Our last little bit of cooler weather didn't last very long, but there is more in the forecast. By the middle of next week the daytime highs are supposed to drop into the mid 80s with several overnight lows making it into the 60s. This should be enough to get the mullet minnows moving and headed toward the ocean and hopefully it will be the break in the hot temps and strangling humidity that has been with us all summer. There are thunderstorm warnings most days, so pay attention to the sky and head for shelter if storms threaten.
Tropical Storm Fiona formed just off the coast of Africa earlier this week and there are a couple more waves behind it. Early expectations are for TS Fiona to turn out into the open Atlantic and not threaten the U.S, but there are concerns one or both of the waves could follow a more westerly track that allows strengthening and reaching the U.S. The National Hurricane Center has predicted storm action to increase for the next month or so and we should be watching and ready in the event one that heads our way.
There were several unusual fish caught this week. I mentioned several small sailfish caught from the Outer Banks Piers last week and there was one caught near the N.C./S.C. border this week that hit a Clarkspoon being trolled for Spanish mackerel. It was a little larger at maybe 20 inches to 2 feet, but still a miniature sailfish.
Over last weekend a lucky fisherman on the Surf City Ocean Pier in Surf City caught a 17 inch mutton snapper. This is a south Atlantic fish and extremely rare catch for N.C. However, Surf City Ocean Pier and the waters just off Topsail Island usually produce at least one odd catch each year. Usually it's a permit or a bonefish, but a mutton snapper is a prize too.
Spanish mackerel were the other hot fish this week. Spanish macks were biting just about everywhere from Calabash to Kill Devil Hills. Not all were keepers, but the action was excellent. Even better, the Spanish were biting a huge variety of lures and live baits. Trolling, casting, live lining and fishing under floats were all productive.
Trolling is the most widely used technique for catching Spanish mackerel. The most popular lures are Clarkspoons, but other small spoons and lures work also. Trolling rigs that have become popular for Spanish macks include mackerel tree rigs, straw rigs, mackerel duster rigs, Got-Cha trolls, bird rigs, and more. Last week all of these rigs and lures caught fish.
The standard Spanish trolling rig begins with the lure of choice and then a long leader up to a trolling sinker or small planer. For most applications, the leader should be 20 to 25 feet of 20 or 25 pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon. However, for some applications, like bird, mackerel tree and mackerel duster rigs, a shorter leader will often work as well and is easier to handle.
Spanish mackerel feed quickly and the trolling speed is quick. Five knots is a good starting speed and there are times 10 knots isn't too fast. Sometimes faster is better.
There will be days, Spanish can be seen jumping and feeding, but won't bite. This hasn't been the case lately, but usually happens in hot weather and could at any time. The secret to getting them to bite when this happens is to use smaller lures. They are feeding on small glass minnows and look beyond anything larger. I like small real bucktails (1/8 or 1/4 ounce) when this happens. Sometimes they can be hard to find and the synthetic bucktails from speck rigs and small (size 000 and 0000) shad spoons will do the job.
Fishermen who like to cast and retrieve should have good luck with Got-Chas, Stingsilvers, Clarkspoons with Clark Casters, Hopkins, Jigfish and such. If there is a gold hook option, it is usually worth the extra expense. This is especially true with Got-Cha lures. These lures are the top choices of pier fishermen and work well from boats also.
Live bait will catch Spanish mackerel too. Most of the times, smaller pogies and mullet minnows produce the best, but larger Spanish will hit larger baits intended for king mackerel. These can be slow trolled, drifted or fished from anchor. Many time flounder fishermen will float one or two live finger mullet behind the boat when fishing on the nearshore artificial reefs and add Spanish macks to their catch. Pier king anglers also catch Spanish on their trolley rigs with large baits intended for kings.
After the fun of catching them is done, Spanish mackerel taste good too. They can be fried, grilled, broiled, baked or whatever. About the only way to hurt their mild flavor is to burn them.
There were reports of smaller dolphin hitting lures intended for Spanish just off Cape Lookout Shoals last week. Only a few were caught as their wild gyrations pulled the small hooks that were intended for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. With the water temps this high and the water clean, don't be surprised if this happens elsewhere too.
Flounder are biting well on the nearshore artificial reefs, wrecks, and hard bottom areas. There have been reports of fishermen filling limits and many of the flounder being thick and heavy, just not quite to the 5 pound citation size. Live baits and vertical jigging bucktails are both catching well. Flounder fishermen should light line a live bait back while flounder fishing and may add Spanish to their catch.
In spite of the heat, king mackerel have been biting. It isn't the hot bite of the fall, but some days it has been surprisingly steady. The best king action has been from about 10 to 30 miles offshore in water 50 to 80 feet deep. The key is to find a rock or wreck that is holding bait and it will probably have kings too. Suspended bait is a sign of something feeding and is a better indicator of king action than bait scattered along the bottom.
Fishermen are catching a few dolphin mixed with feeding kings pretty regularly. Wahoo and sailfish are also pleasant surprises when king fishing, but are much fewer. Sailfish tend to wander closer in than wahoo, but there was a wahoo caught slow trolling a dead bait at Northwest Places earlier this week, so they're close too.
Offshore bottom fishing is pretty good. The catch is a mixture of grouper, snapper, grunts, triggerfish, porgies, black sea bass and more. Effective last Friday, August 12, offshore bottom fishermen can now keep 7 black sea bass instead of 5. Fishermen should trail a light line behind the boat in case the action of fish coming up from the bottom attracts a king, dolphin, wahoo or other predator.
The fall wahoo bite appears to have started early and wahoo are being caught along the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. There are also some blackfin tuna, dolphin and an occasional billfish. Look for grass lines, temperature changes, rips or other indicators something is happening below the surface.
The billfish bite is red hot off Oregon Inlet. The bite is mostly sailfish, with white marlin in nearly as good numbers and a few blue marlin being caught too. The ladies in the Alice Kelly Memorial Tournament surpassed the 100 release mark on Sunday, then fishermen in the Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament released 301 in the first two days. If you want to battle a sailfish or white marlin, this is a really good time.
The action with swordfish continues. The Dancin' Outlaw brought in another one from off Cape Lookout this week. This is a long trip offshore and shouldn't be undertaken without proper planning and equipment, but the percentage of reward has been high. While not everyone who tried has caught one, it seems that most have gotten bites and that's encouraging.
The surf and pier action is a little slow right now. It should begin to pick up once mullet begin leaving inside waters and running south along the beach and that may start with the cool weather and northerly wind next week. It shouldn't be long and usually begins before Labor Day weekend. The current pier catch is primarily Spanish mackerel and there are some citation and near citation Spanish in the mix. Pier fishermen are also catching a few flounder, pompano, drum and other bottom fish.
Inside fishing varies with the day, area and fisherman. There are days the fish are biting really well and days you have to wait and work for every strike. However, the situation could be reversed just a few miles away.
The water is well past warm and that has to be at least part of the problem. Several fishermen said they saw high 80s and 90 degrees up some of the creeks. Typically we would feel that the falling tide is the best fishing, but it is also when the water is warmest. Some fishermen have found the rising tide, with an influx of ocean water a couple of degrees cooler, can be better - especially closer to the inlets.
Many fishermen are relying on live baits, but some are also catching fish on artificials fished slowly. Scented artificials, or those with scent added, can be fished slower, with the scent helping attract fish. Even in the heat, pups and specks are hitting topwaters for at least a couple of hours most mornings. Sometimes they get fired up again in the late afternoons.
Flounder, pups, specks and black drum may be feeding in the shallows, or close by along the edges of deeper channels, especially during the middle of the day. Even when fishing live baits, I like to creep the bait along the bottom to cover more area. I usually cast to the shallows and work it back to deeper water.
It's hard to be patient when just breathing makes you sweat, but patience is the name of the game in this heat. The fish generally aren't moving around a lot between mid morning and late afternoon, so they won't always find even a scented bait that stays in one place. However, don't retrieve your live bait or scented soft plastic too quickly. Give the bait or the scent time to get a fish's attention.
There were a few more reports of ladyfish several evenings this week. Ladyfish
have no food value, but are loads of fun to catch. They run hard, jump, reverse
direction and really put up a fight. Ladyfish occasionally hit baits and lures
intended for trout and pups during the daytime, but come into their own as
darkness approaches. They have large eyes, with excellent night vision, and
gather around bridges and docks with lights to eat shrimp and minnows that wash
by with the tide. Many times you can hear them gulping shrimp, but they are
just far enough out in the darkness not to be seen. Live shrimp is an excellent
bait and I have done well several times on 2 inch Gulp shrimp.
Large red drum and tarpon are being caught in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River, but the reports are a bit mixed. The numbers of large red drum are increasing, but are still below most years. However, when fishermen find an active school the action is hot until they tire or move on. The big drum have been biting soft plastics and live baits under popping corks and some swimming lures in the mornings, but seem to prefer chunks of cut bait in the afternoons into evening.
Remember the "Owen Lupton Rig" is required in and around Pamlico Sound 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.
As drum numbers increase in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River, the reports of tarpon encounters dwindle. One fisherman said he believes the tarpon are still there, but most fishermen would rather catch multiple large drum than sit in the sun and bake waiting on a single or maybe two tarpon bites.
There are also reports of tarpon being caught in the ocean around Cape Lookout and Cape Fear, plus inside the Cape Fear River just a little upriver and across from Southport.
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.
Military Appreciation Day - Southport to be Held September 10
MAD 11 Southport will begin when the troops check in and board boats around daylight and concludes with a cookout and picnic for the troops and volunteer boat captains in the late afternoon. MAD events are all-volunteer events and volunteers are needed for MAD 11 - Southport. Volunteers with boats are needed to take the troops fishing and volunteers are also needed for shore side duties ranging from helping with setup and the meal to helping clean the fish that are caught.
Those interested in being a part of MAD 11 - Southport can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer. I’ve been volunteering at MAD events for a handful of years now and highly recommend it. It’s a day you won’t forget. I’m pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing.
NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
These centers offer extensive fishing and outdoor 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.
Deer Hunting Seminars Offered
Seminar dates and locations are:
For more information on the seminars, contact Walter "Deet" James at 919-707-0059 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.ncwildlife.org/hunting and click on the “What to Hunt” link for information about deer and deer hunting in North Carolina.
Seminars on Handling and Processing Deer
The seminars, which are offered as part of the Wildlife Federation's Farmers and Communities Manage Deer program, will feature video demonstrations and tips from the experts on how to process a deer from field to freezer. Topics include field dressing, taxidermy, skinning, safe meat handling and basic home processing. Pre-registration for the deer processing seminars is required and participants must register online.
A Wildlife Commission spokesman said these seminars are for people new to hunting or new to processing their own deer. For more information on the seminars, contact Walter "Deet" James at 919-707-0059 or email@example.com. Visit www.ncwildlife.org/hunting and click on the "What to Hunt" link for information about deer and deer hunting in North Carolina.
August 24: Public Meeting — Flounder Permit and Reporting Requirements, 6:00 P.M., NCDMF Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Kathy Rawls at 252-808-8074 or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov.
September 7: Public Hearing — Proposed Shellfish Lease in New Hanover County, 6:00 P.M., NCDEQ Wilmington Regional Office, Wilmington, Contact Valerie Wunderly at 252-808-8061 or Valerie.Wunderly@ncdenr.gov.
September 12-16: South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Marina Inn at Grand Dunes, Myrtle Beach, SC, www.safmc.net.
September 28: NCMFC Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board Meeting, 10:30 A.M., NCDEQ Wilmington Regional Office, Wilmington, Contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.
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 15-19: Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.
August 19: Cape Lookout Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.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.
September 10 and 11: Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge, Inlet Watch Marina, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
September 17: Carolina Redfish Series Championship Tournament, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
September 17: Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament, Harbourgate Marina, North Myrtle Beach, www.rumblekmt.com.
September 19 - October 4: Emerald Isle Recreation Department Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament, Weigh at Bogue Inlet Pier, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.com.