after the bigger Spanish using live baits, downsize your rigs.  Spanish have very good eyes and given a chance to look a bait over, just might pass a bait with heavy wire and big hooks.

Spanish mackerel are the hot species at many piers right now.  Pier fishermen caught a lot of citation and near citation Spanish this week.  Some have hit live baits and some have hit Got-Chas and other jigs.  Pier fishermen are also catching black drum, sea mullet, red drum, a few flounder and bluefish.  This week there was a tarpon released from Bogue Inlet Pier, kings caught at several piers and cobia caught at Jeanette's Pier.   

Other than for flounder, inshore fishing is really inconsistent.  It has improved some, but isn't excellent by any means.  There has been a slowly improving early morning topwater trout bite and it is really good some days.  Trout are hitting shrimp lures too, with the best results being with those under popping floats.  Shrimp are here and another popular way to catch trout is by fishing live shrimp suspended a foot or so off the bottom under floats.

Puppy drum continue to be scattered, but are willing biters when found.  There are occasionally drum in the creeks, but the water is warm and they are holding in many of the bays off the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal rivers.  They are following bait and are usually moving.  One of the most consistent places to find drum (and trout and flounder too) is in the mouths of creeks during the falling tides as bait washes out.        

Sheepshead are a bright spot with inshore fishing, but they can be difficult to catch once located.  Sheepshead like vertical structure, like bulkheads and pilings, and around the area bridges and train trestles.  Along the wall at the Morehead City State Port has been one of the most consistent places in the state for the past few weeks. 

Snowy Grouper Season to Reopen for 10 Days
The final rule for Regulatory Amendment 20 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region was published in the Federal Register on July 21 (80 FR 43033) and will become effective on August 20.  Regulatory Amendment 20 will increase the commercial and recreational annual catch limits for snowy grouper as a result of the latest population assessment. The annual catch limits will increase during 2015 to 2019, and remain at 2019 levels until a new population assessment takes place.

The recreational season for snowy grouper in the South Atlantic Region will reopen on August 20 at 12:01 A.M. and close on August 31 at 12:01 A.M.  The limit will be 23,647 pounds (gutted weight) or 4,152 fish.  The 2016 recreational season will open on May 1.  The limit is one fish per boat per day.  For more information visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries.

SAFMC Seeks Applicants for Federal Fishery Advisory Panels
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting applicants for open advisory panel seats.  Advisory panel members work at the grass roots level to provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans.  AP members are appointed by the SAFMC and serve for a three-year period, based on the frequency of meetings.  AP members generally meet no more than once or twice each year and are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings. 

The SAFMC has eleven advisory panels composed of individuals who are engaged in the harvest of managed species, or are knowledgeable and interested in the conservation and management of the fishery or managed species.  Panel members include recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.  Applications are now being solicited for the following panels:  Golden Crab Advisory Panel (4 Open Seats), Habitat Advisory Panel (1 FL Conservation Seat and 1 Conservation Seat), Mackerel Advisory Panel (3 Open Seats), Law Enforcement Advisory Panel (1 Open Seat), Deepwater Shrimp Advisory Panel (10 Open Seats), Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel (2 NC Open Seats, 1 FL Open Seat, 1 Media and 1 NGO Seat), SEDAR Advisory Panel (Pool* - Open Seats).  *Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.

Persons interested in serving as a member on the Council's advisory panels, should contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at  Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the Council office at 843/571-4366 or 866/SAFMC-10.  Application forms are available from the Council office and may also be downloaded from the Advisory Panel page of the Council's website at www.safmc.net.  Applications should be mailed to Kim Iverson, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405 or submitted via email at the address above. 

 Applications are due by July 31 and AP members will be selected during the Council's September 14-18, 2015 meeting in Hilton Head Island, SC.

SAFMC Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
During 2014 the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council held a series of stakeholder port meetings from N.C. through Florida.  The purpose of these meetings was to receive stakeholder ideas and concerns regarding what worked and didn't work for managing the snapper grouper fishery in the south Atlantic.  The SAFMC wanted to develop a "vision" for managing this fishery in the future.  Input received at these port meetings along with ideas from the Council members themselves were compiled to create a Draft Vision Blueprint for the snapper grouper fishery.

The Draft Blueprint for the South Atlantic Snapper/Grouper Fishery is now available at the SAFMC website (www.safmc.net) and fishery stakeholders are again being asked to provide Council with input during a series of webinars and comment station meetings running through July 30, 2015 and a public comment Period that extends through September 1.

The Draft Vision Blueprint consists of proposed objectives and actions under the four broad goals of: Science, Management, Communication and Governance.  The SAFMC would like to know which action items are supported or not supported and why.  They would also like any other ideas or possible solutions for managing the Snapper/Grouper Fishery.  The plan is that after the meetings and public comment period the actions will be separated into short-term and long-term action items. Short-term action items will then be prioritized and developed into an amendment to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2016.

The webinars were held earlier, but the Comment Station Meetings remain and the N.C. meetings are scheduled for next week.  Participation for the Comment Station Meetings can be via webinar or in person.  If participating by webinar, registration is required and available at the Visioning Project page on the SAFMC website.  The Comment Station Meetings begin at 6 P.M.  Three Comment Station meetings are scheduled for North Carolina in Wilmington on July 28, Morehead City on July 29 and Wanchese on July 30.

Written input and ideas will also be accepted via mail addressed to the Council's mailing address and through an online comment form that is available on the Council's website.  For more information contact Amber Von Harten, SAFMC Outreach Specialist at amber.vonharten@safmc.net or 843-571-4366.

Fisheries Meetings
July 28 to 30:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Comment Station Meetings, Snapper/Grouper Fishery Visioning Project, Wilmington - July 28, Morehead City - July 29, Wanchese - July 30, www.safmc.net

Aug. 4-6 - Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, The Westin Alexandria, Alexandria, VA, www.asmfc.org.  

August 10:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.  

 Aug. 11-13 - Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Meeting, Holiday Inn Midtown, New York, N.Y.  www.mamfc.org.

Aug. 19-21 - N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, Hilton Brownstone Raleigh, Raleigh, N.C., http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-meetings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 23 to 25:  Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish” Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.bandthebillfish.com

July 24 to 25:  CCCF Spanish Mackerel Challenge, The Boat House, Beaufort, 252-222-6222.

July 24 to 25:  Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.rswsc.org.  

July 24 and 25:  Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament, Bridgetender Marina, Wrightsville Beach, 910-256-6550.

July 25:  TJM Charity Kayak and SUP Fishing Tournament, Hook, Line and Paddle, Wilmington, www.hooklineandpaddle.com.      

July 28: Take a Kid Fishing, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, www.takf.org.

July 31 to August 2:  Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open, Motts Channel Seafood, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com

August 9:  Alice Kelly (Ladies Only) Memorial Billfish Tournament, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com

August 10 to 15:  Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com

August 15:  Rotary Club of Sneads Ferry King Mackerel Tournament, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.sneadsferrykmt.com

August 22:  Topsail Inshore Challenge, Sear's Landing, Surf City, www.fishermanspost.com

August 22:  Sheriff John Ingram Flatfish Roundup, Southport Marina, Southport, www.sheriffjohningram.com

August 22:  Introduction to Falconry Workshop, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission/N.C. Falconers Guild, Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education, Raleigh, www.ncwildlife.org 

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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