When the wind came up last week, it obviously was intent on blowing for a while and has done just that. We had small craft warnings headed into the weekend and the gusts were approaching gale strength. It had subsided to the 15 to 20 knot range by the beginning of the week and to less than 10 knots by Wednesday.
The wind was breezing up a little on Thursday and there have been conflicting wind forecasts for the weekend. Itís been a while since we had a really calm weekend and that would be a pleasant change of pace. In the current long range forecast, Sunday looks pretty good and Monday even better. There is no time like this weekend to break the trend. The wind should be fishable Saturday too, but a little stronger. Keep a good lookout for storms like the one that rolled through Tuesday afternoon.
Weíre fortunate to have pretty good fishing in the creeks and other protected waters, but lots of folks are ready to head offshore again.
The few degrees cooler over during the middle of the week was nice, but the temps rushed back into the nineties again pretty quickly and included a heat advisory on Thursday. I saw one forecast that said 98 on Saturday. The humidity is well up there too and it makes it difficult to sustain a lot of outside activity.
When you are out in this hot humid weather, use lots of sunscreen and reapply it often. Staying hydrated is a must also. Good old water is excellent and sports drinks are next. Soft drinks and adult beverages actually help dehydrate you. Save them for after you return and are relaxing on the deck or patio.
As many storms as weíve has pass over in the past few weeks, this warning shouldnít be necessary, but keep an eye on the sky and monitor the weather or marine radio for sudden and severe thunderstorms. They are always a possibility in hot humid weather and should be avoided whenever possible!
Before I get into this weekís report, I would like to say a few words about a friend who left us way too early. Jeff Lee, formerly of Long Beach and Holden Beach passed away last Friday. Jeff moved to Long Beach in the sixties when his dad (Sanford Lee) accepted a teaching job at Southport High School. We were in Junior High School at the time and quickly became friends. He immediately developed a love of the ocean, first as a surfer and later as a fisherman.
Jeff was a builder at Holden Beach and a successful king mackerel tournament angler. He had a long list of satisfied clients and was well respected by fishermen from Virginia to Texas. One of his fishing teammates called and said that in lieu of flowers, the family was requesting donations be sent to the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association (www.lbara.com). Godspeed Jeff. I hope you stay tubed and hooked up.
With all the wind of the past week, it is a good thing the inshore fishing has been good. The big news is tarpon and old drum. Both have been seen and caught in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. In the river the best action on both has been from the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Ferry Crossing down to the Neuse River Entrance Marker. In the sound, the tarpon like deeper areas, like from the mouth of the river out to the point of Brant Island Shoal and over to Cedar Island and the drum feed on the slopes of channels and shoals coming up to shallow water.
The water has been warm enough ladyfish are being caught in the sounds and creeks. Ladyfish are sometimes considered as poor manís tarpon, but I consider them lots of fun in their own rite, especially on lighter tackle. They weigh from less than a pound to a huge one at four pounds and usually jump a few times while running wildly. They like live shrimp and act up big time when they take a shrimp intended for a trout.
Ladyfish donít have any value as food, except maybe as tarpon bait, but they have a huge fun factor. They are usually mixed lightly with trout during the daytime. Under the lights at the Harkers Island Bridge and at the ADM Dock at Southport are two excellent places to find them after sunset.
Flounder are the favorite inshore fish of many people and they have been biting well. Flounder are being caught from the creeks, to the sloughs and channels at the inlets and out to the nearshore hardbottoms and artificial reefs. Flounder will bite live baits and numerous lures. My favorite flounder lures have become weedless gold spoons and minnow shaped soft plastics rigged weedless, with inline spinners to add a little flash.
In the creeks and bays, flounder and puppy drum often feed in the same areas. It stands to reason that if they are feeding in the same areas, they are probably feeding on the same things. That holds true with my favorite flounder lures as I catch a lot of drum on them. Maybe they are my favorite drum lures and I catch a lot of flounder on them? Whatever it is, they work well for both species. Being weedless allows me to work them over oyster rocks and around a lot of structure without getting hung up and losing them.
A good number of summer trout are also being caught. Many of the trout are shorts and must be released, but are good signs for excellent fall trout fishing. Summer trout will hit soft plastics and lures, but generally only very early and late in the day. It often takes live baits to coax them to bite during the middle of the day. Live shrimp are a favorite of trout.
The pier action at Bogue Inlet Pier got a spike that began over last weekend when Dakota Marquez and Maurilio Marquez landed and released a pair of tarpon estimated at 90 pounds each. It was a good surprise, especially with the stirred up water. Then at mid week another tarpon hit Mike Houston's rig and then picked up Michael Ream's rig. They double teamed the fish and landed (and released) it pretty quickly. A little later, Governor Carter caught and released an estimated 75 pounder. It appears the tarpon are moving through while feeding on schools of menhaden.
Big Spanish mackerel have been biting for the pier fishermen too and bragging size fish are being caught almost daily. No significant weather changes are in store for a while, so this action could continue.
The pier bottomfish action has been pretty good too. The water cooled a few degrees and with that the fishing should really take off when the water clears. The catches include flounder, sea mullet, sheepshead, black drum, pompano, trout, red drum and more. Live shrimp or minnows are excellent baits for most fish and they will often hit pieces of shrimp, cut bait, bloodworms or bloodworm substitutes too.
Fishermen had been catching lots of Spanish mackerel before the wind started puffing. The Spanish were right out the inlets and along the beach. They moved offshore just a little to get away from the stirred up water, but moved back in when the winds laid out on Wednesday and the action began again. Hopefully the wind wonít pick up again and push them back off.
Expectations are to find king mackerel and dolphin over those hardbottom areas and wrecks where they were before the wind stepped up. There were kings from about 50 feet of water and out. Two places mentioned often were the Southeast Bottoms area off Swansboro and the Shark Hole off Southport. The best bite seemed to be in 60 to 65 feet of and there were some dolphin and an occasional sailfish mixed with them.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Classic will be held Friday and Saturday of this week at Wrightsville Beach and Iíll wager that if the weather calms there will be lots of sailfish stories to tell.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent when the wind and swell allow getting offshore to them. For several week fishermen were regularly catching limits of many of them and those fish should be really hungry after not being fed for a while. Please pay attention to postings of season closings and allocations being filled. I hope it will go a while longer, but Iím hearing a few rumblings that the black sea bass quota may be reached before too long and that season closed for the remainder of the year.
Last week I attended a meeting at the DENR Regional Field Office in Wilmington in regards to establishing three Oyster Sanctuary Artificial Reefs along the N.C. Coast. These reefs will be built using CRFL (Coastal Recreational Fishing License) funds. The reefs will be near Beaufort, Manteo and Southport.
This is an expansion of a program that began in 1996 and has been very successful in Pamlico Sound and adjacent areas. The oyster sanctuary artificial reefs do not allow harvesting shellfish or fishing gear that is destructive to the bottom, but other fishing is allowed. The corners of the existing reefs are buoyed and these will be also.
Pelle Holmlund, Oyster Sanctuary Biologist with the Division of Marine Fisheries, conducted the meeting, which was to present the idea to the public and receive public input. Holmlund explained that there were several criteria for the reefs and current reefs were meeting and exceeding expectations. The oyster reefs add to water quality as the oysters filter the water, they add to oyster production and they create fish habitat.
The reefs must be placed on suitable substrate to support their weight, but not on areas already producing shellfish. Current oyster reefs are on bottom prepared with limestone rock and there are large limestone rock mounds set 175 feet apart. Surveys have shown that in only a few years these mounds are capable of holding more than 500,000 live oysters. DMF biologists have also documented 55 species of fish living on the current reefs.
To be most effective, oyster reefs need to have some vertical relief, but another requirement is to maintain adequate depth above them so they are not navigational hazards.
Biologists have proposed using concrete structures, possibly reef balls, as the foundation for this oyster reef project. They are looking at a 10 acre site in each location and each site will contain 200 structures per acre. My math shows that at 2,000 reef balls (or similar structures). Reefs of this nature have the potential to grow millions of oysters and provide habitat for multiple species of fish. In addition the oysters filter the water and improve water quality.
This sounds like a win-win-win situation to me and everyone at the meeting agreed. Plans are to begin construction of the reefs in later 2013 or 2014. For more information on oyster reefs visit www.ncdmf.net and click on Information and Programs in the left border and then open the Shellfish and Crustaceans heading.
The restructuring of several of the Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees required by SB 821 was completed last week and meetings have been scheduled. The Northeast, Central, Inland and Southeast Advisory Committees have been condensed into Northern and Southern Advisory Committees and the Crustacean and Shellfish Committees were merged into the Crustacean/Shellfish Committee. I was appointed to the Southern regional Advisory Committee and look forward to our first meeting and working with the other committee members. A list of meetings in the next week is below:
* The Northern Regional Advisory Committee will meet July 31 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information call 252-264-3911 or 252-946-6481 or e-mail Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov or Katy.West@ncdenr.gov.
* The Southern Regional Advisory Committee will meet August 1 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Wilmington. For more information call 252-808-8077 or 910-796-7215 or e-mail Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov or Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov.
* The Crustacean/Shellfish Advisory Committee will meet August 2 at 6:00 P.M. at the DMF Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information call 252-808-8077 or 252-808-8046 or e-mail Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov or Craig.Hardy@ncdenr.gov. There will be a time for public comment at each meeting.
A handful of tournaments are on tap for this weekend and the Fishers of Men Inshore Trail Swan Quarter Showdown Tournament that was scheduled for Saturday, July 21 has been postponed until August 4 due to strong winds. It will be held from the Swan Quarter Wildlife Ramp. This tournament will feature speckled trout, flounder and red drum. For more information call 252-230-0359.
The Cape Fear Flounder Classic will be held July 28 from Southport Marina. This is a guaranteed purse flounder tournament presented by the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce. For more information visit www.southport-oakisland.com.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Classic will be held from the Bridgetender Marina in Wrightsville Beach on July 27 and 28. This is one of only two N.C. tournaments targeting sailfish. There are boundaries that are tailored to center console fishermen. For more information call 910-256-3636.
The Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament will be held July 28 from Jaycee Park on the Morehead City Waterfront. This is the first of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Tournament Trail Division 1. Other eligible species are amberjack and dolphin. For more information visit www.rswsc.org.
The Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament will be held from the Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City Waterfront on July 27 and 28. This is a billfish tournament that also includes an offshore gamefish category. It is the sixth tournament in the 2012 Governorís Cup Billfishing Series. For more information visit www.bandthebillfish.com.