Well, we survived the summer, including the eclipse, and Labor Day Weekend is upon us.  This will be the last big tourist weekend of the summer, but summer is here for a few more weeks and then we have several months of a wonderful fall.  If we aren't thrown any curves or sliders, fishing is just about to get good - and it isn't bad now.

When you say your prayers, include one for the folks in Texas and Louisiana that have been bombarded by Hurricane Harvey.  If you have time, money or effort, there are aid agencies that need them all.

We got by a scare earlier this week, but must now turn our eyes to a fire breather way out in the Atlantic.  Hurricane Irma looks strong and big and still has plenty of time to grow even more.  The current models have it turning and staying offshore, but it's a week or so away and a lot can change in that time.  Don't panic, but pay attention and don't be caught off guard if it veers our way.  The official info source is the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) and Mike's Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) has lots of information too.  Both of these weather sources also have Facebook pages.

Unfortunately, the local forecast for Labor Day Weekend isn't a classic beach forecast.  There is rain and a chance of thunderstorms into Sunday morning.  The good news is the winds look light most of the time. 

If you don't mind possibly getting wet, the weekend forecast looks like a good time to head offshore.  Even better, the offshore fish are biting.  Wahoo are biting everywhere. with some scattered dolphin, blackfin tuna and scattered billfish too.  There is a bit of a yellowfin tuna bite north of Cape Hatteras and the white marlin numbers are growing.  The storm that passed earlier in the week broke up the weed lines, but they should be reforming and also look for rips, color changes and temperature breaks.

 Offshore bottom fishing has been good and should be getting better as the water begins to cool.  This is meat fishing at its best.  A day of offshore bottom fishing should fill coolers and freezers with a mixture of grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts, porgies and more.  You may also see amberjack and African pompano.  There are usually some sharks around many times you might have to release some red snapper.

When bottom fishing, always drift a light line in the current behind the boat.  The action of reeling fish from the bottom will attract curious upper column predators and you could add a king mackerel, wahoo, dolphin or sailfish to your catch.  

King mackerel fishing slowed a little for a few weeks, but should be picking back up after the northeast wind from the weekend and the storm's passing.  The most consistent king action right now begins at around 60 feet, but they should begin moving in and we'll start hearing of more nearshore and pier catches in the not too distant future. 

The Spanish mackerel action remains good.  The hot spots have been around the inlets, but they could be a bit offshore or right along the beach.  Food is the key and they are feeding on silverside and mullet minnows.  The Spanish action is usually better during the morning, but there have been a lot of days they also bit well during the heat of the afternoon. 

Flounder fishing has been pretty good both inshore and at the nearshore ocean artificial reefs and wrecks.  Fishermen in the ocean are catching well using live baits or jigging bucktails with trailers on the reefs.  In shallower water, the flounder tandem is live baits and slowly retrieving soft plastic baits across the bottom.  When using artificials, the hook can be set as soon as the flounder hits.

Even after several cooler days with northeast winds, the ocean water is still pretty warm and there hasn't been a lot of pier and surf action.  This is due to change at any time.  Mullet minnows are beginning to move out the inlets and along the beach.  The fish know this happens this time of year and will soon be moving in to take advantage. 

Surf and pier fishermen caught a mixture that included pompano, whiting, red drum and black drum in and just beyond the surf, plus pier fishermen added some Spanish macks and bluefish near the pier ends. 

I didn't receive any tarpon reports this week, but had a couple roll and gulp air one day while old drum fishing in the Lower Neuse River.  Old drum are biting really well in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico sound and there are beginning to be a few reports of them in the surf along the Outer Banks, around Cape Lookout Shoals and on the wrecks and artificial reefs off Oak Island.  

There is a lot of rainwater runoff in most coastal rivers and sounds.  Even though the water has a reddish tint, fish seem to be tolerating it fairly well.  This may be part of what is causing the mullets to begin leaving the creeks. 

Inside fishing action has been inconsistent, but surprisingly good at times.  There are fish in most coastal bays and creeks, but tide and wind related water and bait movement is moving them around.  Some days fish are tough to locate, but usually bite when found.  They are probably still in the general area where you found them last.  Don't give up when looking and you could have a nice mixed catch that includes flounder, red drum, specks and black drum.

Fishing with lures allows covering much more area, but there seem to be times the fish only want live baits.  Often fish are more aggressive early in the morning and sometimes again for an hour or two just before dark and lures work best then.  With the water this warm and water conditions less than ideal, sometimes it takes a live bait to get a fish excited enough to chase it, especially under a bright sun during the heat of the day.

Shrimp are the preferred meals of drum and trout and flounder will readily eat them too.  Unfortunately, all the bait thieves in the marsh like shrimp too.  Live mullet minnows are readily available and will last much longer than shrimp, but sometimes don't have the same appeal.  Relying on their preference for shrimp, I fish a lot of shrimp shape soft lures, especially when the water is warm.  Dose the plastic shrimp up with scent and fish it slow and many times it will reward you.

MFC Requests Estuarine Striped Bass Supplement
At their August meeting the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted 5-2 to ask the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality secretary to authorize it to develop a supplement to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan to make temporary management changes in the Central-Southern Management Area, excluding the Cape Fear River system.  An amendment to the striped bass fishery management plan is currently underway.  A supplement can be used to make temporary changes that are deemed to be needed quickly to insure the health of a fishery.

The MFC requested the supplement to:
* Reduce the annual commercial quota from 25,000 pounds to 2,500 pounds;
* Lower the recreational daily bag limit from 2 fish per day to 1 fish per day;
* Increase the recreational size limit to a 24-inch to 26-inch slot.  (The current minimum size limit is 18 inches with no possession of fish between 22 inches and 27 inches.)

SAFMC to Discuss Red Snapper Seasons
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold a special session at its September meeting from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm on Monday, September 11, to specifically address measures to allow harvest of red snapper.  SAFMC will review alternatives in Snapper Grouper Amendment 43 to determine an annual catch limit for red snapper and allow a limited season in 2018.  The Council will also consider options to request that NOAA Fisheries take emergency action for a red snapper mini-season in October 2017. 

Public comment on red snapper changes proposed in Amendment 43 and regarding the emergency action for a limited 2017 red snapper harvest will be accepted beginning at 10:15 A.M. on September 11.  The Council is scheduled to take action during their September 11 Full Council Session.  Fishermen unable to attend can provide comments online and https://safmc.wufoo.com/forms/rtl61y31uqm56o. There will be a webinar as the meeting occurs that can be accessed by registering at the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.

Cobia Season Closes September 1
The 2017 N.C. cobia season will close on September 1 and will not reopen until 2018.  There will be new regulations at that time, so be sure to check them before fishing.

South Atlantic States Schedule Public Hearings on Draft FMP for Cobia
The South Atlantic states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have scheduled public hearings to gather public comment on the Draft Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Migratory Group (AMG) Cobia.  The intent of the Draft FMP is to complement federal AMG cobia management actions and distribute catches among member states through a proposed allocation strategy.

The Draft FMP was initiated in response to recent overages of the federal annual catch limit (ACL) for AMG Cobia.  The Draft FMP addresses immediate management and conservation goals in anticipation of a new benchmark AMG cobia stock assessment in 2018.  Management options include size, bag, and vessel limits to complement federal measures along with proposed de minimis options for Mid-Atlantic states (Maryland through New York) whose landings are minimal or episodic.

The most significant change may come in the form of state-specific recreational allocations.  The current ACL for AMG cobia is 670,000 pounds (620,000 pound recreational ACL and a 50,000 pound commercial quota).  Managing the recreational ACL on a coastwide basis has resulted in federal closures and significant overages in 2015 and 2016, disrupting fishing opportunities and jeopardizing the health of the stock.  The Draft FMP contains a number of proposed options to allocate a recreational harvest limit (equal to the federal recreational ACL) to the four primary states (Georgia-Virginia) to allow those states more flexibility in developing seasonal options that best suit their specific stateís recreational and for-hire interests. 

At this time, the options for the commercial AMG cobia fishery do not include state specific allocations and generally complement the proposed federal requirements.  A PDF version of the press release, complete with hearing details, can be found at: http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file//5995da05pr38CobiaDraftFMP_Hearings.pdf.    

There will be two hearings in N.C.  One will begin at 7:00 P.M. on September 19 at the Hatteras Community Center in Hatteras and the other will begin at 7:00 P.M. on September 20 at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City.  Michelle Duvall (252-808-8013) is the contact for both N.C. hearings.

The Draft FMP is available at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/DraftCobiaFMP_PublicComment_Aug2017.pdf or on the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commissionís website at www.asmfc.org.  Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft FMP either by attending their state's public hearings or providing written comment.  Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on October 6, 2017 and should be forwarded to Louis Daniel, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; by fax at 703-842-0741 or at comments@asmfc.org using the subject line "Draft Cobia FMP."  Final action on the Draft FMP is scheduled to occur in October 2017.  For more information, contact Louis Daniel, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at ldaniel@asmfc.org or 252.342.1478.

Hogfish Regulations Change
As of August 24, hogfish (hog snapper) in the South Atlantic Region will be open all year with a minimum size of 17 inches (fork length) and a limit of 2 fish per person per day.  The commercial trip limit will be 500 pounds whole fish weight.   View this and other Fishery Bulletins from NOAA Fisheries by visiting the website at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishery_bulletins/index.html.          

NOAA Announces Rule for Unmanaged Forage Fish
NOAA Fisheries has announced a new rule to protect unmanaged forage fish.  Forage fish are small schooling species that serve as prey for larger commercially and recreationally important fish, as well as for marine mammals and sea birds.  Anchovies, herring, chub mackerel, and sardines are some common forage fish.

Commercial fisheries often catch forage fish, but little is known about the amount of forage species caught in Mid-Atlantic waters.  Because of their importance to the food web, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) wants to protect the ecological role these species play in the Mid-Atlantic and to collect more information on catch.   This new information will help inform future scientific assessments and management decisions.

This is the first rule in the Atlantic to list forage species as ecosystem component species.  This action would set landing and possession limits for 17 species and species groups to prevent the expansion of directed commercial fisheries on these species in Mid-Atlantic federal waters.  The species included in this rule include Anchovies, Argentines/Smelt Herring, Atlantic Saury, Atlantic Thread Herring, Cusk-eels, Greeneyes, Halfbeaks, Lanternfishes, Other Crustaceans/Shellfish, Pearlsides/Deepsea Hatchetfish, Round Herring, Sandlances, Scaled Sardine, Silversides, Spanish Sardines, Unclassified Molluscs, and Atlantic Chub Mackerel.  A forage fish identification guide and more information on this rule is available at the MAFMC website, www.mafmc.org/forage.  

National Hunting and Fishing Day is September 23
National Hunting and Fishing Day will be celebrated on September 23 with Richard Childress of Richard Childress Racing in Welcome as the national chairman.  While best known for his contributions and participation in NASCAR Racing, first as a driver and then as president and owner of one of the premiere NASCAR racing teams, Childress is also a passionate outdoorsman. 

"What an honor to be selected to serve as honorary chair for National Hunting and Fishing Day," said Childress.  "This is a very important day to reflect and participate in activities that celebrate conservation efforts by sportsmen around the country.  There is only one way to create a better future for upcoming generations in the outdoor sports and that is conservation. Join me in celebrating this year."

Congress established National Hunting and Fishing Day in 1971 to recognize hunters and anglers for their leadership in fish and wildlife conservation.  National Hunting and Fishing Day has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President since, plus countless governors and mayors.  There will be celebrations in every state.

Led by sportsman President Theodore Roosevelt, early conservationists urged sustainable use of fish and game, created hunting and fishing licenses, and lobbied for taxes on sporting equipment to provide funds for state conservation agencies. These actions were the foundation of the North American wildlife conservation model, a science-based, user-pay system that would foster the most dramatic conservation successes of all time.

Each year sportsmen and women are funding more projects that enable more public access areas to be open. Through license sales and excise taxes on equipment, hunters and anglers pay for most fish and wildlife conservation programs.  For more information, visit www.nhfday.org.  

Pechmann Center to Host Wildlife Expo on National Hunting and Fishing Day
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center will host the N.C. Wildlife Expo on Saturday, September 23.  The event will begin at 9:00 A.M. and run through noon.  The Pechmann Center is located at 7489 Raeford Road in Fayetteville.

There will be more than 14 hands-on, interactive exhibits and demonstrations at the Wildlife Expo.  it is a great way to learn more about the natural environment and the important roles that hunting and fishing play in North Carolina's fish and wildlife conservation.  Activities at the 2017 Wildlife Expo include: Shoot a BB gun, Shoot a bow, Learn about Boating Safety, See live birds of prey, Test duck and goose calls, Learn about Aquatic Insects, Go kayaking, Learn about North Carolinaís proud hunting heritage, Go fishing, Lure making, See live snakes, Go Fly Fishing, Fly Tying, Treestand Safety, Learn about Honeybees.  For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.  

Military Appreciation Day Scheduled for September 9
Military Appreciation Day 12 will be held from Southport Marina on Saturday, September 9.  This is a project of the Military Appreciation Day organization (www.militaryappreciationday.org) based in Charlotte through the Military Appreciation Day Ė Southport Chapter and assisted by volunteers from across N.C. and beyond.  It is simply a day of saying "Thank You" by taking members of the active duty military fishing.

MAD 12 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 12 in 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 12 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer.  Iíve been volunteering at MAD events 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.

Peer Fishing Festival Scheduled for October 6
The 4th Annual Peer Fishing Festival, sponsored by Ocean Crest Pier and Operation North State, will be held at Ocean Crest Pier on October 6.  The Peer Fishing Festival honors North Carolina wounded warriors, disabled veterans and veterans by treating them to a day of fishing and fellowship on Ocean Crest Pier.   

Volunteers are needed to assist the guests with their fishing needs and to supply extra, fishing outfits, tackle and bait.  This is an opportunity to give back a little to those who served our country.  Many volunteers spend the day smiling as much or more than the veterans who attend.  More information on the Peer Fishing Festival is available at the Operation North State website at www.operationnorthstate.com and those wishing to volunteer can contact Steve Sanders at Ocean Crest Pier at 910-278-6674. 

Fisheries Meetings
September 6-7:  National Marine Fisheries Service Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel, Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel, Silver Spring, MD., http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov.  

September 11-15:  South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Town and Country Inn, Charleston, S.C., www.safmc.net.

September 27:  ASMFC NC Public Hearing on Atlantic Menhaden Draft Amendment 3, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, www.asmfc.org, Contact michelle.duval@ncdenr.gov.

September 28:  N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board, 10:30 A.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheriesí Wilmington District Office, Wilmington, Contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.  

October 10-12:  Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Hyatt Long Island East End, Riverhead, N.Y., www.mafmc.org.  

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
September 9:  Military Appreciation Day, Southport Marina, Southport, www.militaryappreciationday.org.    

September 9:  Southport Inshore Challenge, Southport Marina, Southport, www.fishermanspost.com.    

September 9:  Cape Lookout Shootout Tournament 2, Boathouse Marina, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.com.    

September 16:  Pogies Redfish Series Championship Tournament, Pogies, Swansboro, www.pogiesfishing.com.  

September 16:  South Brunswick Islands King Classic, Inlet View Marina and Grill, Shallotte Point, www.fishska.com.    

September 17:  Pogies Kayak Redfish Series Championship Tournament, Pogies, Swansboro, www.pogiesfishing.com.   

September 19 - October 4:  Emerald Isle Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament, Bogue Inlet Pier, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.com.  

September 22:  First Day of Fall - 4:02 P.M.

September 23:  N.C. Wildlife Expo, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org.  

September 23:  Bone Suckin' Sauce King of the Cape Open King Mackerel Tournament, Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, http://kingofthecapeopenkingmackereltournament.yolasite.com.   

September 30:  Bay Creek Classic Flounder Tournament, Fish Factory Road Wildlife Ramp, Southport, www.baycreekclassic.com.   

September 30:  Southport Wooden Boat Show, Old Southport Yacht Basin, Southport, www.southportwoodenboatshow.com.   

September 30:  Shallotte Point King Mackerel Tournament, Inlet View Marina and Grill, Shallotte Point, www.fishska.com.    

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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