We started this week with the threat of Tropical Storm Emily passing offshore and are reaching the weekend with a pair of systems in the eastern Atlantic and Caribbean.  TS Emily blew a little piling into the west coast of Florida and lost steam crossing the state.  It regained tropical storm status briefly after reaching the Atlantic, but fell apart on Wednesday.  The new systems bear watching, but hopefully they don't strengthen.

If you would like to know about potential storms at the earliest times and track their movements, I recommend Mike's Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) in addition to the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov).      

Some fishing slowed a little this week and some picked up.  I guess the fish are as confused as the weather, which gave us several days this week that resemble brief temperature breaks that usually occur later in August.  Maybe this cooler weather with lighter winds will hang around for a while.  It's not likely, but we can hope.  

There are flounder, trout and red drum in coastal N.C. waters inside the inlets from Calabash to the Outer Banks.  Unfortunately for fishermen, they have been moving around and aren't always in the same spots.  Flounder are probably the most wide spread, with good flounder reports from the S.C. state line to Core Sound.  Hook and line fishermen are catching them pretty well and giggers are finding limits most nights.

Specks and pups have continued to hit topwaters early in the morning, but it ends pretty quickly once the sun clears the tree and begins shining directly on the water.  At that point they move to deeper water.  Several fishermen said live shrimp fished deep, but off the bottom in deeper holes, have been producing specks.  They said they caught a few on artificials and had better luck on shrimp shapes with a lot of scent.

A few fishermen have also been finding some pups in deeper holes.  They often stay in shallower water, even during the heat, but the water has been warm enough they are apparently moving deep to stay cool.  They said when the drum move deep, they have been hitting live baits best and usually prefer mullet minnows.

Large red drum are showing in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound.  There have also been a few big reds in the ocean off the Outer Banks, around Cape Lookout and off Oak Island.

Several fishermen reported catching tripletail in the bays and creeks off the lower Cape Fear River this week.  The hot bait has been live shrimp or smaller mullet minnows, fished under a small float.  The tripletails have been holding around something that gives a little shade, like crab pot floats. 

There have been reports of tarpon from Southport to Pamlico Sound and even one caught from one of the Outer Banks piers.  The hot spot for several weeks has been just beyond the surf off Topsail.  Several tarpon fishermen said they expect hot action around the August full moon and my calendar shows it on August 7.

Spanish mackerel fishing continues to be wide open.  The early morning is usually the best action, but they sometimes bite well in the afternoon too.  Spanish are feeding on small baits right now and having small lures helps get them to strike when they're acting finicky. 

Clarkspoons in size 00 will usually produce, but if you see Spanish feeding and can't catch them, sometimes one or two things will help.  Spanish get boat shy and leader shy and dropping to 20 pound test or lighter leaders and making them longer sometimes helps.  Using smaller lures sometimes helps too.  Nungesser and Drove make 000 size spoons and I have caught them trolling small bucktails, like those used on speck rigs.

In addition to those inside the inlets, there has been a steady flounder bite at the nearshore artificial reefs and shipwrecks.  Some fishermen fish larger live baits on heavier Carolina rigs than they use inshore, while others are jigging bucktails with trailers.  Both are producing. 

It is a bit early, but wahoo are showing back up offshore.  There are also a few dolphin, tuna and billfish.  While the others are spread along most of the NC Coast, most of the tuna from off Cape Lookout to the south have been blackfins, while a few yellowfins have been in the Hatteras catch and more yellowfins off Oregon Inlet.

The best news for the week is that effective Thursday afternoon power has been restored to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke and visitors will be welcome back beginning at noon on Friday (August 4).

King mackerel have been holding from 50-60 feet of water and out.  There have been a few dolphin and sailfish occasionally feeding with the kings and they are pleasant surprises.  Look for structure that is holding bait and bait pods suspended in the water are better than bait on the bottom.

Slow trolling live baits has been very effective for catching kings.  Some fishermen are also doing well trolling dead baits, just a little faster.  Don't forget to use your downriggers and put a bait or two well below the surface.  Sometimes the bigger kings lurk underneath the smaller kings.

Offshore bottom fishing has been the most consistent offshore fishing since grouper season opened in May and it still is.  If you get anchored over the right piece of structure, the action can be non-stop.  Most bottom catches include a grouper or two, plus an assortment of black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.  There are usually a few amberjack around structure that is holding a lot of bottom fish and there has been a good scattering of African pompano caught as well.  If the action is good, the activity and scent of blood in the water will usually draw in a few sharks too. 

Saltwater Anglers May Receive Fishing Survey
         North Carolina recreational fishermen holding a current Coastal Recreational Fishing License may receive a survey conducted by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the coming months.  The survey will be sent by random selection, so not all fishermen will receive it.  Fishermen will be asked a variety of questions such as what species they commonly target, average fishing trip expenditures, demographic information such as education, age and household income, and their opinions on fisheries management and user conflicts.

          It is very important that anglers participate and answer as many questions as possible.  By completing the survey, anglers help ensure that fisheries managers receive the best possible information about the economic effects of regulations.  Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential.  Results from the study will be aggregated to present an overall view of the economic status of the recreational fishery and published in a report that will be made available to the public at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/social-economic-data-reports.         

          The survey is a follow up to a previously conducted data collection in 2009.  It seeks information on the economic characteristics of coastal recreational anglers’ fishing trips, as well as social and demographic characteristics.  The information gathered in the survey will be used in fishery management plans and in developing economic impact models to help fisheries managers make informed decisions on various fisheries topics.  The survey is being funded by the Marine Resources Fund which seeks to manage, enhance and protect the marine resources of North Carolina based on sound science and strategies.  For more information, contact Adam Stemle, NCDMF Economics Program manager, at 252-808-8107 or Adam.Stemle@ncdenr.gov.    

NOAA Fisheries Establishes Spawning Special Management Zones off N.C., S.C. and FL
A fisheries rule went into effect July 31, 2017, that prohibits offshore bottom fishermen from fishing five areas that have been designated as Spawning Special Management Zones (SMZ).  South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin FB17-035, issued on June 30, 2017 and posted on the Federal Register as 82 FR 29772, contains the final rule from NOAA Fisheries that established five SMZs in Federal Waters of the South Atlantic off N.C., S.C., GA. and FL.  as per Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.  The SMZs were implemented to protect spawning, or reproducing, fish and their habitat. 

The final rule for Amendment 36 implements the following management measures:

* Establishes five spawning SMZs in federal waters of the South Atlantic region off North Carolina (1), South Carolina (3), and Florida (1).
* Inside of the spawning SMZs, fishing for, retention, and possession of fish species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited year-round by all fishers.
* Anchoring inside all the spawning SMZs, except Area 51 and Area 53 off South Carolina, will be prohibited.
* Transit through the spawning SMZs with snapper-grouper species onboard will be allowed if gear is properly stowed.
* Most spawning SMZs would automatically go away in 10 years unless they are reauthorized.
* Modify the SMZ procedure in the fishery management plan to allow for the designation of spawning SMZs. In addition, modify the framework procedure to allow spawning SMZs to be established or modified through the framework process, rather than through plan amendments.
* Move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area to match the boundaries of the permitted site.

The Spawning SMZs include the following locations using corner coordinates:
North Carolina
South Cape Lookout: 33° 53.040N and 76° 28.617W; 33° 52.019N and 76° 27.798W; 33° 49.946N and 76° 30.627W; 33° 51.041N and 76° 31.424W (total of 5.10 square miles).

South Carolina
Devil's Hole / Georgetown Hole: 32° 34.311N and 78° 34.996W; 32° 34.311N and 78° 33.220W; 32° 32.748N and 78° 33.220W; 32° 32.748N and 78° 34.996W  (total of 3.03 square miles).

Area 51: 32° 35.250N and 79° 28.600W; 32° 35.250N and 79° 27.000W, 32° 33.750N and 79° 27.000W; 32° 33.750N and 79° 28.600W (total of 2.99 square miles).

Area 53: 32° 22.650N and 79° 22.250W; 32° 22.650N and 79° 20.500W; 32° 21.150N and 79° 20.500W; 32° 21.150N and 79° 22.250W (total of 2.99 square miles).

Warsaw Hole: 24° 22.277N and 82° 20.417W; 24° 22.277N and 82° 18.215W; 24° 20.932N and 82° 18.215W; 24° 20.932N and 82° 20.417W (total 3.60 square miles).

The details of the monitoring for these Spawning SMZs Monitoring details are outlined in a System Management Plan (SMP) that can be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website.  The link to this SMP is: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2016/am36/documents/pdfs/sa_sg_am36_app_n_smz_smp.pdf.

NOAA Fisheries Publishes Final Rule for Hogfish
On July 26, NOAA Fisheries announced a final rule for Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.  Effective August 24, hogfish (hog snapper) in the South Atlantic will be managed as two geographic populations.  One will be Georgia through North Carolina and the other will be the Florida Keys and the East Coast of Florida.  A population assessment determined that the Florida Keys/East Florida population is undergoing overfishing (rate of removal is too high) and is overfished (population abundance is too low) and, therefore, in need of a rebuilding plan.  The overfishing and overfished status of the Georgia/North Carolina population is unknown.

In addition to specifying commercial and recreational annual catch limits and accountability measures, the final rule for Amendment 37 will implement the following management measures:
* Georgia - N.C.:  The recreational season will be open all year with a minimum size of 17 inches (fork length) and a limit of 2 fish per person per day.  The commercial trip limit will be 500 pounds whole fish weight.
* Florida Keys - East FL.: The recreational season will be open May through October with a minimum size of 16 inches (fork length) and a limit of 1 fish per day.  The commercial trip limit will be 25 pounds whole fish weight.

This information was published in the Federal Register on July 25, 2017 as 82 FR 34584 and was published by NOAA Fisheries as FB17-041 on July 26, 2017.  View this and other Fishery Bulletins from NOAA Fisheries by visiting the website at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishery_bulletins/index.html.     

WRC Hosts Ongoing Fishing Programs
          The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. 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.

          There are numerous evening and weekend classes and programs offered at the Pechmann Center each month.  For more information on the centers and their programs, 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 are always interesting programs at the Pechmann Center that include kayak fishing, fly tying, lure making, fishing tips and boating safety.

N.C. Aquariums Offer Fishing Programs and Youth Summer Camps
         The North Carolina Aquariums offer a variety of fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums  at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Manteo, plus at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.  The summer programs for all ages include surf fishing, exploring the marsh, canoeing and more.  There are also summer camps for youngsters.  For more information, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select the aquarium closest to you.

Wildlife Photo Contest
          The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is accepting entries to its 13th annual Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine Photo Competition until 5 p.m., Sept. 1, 2017.  The contest is open to amateur and professional photographers of all ages, except for employees of the Wildlife Commission, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and their immediate families.  Entrants must be either current subscribers to Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine or younger than 18.

           Only photographs taken in North Carolina since Sept. 15, 2013 are eligible for the competition. The categories include birds, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, animal behavior, outdoor recreation, wild landscapes, wild plants and fungi, youth photographer 13-17 and youth photographer 12 and younger.

          Entries will be judged by a panel of staff from the Commission and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, as well as professional photographers.  The grand prize winner will have his or her photo published on the cover of the January/February 2018 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina and will receive a check for $200.  All winning photographs will be published in the magazine and exhibited at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.  First place in all categories pays $100; second place, $75; and third place, $50.

          The Commission is accepting entries online only — no slides, negatives or prints will be accepted by mail.  Entrants may submit a maximum of two photos per category.  Each photo must be in JPEG format and no larger than 2 megabytes each.

           For more information or to submit a photo, visit the Commission’s Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition webpage (www.ncwildlife.org/contest).  A video of the 2016s winning photos is posted on the Commission’s Facebook page.

USSA Schedules Kids Fishing Day for August 11 from Southport Marina
The United Special Sportsmen Alliance (www.childswish.com) will host their second event in the Southport area on August 10 and 11.  The first was a year ago and was a resounding success, so event 2 has been planned and volunteers are needed to take a terminally ill or severely sick child and their family, usually mom and dad, fishing for a few hours on August 11. 

After an arrival and welcome at Comfort Suites the afternoon and evening of August 10,fishing is scheduled for 8:30 to 1:00 the next morning from Southport Marina.  Lunch, provided by the Lions Club, will follow fishing.  This is not an offshore trip, but more of a nearshore or backwater experience and often simply being on the water is extremely therapeutic.  However, having some bites and catching fish puts an exclamation point on the experience. 

John Cranford of the Winston-Salem Saltwater Fishing Club is heading the local committee and can be reached at 336-312-3458.  More information on the event and USSA is available at their website, www.childswish.com.

Military Appreciation Day Scheduled for September 9 
Military Appreciation Day 12 will be held from Southport Marina on Saturday, September 9.  This is a project of the Military Appreciation Day organization (www.militaryappreciationday.org) based in Charlotte through the Military Appreciation Day – Southport Chapter and assisted by volunteers from across N.C. and beyond.  It is simply a day of saying "Thank You" by taking members of the active duty military fishing.

MAD 12 will begin when the troops check in and board boats around daylight and concludes with a cookout and picnic for the troops and volunteer boat captains in the late afternoon.  MAD events are all-volunteer events and volunteers are needed for MAD 12 in Southport.  Volunteers with boats are needed to take the troops fishing and volunteers are also needed for shore side duties ranging from helping with setup and the meal to helping clean the fish that are caught.

Those interested in being a part of MAD 12 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer.  I’ve been volunteering at MAD events for a handful of years now and highly recommend it.  It’s a day you won’t forget.  I’m pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing.

Ocearch Hosts Contest with Shark Tagging Adventure as Grand Prize
Ocearch, the organization that has been tagging and tracking sharks around the world for several years has teamed with Costa del Mar sunglasses to host a contest with the grand prize of accompanying Ocearch scientists on a shark tagging trip and getting to name the shark tagged on the trip.  The winner will fly to new York and then join the Ocearch crew off the northeastern U.S. Coast.  This sounds very interesting to me and I have already entered.  If it intrigues you also, the details and entry form are on their website at www.ocearch.org.

Fisheries Meetings
August 8-10:  Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Philadelphia Courtyard Marriott, Philadelphia, PA, www.mafmc.org.      

August 16-17:  NC Marine Fisheries Commission, Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone-University Hotel, Raleigh, www.ncdmf.net.             

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
August 5-6:  S.H.A.R.E. King Mackerel Tournament, Dockside Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.sharenc.org.    

August 11:  USSA Children's Fishing Day, Southport Marina, Southport, www.childswish.com.     

August 12:  Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.    

August 12:  Hook And Bones Redfish Open/Pogies Redfish Series Tournament 4, Old Towne Square, Swansboro, https://swansboro.recdesk.com www.pogiesfishing.com.     

August 12:  CCA Youth Fishing Tournament, with the Hook and Bones Redfish Open/Pogies Redfish Series tournament, Old Towne Square, Swansboro, www.ccafishingforthefuture.com.   

August 13:  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 Conservation Series, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.  

August 18-19:  Rotary Club of Sneads Ferry King Mackerel Tournament, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.sneadsferrykmt.com.

August 19:  Sheriff Ingram Flatfish Roundup,  Southport Marina, Southport, www.sheriffjohningram.com.

August 26:  Raleigh Saltwater Fishing Club king Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.raleighkmt.org.

August 26:  Moe's BBQ Paddle Battle, Moe's BBQ, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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