The cooler days this week have been nice and very welcome. I'm jealous of the fishermen who have been able to take advantage of them. The long range forecast has us staying in the high 80s to around 90 for a while and it's a welcome relief. With the extreme temperature and humidity of the past two weeks, it's almost a cold front.
A child was struck and killed by lightning last weekend on the northern Outer Banks and there were several close calls elsewhere. There are thunderstorm warnings in our forecast for the next few days and I ask you please heed them. This has been a bad year for lightning strikes and you're the highest thing when you're on the water. Avoid thunderstorms whenever possible and seek shelter immediately if caught by one.
I'm going to lead this week with some large fish that are within the range of most fishermen. The numbers of old drum and tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River has grown in the past couple of weeks. They aren't everywhere, but there are enough to have reasonable expectations of catching them.
Tarpon are a daytime fishery and typically a deeper water fishery. There isn't much deep water in this area, but places with 15 feet or more have potential, especially is there is something there that concentrates bait. The generally accepted technique for tarpon is soaking pieces of menhaden, mullet or spots on the bottom is an area they frequent. Many times tarpon will roll and give away their location.
Big drum are both an early morning to mid day fishery and a late afternoon fishery. They are more active in the early morning and will respond to several techniques and hit a variety of baits. One of the most popular is fishing large soft plastic baits under popping corks around schools of bait. Another technique growing in popularity is to catch them on diving and suspending hard lures. The afternoon old drum fishery is primarily soaking pieces of mullet and menhaden on the bottom around shoals and islands where the big drum feed.
Fishermen who will be in this area between the hours of 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. must use special rigs when fishing bait. The rig is named the Owen Lupton Rig after the fisherman who designed and first began using it to prevent deep hooking large drum. This rig uses a heavy piece of mono with a circle hook and a sinker within 6 inches of it. The hook must be barbless or have the barb crushed down. For more information on these regulations and a picture of the rig, visit www.ncdmf.net and click on the "Red Drum Circle Hook Rig" tab in the Quick links.
There is also a tarpon fishery around Bald Head Island. Several surfers who made the trip to Cape Fear Point said several surf fishermen hooked and jumped tarpon while they were surfing nearby. There are also a few tarpon moving through the bay on the inland side of Bald Head. There aren't huge numbers, but there are a few fish to be caught.
The ocean temperature is well into the 80s and many Gulf Stream fish have left it and followed bait closer inshore. Fishermen are catching dolphin mixed with king mackerel fairly regularly and they are also occasionally catching wahoo and sailfish. Both are great surprises when you are inshore of the stream. Sailfish are trophies to be photographed, released and remembered, while inshore wahoo are typically large and provide lots of tasty fillets and steaks. Both know how to make a king mackerel reel sing!
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent. Fishermen are filling fish boxes with mixed catches of grouper, snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgys and more. The bottom fish are hitting cut bait, squid and cigar minnows and will hit jigs. There are some tilefish to the north and occasional surprise catches of hog snapper and African pompano off southern N.C.
Fishermen should note that the "Other Jacks Complex" ( lesser amberjack, almaco jack and banded rudderfish) will close on August 9 at 12:01 A.M. Greater amberjack are not included in this group. Of special interest to offshore bottom fishermen is that effective at 12:01 A.M. on August 12 the limit for black sea bass will increase from 5 fish per person to 7 fish per person. The minimum size will remain at 13 inches. More information is below.
King mackerel are biting pretty well for the heat. Occasionally a few are caught around the nearshore artificial reefs and sea buoys, but most are a little farther offshore. Somewhere around 50 feet deep is a good depth to start looking and they are from there out to 80 or so feet deep. Many fishermen are using live baits, but they are also hitting dead baits and lures.
Spanish mackerel continue to bite well most of the time. Spanish are being caught from the piers out to a little beyond the sea buoys. They will hit trolled small spoons, cast jigs and smaller live baits. There are a few Spanish large enough to hit king mackerel size live baits.
Flounder are biting in the ocean. Fishermen are catching them on the nearshore artificial reefs, wrecks, and hard bottom areas. Be prepared to lose some rigs as flounder like the denser structure on the reefs and wrecks. They will hit live baits fished on the bottom and bucktails with trailers jigged vertically along the bottom. For live bait fishing, most fishermen anchor, but when the area isn't crowded, drifting and jigging vertically allows covering more bottom.
Fishing inside the inlets appears to be trying to break loose, but the consistency just isn't there yet - and hopefully yet is the important word here. Flounder, puppy drum, black drum and speckled trout are all biting at times. Unfortunately they are difficult to pattern as they bite in different areas, at different times and at different stages of the tide. When you hit it right, wow, it's good. However, if you miss one of the times or places, fishing can be slow.
Puppy drum are the most reliable of the inshore fish and will usually bite when you locate them. They like live shrimp and minnows, cut baits and will also hit a variety of artificials.
Flounder are probably the next most prolific, but a lot of the flounder being caught right now are just a little short to keep. Flounder like live minnows and will hit soft plastics surprisingly well.
Speckled trout are usually the most finicky of the bunch. Their weakness is a live shrimp dangling under a cork, but occasionally they even refuse them. Trout will sometimes hit minnows and artificials. Several fishermen have reported occasional good mornings with the specks while working topwaters.
Black drum may be mixed with any of the above and may be found in deeper holes in the sounds and in marsh creeks. They like live bait, cut bait and pieces of shrimp. Black drum will occasionally hit artificials, but it isn't something to count on. A shot of scent helps convince black drum, and the others to hit lures.
We're starting to see a few ladyfish in the sounds and channels. They don't have any food value, but are lots of fun to catch. Ladyfish aren't large, 4 pounds is huge, but they make hard runs and jump like fish many times their size. Lady fish will hit lures, but live shrimp, with no weight or float and drifted naturally with the current, drive them wild.
Ladyfish have huge eyes and often become more active after dark. A couple of good places to catch ladyfish are under bridge lights and around lighted docks. Many times you can hear them just out of sight in the darkness as they gulp shrimp and minnows being carried in tidal currents.
Sheepshead fishing continues to be good. Vertical structure with a little current is the key for sheepshead. Bridge pilings and bulkheads are good spots and don't overlook older docks with lots of growth on the pilings. The wall at the Morehead City State Port can be a hotspot at times. Sandfiddlers and sea urchins are good sheepshead baits. I like sea urchins because sheepshead have to crunch their hard shell to get the urchin and I feel the bite better.
Pier fishing is suffering a little right now from the heat. There is occasionally a king mackerel or cobia caught, but they have been few and far between. Perhaps this little bit of cooler weather will fire them up again. There are some catches of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sea mullet, pompano, flounder, drum and more, but they are scattered rather than consistent. For the most part surf fishing has also been slow in the heat. However, there have been several schools of red drum feeding in the surf at Shackleford Banks and Atlantic Beach in the past week and that's a good sign.
Beware of Catching Undersize King Mackerel Mixed With Spanish Mackerel
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.
NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
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
Harvest of Other Jacks Complex Will Close on August 9
Note that the other jacks complex does not include greater amberjack.
Blueline Tilefish Allowable Catch Increases
following regulations for blueline tilefish became effective on July 13, 2016:
NOAA Fisheries Lists Nassau Grouper as "Threatened" Under ESA
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
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:
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 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.
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 19 to 21: Carolina Fall Boat Show and Sale, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, www.ncboatshows.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.
Aug 20: Drum'n for Ducks Red Drum Tournament, Up the Creek Marina, Vandemere, Coastal Carolina Delta Waterfowl Chapter, https://www.facebook.com/events/1144702065601054.
August 20 and 21: Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Tournament, Dockside Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
August 26 to 28: Mid Atlantic Fall Boat Show and Sale, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, www.ncboatshows.com.
August 27: Cape Lookout Shootout KMT Series, Tournament 2, Boat House, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.