The weather forecast for this weekend is one of the best we have seen in weeks. I hope everyone can find a little time to get out and wet a line. With all the rain the past few weeks, the fishing reports have varied a little, but have been surprisingly good. That should improve this weekend.
The flounder reports were varied along the coast, but reports came from the creeks, the rivers, the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean Ė and that is good. Many flounder were caught by fishermen using live mullet minnows or mud minnows on Carolina rigs, but a few were caught on soft plastics while fishing for puppy drum and a good number of them were jigged from the nearshore artificial reefs using bucktail jigs and flounder strips or soft plastics.
The inshore water in most places has at least a little red from all the fresh water, but there are fish biting. There are some nice sheepshead in places, especially in the Turning Basin and around the State Port facility at Morehead City. Check out the bridges and along the wall at the State Port, plus they are probably on the large docks in the area. Sheepshead like fiddler crabs and sea urchins fished right beside the pilings and some large ones were caught this week.
Many fishermen were concerned that all the rainfall would push the puppy drum away. I wonít say they are all in their usual haunts, but some nice drum are being caught. The numbers may not be as high as they were before all the rain and Hurricane Bertha passed, but itís good to know there are still some drum around.
Several fishermen said all the bait is what is holding the drum Ė and some trout too. They said the water is so dingy itís ugly, but there are minnows and shrimp in it and the fish are hanging around because there is food. I donít know about yíall, but that works for me. I like to eat and have been known to huddle under a tent at a fish fry as long as there were hot fish and hushpuppies coming out of the fryer.
There are also some trout still biting. While there have been some trout caught in open water, there have also been some trout near the backs of creeks, almost like in the winter. Unlike winter, when they head into the backs of the creeks to stay warm, trout are heading up the creeks to dodge dirty water. The shorter creeks that donít drain a lot of area are good places to find specks right now.
Food is a big key for specks and reds Ė and flounder too. They all like live minnows and shrimp. Using a Carolina rig raises the possibility of catching a flounder, while fishing that bait suspended under a float ups the odds of catching a trout. Puppy drum arenít particular and will usually eat live minnows and shrimp wherever they find them.
Reds and specks also use sound to locate bait when the water is cloudy. Fishing those live baits under a popping or rattling cork and sounding it off occasionally will help fish find the bait. They will also hit topwater lures, especially in the early morning and late afternoons. Catching fish on topwater lures is fun and their strikes are often exciting.
There are schools of large drum feeding along the edges of the Pamlico Sound and lower Neuse River. Just like smaller drum and specks, these fish also use sound to locate food and fishermen are having good luck using popping and rattling corks to help attract them. They are catching them in the daytime and in shallower water.
Several companies have made corks especially for the larger baits and jigs used with the big drum. Cajun Thunder popping and rattling corks have been favorites of fishermen for years. These corks use brass beads and ceramic inserts to make the clicks loud. New this year is the Magnum Cork from Cajun Thunder, which is a much larger cork that is loud and also makes a much larger splash when jigged. They work well for the large drum in the sound and also call fish up from depths around rocks and wrecks in the ocean.
The same areas of Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River holding the big drum are also holding tarpon close by. The numbers arenít huge, but they are there and fishermen are jumping a few. Tarpon feed in some of the same areas and on some of the same things as drum and occasionally one tries to abscond with a bait intended for the other. Chunks of cut bait fished on the bottom make good double purpose baits.
Regulations specific to this area require using circle hooks on short leaders when fishing between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. The local version of this rig is called the Owen Lupton rig, after the fisherman who designed it. It uses a 10/0 circle hook on a 3 to 6 inch leader with a sinker crimped in place so it is fixed in position 3 to 6 inches above the hook. The regulations and a picture are on the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.com.
There were a few reports this week of several schools of jack crevalle around the Cape Lookout Jetty and along the rock wall in the Cape Fear River that runs from Fort Fisher to the marsh behind Bald Head Island. Jack crevalle arenít considered good table fare, but they are world class brawlers on the business end of a fishing line. If youíre just looking to pick a fight, they might be a good match. Schools of jacks are usually noticeable as they stir up the water and lures or live baits have been being eaten with equal enthusiasm.
Something continues to be happening with king mackerel along the beach. It isnít on fire, but fishermen from the ocean piers continue to catch a few each week. There have been king catches reported on the piers from Nags Head to Oak Island and some of them were smokers. A lot of fishermen were worried about how the fresh water runoff from all this rain would affect the nearshore kings, but so far that fishing has maintained and maybe even improved a little.
The piers had good catches of Spanish mackerel several days too. The smaller mackerel are hungry and have been hitting Got-Cha lures and smaller live baits fished near the surface. A few even hit king baits out near the pierís ends.
Pier fishermen also caught some flounder, red drum, pompano and a mixture of other fish. Flounder like mullet and mud minnows fished on the bottom and many pier regulars say the depressions around the pilings are a good place to find them. Flounder will also hit strip baits, while the bottom fish like pieces of shrimp and cut bait.
The forecast has the wind and swell laying out some for Friday through the weekend and that will allow more fishermen in the ocean. It was bumpy most of last week and there werenít a lot of fishermen out in smaller boats. Spanish mackerel have been holding around the inlets, scattered down the beaches and around the nearshore artificial reefs from Oregon Inlet to Little River Inlet. Small shiny lures like Clarkspoons that are trolled pretty quickly behind small planers or trolling sinkers are catching Spanish macks well.
Shark fishing is already growing more popular each year and with this week being Shark Week on the National Geographic Channel, there is a special emphasis. There are some nice sharks from the inlets out for five miles or so and there are some big sharks around some of the larger rocks, shipwrecks and artificial reefs from the beach out to the edge of the blue water. I find the smaller blacktips and spinner sharks the most fun to catch because they usually jump a few times Ė and they can usually be found just off the beach.
A few scattered kings have been caught around the sea buoys, at some of the nearshore rocks and around the nearshore artificial reefs, but there isnít a big body of them. The concentration of kings has been deeper, mainly over the rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs in 60 to 80 feet of water. While there are more kings in the slightly deeper water than along the beaches, there arenít huge numbers either place. One of the other benefits to heading a little deeper is some dolphin and an occasional sailfish have been feeding with these kings and theyíre a pleasant surprise.
I know it sounds like a broken record, but the most consistent ocean fishing for the past several weeks has been offshore bottom fishing. There is a good mixture of species. Most fishermen are after grouper and the scamps, gags and red grouper are biting well. Fishermen are also catching beeliners, grunts, porgies, black sea bass and triggerfish pretty regularly.
There are some dolphin and wahoo at the Gulf Stream. Neither are particularly large fish right now, but there is usually a lull around the first of August and weíre missing it this year so far. The wahoo numbers are a little ahead of most years and thatís good news. Hopefully it is also an indicator the fall wahoo bite, which is usually pretty good, will be especially good this year.
MAD 9 Southport
MAD 9 Southport will be the effort of a large team of volunteers from across N.C. Volunteers with boats are needed to take the troops fishing, but many volunteers are also needed to help with the shore side duties. Shore side volunteers could do anything from helping with setup, registration and cleanup to helping prepare and serve the meal or even helping clean the fish that are caught.
Many fishermen with trailerable boats volunteer for both N.C. MAD events and I highly recommend being a part of it if your circumstances allow it. I have made some good friends of the troops attending and MAD volunteers and the experience is priceless. Iím pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing. Those interested in being a part of MAD 9 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer.
Upcoming Fishery Meetings
Aug. 20-22: Marine Fisheries Commission, DoubleTree by Hilton Brownstone Raleigh-University, Agenda available at www.ncdmf.net, For more information contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings and Events
July 1 to August 31: Chasiní Tails Sheepshead Challenge, Chasiní Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
July 1 to September 30: Chasiní Tails Flounder and Spanish Mackerel Challenge, Chasiní Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
August 12 to 15: Pirateís Cove Billfish Tournament, N.C. Governorís Cup Billfishing Conservation Series, Billfish and offshore gamefish, Pirateís Cove Marina, Manteo, www.ifishpiratescove.com.
August 16: Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament, King mackerel, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.sneadsferryknt.com.
August 23: Drumín For Ducks, Old red drum, Paradise Cove Marina, Merritt, 252-249-2025.
August 23: Topsail Inshore Challenge, Flounder and redfish, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.fishermanspost.com.
August 23: Sheriff Ingramís Flatfish Roundup, Flounder, Southport Marina, Southport, www.SheriffJohnIngram.com/flatfishroundup.
The Oriental Rotary Tarpon Tournament was previously scheduled for the weekend of August 22-24, but is not on their website and a note on their Facebook page reads the dates for the 2015 event will be released soon.