I don't usually think of temperatures in the mid 80's as being cool, but after our recent heat wave I'm looking forward to them this weekend. They should be starting today, but are forecast to begin creeping back up to 90 and above by Monday. This might be a good time to spend some time on the water. Don't let the cooler mornings fool you though; use plenty of sunscreen and carry lots of water.
I went on a kayak fishing trip last Saturday with Ashley and Ernie Williams from Wilmington and Joe Laughlin from Southport. I had met them all in June at the Kayak Fishing Meet & Greet at Fort Fisher. We had planned this trip weeks in advance and decided not to postpone, even thought it was shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the summer.
Unfortunately the bite wasn't as hot as the weather in our little creek and you don't have enough speed with a kayak to relocate very far. A few smaller drum, one something that bent Joe's rod double real quickly before snapping the line, and a nice healthy croaker were our count for the morning. At least we had a good time without wasting a bunch of gas money and got lots of good exercise.
This has been an excellent year for tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. Nothing is ever sure with tarpon except that if you get too confident they will quickly put you back in your place. Many fishermen are reporting jumping tarpon (not all are landed) from near the Minnesott-Cherry Branch Ferry crossing down the Neuse River and across the sound to Brant Island Shoal and Royal Shoal. Not only is the number of tarpon high, but there seem to be a lot of fish on the heavy side of 100 pounds.
The big red drum are also making their annual appearance in the sound. The drop-offs just off the beaches from Point of Marsh out to Cedar Island are good spots to try. The sloughs at Swan and Raccoon Island also hold big drum. This used to be considered a nighttime fishery, but for the past year or two the fish have begun biting in the late afternoon.
The big drum and tarpon are in the same general area and a combined trip can be made with tarpon in the morning, through the mid-day and then drum in the late afternoon and early evening.
The heat is affecting the inshore fishing, but it might actually be affecting the fishermen more than the fish. The puppy drum seem appear to have moved just a little deeper and off the dark mud bottoms, especially at low tide. Live bait is best and they will hit shrimp, mullet minnows, mud minnows, tiger minnows and peanut menhaden. They will also chase topwater plugs and soft grub and shrimp shapes, especially the scented ones like FishBites, Blurp and Gulp. Pups are working the surf near the inlets and well up the creeks. They tend to cruise points and marsh grass edges and hang out under docks.
Some nice specks are being caught also. Live shrimp are the top bait, but they will hit minnows also. MirrOlures and soft grub or shrimp shapes, especially those scented ones mentioned above will also catch trout. While specks may move into shallower water to feed, they really prefer deeper channels and holes.
Some gray trout are also being caught under the Morehead City high-rise bridges, especially at night. Live minnows and vertical jigging have been producing the best.
Flounder fishing is pretty good too, but with mixed reports on size. Some folks are finding doormats, while others are working through a lot of shorts to catch a few for dinner. In the waters north of Browns Inlet, the minimum size is 15-1/2 inches, so be aware and don't push the issue on shorts. Flounder may shrink up to 1/4 inch after being put on ice, so measure your fish closely. Around the inlets, along the edges of channels, in the turning basin at the Morehead City State Port and around AR 315 and 320 are good places to find flounder.
There have also some good reports of sheepshead for the past several weeks. Fiddler crabs fished beside bridge pilings and along the wall at the Morehead City State Port is a good combo for sheepshead.
Pier fishing has gone into its dog days mode. It is basically slow, but there are fish being caught. A few kings are cruising the beaches and offer an occasional opportunity and tarpon sightings are almost daily occurrences--even though hookups and catches aren't. Spanish mackerel are around and generally bite best very early in the day. Bogue Inlet Pier reported slightly cooler water earlier this week, being down to 78 degrees from 82 degrees last week. The other pier catches included bluefish, pompano, flounder, sheepshead, sharks and spots.
King mackerel fishing was a little slower last weekend, but most folks blamed it on the extreme heat. There have been larger kings on the east side of Cape Lookout Shoals, but teenagers are holding on many rocks and wrecks in 50 feet of water and deeper.
Capt. Noah Lynk called me this week to tell me there had been a bunch of undersize kings mixed in with the Spanish around Cape Lookout this week. He said those 20-23 inch kings looked a lot like big Spanish but weren't and suggested I pass the word on, so here it goes.
The limit on kings is 3 fish and the minimum size is 24 inches fork length (tip of nose to middle of fork) and the limit on Spanish is 15 fish and the minimum size is12 inches fork length. Both small kings and Spanish have spots, so that isn't a good identifier. The lateral line on a king drops more quickly than on a Spanish, but it can be hard to tell. However, all Spanish have a black area on the front of the forward dorsal fin and kings don't. A king's dorsal fin is all gray.
I spoke with Capt. Mike Webb this week and he said that while the grouper bite had slowed a little in the heat it was still very good. He said gag and red grouper are biting well and on the same trip you could expect to catch beeliners, black sea bass, porgys, and grunts. He said they sometimes find red snapper, but they aren't as common a catch as the others.
Dolphin continue to be the primary meat fish in the offshore and Gulf Stream catches. There are also a few wahoo being caught. Dolphin will gather under almost any floating debris and wahoo may be waiting nearby to eat the dolphin. Many king mackerel fishermen in water deeper than 60 feet are catching a few dolphin mixed in with the kings and occasionally a wahoo sneaks in to steal a king bait.
The good billfish action continued this week. The sailfish bite is hot and sails might be almost anywhere from just out of sight of the beach to the Gulf Stream. Blue and white marlin have been holding deeper, working from 100 fathoms (600 feet) on out. The August full moon is fast approaching and it usually brings a surge in the numbers of white marlin, plus a few really big blues.
There was a provision in the new state budget to allocate $2 million for expansion of the oyster sanctuary program at the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The $2 million appropriation will fund six staff positions and equipment and material to support the oyster sanctuary program. The new budget also authorizes construction of a $4.3 million DMF research hatchery at the Center for Marine Science at the UNCW.
Another good thing to come out of the short legislative session was H 2785. This is a bill to authorize the state to take over the lock and dam structures on the Cape Fear River, but only after the Corps of Engineers completes all necessary refurbishing and constructs rock arch rapids fish ladders to allow fish to migrate up the river.
Several fisheries biologists have said this would bring new life to the entire river and allow anadromous species such as shad and stripers access to the entire Cape Fear River system. Currently only those fish lucky enough to be in place to use the locks when they operate may migrate upriver of Lock and Dam Number One at Riegelwood.
The Navy and Marines want to enlarge the perimeter of their bombing ranges at Brant Island Shoal (BT-9) and Rattan Bay (BT-11), which will require closing this area to fishermen and boaters. The existing perimeters already include some prime fishing area and this enlargement will seriously hamper both recreational and commercial fishing in the area. The expansion 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.
The Navy has refused to 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.
A few of the closed areas in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore reopened during the past week. This includes beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands and is subject to daily change. 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 and Representative Walter Jones has introduced H.R. 6233, which are bills to reverse the spring judicial decision that mandated closing such large segments of the national seashore and reinstate the interim ORV management Plan that was adopted by the National Park Service. 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 National Marine Fisheries Service has published a proposed rule to implement Amendment 14 to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The public comment period is open one more week, through August 15.
The proposed rule would establish eight Type 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in federal waters between North Carolina and Florida, of which two (the Snowy Grouper Wreck MPA and the Northern South Carolina MPA) are within fishing range of N.C. boats. 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.
Written comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., Eastern Time, on
August 15, 2008. Written comments may be submitted by:
Electronic copies of Amendment 14 can be viewed on line at http://www.regulations.gov or by written request to: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 4055 Faber Place, Suite 201 North Charleston, South Carolina 29405, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the Council's toll free number: 1-866-SAFMC-10.
The bill (H 2167--for allowing wider boat trailers to be towed without a special permit and at night) our legislators ratified and sent to Governor Easley on July 17 has not yet been signed or vetoed. 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. The grassroots campaign to let the governor know we want this bill seems to be working, but we can't slow down now.
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 passed this legislation overwhelmingly and are now asking for our support in contacting the Governor's Office and letting him know how we feel about it. There is even a toll-free number good from anywhere inside the state.
The Governor's office may be contacted at the following:
Blake Justice and the Team Concept crew won the Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament in Atlantic Beach over the weekend. They caught a 39.55 pound king to claim the win. Justice said a huge barracuda was about to take a bite of their prize catch as he was reaching to gaff it. He beat the barracuda and Team Concept beat the other 146 boats.
The Island Harbor Marina/KenCraft BayRider King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday in Emerald Isle. The Gettin' By, with Capt. Steve Martin of Cedar Point, topped the 80 boat field with a 34.43 pound king.
The Ducks Unlimited "Band the Billfish" Tournament was held over the weekend in Morehead City. The Impulse, with Capt. Cameron Guthrie of Atlantic Beach, scored 850 points to win the event. The Impulse released a blue marlin (400 points) and three sailfish (150 points each) to claim the win.
The Scooter Bug Fishing Team, made up of Barbara Vickrey, Tamra Riggan, Debra Rose and Capt. Mack Aman won the Ladies King Mackerel Tournament with a 22.65 pound king they caught in the Cape Fear Shipping Channel near the Sea Buoy.
The second of three Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Series tournaments will be held this weekend in Swansboro. For more information, visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net or call 910-340-2651.
All the fishermen I have spoken with are enthusiastic about the proposed purchase of Yaupon Pier by the Town of Oak Island. In an effort to show their support and to help raise the funds to complete the purchase, the North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpafonline.com) will host the Dog Days Surf Fishing Tournament on August 23. This is only 2 weeks away. For more information visit http://www.ncfps.com/Save_Yaupon_Pier.html or call 803-396-7867.
Last weekend there was a ladies-only king mackerel tournament here and this weekend there is a ladies-only billfish tournament in Manteo. The Alice Kelly Ladies-only Memorial Billfish Tournament will be held August 9 and 10 from Pirate's Cove Marina. For more information, visit www.piratescovetournaments.com or call 252-473-1015.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish tournament will be held next week in Manteo. The tournament begins on Monday and fishes through Friday. For more information, visit www.piratescovetournaments.com or call 252-473-1015.