Our weather continues to be extremely hot, with heat warning almost every day. However, somehow in spite of the heat, the fishing is generally improving. Please be careful as you venture out. Drink plenty of water, take breaks, and wear UV protective clothing with copious amounts of sunscreen.

It's been a while since there was a tropical system in the weather forecast, but we knew the storms for 2016 hadn't ended. There are a pair of disturbances in the Atlantic well across the ocean near Africa that are drawing enough attention to be labeled as Disturbance 1 and 2 early Friday morning. They are a long ways away and not an imminent threat, but there is some concern that at least one of them may strengthen into a named storm. Maybe we'll know more about them by next week. Meanwhile you can check them out at the National Hurricane Center website at www.nhc.noaa.gov.

One of my friends had an experience last weekend that he will never forget and now he knows why I warn about summer storms so much. He was catching fish and not paying attention and let a nasty storm cloud build between him and the ramp where he launched. He got tossed around a lot, but thankfully he didn't sink or get hit by lightning.

However, he said that at one time the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and it got cold really quick. This is something many lightning strike survivors report, just before being hit. He got lucky! Don't be foolish; avoid storms whenever possible and seek shelter immediately if caught by one.

The fish didn't bite everywhere or all the time this week, but it was still a pretty good week of fishing. I'll mention tarpon first as I mentioned them last week. There were a few more tarpon encounters from the fishing piers all along the N.C. Coast and the reports of them in the Pamlico Sound and lower Neuse River began to come right after I posted last week's report.

Last week I also mentioned the late summer wahoo bite had started in waters closer to shore and several king mackerel fishermen had caught them, including some large ones. That continued through the week and there have been a dozen or so citation wahoo weighed at tackle shops across the entire Tar Heel Coast.

Sailfish have dominated the last few billfish tournaments to the point I'm a little surprised there haven't been more reports of sailfish being caught by king mackerel fishermen. The water is warm and there is plenty of bait to bring them closer inshore. The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament is the only sailfish tournament in N.C. and it has borders that keep fishermen inshore of the Gulf Stream. It is this weekend from Wrightsville Beach and I expect to hear of numerous sailfish releases during it.

Moving farther offshore - actually much farther offshore - there have been 8 to 10 swordfish caught by rod and reel during the past couple of weeks. They have been from offshore of the Big Rock to offshore of the Steeples and Winyah Scarp. This isn't enough fish to say this is an excellent fishery, but it certainly verifies these gladiators of the open ocean are there. Even better - while the general thinking is that swordfishing is a nighttime game, these have been caught during the daytime.

I don't have the order of all the catches, but I believe Jacky DuFour on the Merry Marlin caught the first several off Cape Lookout and then fishermen along the southern part of the state joined in. DuFour has caught several, with his largest being 300 pounds plus. The largest reported so far is a 409 pound beast caught by Daniel Simmons and crew on the Reel McCoy off Cape Fear.

These fish are well offshore in 1,200 to 1,800 feet of water. This may be as much as 80 to 100 miles from the closest inlet. This is not a trip to be taken on a whim. The rewards are excellent, with lots of fresh swordfish steaks and the ultimate of bragging rights, but making a trip that far offshore also carries substantial risks.

Working back closer to the beach, offshore bottom fishing has been excellent with good catches of grouper, snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgys and more. There are some hog snapper and African pompano in the catches offshore of Cape Fear. The fish are biting bait fished on the bottom and are also responding to jigs.

King mackerel have been biting well in the 10 to 30 mile range. Most have been summer school kings of 8 to 15 pounds, but there have been some large ones too. N.C. offers a citation for kings heavier than 30 pounds and most people consider a king of 30 or more pounds a smoker. There are heavier kings around, but we don't usually see them in midsummer. In the tournament held last weekend from Beaufort, a 40 pounder was the winner and there were several 30 pounders brought to the scales.

The largest N.C. king of the year so far was caught last Saturday off Cape Fear and weighed at Ocean Isle Fishing Center. Katherine McClure landed a 66.0 pound king while fishing with Cory Swink on the Hawg Hunter. The big king hit a dead ballyhoo being trolled in 80 feet of water. Congratulations Katherine, nice catch!

Spanish mackerel have been biting pretty well, but not all the time. It seems fishermen do better along the beaches when the tide is rising and along the tide lines around the inlets when the tide is falling. They are hitting trolled lures like Clarkspoons and such, cast jigs like Got-Chas and small live mullet minnows and pogies under a float while anchored.

Speaking of being anchored in nearshore ocean waters, flounder are biting well on the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks. They like live baits and bucktails with trailers. I haven't heard of many citations, but there have been lots of 2 to 4 pounders caught.

Fishing inside the inlets has basically been good, but just isn't consistent. Puppy drum fishing has been slowly improving for several weeks from the Pamlico Sound to the S.C. state line. There has been a mixture that includes all sizes from very short to overslot, but not many have been upper slot fish. Some fishermen are using live and cut bait to help attract the drum and it works most of the time. Puppy drum have the best noses in the marsh. Red drum are also hitting artificials.

The inside flounder bite isn't as good as on the nearshore ocean reefs, but fishermen with time to try a few spots can usually find a few for dinner. Most fishermen consider live baits the best baits for flounder, but I have found when they're spread about, I often catch as many using soft plastics. Soft plastics can be cast and retrieved and used to cover more water than live baits.

This point of using soft plastics for flounder was driven home by accident last Saturday during the Carolina Redfish Series tournament in Atlantic Beach. Kellee Cronk of Swansboro was fishing the tournament with her husband, Capt. Jeff Cronk, when she caught a 6.90 pound flounder on the Berkley Gulp Shrimp she was casting for reds. Good Catch Kellee!

Even in the heat, the speckled trout fired off several days last week. I didn't see or hear of any really large trout, but saw a good number of 15 to 20 inch specks and a few up to almost 5 pounds. Specks will rarely refuse a live shrimp suspended under a float. There is something about its struggle that almost compels them to bite. When live shrimp aren't available, try some of the new jointed and fluttering soft plastic shrimp. Some of them look very real. A little shot of Pro-Cure Scent Gel helps them smell very real too.

Pier fishing in the heat has had its ups and downs. Probably the most consistent pier catch has been Spanish mackerel. Larger Spanish will occasionally hit the big pier end baits set for kings and tarpon, but they primarily like shiny lures that are retrieved quickly. One of the long time favorites is Got-Cha lures and be sure to get the ones with the gold hooks. It makes a big difference. As mentioned earlier, there have also been some tarpon caught and released - and released unintentionally - from the piers. Other pier catches include flounder, drum, pompano, sea mullet, and bluefish.

Sheepshead fishing has been getting better and was good this week. There are sheepshead along the entire coast, but the Morehead City area has been a hotspot. Vertical structure with a little current is the key for sheepshead and the docks, bridge pilings, and bulkheads in the area are all good spots.

Old drum are showing in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. The action has been improving for several weeks and could go red hot at any time. During the daytime, the big drum will usually hit larger soft plastics jigged under popping corks and will be in surprisingly shallow water. Once the sun starts lowering in the sky, they usually move to 6 to 10 feet of water around the shoals and islands and are better caught using chunks of cut bait.

Fishermen should be aware there are special regulations in effect for fishing this area from the first of July to the end of September. The regulations require a special rig, with circle hook and barb removed or crimped down for hooks larger than 4/0 when using bait between 7:00 P.M., through the night until 7:00 A.M. Check the regulations and see a diagram of the rig at the "Red Drum Circle Hook" link at www.ncdmf.net.

Warning from NC Marine Patrol: Lots of Undersize King Mackerel Being Caught
The number of reports of undersize king mackerel went ballistic this week. One fisherman said the Marine Patrol Officer who checked him had already confiscated a cooler full of short kings. Please take heed. There are many undersize king mackerel feeding with schools of Spanish mackerel and it is an expensive ticket to have one and a very expensive ticket to have more than 3. Small kings and large Spanish look very similar at first look, but have one easily noticeable difference and significantly different regulations.

The most reliable way to tell the difference is checking for a black spot on the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin. Spanish mackerel have the black spot while king mackerel dorsals are all gray. This is what the Marine Patrol officer will check to determine the species.

Fishermen may keep 15 Spanish mackerel per person per day with a minimum size of 12 inches fork length (tip of nose to the fork in the tail). Fishermen may only keep 3 king mackerel and the minimum size is 24 inches, also fork length. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net and open the fishing regulations tab.

State Record Pigfish Certified and IGFA World Record Pending
Jason Edwards of Rocky Mount was fishing on the Capt. Stacy IV on May 23 when he caught a 2 pound and 12 ounce pigfish that was certified as the new N.C. state record on July 15. Edwards was fishing cut squid on the bottom when the fish hit. They were approximately 30 miles southeast of Cape lookout. He was fishing a Penn 66 reel spooled with 80 pound line.

Edwards was unaware the fish might be a record , but admitted he probably should have taken more notice when the crewmembers on the Capt. Stacy IV kept mentioning they had never seen a pigfish that large. However, the fish were biting and he was more interested in catching them.

The staff at the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach insisted on weighing and measuring the fish for a citation and discovered it wasn't in the N.C. Citation Program. That's when Edwards' wife suggested checking the state record and they realized his fish was a half pound heavier than the current record.

The next morning Edwards called the Marine Fisheries Office and carried in his form and the only picture taken of the fish. It was a picture of him with all his fish, but luckily the big pigfish was front and center and easy to identify. The information and species were verified by Division of Marine Fisheries Staff and sent to the N.C. Saltwater Tournament Committee for approval, which they did in mid July. The record Edwards' fish displaced weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces and was caught by Walter M. Campbell in 1991. Edwards pigfish was 15.5 inches long and 14 inches in girth.

Upon returning home after meeting with the Division of Marine Fisheries staff, Edward's son suggested that since everyone was so surprised at the size of the fish, perhaps they should check world records too. At first glance, there was a heavier pigfish in the world records, but it was another species of pigfish. Edwards completed the IGFA World Record Application and is waiting to hear from them.

Take a Kid Fishing
Unfortunately I did not find out about the 2016 Take a Kid Fishing Program until after posting last week and it was scheduled for July 26, which is prior to this week's posting. Take a Kid Fishing is a Carteret County program that takes disadvantaged kids fishing once each year. The day includes a large cookout in the afternoon for everyone from the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City and the Swansboro Rotary Civic Center in Swansboro. There are choices for fishing offshore, inshore, from an ocean pier, from an inshore pier and even tours for those who might not want to fish.

This year, ocean fishing was provided by the Capt. Stacy and Carolina Princess headboats in Morehead City and the Nancy Lee III headboat in Swansboro. The Crystal Coast Lady in Morehead City provided inshore fishing. Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle welcomed the kids for ocean pier fishing and the Old Beaufort Seaport Pier hosted them for inshore fishing. The N.C. Aquarium, Pirate Cruises and Maritime Museum offered tours for those fishing on the piers or not fishing. Several hundred kids from across N.C. participated in the event. For more information visit www.takf.org.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and also offers programs at 4-H camps and such through the Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) Program. 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.

These centers offer extensive programs and events. For more information on all the centers and the BOW program, 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 is no charge for programs at the education centers unless there are expendable materials included and then the fee is only to supply the materials.

Black Sea Bass Limit to Increase to 7 Fish
The final rule for Regulatory Amendment 25 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region published in the Federal Register on July 13. One of the provisions of Regulatory Amendment 25 is long awaited good news. The personal limit of black sea bass will increase from five to seven fish per day effective at 12:01 A.M. on August 12, 2016. For more information visit www.safmc.net.

Blueline Tilefish Allowable Catch Increases
The final rule for Regulatory Amendment 25 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region published on July 13. One of the provisions of Regulatory Amendment 25 will increase the annual catch limits and change several regulations for blueline tilefish.

The following regulations for blueline tilefish became effective on July 13, 2016:
* Increase the annual catch limits for blueline tilefish from 26,766 to 87,521 pounds whole weight (commercial sector) and 26,691 to 87,277 pounds whole weight (recreational sector).
* Reopen commercial harvest for blueline tilefish on July 13, 2016. Commercial harvest will close in 2016 if the commercial annual catch limit is met.
* Increase the commercial trip limit from 100 to 300 pounds gutted weight.
* Increase the recreational bag limit from one fish per vessel to three fish per person per day for the months of May through August within the aggregate bag limit.
* There will continue to be no recreational retention of blueline tilefish during the months of January through April and September through December, each year.
*The increases in the commercial trip limit and the recreational bag limit are in response to the increase in the annual catch limit.
For more information visit www.safmc.net.

NOAA Fisheries Lists Nassau Grouper as "Threatened" Under ESA
NOAA Fisheries has listed Nassau grouper as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to a decline in its population. It was determined the species needs more conservation efforts given its population has not yet recovered. A final rule was published in the Federal Register on June 29, 2016 (81 FR 42268) and will become effective on July 29, 2016.

This listing does not change current fishing regulations in the U.S. (including federal waters in U.S. Caribbean territories), as harvest of this species is already prohibited in state, territorial, and federal waters. Commercial and recreational fishing for this species was first prohibited in U.S. federal waters in 1990 when it was listed as a Species of Concern. Because Nassau grouper is a slow growing, late maturing fish, the population has yet to recover despite conservation efforts. In addition, Nassau grouper is still harvested in several Caribbean countries and fishing pressure on the remaining spawning groups continues to threaten the species. For more information visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.

SAFMC Solicits Public Input on Cobia
Federal fishery managers are currently soliciting public input on proposed measures that may affect fishermen fishing in federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore) along the Atlantic coast. A series of public hearings and scoping meetings are scheduled for August from Virginia Beach to Key West, plus online webinars. Written comments are also being accepted until August 19, 2016. The SAFMC will also consider public comment during its September 12-16, 2016 meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Regulation changes are proposed for Atlantic cobia, a species commonly targeted by recreational fishermen as it migrates northward in the late spring and early summer. The Atlantic cobia stock is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council from Georgia to New York in federal waters. The recreational fishery for Atlantic cobia was closed in federal waters on June 20, 2016 as recreational landings in 2015 exceeded the annual catch limit and accountability measures currently in place were implemented. Management measures are being considered to lengthen the recreational season beginning in 2017 and help ensure consistent and stable fishing opportunities.

Measures proposed for Atlantic cobia (NY to GA) in federal waters include reducing the bag limit from 2 fish to 1 fish per person/day, establishing a vessel limit with the preferred alternative being 3 fish per vessel/day, and increasing the current minimum size limit from 33 inches to a preferred alternative of 36 inches (fork length). The amendment also includes alternatives to modify the current accountability measures for Atlantic cobia and a step down approach to reduce the allowable commercial harvest currently set at 2 fish per day. It is the intent of SAFMC to have the new regulations in place in time for the 2017 fishing season. Measures to modify the fishing year for Atlantic cobia cannot be addressed through a “framework” amendment and will be considered in a future amendment.

SAFMC will hold a series of local public hearings, along with public hearings and scoping via webinars. During the public hearing and scoping webinars, SAFMC staff will give a presentation and then hold an informal Q&A session prior to accepting formal public comment. Registration is required for the webinars. Information is available from the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the website.

Written comments will be accepted after the meetings and webinars. SAFMC requests that written comments be submitted using the online public comment form for each amendment available from the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page at www.safmc.net. Comments submitted using the online form are immediately posted to the Council’s website and available for all Council members and the public to view.

Written comments may also be submitted via mail and fax. Mail comments to Gregg Waugh, Executive Director, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. FAX comments to 843/769-4529. Comments Must be received by 5:00 p.m., August 19, 2016 to be included in the Public Input Overview under the appropriate committee for the September 2016 SAFMC meeting briefing book and included in the administrative record.

SAFMC Public Hearings for Atlantic Cobia (Coastal Migratory Pelagics Framework Amendment 4) will begin at 6:00 P.M. in the following locations:
* Monday, August 1: Q&A and Public Hearing via Webinar, Register at www.safmc.net;
* Wednesday, August 3; Crowne Plaza Hotel, North Charleston, SC 29418;
* Monday, August 8: Holton Restaurant, Midway, GA 31320;
* Tuesday, August 9: Hilton Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach, VA 23451;
* Tuesday, August 9: Hampton Inn, Bluffton, SC 29909;
* Wednesday, August 10: NC Div. of Marine Fisheries, Central District Office, Morehead City, NC 28557;
* Thursday, August 11: Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949;
* Thursday, August 11: Murrells Inlet Community Center, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576.
For more information visit www.safmc.net.

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Public Comments for Hogfish
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Amendment 37). NOAA Fisheries is proposing to manage hogfish in the South Atlantic as two populations: Georgia through North Carolina and Florida Keys/East Florida. A population assessment determined that the Florida Keys/East Florida population is undergoing overfishing and is overfished and, therefore, in need of a rebuilding plan. The overfishing and overfished status of the Georgia/North Carolina population is unknown.

The draft environmental impact statement for Amendment 37 analyzes a range of alternatives for actions, which include:

Modifying the management unit for hogfish.
•Establishing a rebuilding plan for the Florida Keys/East Florida population to increase hogfish biomass to sustainable levels.
•Specifying commercial and recreational annual catch limits and accountability measures for the Georgia/North Carolina and Florida Keys/East Florida populations of hogfish.
•Modifying or establishing fishing regulations for both populations of hogfish, including minimum size limits, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, and a recreational fishing season.

For more information, please see the frequently asked questions section at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/am37/index.html. The comment period ends on August 1, 2016. Electronic copies of the draft amendment and environmental impact statement may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/am37/index.html or the e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068.

The document is identified as NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068 and comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal by going to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068 and clicking on the "Comment Now" icon. Comments may also be mailed to: Nikhil Mehta - NMFS Southeast Regional Office - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Fisheries Meetings
August 2 to 4: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, The Westin Alexandria, Alexandria, VA, www.asmfc.org.

August 8 to 11: Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Virginia Beach, VA. www.mafmc.org.

August 17 to 19: Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Business Meeting, Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone - University, Raleigh, www.ncdmf.net, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

September 12-16: South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Marina Inn at Grand Dunes, Myrtle Beach, SC, www.safmc.net.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 1 to September 30: Sheepshead Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.

July 1 to October 15: Flounder Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.

July 1 to October 31: Spanish Mackerel Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.

July 27-30: Carolina Boatbuilder's Tournament, Pirate’s Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.

July 28-30: Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish” Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.bandthebillfish.com.

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

July 29-30: Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament, Bridgetender Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.facebook.com/CEHSailfishTournament/?fref=nf.

July 30: TJM Charity Kayak and SUP Fishing Tournament, Hook Line and Paddle/Grace United Methodist Church, Wilmington, www.hooklinepaddle.com.

August 6: Southport Inshore Challenge, Southport Marina, Southport, www.fishermanspost.com.

August 13: Carolina Redfish Series Tournament 3, Hook and Bones Open, Saltwater Grill, Swansboro, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.

August 13: CCA-NC / Hook and Bones Fishing for the Future Youth Tournament, Saltwater Grill, Swansboro, www.ccanc.com.

August 14: Alice Kelly Ladies Only Memorial Billfish Tournament, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.

August 15-19: Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.

August 20: Sheriff Ingram's Flatfish Roundup, Southport Marina, Southport, www.sheriffjohningram.com/flatfishroundup.

August 20: Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.sfkmt.com.

August 20 and 21: Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Tournament, Dockside Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.

August 27: Cape Lookout Shootout KMT Series, Tournament 2, Boat House, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.

Good fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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