Once again the weather played a big part in our fishing at the end of last week and over the weekend. Unfortunately this also contributes to what doesn't happen. We were fortunate again and this one was primarily because of the threat, not the actual storm. I sure was glad to be missed again, but Tropical Storm Danny worried enough folks the beaches and waterways looked pretty bare most of the time.
The ocean conditions settled out pretty quickly after Tropical Storm Danny passed, but were stirred up again by Monday as this frontal boundary stalled along the coast. The winds have been from the north and are expected to stay primarily northerly until Monday. Looking for the silver lining in this, the temperatures are much cooler than normal and the humidity is lower. It's a great time to enjoy being outside.
The northerly breezes will allow fishing along the southern facing beaches. However the strength of the winds and amount of sunshine will vary a little with the actual location of the front. If the front stays right along the beaches, it may be a little more breezy and cloudy. If the front moves offshore a little, the wind could settle to near nothing along sunny beaches. In either scenario, the forecast isn't currently severe enough to warrant Small Craft Advisories, so those on larger boats should be able to head out regardless.
This is Labor Day Weekend and it is typically the last big crowd of the summer season. Thankfully Mother Nature is giving us a break and there isn't a named storm bearing down on us like the past two weeks. We do have Tropical Storm Erika well out in the Atlantic, but it is currently not expected to strengthen and should only be reaching the southern Bahamas by Monday. It will not be a factor in our weather for this weekend and may not affect us at all.
The fish weren't put off by last weekend's weather conditions and this weekend will be nicer. The good mixed catches continued at the piers. There has been a good scattering of flounder, trout, black drum, red drum, sea mullet, spots, croakers and other bottom fish. There were several king strikes at Bogue Inlet Pier, but not all were landed. The largest so far this week has been Mike Heath's 29 pounder. A king and several Barracudas were also landed over last weekend at Ocean Crest Pier.
The flounder fishing is still getting better. There weren't many folks chasing them over the weekend, but most who went connected. I was out for a few hours Thursday afternoon and the fellow with me caught a flounder on a Flatsmaster gold spoon and spinner he was throwing for puppy drum. When the flounder are that aggressive, they are feeding well and will bite if you find them. Good flounder reports have come from along the wall at the state ports, the bars in the inlets, the mouths of small creeks flowing into larger creeks and on many of the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks.
There was some excellent sight fishing for puppy drum around the August full moon and the September full moon is coming up tonight (Friday). Many fishermen have said they expect it to be better. During the elevated high tides the pups will venture up into the flooded marsh grass to feed on shrimp, minnows and fiddler crabs, so keep an eye open for wakes or tails in the marsh around the high tides. As the tides fall, they will move back into the deeper water of the main creeks and wait to see what is swept out of the mouths of smaller creeks.
Speckled trout have been surprisingly active all summer and that should only get better. Sometime in the next few weeks the water temperatures will begin dropping and it will trigger lots of good fishing activity including a very active speck bite. Several fishermen have said they are catching specks well from just before dark until just after. This is certainly a cooler time of day for the fishermen and many times the wind dies out and allows presenting baits without fighting the wind.
One spot fishermen are catching specks is around the pilings of the many coastal high-rise bridges and especially at night. This is a favorite tactic in the Morehead City area and there are also a few gray trout in the turning basin that will often mix with the specks after dark. Live bait helps a lot to catch these fish, but creates a problem of getting your baits through the layer of hungry bluefish that is usually positioned above them.
The cooling water temps will also trigger a mass exodus of baitfish from the inshore waters. They will begin moving down the ocean beaches in lines that seem to last forever. These baitfish will be very close to the beach, barely outside the breakers, and will attract lots of predators including Spanish macks, bluefish, puppy drum, flounder, specks and more.
Not many boats have ventured offshore this week. A few larger ones headed out and those that made the trip found kings, a few dolphin and some amberjack from the beach out to about 80 feet deep. The dolphin bite continued past this and was joined by a few wahoo and sailfish along the Gulf Stream eddies. The storm had broken up the weed lines and they hadn't reformed earlier in the week, but may have by the weekend.
The billfish action was good for those who went and would have made good news had there been many boats out. Unfortunately it was the week before Labor Day Weekend and most folks were working and anticipating the upcoming long weekend. The billfish activity has been really good and includes sailfish, white marlin and blue marlin. There are some sails and whites being caught south of the Big Rock, but the action gets better and adds more blue marlin as it moves north. For the past several weeks, there has been a hot sailfish and white marlin bite between the Rock Pile and Oregon Inlet.
Hunting season is quickly approaching. In fact, the season for resident Canada geese began on Tuesday, September 1. The limit is 15 and there are some special provisions for hunting west of U.S. 17. Those special provisions are only for the September season and include allowing hunting until 1/2 hour after sunset (usually 1/2 hour before sunset), hunting with plug removed from guns and allowing electronic calls.
I understand our resident goose flocks are increasing at a very fast rate and need to be controlled and I like goose meat as well as anyone. However, this limit is very liberal. Fifteen geese per person is a lot of meat, even if just breasting the big fillets and not keeping them whole. As a suggestion to use all this meat, I would like to recommend grinding it and using it as a hamburger substitute in sauces, spaghetti, tacos and such.
Any time you fry goose meat you will have to be real careful to prevent burning it. I like to add a couple of pieces of bacon to help keep some grease in the pan and bacon is a flavor most people like and it surely helps with getting them to accept goose tacos and such.
For the waterfowl hunters, a special teal only season runs from September 12 to 30, but only for hunting east of U.S. 17. Also on the water, dove and marsh hen (rails) seasons open on September 5. For the marsh hen hunters, that fits pretty well with the September full moon tides.
Dove season is a rite of passage foe many young hunters and a sort of "gathering of the clan' for many older hunters. Saturday is the opening day of dove season and if you don't have a friend or cousin with a freshly cut corn field, there are some commercial operations that offer a variety of options. There is probably one or two listed in the want ads in this edition, or you can Google N.C. dove hunts and find several options within an hour drive of almost anywhere.
One of my favorite places to dove hunt is Roans Branch Hunting Preserve. I spoke with Roans Branch owner David Knox again this week and he still has some openings. As I noted last week, Roans Branch is offering a first season dove hunting special that covers six Saturdays. This includes hunting and a pig-pickin' on opening day, plus hunts on the following five Saturdays. The Saturdays included are September 5 (opening day), 12, 19 and 26 and October 3 and 10.
You won't be hunting the same fields every Saturday either. Knox has numerous fields in the Bolivia area and will be monitoring them and hunting the field with the most activity each Saturday. To find out more about this dove hunting special or any of the other hunting and shooting opportunities at Roans Branch Hunting Preserve, call Knox at 910-520-3485, visit www.quailhuntnc.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my favorite ways to begin this season is skeet or trap shooting in the morning to sharpen the eye, a pig pickin' for lunch and then an afternoon of shooting. Filling a limit of 15 doves will take most hunters a while and gives them enough action their shoulder reminds them it's been a while since they last shot.
For those folks who live and breathe antlers, the bow and arrow segment of most deer seasons opens on Monday. It certainly is the start of the eastern season and you can verify the other areas at www.ncwildlife.org.
The Onslow Bay Sport Fishing Club Artificial Bait Only King Mackerel Tournament that was scheduled for last Saturday at Casper's Marina in Swansboro has been postponed until October 17. The board of directors made the decision so they wouldn't be competing with the Topsail King Mackerel Tournament that was postponed until that weekend and the Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic scheduled at Southport/Oak Island. As the name indicates, only artificial baits will be allowed. For more information call 910-353-2659.
The Topsail Offshore Fishing Club King Mackerel Tournament was postponed from August 19 and held this past Saturday. Because of the still unclear threat of Tropical Storm Danny, the turnout and catch was low. The tournament only had 13 entries and no kings were weighed. I was told there was one fish brought to the weigh-in, but the crew mis-estimated the time for the trip and was late and not allowed to weigh.
The Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic at South Harbor Village Marina was delayed a day to allow Tropical Storm Danny to pass. The original dates had the fishing on Saturday and that was postponed until Sunday. It was a wise decision weather-wise, but not everyone was able to reschedule for fishing on Sunday. This was the third of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 9.
In addition to the king mackerel tournament, there was a separate Mixed-Bag Division for Spanish mackerel, cobia, dolphin and wahoo. This option was not required, but a good portion of the roughly 100 boat field chose to enter it. The proceeds for this tournament were donated to the N.C. Public Access Foundation (www.ncpafonline.com), who has promised them to Oak Island to help maintain and improve the municipal launching ramps and retire the debt on Oak Island Pier.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center team, led by Capt. Brant McMullan won the tournament with a 29.11 pound king. McMullan said they made a run to 65 feet of water off Georgetown, S.C. because they hadn't gotten good reports of kings in the waters off Brunswick County. He explained their trip wasn't because of good information from there, but moreso because of a lack of good local information. He said they had a good bite going for about 3 hours and several other tournament boats were in the same area. Austin Aycock fished with McMullan and collected the Top Junior Angler Award.
The Strickly Business, with Capt. Jeff Crouch of Bolivia, held the lead briefly but slipped to second place right at the end of the day. The Strickly Business king weighed 28.38 pounds. Third place went to the Blue By U team with a 25.52 pound king.
Most of the smaller boats fished close by. The Sea'n is Believin' team captured the 23 and Under top spot with an 18.10 pound king. Capt. Cheryl Davis of the What Ever said they started the day at Yaupon Reef and later moved to the Cape Fear Sea Buoy. The What Ever claimed second in the 23 and Under Class, plus a Top Lady Angler Award for Davis and third place in Senior Angler for her husband, J.R. Davis. Danny Gore, on the Top Choice, was the Top Senior Angler.
In the Mixed Bag Division, only Spanish mackerel and dolphin were weighed. Scar Face collected the dolphin money with a 15.81 pound dolphin while Silver Spoon took home the Spanish Mack money with a big 6.66 pound Spanish.
The only tournament on the NC Division of Marine Fisheries schedule for this weekend is the Queen of Kings Tournament at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. This is a ladies only event and the days are September 4, 5 and 6. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net or call 910-278-6674.