This shot of cool weather sure is nice. Donít let it put you off guard and forget to use sun screen and keep yourself hydrated. That is very important when outside and I hope youíre getting to do some fishing.
We are entering what is typically the busiest section of hurricane season and as if on cue, the activity in the tropics increased. Earlier this week a check of the tropics showed a little weather gremlin (Invest 92) in the Caribbean. That should move off the Yucatan Peninsula sometime Friday and we will see if it will intensify as the folks at the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) forecast.
Meanwhile, another system that quickly intensified and has been named Tropical Storm Erin, is moving westward across the Atlantic. Current projections have it approaching the Caribbean as a tropical storm in the middle of next week. Potential tracks are scattered from there. Pay attention, but we really wonít know much until next week. In addition to the National Hurricane Center, I like the information at Mikeís Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com).
Since I returned from my NW New York trip, I have been running around the N.C. Coast. The good news is that most fishing is slowly and steadily improving. The water is still muddy in many places, but fish are biting.
The best reports have been coming from the flounder fishermen. They arenít catching huge flounder, but they are catching flounder and most are nice ones. A lot are 4 to 6 pounders, which will fill a grill, oven or several frying pans. Flounder are biting in inside waters and at the nearshore rocks and reefs.
Flounder are being caught both using live baits and artificials. There is nothing like a struggling live bait, especially one around hand size, for attracting large flounder. However, this is also a fishery where the old saying "Elephants eat peanuts," is also correct and flounder are being caught on mud and mullet minnows, plus 3 and 4 inch soft plastics. The biggest difference I see is fishing with artificials allows covering more bottom, which is sometimes good and sometimes not so good.
Whichever way you choose to chase flatfish, it isnít incorrect unless you arenít catching them and arenít having fun. A word to the wise is that flounder will shrink in a cooler, so it is a good idea not to keep any that are barely legal. You might want to add at least 1/4 inch to be sure.
Puppy drum are in many of the shallower areas holding flounder and are being caught while targeting flounder. They eat many of the same baits. To concentrate more on the drum, switch to a spinnerbait and fish a little faster. There is something about the thump of the spinner that drum canít refuse. You should still occasionally catch some flounder and they should be larger ones.
There are also some trout being caught, but their numbers donít appear to be as strong as the flatfish and pups. Sometimes the trout will hit topwater lures early in the morning, but many fishermen rely on live shrimp to catch them. I had a great experience with specks during the last week and will offer more details a little later.
There are tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River, plus along the coast at Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. Tarpon are meat eaters and like chunks of meat fished on the bottom and live baits.
Large red drum are moving into Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River and many fishermen are switching their attention to them. Red drum fishing usually produces multiple hookups, while tarpon fishing often involves a lot of effort for a single strike.
Red drum fishing is also more popular in the late afternoon into the early evening and the day is cooler, which is really good if the action gets hot. Remember that from 7:00 P.M. until 7:00 A.M. a special (Owen Lupton) rig, with a short leader, fixed sinker and circle hook, is required in the sound and its tributaries. A diagram of the rig is available at www.ncdmf.net.
There is also growing action from the big red drum at Little River Inlet. This is barely across the S.C. state line, so if you want to fish there, you will need a S.C. license.
Offshore fishing is still a little hit and miss, but is beginning to pick up again. There are some billfish, but the stars during august are wahoo and schools of dolphin. Wahoo seem to travel in singles or small groups, but some charter boats are reporting double digit strikes many days. Unfortunately the catch rate is well below 100 percent. In addition to being along the edge of the Gulf Stream, wahoo and dolphin have followed bait inshore and are being caught occasionally by king mackerel and bottom fishermen.
I have a story this week that shows what sometimes happens during the end of the summer when all water is warm and Gulf Stream fish follow the bait closer in. Dr. Gerald Turner of Oak Island and his son Mark were fishing east of Bald Head Island last Thursday on Turnerís center console, Jaw Breaker. The day had been slow and they were preparing to leave when a sailfish popped up and began swimming around with its sail extended above the water. They quickly rigged a fresh live pogie and tossed it over to the curious sail.
The sailfish popped the pogie with its bill several times and circled it as though preparing to eat. Suddenly, with a quick turn the sailfish rushed the bait and disappeared as the reel began screaming. The battle lasted an hour and the sailfish never jumped. The big surprise for the Turners was that when the tired fish became visible just below the boat, it was now a wahoo and a big one.
Apparently what caused the sailfish to rush its last charge was the 68 pound wahoo that had zeroed in on the action and beat the sailfish to the injured bait. The sailfish would have been photographed and released, but the Turners invited the wahoo home to be the guest of honor at dinner that night. Congratulations!
Spanish mackerel have been working their way back to the beaches and the inlets. There have been some larger Spanish caught from the piers and trollers are doing well also. Live baiters should find a struggling mullet minnow or small pogie suspended under a float or small balloon is an excellent bait for larger Spanish macks. Trollers have been doing well with Clarkspoons and other small spoons.
Pier fishing is steady as it should be in mid August. Fishermen are catching flounder, trout, pompano, some early spots, bluefish, a few Spanish mackerel and some king mackerel.
For the last couple of weeks, the king fishing from the piers in Raleigh Bay (Kure Beach to Atlantic Beach) has been very good. It has slowed some this week, but they may still be around. Some kings were caught this week near the beach around the Beaufort Inlet Ship Channel and along Shackleford Banks up towards Cape Lookout. Kings were also being caught a few miles offshore in water from roughly 50 to 100 feet deep.
My adventures this week werenít as exciting as having a sailfish morph into a 68 pound wahoo, but they were fun. My first episode was in Manteo. Capt. Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Guide Service (www.tarpamguide.com, 252-945-9715) had called while I was at Lake Ontario and left a message the trout were still biting well at Manteo, but he was about to move to the Pamlico Sound to chase large red drum and I should come ASAP if I wanted to catch some trout before he moved his boat to chase the drum.
Man, he was right. We left the ramp at first light and were catching trout on topwaters within just a few minutes. They were a little lethargic in the 80 degree water, so we were casting the smaller Super Spook, Jr. lures. Sometimes the trout would hit weakly and miss, but if you kept the lure moving steadily they would come back and hit it again.
After a while the bite slowed and we moved to the bridges and began fishing live bait. Unlike locally where live shrimp are king, the preferred live bait in Manteo is 3 to 5 inch croakers. The Manteo specks may have hit live shrimp too, but they definitely liked the croakers. So did some puppy drum and stripers. I was surprised we didnít catch a flounder, but maybe we were just floating the baits too far off the bottom for them.
We ran out of bait once and headed to the edge of a channel and quickly jigged more. This was lots of fun and I brought a limit of nice trout home, while releasing a lot more. The trout werenít huge, but there were enough 16 to 20 inchers to keep some nice fish for dinner.
Being a glutton for fishing, when Capt. Richard headed in about 2:00, I dug my phone out of my dry bag and called Capt. Noah Lynk of Noahís Ark Fishing Charters (www.noahsarkfishingcharters.com, 252-342-6911) in Harkers Island to see if he still was interested in fishing that night. Capt. Noah had found some ladyfish holding around a lighted area after dark and said the fishing had been excellent.
I grabbed a cold drink, splashed some cool water on my face and headed out to Harkers Island. When I got there, Capt. Noah was ready to go, with a bait well full of live shrimp in case the ladyfish wanted to be fickle. However, there was no need to worry. They were already feeding strongly when we arrived and kept at it until the tide slowed to change just after midnight.
The ladyfish were coming through in waves with the tide and feeding on shrimp and minnows being carried by the tide. Most of the time they would readily grab a soft plastic that looked anything like a shrimp or minnow. When the wave of fish slowed, switching to live bait would entice a few stragglers until the next wave rolled in. There wasnít any difficulty telling the difference either. When the wave was pushing through, the ladies were splashing and jumping and when it slowed the water would be calm for 5 to 10 minutes. When another wave rolled through, the ladies frothed up the water again.
This was all catch and release fishing. Ladyfish have no value other than as bait or a fun fish to catch. They run hard, jump often and generally raise cain. Many fishermen refer to them as "poor manís tarpon." Add in the fact that this was nighttime fishing with only a minimum of light and it was especially exciting. We had a great time and asked the question, "did you see that?" numerous times.
I sure was glad to see a pillow when we stopped after the tide slowed and the bite quit. Capt. Noah said they would start back up again once the tide started running again, but by then I had just about filled my fun quotient for the day.
I understand there are a lot of ladyfish scattered throughout most N.C. inside waters from Core Sound to the south. Fishermen may catch one or two at any time while fishing for trout, pups or flounder. The one place that seems to really attract them is the bridges and the best action is usually under the lights from just before dark into the evening. They are feeding on shrimp and minnows being swept by in the tide and have ravenous appetites.
The tagged great white sharks Lydia and Mary Lee hadnít been to the surface and pinged a location in more than a week until the past few days. Lydia pinged Monday afternoon and Mary Lee pinged Wednesday afternoon. They are still offshore of the Continental Shelf roughly east of Hilton Head Island, S.C. I was glad to see these pings as this much time underwater and between pings is uncharacteristic for these sharks. Perhaps their recent extended times underwater are to escape the heat of a southern summer? These sharks are much farther south and in warmer water than would be expected at this time of year. Follow the travels of Mary Lee and Lydia by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
The scientists at Ocearch caught and tagged another great white shark today off Cape Cod. Betsy is a 12 foot, 7 inch immature female. It will be interesting to see if she stays around Cape Cod or swims south to join Lydia and Mary Lee.
I asked questions last week regarding what additional hunting and fishing license fee increases the N.C. Legislature had included in their budget, but havenít yet received an answer. We have already been told of the boat registration fee increases and for the Recreational Commercial Gear License (RCGL) which allows recreational fishermen to use limited amounts of commercial gear.
I have been told to expect more license fee increases that will be earmarked to help support the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Observer Program. The observer program collects at-sea information about commercial and recreational catches, including information on discards. Technicians or Marine Patrol officers observe large and small mesh gill net and recreational hook and line fisheries onboard fishermen's vessels or from a division vessel operated in the vicinity of the fishing activity. They record data on different aspects of the fishing activity. Observers also collect data on interactions with sea turtles and other protected species. There are some areas that gill net fishermen cannot fish without observers on board.
The Marine Fisheries Commission will hold the third of its four scheduled meetings for 2013 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh-University-Brownstone in Raleigh August 28 to 30. There will be time specified for public comments on the evening of August 28 and again on the morning of August 29.
While there will be numerous items on the agenda, the one most highly charged will be the discussion and possible vote on the petition to declare all internal coastal waters that are not currently classified as nursery waters as secondary nursery waters. The concern is that trawling is not allowed in nursery waters and this will effectively prohibit shrimp and crab trawling in inside coastal waters. For more information contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the meeting agenda should be posted soon at www.ncdmf.net.
If anyone had a really good time at the Morehead City Military Appreciation Day (MAD) on June 1 and would like to do it again, the next round will be in Southport on Sept. 21. The Southport MAD 8 will be held at Southport Marina and registration is open for volunteers and participants. This is an all volunteer event to show support for active duty service members from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy and historically the Southport event is smaller than the Morehead City event. The troops will be treated to a day of fishing and a large picnic dinner in the afternoon. This year families will also be invited, with events planned during the day prior to the cookout at the end of the day.
In addition to boats and captains to take the troops fishing, volunteers are needed for many land side activities, such as registration, preparing the meals, entertaining the family members, set up, take down and even for cleaning fish. The last time I checked with them, the number of fishermen registered to provide boats was approaching 35. For more information and details on this event, visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The 29th Annual Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament began on August 13 and will continue through August 16 from Pirateís Cove Marina in Manteo. This is the final of eight tournaments in the Governorís Cup Billfish Series. Prizes will be awarded for billfish release points and weighed blue marlin exceeding a 400 pound or 110 inch minimum. There will also be prizes for offshore gamefish.
As of late Thursday, the Sniper, with Capt. Jimmy Bayne and crew were continuing their streak and leading the tournament with 700 points from the release of 1 blue marlin and 7 white marlin. However, Thursdayís white marlin bite was red hot and Thursdayís totals hadnít been added. Fishing will continue Friday also. For more information visit www.pcbgt.com.
The 21st Annual Rotary Club of Sneads Ferry King Mackerel Tournament will be held August 17 from New River Marina in Sneads Ferry. This is the third tournament in SKA Division 1. For more information visit www.sneadsferrykmt.com.
The Topsail Inshore Challenge will be held August 25 from New River Marina in Sneads Ferry. This is the fourth in a series of five flounder tournaments. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.