While it's still plenty hot, we're starting to see some breaks in the weather from the wicked temps and humidity of most of July. It's welcome too. Some of those days were just so bad that even fishing was a significant undertaking. We will probably see another blast of severe heat before summer passes, but these mid eighties days are much easier to deal with than days in the mid to upper nineties. They are definitely more conducive to being outside and active.
The new moon will be Friday night and it usually brings lower than normal tides. Watch the tide and be sure to leave those marsh areas with marginal water early enough to get out. Waiting on the next high tide is a long wait - and it's even longer without sunscreen and insect repellant. The tide tables also show slightly higher than normal tides through Saturday, so it could be a good time to creep through some flooded grass looking for a red tail with a spot.
There was a very unique happening at Jolly Roger Pier in Topsail beach this week. Brent Livingood caught two sailfish this week from the pier. Unfortunately, neither was on a rod and reel. He caught them while throwing his cast net to catch bait. It's pretty impressive to have sailfish within a pier's length of the beach at the N.C. Coast, even if they were really small. Someone sent me a picture of one of them and it appeared to be about 18 inches long as sailfish are measured (bottom jaw to fork of tail) or about 2 feet overall. Both were released.
Fishing was good, but not spectacular last week. The good news is fishing didn't fall off and a few species may have even improved a little.
Flounder fishing has been pretty good for a while and there have been a few more larger flounder lately. Keeper ratio varies widely and I've heard reports as low as only 1 flounder in 10 being a keeper (15 inch minimum) to as high as 8 of 12 being keepers. There have been flounder in many places along the coast. They have been in creeks, marshes, around the spoil islands along the Intracoastal Waterway, around bridges, in the sloughs at the inlets, along the few jetties at inlets and at Cape Lookout and on the nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom areas in the ocean. Many fishermen use live minnows on Carolina rigs for inshore flounder, but vertically jigging bucktails and soft plastics has become popular and is productive on the ocean reefs and hard bottoms.
Puppy drum numbers appear to be increasing - finally. It has been a slow year for pups. I was at a meeting last week where puppy drum were discussed and there was definitely a consensus that a year class is missing. Most people said they caught pups to about 21 or 22 inches and then those of 27 inches plus that are over the slot size. They agreed that no one is catching many 23 to 27 inch pups. These would be the 2 to 3 year old pups.
Pups are usually feeding, so they are typically easy to catch once located. Many are caught incidental to flounder fishing and a surprising number of flounder are caught incidental to puppy drum fishing. The two fishing methods just mentioned work for pups too, plus pups will usually hit a variety of hard lures, including topwaters, soft plastics, and weedless spoons. Live shrimp are special baits for pups and they will pounce on live shrimp suspended under a cork - even when they aren't really feeding.
Fishermen are catching enough speckled trout to get noticed too. The best speck action is usually in the early morning, but occasionally they will feed again in the late afternoon. Specks may occasionally move into the shallows and feed with pups and flounder, but they are in spots where deeper water is nearby. Those folks having the best luck with specks are suspending live shrimp under floats, but they will occasionally hit topwater lures, especially very early and late. Soft plastics, particularly those with scent or with scent added, will catch trout too. Slowing down your retrieve in the hot water temps and that should help get the trout interested in your lures.
Sheepshead are still a big part of inshore fishing right now. This is both figuratively and literally as there are good numbers and some large fish. Unfortunately, sheepshead have a well deserved reputation as being difficult to catch. They can suck a hooked fiddler crab out of its shell and never twitch the rod. Fiddler crabs are good baits and so are sea urchins. Look for sheepshead around vertical structure like bulkheads and pilings.
Large red drum hit Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River this week in good numbers. All fishermen are reporting multiple strikes and some are reporting double digit catches. The morning to mid day fishing has been steady using a jig or larger soft plastic suspended 18 to 30 inches under a large popping cork. The big drum feed a little deeper in the afternoons and prefer a nice piece of mullet on menhaden fished on the bottom. Remember that special circle hook drum rigs are required when fishing this area between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. There is a diagram at www.ncdmf.net.
Other than the sailfish in the cast net, I didn't hear of any special catches from the ocean piers this week. There were a few king strikes, including one that skied pretty high and got everyone's attention when hitting a bait off Bogue Inlet Pier. Unfortunately it didn't hook up well and wasn't landed. More bait is showing along the ocean beaches and there could be a sure in the pier end activity at any time.
Spanish mackerel are the going catches at the ends of the piers. The largest I heard of this week was a 6 pounder caught by Jim Lairson at Bogue Inlet Pier. Some Spanish are hitting the live baits intended for kings and some are hitting Got-Cha Jigs. if you are casting Got-Cha Jigs, the ones with gold hooks seem to always work better. While it has slowed, fishermen are catching early morning specks from the Oak Island piers. Other pier catches include flounder, bluefish, black drum, pompano, sea mullet and more.
With the abundance of windy weather this summer, sometimes fishing in the ocean is marginal at best and that means staying close to shore and around the inlets. On these days, the most targeted fish are Spanish mackerel and thankfully they have been biting all summer. Most days they can be found just out of the inlets, but sometimes they may be scattered along the beaches and at the nearshore artificial reefs.
Most Spanish are caught while trolling. The usual setup is trolling about 6 or 7 knots using small Clarkspoons (size 0 or 00) or Mackerel Tree Rigs behind planers and trolling sinkers. Spanish can also be caught by casting Got-Cha and other jigs or by drifting small live baits under balloons or floats.
There were reports of both yellow butterflies and false albacore this week. The yellow butterflies are supposed to be a sign that fall fishing is kicking off and the fat Alberts must be working with the same calendar. The false albacore action was at Cape lookout and there were also nice bluefish in the area. Some are being caught while trolling for Spanish, but they are more fun when cast to with small lures and jigs and battled on trout, puppy drum or flounder tackle.
Weather, specifically wind and sea conditions, has been the most difficult part of king mackerel fishing the past few weeks. I don't mean to make this sound like kings are jumping in boat, but king mackerel fishing has been fairly consistent. A few kings have been closer in around the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs, but fishing has been better in depths ranging 50 to 100 feet.
A major key to catching kings is to find structure that is holding bait. Bait close down over the structure is a good start, but when you find bait suspended up in the water column, that is a good sign the kings are actively feeding. King fishermen are also catching a few dolphin, cobia and even an occasional wahoo or sailfish.
Sea conditions often make or break a trip offshore, but when the conditions are nice offshore bottom fishing has been excellent. Even if you can get there on rougher days, the constant rocking and rolling of the boat makes it difficult to feel strikes. On the positive side, once you find structure that is holding bait and fish, there are multiple species of bottom dwellers that are willing biters once they see and smell your bait.
The best bottom fishing action has been just a little deeper than the better king mackerel action at roughly 80 to about 115 feet of water. Kings and bottom fishing depths overlap a little. The offshore bottom catch is a mixture that usually includes grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts and porgeys. Fishermen off Frying Pan Shoals are also catching a few hog snapper and African pompano. When offshore bottom fishing always have a light line or two drifting behind the boat to catch any kings dolphin or other fish that are drawn to the boat.
While a lot of the days have been rocking and rolling, offshore trolling has been surprisingly good. They are typically smaller than earlier in the summer, but there are good numbers of dolphin in most catches. There are also a few blackfin tuna along the entire state and some yellowfins and bigeyes off Oregon Inlet. Wahoo numbers have increased in the past week or so. Wahoo numbers usually begin to pick up near the end of August, but no one will complain if they arrive early.
SAFMC Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
During 2014 the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council held a series of stakeholder port meetings from N.C. through Florida. The purpose of these meetings was to receive stakeholder ideas and concerns regarding what worked and didn't work for managing the snapper grouper fishery in the south Atlantic. The SAFMC wanted to develop a "vision" for managing this fishery in the future. Input received at these port meetings along with ideas from the Council members themselves were compiled to create a Draft Vision Blueprint for the snapper grouper fishery.
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 South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is requesting public input on proposed management measures affecting several species managed through the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. The public is encouraged to provide written comment and participate in upcoming public hearings scheduled from August 10 - 25, 2015 throughout the region. Public hearings will be held on the proposed designation of Spawning Special Management Zones (SMZs) through Amendment 36 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan and Regulatory Amendment 16 addressing modifications to the commercial black sea bass pot fishery. SAFMC staff will also be collecting public input on the Draft Vision Blueprint addressing long-term management of the Snapper Grouper fishery during the Amendment 36 public hearings.
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 was held Monday, August 10. A schedule of the public hearings is also available on the Scoping Meeting page of the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
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.
Aug. 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 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, 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: Cape Lookout Shootout Tournament Series, Tournament 2, The Boat House, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.
August 29: Captain Jimmy's "Most Spots in the Slot" Red Drum Tournament, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, 910-443-1211.