The storms Labor Day Weekend didnít go away, but they meandered and didnít hit all of us at one time, so there were options to get away from them and go fishing. Monday morning was the worst and almost everyone except the far southern tip of the state got hit at some time. Unfortunately, weíre looking at more unsettled weather, with the threat of thunderstorms, this weekend too.
Hurricane Isaac pounded the Gulf Coast last week and did an incredible amount of damage for a storm that wasnít really strong. The problem was it slowed down and flooded everything in its path and wouldnít move on. Once again this shows there is more to hurricanes than wind. Keep the folks there in your minds and prayers. There are some who are still flooded and without power.
Currently there are two named storms in the Atlantic and some of the remnants of Hurricane Isaac have reemerged into the Gulf of Mexico and are threatening to re-form into Tropical Storm/Hurricane Nadine and move east across Florida. Hurricanes Leslie and Michael are forecast to stay well off our coast, but are sending some waves our way. The waves started arrived during mid week and made the surfers happy. They are scheduled to build through the weekend and NOAA Marine Weather has issued a Small Craft Advisory through Monday.
We may have returned to summer weather for the last weekend of summer, but the bait that began streaming out the inlets last week hasnít slowed. Those baits know what is coming and are following a predetermined action. As September progresses weíll see more cool mornings and the fish will gather at creek mouths and along the path the bait takes to the ocean to gorge themselves and bulk up for the winter. At that time, the fishing that is already good will become a whole lot more like catching and it will be real good.
Much of the inland water has the reddish tint that indicates a high concentration of fresh water, but the fish continue to bite. There is an abundance of active bait and perhaps that is keeping the reds, specks and flounder happy and feeding. Whatever the reason, they are active and feeding and fishermen are catching them in good numbers.
I didnít hear of any huge flounder this week, but the fish from just short of keeper size to around five pounds are biting well. Live bait fished on Carolina rigs has been the ticket for the flounder fishermen and they reported success using a variety of baitfish. Finger mullet and peanut pogies were the preferred baits and both were in good supply. Some fishermen prefer small spots, croakers and pinfish and also reported good catches with them.
Just remember that when fishing for flounder with live bait to have your patience in full supply and donít try to set the hook too quickly. They have to catch the bait and turn it to head first to be able to swallow it. That takes a little time, especially with larger baits.
Puppy drum mix with flounder in some places and they are there because they eat the same baits. The same rig works well for pups, but sometimes you would like a larger hook. There isnít any doubt when a redfish hits and you can usually set the hooks as soon as you recover from the shock of the bite. They usually hit it and take off and there is no doubt there is something there as the line races through the water and more line peels off your reel.
Puppy drum have fed in the flooded marsh grass almost every day for the past week or more. We had the full moon on Friday night and the tides are still higher than normal in the evenings. The pups are feeding aggressively and this is a good time to spot them tailing. Also be on the lookout for telltale wakes moving through the flooded grass and across the flats.
Several fishermen said small groups of the pups converged on schools of bait on the flats and got really rambunctious and noisy chasing them down. When you find this kind of activity, youíll have the opportunity to catch a few if you can cast a bait to them. The other good thing when the fish are feeding this hard is they donít spook too easily and you can usually pole or wade within casting range. Donít run your trolling motor up on the flats. It is already too loud and when the blade hits stalks of grass it resonates through the water and spooks the fish.
While the weather and water warmed back up some from the coolness during all the rain, the water hasnít gotten quite as warm as it was and trout are still biting. The best times for trout have been on the rising tide. That is when cooler water from the ocean is moving inshore and it gets them a little more active.
Fishermen are catching some trout on lures and grubs, but the closest way to failsafe is by suspending live shrimp under a float. Any float will hold the shrimp off the bottom so it can be spotted. However, popping or rattling corks can also be used to make noises that attract trout. Popping corks have a concave area on the top that collect water and make a "sploosh" sound when the cork is laid on its side and popped through the water. Rattling corks have a wire that runs through them with some beads on the wire and allow the cork to slide a couple of inches on the wire and click or rattle the beads. A few corks have both.
Most fishermen like to suspend the shrimp about a foot above the bottom and the length from the cork to the hook will change in different areas and as the tide rises and falls. Betts Tackle (www.bettstackle.net) of Fuquay-Varina makes a rattling cork that is set up to allow very easy depth adjustments.
The Billy Bay Adjustable Depth Lowcountry Lightning cork is an oval cork with a brass tube running through it. Several brass beads slide on the tube below the float, while a pair of plastic beads slide on the tube above the float. The brass beads serves as the ballast to keep the float upright and make a loud clack when they hit as the float is pulled forward. The plastic beads make a higher pitched click when the cork settles back upright in the water. A bobber stopper can be moved on the fishing line to adjust the depth. These should be available at your favorite tackle dealer.
Pier fishermen are catching a mixed bag of fish, but the pier end action isnít happening right now. There was a report of a lone king from one of the Topsail area piers in the last week, but it hasnít continued. With the water beginning to cool and bait moving down the beaches, it shouldnít be long before some king mackerel move inshore and get the pier end fishermen excited. Pier fishermen are catching a mixture of fish including flounder, black drum, red drum, bluefish, pompano, small jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, and trout.
The fresh water running out the inlets from all the rain hasnít pushed the Spanish mackerel off the beach. They are thick along the tidelines at the inlets and are moving closer to the beach to chow on all the mullet minnows running down the beach. Bluefish, flounder and more will soon be just outside the breakers feeding on the line of minnows headed south.
Limits of smaller Spanish mackerel can be caught pretty handily simply by trolling small spoons. They taste really good and a limit or two makes a really good fish fry. Fishermen wanting the tug of larger Spanish will do better fishing live baits. I like to cast net several dozen of the mullet minnows headed down the beach and pull off the beach a little and anchor and fish them under small balloons. You can double dip by taking a baitwell full of mullet minnows and/or peanut pogies to AR 315 or some of the live bottom just outside Drum and Bogue Inlets and drop some to the bottom for flounder too.
Fishermen caught lots of king mackerel this weekend and some were pretty large. The top four fish in the Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic exceeded 30 pounds and there was a double handful that passed 20 pounds. I prefer the 12 to 20 pounders to eat, but you need those big ones to win tournaments. Several places that were mentioned included the P Buoy, Southeast Bottoms, Christmas Rock, Jesseís Ledge, 23 Mile Rock, the Horseshoe and the Navy Wreck.
Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasiní Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach said several fishermen brought in nice cobia to weigh this week. They said they were king fishing in 50 to 70 feet of water when the cobia hit. Wouldnít it be nice to have a fall run of cobia? Some scattered dolphin were also mixed with the kings.
The fall wahoo bite is on! This has been building for a few weeks, but for the past few days the wahoo fishing has been excellent. Most of the charter boats are getting limits and sometimes that is more than 10 fish. That will keep you in wahoo steaks for the whole winter. Some dolphin and an occasional tuna are mixed with the wahoo.
Black Sea Bass season closed at 12:01 A.M. Tuesday morning, September 4. NOAA Fisheries Scientists decided the 2012-2013 quota of 409,000 pounds would be caught by then and possibly be exceeded. Black sea bass season will not reopen until June 1, 2013. NOAA Fisheries mandated this quota and subsequent closure to allow black sea bass to recover from years of overfishing.
Fishermen say this small quota and closure is not needed and is a result of flawed research. They report they are catching so many black sea bass they are a nuisance. Capt. Mike Webb of Pelagic Sportfishing in Atlantic Beach said the black sea bass are so thick and aggressive that they usually beat the fish you are after to the bait and will attack baits up to their own size.
There are some grunts in shallower water, but the best bottom fish action has been in water 90 to 115 feet deep. Gag and red grouper are also biting well, plus a few scamp grouper. Beeliners, triggerfish, porgys and hog snapper are also in the bottom fish mix.
Depending on the perspective of the viewer, it seems offshore bottom fishermen received a little good news last week. At their June meeting, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council had requested a temporary emergency rule to open red snapper fishing this fall. The request was for two weekends for recreational fishermen and a week for commercial fishermen. On August 28, this emergency rule was published by NOAA Fisheries in the Federal Register.
The emergency rule will temporarily open recreational red snapper fishing on the weekends of Sept. 14-16 and Sept. 21-23. The limit is a single fish per fisherman per day, with no minimum size. Commercial red snapper fishing will be allowed the week of Sept. 17-23, with a trip limit of 50 pounds (gutted weight) per day.
The 2012 Annual Catch Limit (ACL) of 13,067 red snapper has been established as a base line for this season. Fishery biologists believe the limited 2012 commercial and recreational red snapper seasons will provide data they couldnít gather otherwise. They plan to monitor the red snapper fishery using harvest data, age composition data, catch per unit effort data and fishery independent data from offshore sampling programs. This will be paramount for the ongoing management of the fishery and the available ACL can be modified each year. A benchmark stock assessment for red snapper is scheduled for 2014.
To gather their own data and assist the federal fishery managers, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking recreational fishermen to bring their red snapper carcasses to one of eight collection sites along the Tar Heel Coast. For participating the angler will receive a limited edition fishing towel and a citation (certificate) from the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
Each collection site has a freezer and instructions on how to deposit the carcasses are posted on each freezer. Fishermen should leave the head and tail intact on the carcass. Anglers will be asked to give information related to how and when the fish was caught, plus their names and addresses in order to receive their reward and citation.
The collection sites are:
* Hurricane Fleet, 9975 Nance St., Calabash;
* Ocean Isle Fishing Center, 65 Causeway Drive, Ocean Isle Beach;
* Carolina Beach Yacht Basin, 313 Canal Drive, Carolina Beach;
* Texís Tackle, 215 Old Eastwood Road, Wilmington;
* Dudleyís Marina, 106 Cedar Point Blvd., Swansboro;
* Capt. Stacy Fishing Center, 415 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach;
* Carolina Princess Fishing Center, 604 Evans St., Morehead City;
* Odenís Dock, 57878 N.C. 12, Hatteras.
For a map of these locations, go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/snapper/freezer-locations.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) will meet from September 10-14 at the Charleston Marriott Hotel in Charleston, S.C. Meeting details and an agenda are posted on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
I will be speaking at a couple of seminars about Marine Electronics for Kayaks that will be held at West Marine stores. The next will be in Wrightsville Beach on Saturday, Sept. 8. The Morehead City seminar will be Saturday, Sept. 22 and I will be in Murrells Inlet, S.C on Sept. 29. The seminars will include information on fishfinders, GPS units and rigging them, with special attention given to lightweight batteries and optimum and convenient transducer placement. For more information, call West Marine in Wrightsville Beach, Morehead City or Murrells Inlet.
The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) will hold their Oak Island Fall Kayak Fishing Classic in association with the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department on Saturday, Oct. 13. The proceeds from this tournament are donated to the Sea Turtle Restoration Program run by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department. Last year this tournament attracted 86 kayak fishermen from across N.C., S.C. and Va.
Mark Patterson, Founder and Executive Director of the NCKFA called me Wednesday morning to tell me that more than 130 fishermen had already registered for this yearís tournament. He said the response had been so good the NCKFA was looking for a larger place to have the Captains Meeting and Awards to handle the larger crowd. For more information on this tournament or the NCKFA visit www.nckfa.com.
Several tournaments are on the schedule for this weekend and two involve large red drum. These tournaments will be in the Neuse River, Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound. These drum are well over the slot size, so the tournaments are CPR (catch, photograph and release) format events.
The Southern Pitt Ducks Unlimited Big Drum Tournament will be held from Smiths Creek Landing in Oriental. This tournament begins at sunrise on Saturday, September 8 and ends at 7:00 A.M. on Sunday, September 9. For more information visit www.ducks.org and click on the North Carolina events tab.
The BOCO Red Drum Tournament will be held from the Bath Ruritan Building in Bath. Fishing will be Friday evening until midnight and Saturday. For more information visit www.bocoreddrum.com.
The Wildlife Bait and Tackle Ė Chatlee Boat and Marine Flounder Tournament will be held in Southport. The tournament will fish Friday and Saturday, September 7 and 8 and the prize amounts are guaranteed. This tournament is not based on a number of boats. Headquarters and the weigh station will be Wildlife Bait and Tackle. For more information call 910-457-9903.