There is good and bad in the weather outlook for this week. The weekend forecast of light winds, slight seas and low to mid 80s temperatures has things beginning to change after Tuesday and it's not good. It starts with the wind and seas increasing late Tuesday and gets worse. Even before Hurricane Danny fell apart, another system was racing off Africa and this one is moving quicker and intensifying slower, but looks to be headed toward Florida and then probably turning up the coast towards us. This is Tropical Storm Erika now and it is forecast to become Hurricane Erika.
The National Hurricane center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) track only extends through Tuesday as I'm writing this, but the middle of the cone at that point is just off central Florida. Mike's Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) has been running the various weather models and the spaghetti maps from then on vary some, but the bulk of the models have Hurricane Erika turning and heading up the coast. There is uncertainty this far out and several models also have it turning west across Florida, while several others have it turning hard east and heading out into open ocean.
My suggestion is to pay attention to these two websites and hope for the best. By the end of the weekend or early next week, the projected course should be much more defined. Unfortunately, I have serious concerns we may be battening down the hatches next week.
Pier fishermen have been busy this week with growing numbers of black drum and sea mullet. There have also been some flounder caught by bottom fishermen and Spanish mackerel by pluggers and live baiters at the pier ends. There were some kings caught from Kure to Topsail Beaches and a tarpon at Oak Island. The water looks pretty clear and the next run of king mackerel or tarpon could come at any time. Pier fishermen also caught a few pompano, spots, and bluefish. Several fishermen reported seeing yellow butterflies and they have long been considered a sign the fall fishing is about to bust loose. Let's hope so!
Spanish mackerel and bluefish have been biting in the nearshore ocean. They both like small shiny lures, but bluefish like to feed slower, while Spanish feed very fast. If you're catching one and want the other, speeding up or slowing down often helps.
Several fishermen said they were seeing Spanish jumping, but weren't catching them. Usually when this happens the Spanish are locked in and feeding on smaller baits. Downsizing your baits will often help draw strikes. I use a mixture of jigs from speck rigs, 1/8 ounce bucktails, and Nungesser 000 size spoons.
Flounder are biting at the ocean artificial reefs, wrecks and hardbottom areas close to the beach. Use your fishfinder to locate a piece of the reef or the rocks and anchor as directly above it as possible. Fish straight down with your preference of a live bait or bucktail jig. Fishing vertically helps reduce the chances of hanging up and losing your rig or jig.
Sea conditions were good most of the week and fishermen headed offshore as they wanted. There were a few kings close in and more in the 15 to 25 mile range. Some dolphin were mixed with the kings in these spots and were a welcome addition to the fish box. One dolphin was even caught just off the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy.
Bottom fishermen are catching well from about 60 feet deep out to 100 feet plus. The bigger variety is in the deeper water. Fishermen caught black sea bass, grunts and porgeys in the shallower waters and added triggerfish, beeliners and grouper once beyond 100 feet. Some African Pompano were caught near Frying Pan Tower.
Fishermen heading to the break and the edge of the Gulf Stream have found the fishing productive. Wahoo have been the big offshore catch lately and some fishermen are reporting excellent catches. I just received a report that Capt. Mark Chambers on the Pelagic out of Atlantic Beach caught a dozen on a mid week charter. There are also some dolphin and an occasional lost tuna working the rips and weed lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream.
I have a word of warning to fishermen chasing wahoo. Their teeth are razor sharp and can cut deeply with minimal contact. There have been several reports of fishermen being bitten by wahoo recently and they have been serious. One had to be airlifted from offshore and almost bled out. Please be careful.
Inshore fishing has been slowly picking up for the past few weeks and there are reports of a variety of catches. More keeper flounder are being caught, but limits are scarce. There are still a lot of shorts too and those 14 3/4 inchers are frustrating. You should remember that flounder tend to shrink a little on ice and be sure you are well beyond the 15 inch minimum before adding one to the fish box. I usually work with about 15 3/8 inches as my live minimum size and I've had a couple shrink to barely legal.
More red drum are being caught now, but there still aren't many mid to upper slot fish. Most reports are of pups up to about 22 inches and then overslot fish. Many times pups will feed with flounder and give opportunities for a mixed bag. Flounder often hold out for live baits, but drum will readily munch down on pieces of mullet, pogies and shrimp. More bait is moving through the creeks and marshes, so look for pups and flounder in places where a bar or point constricts the flow of water and bait and makes it easy for the predators to catch them.
The full moon is Saturday night and the high tides are predicted to be around 5 feet through Monday. The high tides are just before dark and in the early morning. The timing is right and with the light wind forecast, this might be an excellent weekend to spend some time poking around the flooded marsh grass looking for redfish tails.
Large red drum are biting well in the Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River again this week. The popping cork bite has picked up some, but the late afternoon and early evening bite while soaking chunks of mullet on the bottom remains more consistent. If you are looking for numbers of fish to release, this is probably the way to go, but if numbers aren't all that important, there is something special about catching one of these huge fish under a popping cork.
The speckled trout bite is going through some doldrums right now. The water or weather isn't any hotter, but the bite has slowed. There are still some good catches, but they just aren't consistent. Right now, the best trout action is typically in the morning. Things are cooler, there isn't as much light with the sun at a lower angle and the trout are competing with drum and flounder for food.
Once the day begins to warm and the sun rises, trout tend to head for deeper water and sulk. You can still catch trout during the middle of the day, but you need good structure that is holding bait and 6 to 8 feet of water seems to be a good depth. Fresh, squirming live shrimp are the top bait. Trout will occasionally hit a minnow, but shrimp get their attention. Suspend a live shrimp about a foot to 18 inches off the bottom under a cork.
This is the first week in a while I haven't gotten several reports of big sheepshead. There are some still around places with vertical structure and current, like the bridges and the wall at the State Port. Fiddler crabs and sea urchins are excellent baits.
Hogfish and Snowy Grouper Season Closings
The season for snowy grouper will close at 12:01 A.M. on September 1. The 2016 season will open May 1, 2016.
MAD 10 Southport
MAD 10 will begin when the troops check in and board boats at Southport Marina 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 10 in Southport. Volunteers with boats are needed to take the troops fishing and volunteers are also needed for shore side duties from helping with setup and the meal to helping clean the fish that are caught.
Those interested in being a part of MAD 10 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer. Iíve been volunteering at MAD events in Morehead City and Southport for a handful of years now and highly recommend it. Itís a day you wonít forget. Iím pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing.
SAFMC Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
The Draft Blueprint for the South Atlantic Snapper/Grouper Fishery is now available at the SAFMC website (www.safmc.net) and fishery stakeholders are again being asked to provide Council with input. A series of webinars and comment station meetings were held during July and the public comment period extends through September 1.
The Draft Vision Blueprint consists of proposed objectives and actions under the four broad goals of: Science, Management, Communication and Governance. The SAFMC would like to know which action items are supported or not supported and why. They would also like any other ideas or possible solutions for managing the Snapper/Grouper Fishery. The plan is that after the meetings and public comment period the actions will be separated into short-term and long-term action items. Short-term action items will then be prioritized and developed into an amendment to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2016.
Written input and ideas will be accepted via mail addressed to the Council's mailing address and through an online comment form that is available on the Council's website at www.safmc.net. For more information contact Amber Von Harten, SAFMC Outreach Specialist at email@example.com or 843-571-4366.
SAFMC Requests Public Input on Amendments to Snapper/Grouper Fishery
The SAFMC is also soliciting public scoping comments on management options for hogfish proposed through draft Amendment 37 as well as issues affecting recreational black sea bass regulations, commercial golden tilefish regulations, and species within the Jacks Complex as proposed in draft Regulatory Amendment 23. A Scoping Webinar was held August 10 and a schedule of the public hearings is available on the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
Those who cannot attend are invited to submit written comments. There are directions for submitting written comments, including comment deadlines, included in each amendment and they are on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
September 16: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, Special called meeting to vote on Southern Flounder Supplement, Time and location TBA, http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
August 29: Captain Jimmy's "Most Spots in the Slot" Red Drum Tournament, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, 910-443-1211.
September 11 and 12: Bone Suckin' Sauce King of the Cape Open King Mackerel Tournament, Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, third of four tournaments in SKA Division 1, http://kingofthecapeopenkingmackereltournament.yolasite.com.
September 12: Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge, Inlet Watch Marina, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
September 17: Deer Hunting 101 Seminar, 6:30 - 9:30, Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education, Raleigh, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Quality Deer Management Association, www.ncwildlife.org/enjoying, www.qdma.com.
September 24: Deer Processing, From Field to Freezer Seminar, 6:30 - 9:30, Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education, Raleigh, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Quality Deer Management Association, www.ncwildlife.org/enjoying, www.qdma.com.
September 26: Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament, Harbourgate Marina, N. Myrtle Beach, third of three tournaments in SKA Division 3 and fourth of five tournaments in SKA Division 9. www.rumblekmt.com.