If you missed being on the water last weekend, I'm sorry, but you just missed it. Beginning on Friday it was one of the nicest weekends we have had so far this year. If anything, it was a little hot, but you can do things to work with that. Sometimes when the weather gets that nice, the fish take the day off too, but that wasn't the case this time. The fish bit too!
Our weather forecast for this weekend is right at that point it is just going to be either a nice breeze or it could go just enough past that to be a little uncomfortable. The wind shouldn't build enough you can't go and if the front moves faster or slower than the projection, it could be another great weekend like last. We do have a cold front headed in and the highs Friday and Saturday are only forecast for the mid 80's so that should be nice.
This continues to be a good year for billfish and many folks are having encounters with them. Not all billfish bites end with a catch and release, but sometimes the misses are more addicting than the catches. Marlin, both blues and whites, are a little farther offshore in the deeper blue water, while sailfish have been following bait inshore and several have been hooked just a short distance off the beach.
The dolphin bite is still going strong and they are spread from just out of sight of land to the Gulf Stream. This time of year every piece of flotsam should be checked out. I have caught a half-dozen dolphin from under a single floating board. There are reports almost every day from king mackerel fishermen who catch a few dolphin at one of the many popular king spots. The stretch of water from 14 Buoy to the 90 Foot Drop is a pretty reliable area and there have also been some wahoo caught there in the past several weeks.
Even during the summer heat, the offshore bottom fishing is as close to guaranteed as it gets. Gag and red grouper are in most catches, plus lots of beeliners and an occasional red snapper. Other offshore bottom fish include black sea bass, porgys, triggerfish, a variety of grunts and an occasional hog snapper and all are good on the dinner table.
The king mackerel fishing has surged over the past few weeks and is really good. One of the hottest spots has been the 1700 Rock, but several other locations on the east side of Cape Lookout Shoals have also been holding kings. While the kings from east of Cape Lookout have been larger, fishermen are also catching some in the Beaufort Inlet Channel, the Dead Tree Hole, the Rock Barge and several other places closer in.
When the weather and water gets this warm, there are usually some schools of kings in their teens holding just offshore. Most of the well-known spots in 60-80 feet of water should be holding good numbers of small to medium kings.
The warmer water may have affected pier fishing the most. A few kings are being caught from the piers and there are tarpon being sighted almost daily. Spanish mackerel are another good pier catch, but don't tolerate onshore winds and stirred up water very well. They also generally bite best very early in the day. Bogue Inlet Pier reported 82 degree water this week and catches included the mackerel, plus bluefish, pompano, flounder, sheepshead and spots.
The tarpon bite is hot in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River right now. Capt. George Beckwith said it is the largest concentration of tarpon he has seen anywhere except Costa Rica. Quite a few are being caught and one fish being touted as a possible state record was released. The big red drum are also making their annual appearance in the sound.
Sheepshead have been biting well also. Last week I mentioned Capt. Jeff Cronk has been catching them well under the bridges in the Swansboro area. Capt. Matt Lamb said there is also a good bite in the Morehead City area. He suggested looking under the bridges and along the wall at the Morehead City State Port.
Usually the heat really slows the inshore fishing, but it hasn't this year. The puppy drum fishing is about as good as it gets. Live baits are almost too easy. They will hit both shrimp and minnows. They are also pounding topwater plugs and a variety of soft plastics. The pups are spread from the surf to the backs of brackish creeks and working the edge of the marshgrass and under docks.
Speckled trout can't refuse live shrimp. They are also hitting some MirrOlures and a variety of soft plastics. Sometimes trout can be finicky and show a definite preference for scented plastics. On the higher tides, trout work the grass lines, but they generally hold in the channels and deeper holes.
Flounder fishing is pretty good too. I heard some good reports from Drum Inlet this week. There are lots of short flounder in some areas, so be sure not to keep anything shorter than 15-1/2 inches north of Browns Inlet. In addition to Drum Inlet, there are generally some flounder around the bars in most inlets and the edges of the shipping channel and turning basin at the Morehead City State Port are always a good place to try. Many flounder are also being caught on the nearshore artificial reefs.
There are several very important issues currently facing our N.C. fishermen.
Some of the areas in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore that had been closed to access have reopened during the past week. This is subject to daily change, so you should check with their offices before planning a trip. However, there is concern that under the present judicial management plan some of the beaches will close again soon as turtles begin hatching.
N.C. Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr have introduced S. 3113 (A bill to reinstate the interim ORV management Plan that was adopted by the National Park Service) to reverse the spring judicial decision that has mandated closing such large segments of the national seashore. Representative Walter Jones has introduced a similar bill (H.R. 6233) in the House of Representatives. These bills meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and would return management of the National Seashore to the National Park Service. You can follow this and all federal legislation, plus find your senators and representatives and their contact information at www.govtrack.us.
The North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpafonline.com) will be hosting the Dog Days Surf Fishing Tournament to help raise money to allow the Town of Oak Island to purchase Yaupon Pier. The tournament date is August 23 and more information is available by visiting http://www.ncfps.com/Save_Yaupon_Pier.html or calling 803-396-7867.
The Navy and Marines are forging ahead with plans to enlarge a pair of bombing ranges along the western edge of Pamlico Sound. They want 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 non-military boats and personnel. The current perimeters already include some prime fishing area and this enlargement will include more in the military zone, which will seriously hamper both recreational and commercial fishing in the area. It will also adversely affect navigation through the area, including closing Brant Island Slough Channel, which is used by many smaller boats as a safer and shorter route between the sound and the Neuse River.
I don't want to sound unpatriotic, but the military keeps telling us the modern weapons and aiming systems are better than what we had in the past, so why do they suddenly need a larger perimeter? For more information on this action, see the story at www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
The Navy has said they will not accept e-mail comments on this issue. Opposition (or support) 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.
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service) has published a proposed rule to implement Amendment 14 to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 14 and associated Final Environmental Impact Statement for review, approval, and implementation by NOAA Fisheries Service. The public comment period is open through August 15, 2008.
The proposed rule would establish eight Type 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in federal waters ranging from North Carolina to Florida. Two are within fishing range of N.C. based boats. The Snowy Grouper Wreck MPA would be southeast of the Steeples and the Northern South Carolina MPA would be southeast of Winyah Scarp. Fishing for or retention of snapper and grouper species would be prohibited within the MPA boundaries but other types of legal fishing would be allowed.
NOAA Fisheries is soliciting comments on this issue. Written comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., Eastern Time, on August 15, 2008. Written comments may be submitted by:
* Electronic Submissions: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:
Electronic copies of Amendment 14 can be viewed on line at http://www.regulations.gov, by written request to: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 4055 Faber Place, Suite 201 North Charleston, South Carolina 29405, by e-mailing email@example.com, or by calling the Council's toll free number: 1-866-SAFMC-10.
Our legislators sent the bill (H 2167) for allowing wider boat trailers to be towed without a special permit and at night to the governor on July 17. Even though the final vote in the Senate was 43-0 and in the House was 108-5, Governor Easley was threatening to veto it, but hasn't yet. He has two weeks remaining to make his decision.
The grassroots campaign to let the governor know we want this bill seems to be working, but we can't slow down now. Several of the folks answering the phones at the Governor's Office said the phone lines had been busy and mostly in support of the bill.
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. Currently, boats wider than 102 inches may not be towed at night or on Sundays and holidays. Boat/trailer combinations greater than 120 inches wide would still require a permit and could only be towed during the day.
Our N.C. legislators have worked long and hard to provide legislation that covers all the bases while allowing boaters to legally trailer slightly wider boats. Their offices are now asking for our support in contacting the Governor's Office and letting him know how we feel about H 2167. There is even a toll-free number good from anywhere inside the state.
The Governor's office may be contacted at the following:
The second of three Redfish Action Challenge Cup tournaments was held at Harkers Island Saturday. The N.C. Charter Fishing team of Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor won the event with a pair of red drum that weighed 14.61 pounds. They also had the largest puppy drum of the tournament at 7.87 pounds.
Brothers David and Rob Pennington and friends fished on the Pennington's boat Proud Mary Saturday and won the 2 in 1 King Tournament from Morehead City. They caught a 45.35 pound king to claim the top prize.
The reports are there were tarpon "everywhere" for the Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament this weekend. Gene Wooster and crew topped the 51 boat all-release event by going 6 for 9. After 2 days of fishing there had been 28 tarpon caught and released and another 32 that were on for at least 1 jump. Congratulations to all.
The Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament was held over the weekend at Wrightsville Beach. Capt. Mel Miller and the Mara III won the event with a pair of sailfish releases early Friday. The 47 boat field caught and released 25 sailfish: 7 Friday and 18 Saturday.
Congratulation to Ted Hammonds and the crew of the Brothers-In-Law for winning the Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament this weekend in Wrightsville Beach. Hammonds and crew caught a 41.76 pound king to claim the win.
The Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament will be in Atlantic Beach and the Island Harbor/KenCraft King Mackerel Tournament will be in Emerald Isle this weekend. Contact 919-833-2800 or visit www.rswsc.org for information on the Raleigh Sportfishing Club event or call 252-354-3106 for information on the Island Harbor/KenCraft event.
The Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament is this weekend in Morehead City. This is the sixth of seven tournaments in the 2008 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series. For more information, call 336-880-3038.
The Ladies King Mackerel Tournament will be held this weekend in Oak Island. According to a spokesperson for the group, this tournament will be a ladies-only king mackerel tournament in the spirit of the Long Bay Lady Anglers Tournament that was cancelled earlier this year. The Captains Meeting and Final Registration will be at 5:00 P.M. on Friday, August 1, with fishing following on Saturday. For more information call 910-294-2005 or 919-669-4925.