Wind. It hasn't been a good word this week and the early forecast appears to leave it in a negative light through the weekend. While the forecast doesn't have enough wind velocity to prevent fishing, it does have enough to make it uncomfortable, at least on smaller boats. I understand folks will go--heck, I used to go on a bunch of marginal days myself, but now I wait until the morning I wanted to go and check the actual weather. I'm hoping the weatherman is wrong and sometimes he is.
The early forecast has south to southwesterly winds, with 20 knots mentioned somewhere every day through Monday. Some days it starts lighter and builds and some days it starts strong and subsides. Fishing on big boats or in protected waters are the two ways to make it better. My budget says protected waters.
The pier fishing report slipped this week for the first time in quite a while. There have been a few bottom fish caught, but it has been slow and the kings and other pier end predators have been missing in action. The water is hot and the wind has it stirred up, especially along the south-facing beaches. Our water temperature has been in the 80s for so long I don't think the fish just realized it and moved. I believe the choppy seas have stirred up the bottom and the fish have moved out a little to keep the grit out of their gills. It has to be uncomfortable.
Some boats have been working the early morning and late evening calm periods to get into the ocean and they have been reporting a good Spanish mackerel bite around AR 315. They are reporting some nice-size fish also. Spanish up 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 enough at citation size (6 pounds) to make it interesting.
The stirred up water has pushed the kings off the beach a little, but not too far. There has been a fair scattering of kings in the teens and even a few into the high 20s at some of the places close to the beach. The Dead Tree Hole, AR 315 and AR 320 are a couple of spots around Morehead City and AR 425, AR 420 and Lighthouse Rocks are a couple around Southport.
Those boats that have run a little farther offshore are also catching dolphin. Some are closer occasionally, but a good guideline for the dolphin seems to be a minimum of 50 to 60 feet deep, with water that is at least clean green. If there is bait in that water, the odds are good there should be a few dolphin too. The afternoon storms and wind have slowed the nearshore sailfish catch too. It was pretty good through last Friday, but has fallen off since then. Once the wind falls out and we have a week or so of good weather, they should follow the baitfish right back in.
Last week I mentioned amberjack as a good fish to fight and I have been chastised several times. I stand by what I said. Amberjack are a hard fighting fish that gives their all until they are too tired to fight any more. They have turned many a macho dude's arms and legs to jelly and should be respected for this. Amberjack can often be found on most rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs from just off the beach on out.
Amberjack taste pretty good too. They often carry a tapeworm parasite and it is hard to look at while cleaning them, but discard the meat that has the parasite and eat the rest. It is a very mild flavored meat and can be compared to snapper. Amberjack is considered a delicacy on the west coast of Florida and along much of the Gulf of Mexico. Believe it or not, on many restaurant menus, it will be several dollars more expensive than grouper.
With this wind, it's a good thing the inshore bite has been pretty good. Puppy drum, specks and flounder are biting well enough to keep many fishermen smiling. Even in this heat, singles, small groups and schools of pups are biting in most marshes, creeks and just inside the inlets.
Flounder are in the sloughs and laying in the holes between the bars at most inlets, plus in the funnels into marsh areas and creeks and around the nearshore reefs. Another good flounder spot is along the bulkheads at the state port.
The specks are not the most fond of the heat, but can usually be coaxed to eat live shrimp. Any slightly deeper area or current break near the reds and flounder could possibly hold some specks. They have also chased topwater lures occasionally during the early morning and late evening hours.
There were some tarpon biting in Pamlico Sound up until the Oriental Rotary Tarpon tournament last weekend. Then, for some reason, that bite just shut down. The report from the tournament is a few paragraphs below. The good news is several of the tarpon experts from that area say they should be back and biting well at any time.
While the bite may not be as wide open as in some years, the big red drum are moving around Pamlico Sound and bending rods. While the full moon usually slows the tarpon bite, the nighttime drum fishery should be pretty good next week around the full moon.
This will be my last reminder that circle hooks are now required from 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. in Pamlico Sound on any rig using a hook larger than 4/0. In addition, all drum rigs are also required to have a stationary sinker of a minimum of two ounces within six inches of the hook. The specific regulations and boundaries are available on line at www.ncdmf.net.
Amendment 16 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters became effective on 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.
A group calling itself the Fishing Rights Alliance (FRA) has filed a suit in Federal District Court in Jacksonville Florida against the National Marine Fisheries Service and challenging Amendment 16. The action is based upon the premise that the Amendment is based upon what has been described as the "fatally flawed" Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) by the chairman of the National Research Council's review of MRFSS. Congress mandated this survey be revamped by January 2009 and this still has not occurred. As I hear more, I'll pass it on.
There are still a couple of days left 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 Monday, August 3, 2009.
There is a report that Florida Congressman John Mica will be presenting a bill requiring the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an updated red snapper fishery assessment and to prohibit any moratorium until after the Secretary submits to Congress a report demonstrating a need for such a ban. I haven't received a bill number yet, but this is a step in the right direction.
The MFC Central Regional Advisory Committee will hold a meeting on possible changes in the flounder fishery at 6:00 P.M. on August 12 at the DENR Washington Regional Office, 943 Washington Square Mall in Washington. The public and their input is welcome at these meetings. Similar meeting of other advisory committees will be held at other times and at different locations across the state. A complete list of Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings has been posted at the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) held a meeting in Kinston last Friday evening. The speakers for the meeting included Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, and Dick Hamilton, former Executive Director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and current Executive Director of The Camo Coalition. After the speakers, the floor was opened for comments and suggestions on where to proceed for future reforms in saltwater fisheries.
Dean Phillips of the CFRG assured the nearly 100 fishermen in attendance the CFRG founders would meet and review the information and set a new course of action. He suggested staying attuned to the CFRG blogspot at www.cfrgnc.blogspot.com for upcoming developments.
The Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament that was originally scheduled for July 18 in Atlantic Beach was held this Saturday. After a stormy morning that included several waterspouts east of Cape Lookout, the fishermen arrived at the scales with some nice, but not huge, kings. The winner was K.C. Lake, with Charles Neal, who caught a 29.60 pound king. Less than a pound separated the top three fish, as the Last Minute, with Capt. Leonard Taylor, and the Open Wide, with Capt. Benson Ybanez, both also caught kings weighing 29 pounds and a few ounces for second and third places respectively.
The Oriental Rotary held it 17th Annual Tarpon Tournament this weekend in Oriental. The proceeds of the tournament are applied to college scholarships for Pamlico High School seniors. Over the past 17 years, the Oriental Rotary has awarded about $250,000 in scholarships as a direct result of these tournaments.
Although the tarpon were in the area during the tournament, they played hard to get and only three tarpon were caught (and released). The winner and next two places all caught a single tarpon, so a time-based tiebreaker was used based on the earliest time of the catch. Capt. George Beckwith, of Down East Guide Service, was declared the winner, with Harry Ireland taking second and the 2008 winner, Gene Wooster, finishing third.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament was held over the weekend at Wrightsville Beach. The weather was pretty rough on Friday and then a lot of rain and nasty thunderstorm on Friday night slowed the fishing for Saturday. A dozen sailfish were caught (and released) Friday and another five on Saturday for a total of 17 for the tournament. Tournament Director Lee Parsons said there were 61 boats in this year's event and they raised more than $5,000 for Cape Fear Hospice, which brings their total over 10 years to more than $75,000. They also raised more than $2,000 each for two sponsored families. Parsons said this was possible as all of the daily prize winners donated their prize money to the causes.
The bite was better on Friday and that is when Capt. Robbie Wolfe of Wrightsville Beach and the Whipsaw crew built a lead that wouldn't be challenged. The Whipsaw released three sailfish on Friday and even though they didn't score again on Saturday, it was enough to claim the win. The Lanes's Choice, with Joey Johnson and Chris Bellamy of Wrightsville Beach and the Midnight Wind, with John McDowell of Carolina Beach, each had two sailfish releases, but couldn't find the third one to challenge the Whipsaw.
A special prize was given for the 10th sailfish to commemorate the 10th year of the tournament and this was won by Burrows Smith of Wrightsville Beach on the Eye Catcher. The Eye Catcher also topped the Dolphin Division with a 17.72 pounder. The Youth Angler Award went to McKenzie Barker on the Lane's Choice with Joey Johnson and Chris Bellamy. Bobby Brown was presented the Sportsmanship Award.
The Carolina Custom Shootout, presented by the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation, was held July 23-26 at Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. This event is open to any custom boat built in N.C. and is an opportunity to see some of the latest custom boats from the best boat builders in the world.
The tournament was won by the Easy Rider, a Spencer Yacht, with 1 blue marlin, 3 white marlin and 2 sailfish for a total of 600 points. The Bi Op Sea, another Spencer Yacht, and the Big Oh, a Ricky Scarborough, tied for second place with 500 points each. The tie was broken by the time of the release of the final points fish and the Bi Op Sea released their last fish an hour and one minute earlier.
For those fishermen interested in larger fish, the Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament will be held July 31 through August 2 in Morehead City. This is the sixth of seven tournaments in the 2009 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net or call 336-880-3038.
The Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament will be held July 31 through August 2 in Atlantic Beach. This tournament is open to all and is the second of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 1. For more information visit www.rswsc.org or call 919-833-2800.
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 species categories and five age group divisions. For information call 910-278-4747 or 910-278-5518.
The Mity Might Pinfish Tournament will be held Saturday, August 1, in Southport. This tournament requires participants to use Mity Might miniature spinning combos with six pound test line. For more information, call 910-443-1211, 910-457-9903 or visit www.captainjimmyprice.com.