It says a whole lot about how hot the summer has been when the temperature dropping into the 80s is cooler. OK, so be it, but it has been nice to be a few degrees cooler and not faced with a heat warning every day. However, it appears most of the N.C. Coast will be climbing back to the low 90s for the weekend. If the humidity would drop a little, that would make it a whole lot easier to handle.
The forecast doesn't mention thunderstorms until next week, but don't let your guard down over the weekend. They may not be widespread, but when the weather is this warm and humid, locally severe thunderstorms can pop up really quickly. This has been a bad year for severe thunderstorms and lightning strikes, so remember to keep an eye on the sky and don't delay seeking shelter if one forms.
There were finally a couple of king mackerel caught from Bogue Inlet Pier this week. The big one weighed 37 pounds and was caught by Frank Griffin of High Point. It hit just before dark on Tuesday. There were a few more pier kings scattered along the coast. Pier fishermen are catching lots of Spanish mackerel and some are pretty large. Bottom fishing is slow at the piers right now, but there is a scattering of flounder, drum, sea mullet and such being caught.
On Wednesday, a friend sent me a picture of a 12 to 15 inch sailfish that was reportedly caught from one of the Outer Banks piers. I was a little skeptical, but it has happened before. Since then I have received several more pictures of different people with very small sailfish caught from the Outer Banks Piers and one of a seagull flying off with a small billfish. I know some folks are really good with Photoshop, but I believe these were real. There have been two dolphin caught from Outer Banks piers earlier this year and the water temp is around 80, so why not? It has happened before, but is rare.
A few kings moved closer to the beach this week other than just around the piers. There were a few caught at AR 315, the Beaufort Inlet Ship Channel and off Cape Lookout at Morehead and pretty close to the beach off Carolina Beach and Oak Island. Many times the beach king bite fires up for a few weeks between the end of July and Labor Day and this appears to be happening again. There are also kings in the 50 to 80 foot depth range.
The most consistent reports this week were from fishermen bouncing the bottom in 80 to 120 feet of water. Grouper are the stars of offshore bottom fishing and they are biting when you get positioned on them just right. N.C. recognized a new scamp grouper record late last week that will probably also become a word record. Details are in a section below.
Most of the other bottom fish will readily hit pieces of squid, pieces of cut bait and pieces of cigar minnows. Some good news came a few weeks ago for ocean bottom fishermen and it takes effect this Friday, August 12. The limit for black sea bass will increase from 5 to 7 fish per person. The minimum length will stay at 13 inches, but it will be nice to be able to keep a couple more of them when you find a pocket of fish large enough. Other bottom fish in the catch include beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgies.
When bottom fishing offshore, always trail at least one light line in the current for whatever pelagic might come by to see what's causing the fuss. A king mackerel live bait type rig, baited with a frozen cigar minnow or something from your catch, might attract a king, dolphin, wahoo, amberjack, sailfish or something else. If you're concentrating on bottom fishing, it's always an adrenaline rush when something hits the light line and the reel's clicker begins to scream.
A fair number of dolphin, plus a few wahoo and sailfish , have been caught mixed with king mackerel. With the warm summer water, baitfish move inshore from the Gulf Stream and hungry fish follow. Catching darn near anything is possible late in the summer.
Some really good news is that with everything else running late, the fall wahoo bite appears to be getting an early start. There are some billfish, primarily white marlin and sailfish, blackfin tuna, wahoo and more moving along the Gulf Stream breaks.
This might be the summer of swordfish. The stories and catches are getting more fishermen interested in making the long trip offshore to target swordfish. This week the Dancin' Outlaw, with Capt. Thomas Wood and crew, caught one around 200 pounds that I can confirm and there are a few other reports. The run to the swordfish action is approximately 80 - 90 miles each way, so you've got to be committed. However, the report is there are a lot of dolphin and other Gulf Stream fish that could be caught by trolling to and from where the swordfish have been caught.
This sounds like a fun trip and an awesome accomplishment for those so inclined. Just remember it is a long trip and shouldn't be undertaken without a good weather window and filing a float plan - just in case help is needed.
Spanish mackerel and flounder are being caught within a few miles of the beach. Spanish macks are moving along the beach, along the tide lines at the inlets and around the shoals at all 3 Carolina Capes. They like live baits up to about 6 inches and small lures trolled or retrieved quickly.
Flounder are holding in the structure of the artificial reefs and wrecks and on hard bottom areas just off the beach from Cape Lookout south. Flounder like live baits, but also hit bucktail jigs with plastic trailers. Fishing bucktails vertically gets them down to the flounder without snagging and hanging as often as fishing them at an angle. If you aren't losing some rigs or bucktails occasionally, you aren't fishing where the flounder are.
The action inside the inlets improved for a while, but not so much this week. However, it doesn't seem to have fallen off - just hit a plateau. There are some larger fish and days there are numbers of fish, but there are also still days the fish appear to have lockjaw or just can't be found. The good days can be really good and the good news is there are more of them now than earlier in the summer.
Fishermen are catching flounder, red drum, black drum and speckled trout, plus some ladyfish. I mentioned ladyfish and how much fun it is to catch them last week. Ladyfish are most active and predictable at night when they gather under lighted piers and bridges to gorge on shrimp and minnows carried by in the tide. In addition to the ladyfish being more numerous, the evening temperatures are cooler and easier on fishermen.
Flounder, both drum, and specks prefer to eat live baits and like to lie just out of the current and ambush them. They may be at creek mouths or around sand or oyster bars - anywhere the current concentrates bait and gives them a place to hide. Drum and trout will gulp a shrimp or minnow down, but flounder have to turn minnows so they go down head first and you have to give them a little more time to get the bait turned.
Red drum, flounder and specks will also hit artificials, but black drum not so much. Soft plastics are the most versatile lures and those with scent or adding some scent are usually more productive. Fishermen have been catching some reds and specks on topwater lures early and late in the day.
Sheepshead fishing continues to be good. This is specialized fishing, but is lots of fun and provides very tasty fillets for the dinner table. Sheepshead like vertical structure, like pilings and bulkheads around docks and bridges. The wall at the Morehead City State Port is a hotspot at times. Sandfiddlers were considered the prime sheepshead baits for years, but in recent years many fishermen are catching them well using sea urchins. The bite is very light and often goes undetected so the learning curve can be a bit frustrating.
The reports of large drum from the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound are a little better this week. They still aren't on fire, but are being caught pretty regularly. Fishermen are working bait and lures under popping corks during the mornings and soaking chunks of mullet on the bottom from the late afternoon into the evenings. Remember the "Owen Lupton Rig" is required in most areas from 7:00 P.M. through the night until 7:00 A.M. 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.
A few tarpon are also being caught in the same areas as the large drum. The beach tarpon bite had been better up until a few weeks ago, but has slowed and fishermen are anticipating those tarpon are moving into the sounds now. Some tarpon are caught using bait and rigs similar to large drum rigs and some have been caught suspending live baits under floats.
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.
Black Sea Bass Limit Increases to 7 Fish
Harvest of Other Jacks Complex Closed on August 9
The other jacks complex does not include greater amberjack, so they can still be kept. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
State Record Scamp Grouper Caught By 9 Year Old
Wingfield caught the record grouper on a Barefoot jig with a piece of squid. He was using a Penn jigging rod with a Canyon spinning reel loaded with 60 pound test line. The scamp was 43 inches long and 28 inches in girth. It surpassed the current N.C. record by almost 5 pounds and the current world record by more than 2 pounds.
Wingfield's dad said he fought the fish like a pro, but got worried at one time and asked for help. His dad told him to keep reeling and it would come in and after about 20 minutes the big scamp popped up beside the boat. They were approximately 50 miles out of Beaufort Inlet in roughly 175 feet of water.
Capt. Brisson immediately realized how large Wingfield's scamp was and wondered if it might be a state record. They tried to weigh it on the boat and the scales broke, which added to the suspense. They even discussed coming in to weigh it before it lost any weight, but the fish were biting well and they decided to continue fishing.
Wingfield's catch was approved as the state record last week and the world record approval process is ongoing. Young Wingfield said the world record application was longer and they also had to send the jig, leader and a section of line for examination. The world record is expected to be approved in a few more weeks.
Congratulations young man!
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.
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 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. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
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 12: United Special Sportsman Alliance Special Kids Fishing Day, Southport Marina, Southport, www.kidswish.org.
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: Junior Jolly Mon King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.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.
August 27 and 28: Jolly Mon Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.