Early in the week, the forecast was for the winds to fall out some over the weekend and be less than 15 knots all weekend, with mainly building sea breezes during the day. There wasn't supposed to be much swell either. Starting Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center began monitoring two systems in the Atlantic. Invest 94 is well across the Atlantic, off the Coast of Africa, but slowly chugging towards the US. Forecasters don't give it much probability of intensifying in the next several days and it will be next week before it shows if it is staying in the Atlantic or moving into the Caribbean.
The second system is what may affect us. It popped up Wednesday afternoon several hundred miles off the Georgia Coast and is forecast to move up the coast over the next few days. Hopefully it fizzles and goes away quickly or moves well offshore, but as of Thursday the forecast has been updated to show some larger seas and a lightly building wind beginning Saturday. The forecast isn't for bad weather, but just enough wind and swell to make fishing uncomfortable and keep smaller boats in.
There are also chances of mainly afternoon thunderstorms. They should be scattered, not a rainout, but they could be intense in some areas. Listen to the marine weather occasionally and keep an eye on the sky around you. These things can build quickly from a clear sky.
Even on the days the wind has been blowing, many fishermen have found protected water and have been chasing flatfish. The flounder bite is pretty good. I didn't hear of any doormats this week, but many inshore fishermen are catching a few flounder and some are even catching one or two incidental to puppy drum or trout fishing.
Flounder like structure to break up the current and it could be anything from sea walls to bridge bulkheads, rip-rap, oyster rocks, broken pilings, artificial reefs and more. Flounder are biting live baits and lures, plus every week I hear of them being caught on soft plastics and gold spoons. The preferred live baits are finger mullet and peanut menhaden. A general consensus is larger flounder like menhaden, but more flounder can grab and swallow finger mullet. There are some shorts, but the number of keepers continues to slowly build.
There are also flounder being caught at most of the nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom areas. Someone said they thought the ocean flounder were larger, but I believe there is simply a higher percentage of keepers there. Many fishermen are jigging bucktails with flounder strips or soft plastics for flounder on the reefs and rocks and many also use the same live baits and Carolina rigs on the reefs as they do inside the inlets. Both work!
Speaking of bait - the good news is it is pretty prevalent and the finger mullet are getting large enough to catch in 3/8 mesh cast nets!
Speckled trout and puppy drum fishing seems to fluctuate some from week to week. This fishing isn't as consistent as flounder fishing right now, but when you find a school, it can be wide open for a while. Trout fishing has been best early in the day, while pups will usually bite whenever you find them.
Several fishermen have reported pretty good luck, especially with speckled trout, early in the mornings using topwater lures like MirrOlure Top Dogs and Rapala Skitterwalks. This is typically a first light to about 8:00 A.M. fishery in this heat. You've got to do this while the trout aren't too spooky to move into shallower water and feed.
Puppy drum aren't quite as sensitive to the light and may hit topwaters later in the day. Trout usually retreat to deeper water as the sun rises, but will sometimes still hit mullet minnows or live shrimp suspended under floats. Pups are usually hungry and will almost always hit live baits under floats. Pups typically stay in shallower water than specks throughout the day, but will occasionally move deeper too.
The wind last week kept a lot of fishermen inshore. Several tried sheepshead fishing and found them biting. Sheepshead like vertical structure and may be at any depth in the water column. Many successful sheepshead fishermen like sandfiddlers for bait, but I prefer sea urchins as sheepshead have to crunch the shell to get the urchin out and I feel them better. Sheepshead have a subtle bite and you have to develop a feel for them.
I didn't hear much about tarpon in the Pamlico Sound and Neuse River this week, but there was a growing rumble that the big red drum have arrived and several fishermen caught multiple citation drum. Forty inches is the minimum size for a release citation for a drum. The drum are hitting jigs and soft plastics under popping corks early in the day and chunks of fresh mullet fished on the bottom in the afternoons and evenings. Tarpon prefer chunks of fresh mullet regardless of the time of day.
The ocean piers are still producing fish. There are dedicated groups on the pier ends looking for kings, cobia and tarpon. The most productive pier end this week was at Jeanette's pier at Nags Head. Several kings and cobia were caught. That fishing requires a lot of patience, but can get hectic really quick when it happens.
Closer in on the piers, the flounder action is improving. Most flounder are caught on live baits and the washes around pilings are favorite spots to find them. Fishermen on the piers at Oak Island are catching specks from first light for a few hours most mornings. There are also good pier catches of Spanish mackerel, with some of them approaching citation size. Other pier catches include black drum, sea mullet, pompano, a few spots and more.
Spanish mackerel are also biting just off the beaches. The primary spots have been just outside the inlets but they are also moving up and down the beaches. The standard for years has been Clarkspoons trolled quickly behind small planers or trolling sinkers. When selecting Clarkspoons, remember that Spanish are more likely to hit a spoon a little smaller than the bait they are feeding on, rather than one larger. Size 00 and 0 are the most popular with fish and fishermen.
The sea conditions last week prevented a lot of folks who would have gone king mackerel fishing from reaching their preferred spots, but kings have been biting pretty well for the past several weeks. Most have been in water 50 to 80 feet deep, but there have been some as close in as the nearshore artificial reefs and some even deeper. Most fishermen are slow trolling live baits or frozen cigar minnows and ballyhoo.
King mackerel fishermen fishing closer to shore have also hooked a good number of large Spanish mackerel, a few cobia, a few tarpon and lots of sharks. Those fishing farther off the beach have caught a fair number of dolphin and a few sailfish.
King fishermen who are having issues with dead baits spinning should try the Pirate Plugs from South Chatham Tackle. I believe a few local stores are carrying them, but if you have difficulty finding them the website is www.southchathamtackle.com. Pirate Plugs use weight and an angled face to pull the lure and bait below the surface and stabilize it. There are sizes that vary from trolling just below the surface to trolling deep.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent. The only issue is having sea conditions that make the trip offshore comfortable. The offshore bottom catch is a mixture of grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, and porgeys. Some bottom fishermen are also fishing light lines behind the boat in the current and catching kings and dolphin. The best action has been in 80 to about 115 feet of water and structure or bottom growth is key. A word to the wise is that there have been a lot of barracuda around the wrecks and they have a bad habit of sampling your fish before you get them in.
More From ICAST 2015
How many folks don't like drilling holes in their new (or old) boat to mount equipment and accessories? The folks at SeaSucker (www.seasucker.com) heard you and have developed a line of rod holders, electronics mounts, cup holders, tackle holders and more that are attached by vacuum mounts and don't require drilling. These aren't just suction cups either, they are vacuum mounts and have a lot of staying power. If they are put on a smooth, dry surface and the vacuum pump engaged, they hold. The SeaSucker folks invited me to place a grab handle on their display and try to pull it free. I was able to pull the single vacuum pack handle loose, but really struggled with it. I don't believe I could pull the double vacuum pack model lose.
Flounder gigging is becoming popular again and there are advances in the equipment. Sea Striker (www.seastriker.com) introduced a new LED flounder light that is very bright, very lightweight and used a minimum of electricity. It operates cool enough it can also be used above water as a spotlight/floodlight if needed. The Sea Striker folks said it would operate for hours on a small AGM battery.
Marine electronics are a big deal at ICAST. If a company has something new, this is the time to show it. Humminbird (www.humminbird.com) has enjoyed a run of Best in Show Awards in the Electronics category and did it again this year for the fifth straight year. This year's award winner is the new Helix 7 SI that combines an ultra bright, nearly glare free screen, with the latest in imaging technologies. While they didn't win an award, the Lowrance and Simrad 3-D modules (www.navico.com) were a big hit too. Navico offered on-the-water demos on Tuesday before ICAST opened and again on Wednesday. The prototypes gave bright and easy to understand pictures and product is expected in time for Christmas.
With increased electronics and gadgets, the possibility of leaving something running and drawing down a battery has increased. Weego (www.myweego.com) has something for this. Weego introduced a line of power packs/jumpstarters that will fit inside a tackle box and leave plenty of room for tackle. There are three models, with the largest unit approximately the size of an envelope and 1.25 inches thick. This is powerful enough to start a 6.3 liter gas or 4.8 liter diesel engine and all three sizes will charge all of your portable electronic devices multiple times.
Anything and everything related to fishing is shown at ICAST and Sunsect (www.sunsect.com) is another unique product that turned my head. Sunsect was originally developed for the military to save space and weight in packs. As the name implies, it is a combination of sunscreen and insect repellant. I see it as particularly good for kayak, SUP, microskiff or wade fishermen, who have minimal storage but need both products.
There are still a few products I felt worth of a mention for next week.
Snowy Grouper Season to Reopen for 10 Days
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 Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
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. A series of webinars and comment station meetings were held during July and the public comment period 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.
Written input and ideas will 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 at www.safmc.net. For more information contact Amber Von Harten, SAFMC Outreach Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-571-4366.
SAFMC Requests Public Input on Amendments to Snapper/Grouper Fishery
The SAFMC is also soliciting public scoping comments on management options for hogfish proposed through draft Amendment 37 as well as issues affecting recreational black sea bass regulations, commercial golden tilefish regulations, and species within the Jacks Complex as proposed in draft Regulatory Amendment 23. A Scoping Webinar will be held Monday, August 10, 2015 beginning at 6:00 p.m. Registration is required for all webinars and may be done on the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net. A schedule of the public hearings is also available on this page.
Those who cannot attend are invited to submit written comments. There are directions for submitting written comments, including comment deadlines, included in each amendment and they are on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
August 4-6: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, The Westin Alexandria, Alexandria, VA, www.asmfc.org.
August 5: Q&A Webinar, Snapper Grouper Amendment 36, 6:00 P.M., Register on SAFMC Website at www.safmc.net.
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.
August 11-13 - Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Meeting, Holiday Inn Midtown, New York, N.Y. www.mamfc.org.
August 11: Public Hearing, Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 16, 4:00 P.M., Holiday Inn Express, Little River, S.C., www.safmc.net.
August 12: Public Hearing, Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 16, 4:00 P.M., Comfort Suites, Jacksonville, www.safmc.net.
August 12: Public Hearing, Snapper Grouper Amendment 36, 4:00 P.M., Murrells Inlet Community Center, Murrells Inlet, SC, www.safmc.net.
August 12: Joint Meeting of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Steering Committee and Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee, 1:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Anne Deaton at 910-796-7311 or 252-808-8063 or at Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.
August 13: Public Hearing, Snapper Grouper Amendment 36, 4:00 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries - Central District Office, Morehead City, www.safmc.net.
August 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
August 5: North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Cape Fear Chapter Monthly Meeting, 6:30 P.M. Great Outdoor Provision Company, Wilmington, www.nckfa.com.
August 8: Captain Jimmy's Mity Might Family Fun Tournament, Multiple Species, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, 910-443-1211.
August 8: Carolina Redfish Series Tournament 3, Old Town Square, Swansboro, www.pfclive.com/carolinaredfish.
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 21: Cape Lookout Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, 7:00 P.M. Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.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.
August 29: Captain Jimmy's "Most Spots in the Slot" Red Drum Tournament, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, 910-443-1211.