The mixed weather has had a mixed effect on fishing during the past week. When the humidity was down and the temperatures were a few degrees cooler, there were more fish caught and when the temps and humidity went back up the bite slowed. If that is so, we may see a lot of folks out this weekend as the early forecast has it as one of the coolest weekends in a while. The forecast is for sunny and in the low 80s. The forecast also shows this cool front is bringing a swell, but we should have safe nearshore ocean conditions on the south facing beaches.
I want to believe the fish like the cooler, less humid weather as much as I do, but I have never seen any research to validate it. One thing I have the stats to prove though is that I catch more fish during weather that is comfortable. Of course I fish more then too, but it is my prerogative to use my statistics to prove my point.
We had another shot of that pesky east wind last week, especially Saturday. It really turned off the bite in places, but some folks insisted their fishing was pretty good during the easterly winds.
With the August full moon being Tuesday night, I thought I would hear of lots of tarpon, but that wasn't the case. There were a few caught along the coast and some caught in the Pamlico Sound, but it wasn't a banner catch.
Speaking of the Pamlico Sound, the big red drum bite is happening. Several fishermen have made the run up the ICW to Oriental and the Lower Neuse River or trailered to Cedar Island and have returned raving about the big reds. These fish are typically afternoon biters and feed best between about 5:00 P.M. and a little after dark. Catching (and releasing) a half-dozen of these brutes in an evening will help you sleep--once the adrenaline wears off.
In a bright spot, there were several good reports of peanut to bailer dolphin in the last week. There were a couple of reports from the 90 Foot Drop off Morehead City and the Horseshoe off Southport, but most were a little deeper in roughly 110 to 120 feet of water. Dolphin are pelagic fish that move about a lot as they feed, so don't be surprised where you might find them. They will hit cigar minnows, live baits and lures, which allow fishing while looking for something that might attract them.
When looking for structure that might hold dolphin, don't overlook anything. One day I caught six under a 2 X 4 board that was less than eight feet long. Another day I caught 2 bailers and a nice gaffer under a float like those used on crab pots.
There were several reports of sailfish very near the beach last week. Several were caught near Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle and I even saw one picture with an identifiable water tower in the background. That's close in! Last week there were also sailfish reports within a mile or so of the beach at Little River, Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach.
Even with the good spike in dolphin catches the king catches are still slow. This was painfully evident when fishermen failed to fill all the leader board spots at the Sneads Ferry King Tourney. The kings will get active again as soon as things cool and that could start with the cold front this weekend.
At the least, there may be a spike in the king catches this week. In addition to the cold front, the runoff water from upstate rains should be pushing down the rivers and into the sounds and ocean by the weekend. If that pushes a big wad of baitfish out into the ocean, the kings will find them and feed. The presence of baitfish is the key to this, so keep and eye on where the bait is.
Spanish mackerel fishing continues to be good and we are thankful for that. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters in Harkers Island said they were so thick one afternoon at Cape Lookout it looked like you could walk on them. He said it was the most Spanish he had ever seen and many of them were big, like heavier than four pounds.
While the smaller Spanish will usually readily hit trolled or cast lures, the big ones like a little more meat in their diet. Slow trolling smaller live baits or suspending live baits under small floats is a great way to catch those larger Spanish.
There was also a little spike in the trout fishing this week. Many fishermen attributed it to the influx of a little fresh water and the slightly cooler weather. Both of the weather conditions contributed to some shrimp moving out of the marshes and the specks were there for a greet and eat session. I hope the weather cools a little more and it gets even better.
Puppy drum and flounder are biting well and got me into a bit of a situation last Thursday afternoon. I had been invited on a kayak fishing trip with Michael Garet of Hobie Kayaks, Mark Patterson of the NC Kayak Fishing Association and Phillip Ruckart of Native Kayaks to the Basin and Second Bay between Fort Fisher and Bald Head Island, near Wilmington. This is a protected area that is isolated from the Cape Fear River by a rock breakwater and fish love it. Much is very shallow and it is only used by kayaks, jon boats and flats boats.
We sat out a rainstorm at the Federal Point ramp at the end of Hwy 421 before launching, then headed out once the weather cleared. Mark and Phillip stayed in the Basin, which is the bay closest to the ramp, and Michael and I pushed ahead to a little point in Second Bay where I had caught good pups in the past. The conditions were about right when we got there and we beached our kayaks and got out to wade and fish. Unfortunately the weather hadn't actually cleared and unwisely we weren't paying good enough attention to the weather, so we got caught in a pretty nasty thunderstorm.
We knew we didn't want to be the tallest thing around, so as soon as we realized the storm was closing in on us, we headed back--but we were already too late. We made it to Zeke's Island and pulled up into the flooded grass on the lee side to ride it out. The flash bulbs were going off all around and the thunder roaring. Sometimes it was only a two-count from lightning until thunder. There was definitely some "pucker Factor" going on.
The good news was that by reaching Zeke's Island we were no longer the tallest things around. By staying out on the perimeter, we hoped we were far enough from the trees we figured they could get hit and we would be missed. Thankfully we didn't have to test that theory.
After about an hour the storm moved on and the weather cleared up. We were already soaked, so, after checking and seeing that Mark and Phillip had made it back to their truck and were OK, we went back around Zeke's Island and fished some little spots that we had paddled by earlier. Unfortunately the downpour of rain or the rapidly dropping barometer had turned the bite off and we didn't get a strike.
To add insult to injury, Mark and Phillip returned the next morning and wore the fish out. Both caught trout and reds and Mark added a flounder to complete a slam, while Phillip found a school of jacks and proceeded to abuse his trout tackle.
Flounder and puppy drum are biting pretty well right now, but use our experience to guide you. It is not wise to push the limits with weather, whether in a kayak, boat or on foot. If you are in a weather situation, keep a sharp watch and move to safety early. We were fortunate and the lightning did not quite move directly over us. We made it OK, but we put ourselves in danger and that wasn't smart. Not even a new record flounder is worth endangering yourself.
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.
Last week I mentioned the scuttlebutt at the recent N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) meeting was primarily about House Bill 1713. This bill, which passed and was signed by the Governor on June 23 and became law upon her signing it, requires any Fishery Management Plan (FMP) changes to rebuild fish stocks must end overfishing within two years, return the fishery to a viable status within 10 years and must have at least a 50 per cent chance of succeeding. This bill was endorsed by the MFC and the Seafood and Aquaculture Committee and sailed through both houses with minimal changes.
Now, less than two months later, the MFC Chairman has sent a letter to the Legislature (Joint Legislative Committee on Seafood and Aquaculture) requesting the Speckled Sea Trout FMP be exempted as they thought it had been passed before the law, but realized it hadn't been approved by the state yet, so it would be considered to be passed after the law and, in its present form, it doesn't meet the requirement of the law.
Many fishermen are questioning the wisdom and motive behind the MFC immediately asking for an exemption for a law they supported and help to get passed and wonder if the MFC will ask for the same exemption for the Flounder FMP. I'm sure there will be more discussion on this as the Speckled Sea Trout FMP works its way through the final legs of the approval process. For more information on the MFC visit www.ncdmf.net and for more info on HB 1713 visit www.ncleg.net.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) will meet in Charleston on September 13 to 17. I do not have an agenda for the meeting yet, but there will be times for public comments. For more information visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
Similar to MAD 5, held in Morehead City in early June, Mad 5.5 (Military Appreciation Day) at Oak Island is a day to take any and all active duty servicemen and women fishing and it is only a few weeks away. It was held in October in past years and suffered with marginal weather conditions, so this year the date for the Oak Island MAD event was moved ahead to Saturday, September 11, 2010. Fishermen and boats to carry military participants and volunteers to prepare and serve food are needed. For more information visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday, August 21, from New River Marina in Sneads Ferry. This was the third tournament in the Southern Kingfish Association Division One. 145 boats participated in the tournament, but only a handful brought fish to the scales. Some of the fishermen also blamed the choppy conditions for the small catch, but all gave credit to the wind which switched to the east. The old adage is, "When the wind is in the east, the fishing is the least," and it was unfortunately true this weekend.
James Dawkins and the crew of the 2 Dogs came up from Calabash and won the tournament with a nice 36.24 pound king. David Jones from Holly Ridge led his crew to a second place finish on the Skint Back, with a 29.73 pound king. Henry Moore III, Clinton, and the Bobcat crew caught a 27.55 pound king to finish third.
The Reel Thrill, with Capt. Vaughn Ford of Youngsville, topped the category for boats 23 Feet and Under. Their king weighed 18.84 pounds. Ashlie Roberts, Sneads Ferry, fished on the CatLynn 2 and won the Top Lady Angler Award with an 18.39 pound king. The CatLynn 2 also finished in seventh place overall. Bobby Long, Holly Ridge, claimed the Top Senior Angler Award while fishing on the Skint Back. Gray Seigler, Jacksonville, was the Top Junior Angler for the tournament. He fished with Capt. John Parks on the Animal House and caught a 26.61 pound king that also finished in fourth place overall.
The tournament also paid prizes to fishermen weighing dolphin. The Mom Said No, with Harvey Hoopes III of Sneads Ferry, caught the largest dolphin and won the category. Their dolphin weighed 10.25 pounds. For more information visit www.sneadsferrykmt.com.
On Saturday, August 21, Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island hosted their first Fishin' 4 A Cure tournament to benefit cancer research. This was a one day multiple species tournament. There was also a raffle for a Smart Car held at the end of the tournament and it was won by Phillip Flowers of Carolina Beach. The tournament raised more than $10,000, which will be forwarded to the Duke Hospital Cancer Center.
The tournament featured three categories that the fishermen chose before
competing. Category one included cobia, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel and required a two pound minimum to weigh. Billy Hobbs of Statesville won this division with a 3pound, 4 ounce Spanish mackerel. Dave Roseman of Oak Island and Maiden scored second place with a Spanish mackerel that weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. The third place fish was also a Spanish mackerel. It was caught by Chloe Grant of Oak Island and weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces.
Category two included black drum, bluefish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and speckled trout. Brad Caudle, of Leland, won the category with a Spanish mackerel that weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Donnie Long, Leland, placed second with a speckled trout that weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces. Jeff Ross, Oak Island, also caught a nice speckled trout to place third. His trout weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces.
Category three included bluefish, perch, pompano, spadefish, spot and whiting. While the catches in this category weren't as large, the smiles on the participant's faces were just a big. Lincoln Smith, Calabash, caught a 15 ounce bluefish to claim the win. Rita Mullis, Oak Island, was just two ounces behind in second place with a 13 ounce whiting. The weights dropped another two ounces for third to Wayne Freeman, Fayetteville, who caught an 11 ounce bluefish. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
South Harbour Village Marina, which is the site of the postponed Brunswick Islands Redfish and King Mackerel Tournaments, hosted a Kids Fishing Tournament on Saturday, August 21 from 10:00 A.M. until noon. The tournament was for kids 12 and under and 32 youngsters from three to twelve participated. The fishing was done from the docks in the marina and the kids had a varied catch. All the youngsters received certificates of achievement and participation ribbons. At the end of fishing, the participants and their parents were treated to a hot dog dinner, while the prizes and several door prizes were awarded.
South Harbour Village Marina Harbor Master Bill Gregory said many of the kids were smiling and eager for the tournament, but the most impressive was Mary Ann Kirby. He said the eight year old young lady arrived about 45 minutes early and was the first of the participants to enter. He said he thought it was cute when she said she was there to win the fishing tournament, but it was prophetic when she actually did it.
Kirby was the winner with a 3.94 pound skate. She was followed by Cullen Coker (3) in second with another skate that weighed 1.6 pounds. Ali Shahbaz (9) and Cassie Agee (12) were third and forth respectively with some pretty puppy drum that weighed .84 and .72 pounds and were quickly released to swim away and grow up. Eli Padgett (7) and Camden Phelps (6) filled out the final two places with catches of .56 and .50 pounds. For more information call South Harbour Village Marina at 910-454-7486.
A foursome of tournaments was scheduled for this weekend, but three were postponed Wednesday due to strong winds and high seas predicted for Saturday and Sunday. The Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic includes a king mackerel tournament and a redfish tournament. The two tournaments will run concurrently from South Harbor Village Marina in Oak Island, but have been rescheduled from Saturday, August 28 to Saturday, September 11. Proceeds from these tournaments will be donated to the North Carolina Public Access Foundation. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The first Cobb's Corner Classic was also to be held Saturday, August 28, in Carolina Beach, but has been rescheduled to September 11. This is a king mackerel tournament to benefit the Venice, Louisiana Charter Fishermen who have been out of work during the oil leak crisis. In an attempt to cooperate with the previously scheduled Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic and allow fishermen to participate in both tournaments, the Cobb's Corner Classic will run later weigh-in hours and will accept weigh-in receipts from fishermen competing in the Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic. For more information call Ty Cobb at 910-512-1423.
Tournament four of Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder Series will be held Saturday, August 28, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. Proceeds from this tournament series will be used to provide Christmas for needy children in Brunswick County. For more information visit http://topdoginc.weebly.com or call Capt. Jimmy at 910-457-9903.