The cold front that rolled in last week was nice. Unfortunately, it was just a taste of the fall weather yet to come and didnít stay around very long. By Sunday, we were back to sweating. Thankfully the early forecast for this weekend only has the temperatures reaching the upper eighties. That will be enough to be uncomfortable combined with humidity percentages that might match or exceed the temperatures.
Not only did the cold front make fishermen smile, it cooled the water and fired up a lot of the baitfish in the creeks and had them scurrying about. The cooler water got some fish feeding more actively too. Even though it has required dodging showers or getting wet to fish this week, the fish have been biting and most fishermen feel the bite is improving. There are signs the weather is improving also.
Tropical Storm Erin and the other system headed west from the African Coast last weekend both fizzled and disappeared over the weekend. That was good news and even better is that the tropics are still surprisingly calm. Thursday afternoon a low was noted in the Gulf of Mexico, but it wasnít expected to develop. We are entering what is typically the most active part of hurricane season and when many of the storms head our way. I have made it a habit to make a quick check every morning. The websites I follow closely are the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) and Mikeís Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com).
While kings havenít returned to the pier ends, there was a tarpon caught from Bogue Inlet Pier this week. The lucky angler was Eddie Andrews and the tarpon, which was released, was estimated at 125 pounds.
The most unusual pier catch of the week and probably the summer too, is the sailfish that John Kane caught from Avon Pier on Wednesday. Occasionally we hear about one or two being hooked, but they are very rarely landed. Kane fought his back to the pier and released it.
There are also some tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River, but recently the focus of the big fish angling there has been large red drum. The big reds are there and have produced lots of action around the full moon.
Pier fishing is slow, but steady. There are some good catches, but right now most of them are from the surf to the middle. Mixed pier catches include red and black drum, flounder, trout, bluefish, some large Spanish mackerel and some early spots.
Inshore fishermen are catching flounder, puppy drum, sheepshead, black drum, a few speckled trout and some ladyfish. Flounder are spread many places from the inlets to the marsh creeks on the inside, plus at the nearshore artificial reefs in the ocean. Look for flounder in places where the tidal currents will carry bait to them.
Puppy drum will be in many of the same shallower areas as flounder. I look for them at the mouths of creeks, especially during the falling tide. We have a good crop of shrimp growing right now and the pups wait for them to have to leave the safety of the smaller creeks and flooded grass.
Speaking of flooded grassÖ The full moon was mid week and there have been hungry redfish slipping into the flooded grass all week looking for shrimp, minnows, crabs and sandfiddlers. I walked out on a dock along a creek earlier this week and spotted a redfish tail waving at me from the flooded flat on the other side of the creek.
This week the pups donít have to wait on the shrimp and minnows to flush out of the grass. The tides will be higher than normal for a few more days, so this might be worth checking. There isnít much that compares to looking across a flooded marsh and seeing a tail waving!
I have heard mixed reports on speckled trout. Sometimes you find them, but sometimes you donít. The good news is that it is mid-August and Iím hearing speck reports. The better news is the water cooled a little and the trout numbers appear to be increasing. The best news is they have been hitting topwaters early and late.
After I mentioned ladyfish last week, I received a few calls and e-mails that they were spread pretty well along the entire N.C. Coast from the S.C. state line into lower Pamlico Sound, plus in the ocean. Usually during the day time ladyfish catches are scattered, but those fishermen who stay late in the afternoons or fish at night have been catching a lot. With their large eyes, ladyfish see very well to feed in low light conditions and the action can get really wild in the dark.
The key to the best ladyfish action appears to be a lighted dock or bridge in an area where the tide is carrying lots of shrimp or small minnows. Every area has bridges and most have some illumination on the water. There are also a few private docks that reach the edge of the channel and are lighted.
Ladyfish will quickly let you know if they are there or not. If the current is moving and holding shrimp, the ladyfish will be crashing them and making all kids of noise and splashes. Most times ladyfish will hit lures, but if all else fails, drift a live shrimp to them. I prefer just a shrimp on a bare hook with a foot or so of mono or fluoro leader. They will also hit shrimp suspended under small corks.
Spanish mackerel fishing is pretty good. The water is cooler than usual and they donít seem to be in their normal summer pattern of turning down most lures they bite well spring and fall.
If you see Spanish jumping and they wonít hit your lures, usually they are feeding on something smaller. Nungesser makes 000 and 0000 size spoons that are actually for shad in the spring. Another thing I do when the Spanish get picky is to troll a speck rig with no weight. They are usually feeding on small glass minnows when they get picky and the jigs on speck rigs are the same size.
Depending on who I speak with, king mackerel fishing is either wonderful or awful. There are kings around and feeding, but they arenít everywhere. When you find them it can be "Game On" for a while, but when you donít, it can be a slow day. This week most of the king mack reports have come from 60 feet of water and deeper. The only nearshore king reports have come from the Beaufort Inlet Shipping Channel and up Shackleford Banks towards Cape Lookout.
There are a few dolphin and an occasional sailfish feeding with the kings. I fished with my friend Milton Hardin out of Sneads Ferry on Saturday and while we didnít catch any kings, we had a nice dolphin almost to the boat before it became unglued and were teased by a large sailfish that was only window shopping and didnít bite. The adrenaline from seeing the dolphin jump several times while hooked and the sailfish extend its sail and sweep through the baits was good, but it would have been even better to get to take their picture up close and invite the dolphin home.
During August, king mackerel fishermen usually begin venturing into deeper water before the water starts cooling and they run into some wahoo that have followed baitfish inshore. These are usually larger wahoo too. A citation size wahoo can really light up a king mackerel reel and the whine will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
The wahoo action has been slowly improving both offshore and with king mackerel fishermen at approximately 100 feet deep. Wahoo are one of the top fall fisheries for the Crystal Coast and their numbers usually begin picking up in August. Many other fisheries have been early or late due to the odd weather, but the wahoo are right on time!
The legendary white marlin bite off Oregon Inlet is happening right now. Last week, 46 boats in the Pirateís Cove Billfish Tournament released right at 300. Thursday, boats in the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament released 235, while flags flew wholesale at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and Pirateís Cove Marina. The hot bite appears to be getting even better. If you would like to sample this action, it appears the time is right.
Offshore bottom fish are biting well, with many fishermen catching limits of grouper, black sea bass, beeliners and more. This is the weekend of the limited red snapper season for the South Atlantic for 2013. The season begins at 12:01 A.M. on Friday, August 23 and runs for 72 hours until 12:01 A.M. on Monday, August 26. The limit is one red snapper per person per day and there is not a minimum size.
In cooperation with NOAA Fisheries, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has set up collection centers for red snapper carcasses. Scientists will study the carcasses to help understand the health of the species and remove otoliths (ear bones) to determine the age of the catch.
There are eight collection centers along the N.C. Coast. Beginning at the southern end and heading north they are: the Hurricane Fleet Dock in Calabash, Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle, Carolina Beach Fishing Center in Carolina Beach, Texís Tackle in Wilmington, Dudleyís Marina in Swansboro, the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach, the Carolina Princess Fishing Center in Morehead City and Odenís Dock in Hatteras. There will be a freezer at these locations with instructions. For participating in this program, anglers will receive a limited edition fishing towel and a citation (certificate) from the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament. For directions to the collection centers along the N.C. Coast, visit www.ncdmf.net.
The tagged great white sharks Lydia and Mary Lee havenít been to the surface and pinged a location in a few days, but last pinged their locations offshore of the Continental Shelf roughly east of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Does anyone remember that Genie was with these sharks in this area during the winter, but quit pinging? No one knew if her transmitter had broken or if she was staying under water. Well, this week she has pinged twice near Cape Cod where she was tagged.
Ocearch scientists have been hard at work off Cape Cod tagging more sharks. They are specifically targeting great whites, but occasionally other species beat them to the baits. They have tagged several more this past week. Follow the travels of Mary Lee and Lydia as they enjoy their southern summer, plus view many other sharks and see the newly tagged ones. Simply visit the Ocearch website at www.ocearch.org and navigate around. I find it genuinely interesting and believe you will also.
Sea turtles, or at least the agencies that look after them, are becoming a problem for the N.C. Beaches, especially the Crystal Coast. Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as "Threatened" under the endangered species act and have been listed as threatened for 3.5 decades. Suddenly federal agencies are looking to protect habitat for the large turtles and it is a two pronged approach. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is seeking to designate 96 miles of N.C. Coast as "on-Land" Critical Habitat and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is seeking comment regarding designating much of the waters just off that 96 milers of coastline as "In the Water" critical habitat.
This is almost an overload of sudden correctness for these marine animals whose numbers have been growing without the critical habitat designations. The Carteret County Board of Commissioners has threatened to sue the USFWS if they continue with their pursuit of the land based critical habitat designation and passed a resolution against the in-the-water critical habitat designation.
Public hearings have already been held concerning the "On land" critical habitat and are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M for the "In-the-Water" critical habitat. The Sept. 9 public hearing will be at the Warwick Center at UNC-Wilmington in Wilmington and the Sept. 10 public hearing will be at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.
NMFS staff will present a brief overview of the Proposed Rule titled Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Loggerhead Sea Turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and Determination Regarding Critical Habitat for the North Pacific Ocean Loggerhead DPS. Following this overview, members of the public will have the opportunity to go on record with comments on the proposed designation.
Members of the public may also submit written comments at the hearing, or via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. To use the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0079, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 18, 2013 (78 FR 43006) and may be obtained at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/18/2013-17204/endangered-and-threatened-species-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-the-northwest-atlantic-ocean. More information and background documents can be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/loggerhead.htm.
For more information contact Susan Pultz, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, Silver Spring, MD, telephone: 301-427-8472, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Therese Conant, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, Silver Spring, MD, telephone: 301-427-8456, or email@example.com.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule and its associated draft environmental impact statement, which aims to reduce discards of Atlantic bluefin tuna and outlines measures to help ensure compliance with international quotas. The proposed measures in the draft of Amendment 7 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan are designed to control bluefin tuna landings and dead discards in the pelagic longline fishery, enhance reporting in all bluefin tuna fisheries, and ensure U.S. compliance with binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
NOAA Fisheries has identified bluefin tuna as a species of concern, but the species is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries will hold numerous public hearings for this action along the Atlantic Coast, and in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions until the comment period closes on October 23. Dates, times and locations of the public hearings will be announced at a later date but opinions are wanted now.
The proposed measures include:
* Revising bluefin quota allocations among the fishery participants to increase the allocation to the longline fishery, because dead discards will now be counted against their individual vessel allocations;
* Allocating individual shares of bluefin catch (landings and dead discards) to increase accountability and reduce dead discards in the longline fishery;
* Enhancing reporting requirements to improve accounting for dead discards in all bluefin tuna fisheries;
* Allowing longline fishermen who have demonstrated their ability to avoid bluefin while fishing for swordfish and other tunas to fish in areas where many bluefin are found, and restricting fishermen who cannot avoid bluefin from those areas, and;
* Prohibiting pelagic longline fishing for all species when the longline bluefin quota is reached.
Under these proposed measures, fishermen will have a strong incentive to avoid catching bluefin tuna incidentally when pursuing swordfish and other Atlantic tunas, as bluefin tuna landings and dead discards would be counted against individual longline vessels and reaching the bluefin quota could result in prohibition of further longline fishing.
Throughout the hearings, NOAA Fisheries will accept public comments on the proposed management measures. Electronic comments should be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0101 and click the "Comment Now!" icon.
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 allotted 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 is posted 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. For more information and details on this event, visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org.
Fall is quickly approaching and hunting seasons will be opening in the next several weeks. Many years the N.C. hunting season begins with dove season on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. That will not be the case this year. Federal regulations require opening day of dove season to be in September, so the opening day will be on Labor Day, Monday September 2.
Sept. 2 will also be the opening day for the season for resident Canada geese. The archery season for deer and with guns for marsh hens will open Saturday, Sept. 7, as will the special teal season for east of US 17. Hunters pursuing all migratory birds, from dove to duck, must have a H.I.P. (Harvest Information Program) certification in addition to their license and waterfowl stamps (only required for waterfowl). This is a free certification that can be done on-line at www.ncwildlife.org or at any license agent. Information on seasons, limits, regulations and license requirements can also be found at this website.
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.
The Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic will be held August 31 from South Harbor Village Marina in Oak Island. This is the third of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 9. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.