Haven't those cooler days and especially the cooler mornings been nice this week? I like summer OK; it's my third favorite season--right behind fall and spring, but I'm just not a big fan of heat and humidity.
While I expect we will have a few more blasts of extreme heat, I'm hoping this is the sign that our dogs days are breaking up and our weather will be a little cooler. As nice as this is, don't get complacent and let yourself get lured into a false sense of security. The sun is still plenty hot and its rays can be dangerous. Continue to use plenty of sunscreen and drink lots of water.
In addition to the weather predictions for a mild high and cooler temperatures, there isn't a lot of wind in the forecast. If this holds true, we should hear a lot more from fishermen venturing farther offshore. While most boats are safe at 15-20 knots, it sure is uncomfortable running to and from offshore fishing holes. Perhaps the cooler daytime highs and lighter winds will be just what we need to end the dog days with a bang.
I fished a red drum tournament Saturday in Swansboro, with Capt. Tommy Rickman of Southport Angler Outfitters. We had planned to spend a day last week pre-fishing the area, but between matching our schedules up and windy weather, we didn't get it done. Someone from that area was kind enough to offer us some information that was probably good, but we didn't get to find out--at least not firsthand. Every time we moved between areas, we found another local already fishing the new spot.
We saw several fish landed while working the perimeters of the bays and were hoping the fish were spread out. We caught a few and missed a few more. We even missed the weigh-in when we ran towards Morehead City to avoid that thunderstorm that sprang up Saturday afternoon. We were up in Bogue Sound and the storm got so nasty the clouds developed a purple tint and the lightning had an eerie neon-like glow.
A bunch of folks took advantage of the nice weather (with the exception of that storm) over the weekend to head offshore and go fishing. The reports ranged from fair to very good, but everyone I spoke with was wearing a big smile.
One of the favorites is king mackerel. While there are some kings closer in and farther off, there are good numbers of school kings (8-15 pounds) at many of the spots 10 to 20 miles off the beach. A few larger kings are also mixed in with them. A few of the more popular spots include Northwest Places, the Triple Nickel, 13 Buoy, Jerry's Reef, Southeast Bottoms and Christmas Rock. There were also reports of larger kings across Lookout Shoals at East Rock, 30 Minute Rock and 1700 Rock.
Last week I noted that Capt. Noah Lynk had called me to tell me there were a bunch of undersize kings mixed in with the Spanish around Cape Lookout. I had several more calls this week telling me they are still there.
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 when they are small. 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.
A lot of king mackerel fishermen are catching dolphin and sailfish as side catches. A couple of other fish that are showing up with kings more frequently are African Pompano and amberjacks. Amberjacks may be on almost any structure from just off the beach on out. They really like structure with a lot of relief. African pompano usually prefer water a little deeper and are generally on found from about 65 feet deep and out.
Dolphin are around in really good numbers and comprise the highest percentage of the offshore and Gulf Stream catches. That's good as everyone likes mahi-mahi. A few wahoo are also being caught.
More billfish action continued this week. As I noted earlier, king mackerel fishermen are catching some sailfish. They are following the pods of baitfish inshore and occasionally venture within sight of the beach. More white marlin are being seen in the catch and the August full moon, which is this Sunday night, is generally considered to be a peak in the white marlin activity off N.C. There are also some blue marlin, including a few potential granders, cruising the ridges and current edges from 100 fathoms on out.
The offshore bottom fishing continues to chug right along. Red and gag grouper are the preferred species, but with a limit of only 5 grouper and only 2 of them can be gags, it's a real short trip unless you fish for something else also. Other offshore bottom fish being caught include red snapper, beeliners, black sea bass, porgys, and grunts.
Pier fishing had gone into its dog days mode, but this cool weather may rejuvenate it. Some kings are feeding along the beaches and offer an occasional opportunity. There have also been a few tarpon hooked. I haven't heard of any jack crevalle, but they are usually caught from the piers during the heat of August.
Wally from the Sheraton Pier called to say the Spanish mackerel fishing was the best he had seen it in years. Spanish typically bite best early in the day and then move offshore, maybe returning in the evening and maybe not. Other pier catches include bluefish, pompano, flounder, sheepshead, sharks and a surprising summer run of spots.
It has been a pretty good summer for catching speckled trout and it continues. Live shrimp are the top bait. I prefer to suspend them under a float and drift them across a productive area. Mullet minnows may either be fished under a float or on the bottom on a Carolina rig.
Gray trout are being caught under the Morehead City high-rise bridges. The cool of the day, especially in the evenings, has been the best time to catch grays. Live mullet and mud minnows have been the best live baits and vertical jigging of speck rigs, Stingsilvers and Jig Fish is the most popular way using lures.
Flounder fishing is pretty good too. A moving tide is best and the lower stages of the tide tend to concentrate them in the channels of the marsh creeks. Around the bars with moving water in inlets, along the edges of channels, where smaller creeks dump into larger ones and in the turning basin at the Morehead City State Port are good inside locations to catch flounder. Flounder are also being caught in the ocean around the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom areas. AR 315, AR 320 and AR 342 are good places to find flounder.
Puppy drum are in the surf around the inlets and scattered through the coastal marshes and creeks. They tend to seek out eddies and where currents blend together for feeding areas. When drum decide to feed, they will often hit artificials as quickly as live baits. They aren't particular either. For live bait, they will hit shrimp, mullet minnows, mud minnows, tiger minnows and peanut menhaden. They will also chase topwater plugs and a wide variety of soft grub and shrimp shapes.
There have been good sheepshead catches for several weeks and they don't appear to be slowing. The hot ticket is fiddler crabs fished beside bridge pilings and along the wall at the Morehead City State Port. Sheepshead like moving water and that makes it difficult to keep a bait in position. Another problem with sheepshead is they have such a soft bite. Many old-timers say you have to learn to set the hook just before you feel the bite to have much success with sheepshead.
It's a long learning curve, but well worth the time and effort. Sheepshead have a pretty white meat and are excellent table fare.
Capt. George Beckwith said the tarpon action is till good in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River and there are more big drum arriving all the time. Tarpon have been caught as far upriver as the Minnesott-Cherry Branch Ferry crossing. The drum prefer the drop-offs and sloughs from Point of Marsh, around Swan and Raccoon Islands, out to Cedar Island. With the tarpon and big drum this close together, it is possible to catch both in the same day and on the same trip.
We are nearing the end of the public comment period for several issues that are important to fishermen and other outdoorsmen in N.C.
First is the bill (H 2167) for allowing wider boat trailers to be towed without a special permit. The bill passed in the Senate 43-0 and in the House 108-5. It was sent to the governor on July 17 and he has 30 days to act on it. He threatened to veto it, but hasn't yet. Apparently he is at least listening to our calls. His time for a veto will expire before next week's column comes out so this is a final reminder to have your opinion heard. Contact the Governor's Office ASAP and have your support (or disapproval) on record.
The provisions of H 2167 allow boat/trailer combinations up to 114 inches (9.5 feet) wide to be towed without a permit on any day and at night. Boat/trailer combinations up to 120 inches (10 feet) wide may be towed on any day without a permit. Boat/trailer combinations greater than 120 inches wide would still require a permit and could only be towed during the day. Currently, boats wider than 102 inches may not be towed at night or on Sundays and holidays.
The Governor's office may be contacted at the following:
Hopefully you have already responded to the National Marine Fisheries Service about their proposed rule to implement Amendment 14 to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This would establish 8 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. The public comment period is open through 5:00 P.M., Eastern Time, today (Friday, August 15).
Electronic copies of Amendment 14 can be viewed on line at
and written comments may be submitted by:
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 have reopened. 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 second of three Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Series tournaments was held Saturday in Swansboro and attracted 39 boats. Amazingly enough there was a tie for the win as two teams weighed pairs of red drum totaling 14.26 pounds. The tiebreaker for the tournament was time and the Jacksonville-based team of Eric Powell and Jason Nelson weighed their fish 2 minutes ahead of the Swansboro-based team of Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor. In a sort of turn-about, Cronk and Taylor won the TWT for the largest fish by .1 pound.
I can tell you from personal experience it hurts to lose one this way. In 1999, my team was bumped from second to third in the US Open on a time-based tiebreaker and in addition to the mental anguish; it cost us over $10,000 in tournament and TWT winnings. I don't think the difference in prize money was quite this severe in the redfish tournament, but the time difference was only 2 minutes. I wonder how many times they'll ask themselves "What if?" this week.
The Alice Kelly Ladies-only Memorial Billfish Tournament was held Sunday in Manteo. The Freestyle, with Capt. Kenny Seyton and crew topped the 86 boat field and Missy Bracher, fishing on the Pelican, was the Top Lady Angler.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament began earlier this week in Manteo and will continue through Friday. This is the final tournament in the 2008 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series and the Peggy, with Capt. Mike Guthrie of Beaufort and the Chain Link, with Capt. Ralph Griffin of Morehead City entered the event as the top private and charter boats respectively. The 2008 champion will be crowned at the conclusion of the tournament. For more information, visit www.piratescovetournaments.com or call 252-473-1015.
The other tournament on tap for this weekend is the Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament in Sneads Ferry. For more information visit www.sneadsferrykmt.com or call 910-327-3953.
I have spoken with quite a few fishermen about the proposed purchase of Yaupon Pier by the Town of Oak Island and all are enthusiastic. 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 next weekend. Tournament director Al Baird said he would love to see a show of support that had all the parking areas filled with fishermen's vehicles. For more information visit http://www.ncfps.com/Save_Yaupon_Pier.html or call 803-396-7867.
The Long Bay Artificial Reef Association (LBARA) Club Challenge that was cancelled last week is back on! The event was cancelled when LBARA directors found themselves tied up with personal health issues and other matters. Upon hearing this, the folks from Ocean Isle Fishing Center offered to take over the tournament for this year to keep it going and to continue raising funds for Long Bay artificial reef projects. The date for the tournament is Sept. 6. Multiple registration points and captains meetings will be held on Sept. 5, with the weigh-in at Ocean Isle Fishing Center on Sept. 6. For more details visit www.lbara.com or www.oifc.com.