The few degrees cooler and lower humidity for the weekend and early part of the week were very welcome, but the easterly winds it brought weren't. From when I was a youngster, I always remember being told fishing was the least when the wind was from the east. Asking why didn't get much for answers, but now I'm bold enough to hazard a guess. I believe the east wind is a wind of changing weather and the barometer is moving and fish rarely bite well when the barometer moves quickly.
Now that I have shown my ignorance of meteorology, let me say the fishing wasn't particularly good over the weekend. Last week started well, but many species slowed at the end and over the weekend. The fishing should be improving as I'm writing this.
Tarpon are one of the fish that fired up a little early last week. Most folks think it was the new moon tides that stirred them up, but, whatever the reason; they fed a little and thrilled some fishermen. Tarpon fishing is unique. Some fishermen land their fish and some don't, but all have vivid memories.
One of the best tarpon stories I heard last week came from inside the Cape Fear River. The fishermen fish the late afternoon into early evening there and sometimes the fight lasts until after dark. Jason McDowell hooked and landed a huge tarpon in the daylight hours, but it pulled him several miles from where he hooked it. McDowell's tarpon was 84 inches long (fork length) and 39 inches in girth. Using the generally accepted formula of girth squared, multiplied by length, then divided by 800, this fish would factor out to 159.71 pounds. That's a big tarpon anywhere!
The east wind also slowed the sailfishing. This happened once before, when the wind switched just before the Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament at Wrightsville Beach, but they caught a few. The same thing happened again for the first Cape Fear Sailfish Classic, but this time the bite fell off enough no one in the tournament recorded a sailfish release. The boats encountered a few, but didn't manage to work one to the boat.
Fishermen have been catching a lot of sailfish as incidental catches while king mackerel or dolphin fishing, so it was very unexpected to not register a release during the tournament. Farther up the N.C. Coast where the wind had a different angle, the billfishing was good and the results of the Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament bear that out. Is this a weather and wind direction related thing or is it coincidence--decide for yourself?
As I have noted for several weeks, the most consistent ocean fishing has been for Spanish mackerel. They are being caught trolling lures, slow trolling smaller live baits and freelining live baits or tethering live baits under small floats while flounder fishing around the nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs. Using the live baits often attracts larger Spanish and they sometimes make a first run that is amazingly fast. Hearing that drag sing is music for the soul.
Spanish mackerel fishermen should also find some nice size spadefish at the nearshore artificial reefs. If you haven't eaten spadefish, they are a pretty white meat that is mild and delicious. It might be time to gather a five gallon bucket of jellyball jellyfish and head out to one of the ARs.
King mackerel fishing continues to be slow. There are some kings moving around through the area, but they aren't holding well at any particular spot. Fishermen were hoping the flurry of big kings from a few weeks ago would continue, but it hasn't. A few have been caught in the ship channel and around the sea buoy, but the better action has been a little farther off. Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef are good places to try right out front and the popular spots east of Cape Lookout could fire up at any time. A few smaller dolphin are also being caught mixed in with the kings.
Shrimp are growing well in many area creeks and if you can get one past a pinfish, it might attract a speckled trout. Speck fishing has been slow, but there was a little spike in it until the wind shifted late last week. Maybe these few cooler and less humid days will get them biting a little better. One local guide said one day last week he went through more than 150 shrimp for one trout and a few puppy drum. He said the shrimp would not last but a few seconds because of all the hungry pinfish.
Flounder and puppy drum are the most active inshore fish right now. The flounder are scattered through almost any structure that offers them some shade and relief from the current. The hook at Cape Lookout, the Turning Basin and the bars in Beaufort Inlet are favorite spots that have been pretty consistent all summer. You can fish any of these spots by anchoring or drifting. Drifting gets the bait to more fish, but many fishermen believe the bigger flounder hit baits that stay still for a while.
Red drum have saved numerous fishing trips in the past few weeks. Several fishermen have reported encountering schools of 10 to 15 inch puppy drum in several area creeks. This is great news as it means there are new year classes joining the older drum in those creeks. There are also good numbers of larger red drum spread through area creeks. Drum are not usually picky and will hit a wide variety of lures and natural baits. My favorite lure for fishing along grass edges and oyster rocks is a Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon in gold color. This lure is weedless and pulls through grass and across oysters and rocks really well.
Many fishermen are reporting huge numbers of juvenile grouper in area creeks, especially in the Swansboro area. These small gag grouper usually run about six to ten inches long and will attempt to eat just about anything their size or smaller. Some even attack baits larger than them. Please handle them carefully and get them back into the water as quickly as possible. These are the grouper we will catch for dinner in a few years.
The pier fishermen aren't setting the world on fire either. They are picking away at some Spanish mackerel and bluefish for those casting jigs, while the bottom fishermen are seeing some pompano, flounder and a few black drum. Several experienced pier fishermen said these were the dog days and the fishing will pick up quickly as soon as the water temperature begins to drop.
I got in a quick trip on the new moon one day last week and caught some pups using the higher than normal tides to feed up in the marsh grass and then along its edges as the tide began to fall. I was with my friend Christopher Minish and his mom and this time she was nice enough to allow us to catch more than her.
I was fishing one of the Johnson Silver Minnow spoons I mentioned earlier. I was bouncing it through the edge of the grass and had a big red engulf it and head up onto the flooded flat. As luck will have it, I zigged when the pup zagged and his turn drug my line across the sharp edge of a piece of grass and cut the braid.
I was going to release him anyway, but it would have been nice to get my lure back. The full moon is coming up again on Tuesday (Aug. 24) and the drum should use the high tides to get back into the marsh again. Maybe this time they will be tailing. At that time they weren't but we could see their wakes as they moved. If you try this, be careful. That marsh grass is really sharp and can nip you as well as cut your line.
This week I did a live radio show for the Saltwater Catch program hosted by Bill Hitchcock on FM 94.1, WNBU in New Bern. We primarily talked about king mackerel fishing, but touched on kayak fishing a little also. The show will be rebroadcast at 12:30 P.M. today (Thursday) and 8:00 A.M. on Saturday and will be available on the Saltwater Catch website at www.saltwatercatch.com.
During the spring the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council voted to approve Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. This amendment stopped all fishing for red snapper along the Atlantic Coast and closed approximately 5,000 square miles of ocean bottom off Georgia and Florida to any and all bottom fishing. NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the amendment before forwarding it to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and is accepting public comment. Electronic copies of Amendment 17A may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Service web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov, the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov docket number NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
Written comments on Amendment 17A must be received no later than September 27, 2010, in order to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. They should be sent to: NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505--Attn; Kate Michie.
Electronic submissions must be sent to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov using the following docket ID in the search box: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. This is public record and may be posted along with any personal information included with the submission.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) met last week in Wilmington. I was unable to attend, but was told the meeting was "interesting" and that is a direct quote with emphasis. One thing is there seems to be a lot of talk about House Bill 1713, which requires any fisheries management changes to rebuild fish stocks must have at least a 50 per cent chance of succeeding. I'll have more as soon as the minutes are available. For more information on the MFC visit www.ncdmf.net and for more info on HB 1713 visit www.ncleg.net.
One more meeting and public comment period on the federal SEDAR 24 workshops for red snapper will be held in Charleston on August 24. For more information visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 5.5 at Oak Island is a day similar to the MAD 5 event held in Morehead City in early June. It is a day to take any and all active servicemen and women fishing and it is less than a month away. While it was held in October in past years, this year the Oak Island MAD event will be held Saturday September 11, 2010. The event will be headquartered at Bill Smith Park on Fish Factory Road. Fishermen and boats to carry military participants and volunteers to prepare and serve food are needed. For more information visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament was held August 14 from Casper's Marina in Swansboro, with 83 boats participating. This was the second tournament in SKA Division 1 and proceeds are used to benefit various children's causes in the area.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center Team of Barrett and Rube McMullan made the trip from Ocean Isle Beach and were rewarded with a 40.77 pound king and first place. Bill McLamb and the On The Fly crew found a 34.27 pound king to score second. Things got close then as Kevin Tedder and the Bubble Gum crew caught a 33.44 pound king to move into third place.
There was also a dolphin division and the dolphin weights were close too. The Red Bull Team, with Capt. Mike Sawyer landed the largest dolphin at 14.48 pounds. For more information visit www.obokmt.us.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament was the final tournament in the 2010 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Series and it was held August 10 through 13 at Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. There were two stories in this tournament. One was the domination of the billfish categories by the Uno Mas, with Capt. Glynn Loftin and crew and the other was that the second place boat, Stefanie Ann, did it with a crew of junior anglers, none older than 15.
The Uno Mas began the tournament with 490 points on seven releases on Tuesday to set the daily points mark and held the lead until the end. They picked the right lay day on Wednesday and didn't surrender the lead, then added points on Thursday and Friday for a total of 910 points on 13 releases. Since the tournament ended on Friday the 13th, this was very appropriate. The Uno Mas added several daily and TWT prizes to amass $501,848 for their efforts.
The Stefanie Ann held with Uno Mas for a couple of days, but the catches just didn't come their way later in the week and they were relegated to second place. Hearty congratulations are in order for Capt. Michael Birch and his junior angler crew that included Donnie Gordon (15), Blaine Birch (14), Jarrett Birch (12) and Canyon Birch (9). They tallied 630 points on 9 releases. The Caroline, with Capt. Watson Caviness finished third with 560 points on 8 releases.
While no billfish were boated, some big gamefish were brought to the scales. The Red Witch, with angler Paul Cecne, weighed an 80.6 pound yellowfin to top the Tuna Category. The second and third place fish were 77.0 and 76.7 pounds respectively. The Jesus Freak, with angler Shay Trainer, won the Wahoo Category with a 68.2 pounder and the Marlin Gull, with angler Denise Richardson, caught a 45.10 pound dolphin to win that category.
Kelli Roof fished on Game On and topped the Lady Angler Category with 420 points on six releases. Tanner Cline on the Carbon Needs was the first junior angler to reach 210 points and won that category. The Sea Buds, with Capt. Richard Chellim, won the Small Boat Category (38 feet and Under) with 140 points on two releases. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
The first Cape Fear Sailfish Classic was held August 12 through 15 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach with 21 boats competing. This was a release tournament for sailfish with a daily weight category for dolphin. While several sailfish were hooked, none were landed. The Day 1 dolphin winner was Mustang Sally with a 14.2 pound dolphin and the Day 2 dolphin winner was Black Dog, with a dolphin that weighed 11.2 pounds. As no sailfish were recorded, the tournament committee decided to award double the dolphin money and re-invest the net proceeds for next year. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Second Annual Brunswick County Fishing Club Open Flounder Tournament was held from Sunset Harbor on Saturday, August 14. Eleven boats with 27 fishermen covered area waters from Snows Cut to the Shallotte River Inlet in search of a doormat for the scales and two more fishermen tested their luck on the new Intracoastal Waterway Pier at the recently renovated Sunset Harbor Wildlife Boat Ramp.
While the men outnumbered the ladies, 14 year old Shannon Kirby rose to the occasion and collected the lion's share of the prizes. Shannon won the Grand Prize of $250 with a 3.5 pound flounder, the third place prize of $75 with a 3.3 pound flounder and collected an additional $50 for the largest fish caught by a lady angler.
Teresa Fulford completed the ladies' sweep of the tournament with her second place flounder that weighed 3.41 pounds and took the second place prize. The first fisherman to claim a prize was Al Fulford, who fished with Teresa, and together they won the prize for the heaviest total catch at 9.71 pounds.
A Professional Redfish Tour event, hosted by the All Waters Fishing Association, was scheduled for Aug 14 in Morehead City, but has been postponed and will be rescheduled. For more information visit www.awfa.com.
A trio of tournaments are on tap for this weekend. The Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament will be held on Saturday, August 21. This is the third tournament in the Southern Kingfish Association Division One. For more information visit www.sneadsferrykmt.com.
South Harbour Village Marina will host a Kids Fishing Tournament, this Saturday, August 21 from 10:00 A.M. until noon. The tournament is for kids 12 and under and will be done from the docks in the marina. For more information call 910-454-7486.
Also on Saturday, Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island will host their first Fishin' 4 A Cure tournament to benefit cancer research. This will be a one day multiple species tournament. There will also be a raffle for a Smart Car at 7:30 P.M. and you do not have to enter the tournament to purchase raffle tickets. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.