Hey Folks. It appears we've dodged a few bullets since last week's column. At that time, the National Hurricane Center couldn't decide exactly where Tropical Storm Hanna was going to make landfall and if it might intensify to hurricane strength before making landfall. We were also looking past it, out into the Atlantic, at Hurricane Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine that were following it. It wasn't a pretty picture!
In the week that has passed since then, Tropical Storm Hanna came ashore near the N.C./S.C. State Line and fortunately didn't create an abundance of damage as it passed. By the first of this week, the forecasters had Hurricane Ike heading across Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Storm Josephine, just blew itself out and dissipated.
I have some friends along the Texas coast, where Hurricane Ike is headed, and feel for them. They are making preparations as I am writing this and plan to be leaving town by tomorrow morning. I wish them the best and hope there is no loss of life and/or significant damage.
I said there wasn't much immediate damage with Tropical Storm Hanna, but there are some lingering after affects. The flooding in the Piedmont has mostly subsided into the stream banks, but is collecting in the rivers and working its way to the coast. Both the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers have reported flood stage waters working their way downstream.
The Corps of Engineers also reported the upstream lakes (Falls Lake-Neuse River and Jordan Lake-Cape Fear River) are above "full pond" levels and they will have to release some water to get back to safe levels. They are monitoring the downstream water levels and trying not to compound the flood stage waters already working their way down the rivers.
What this means is we will be seeing a "flushing" of the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers as this excess water rushes downstream. The good news is that some biologists say this might actually help these river systems. They say the lack of rainfall for the past two years has allowed the rivers to lose flow rate and create sediment pools and "dead zones". They say the rush of the excess rainwater runoff down the rivers should overrun these areas and clean them up. Let's hope they're right.
There is no doubt the lack of rainfall has allowed high salinity water to back up the rivers. There have been tarpon sighted (and at least 1 caught) upriver of New Bern in the Neuse River and red drum and speckled trout caught upriver of Wilmington in the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers. Large schools of pogies (menhaden) have also been seen well up both river systems.
Speaking of fishing in the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound, the excellent old drum fishing has continued strong. Most of the guides working the area are reporting catching (and releasing) at least a half dozen of the big drum each evening. The big drum are mainly caught in the late afternoon and evening as they are moving out of deep water to feed. They are in the bays and along the drop-offs near the shoals and islands in the lower river and along the edge of the sound. These are big fish and prefer larger chunks of natural bait, like mullet and menhaden.
There is some concern these fish will move once the big slug of fresh water reaches the lower river and dumps into the sound. Some folks are even optimistic with this and feel it will help concentrate them in areas of higher salinity and make them easier to catch.
A mixture of speckled trout, puppy drum and flounder are being caught in the marshes and creeks. The Haystacks, Core Creek and Adams Creek are mentioned most often, but they are also in many other areas along Bogue, Back and Core Sounds. While some flounder are caught in very shallow water, they are usually in the deeper water along the drop-offs into the channels. Drum seem to prefer the shallower water along the edges of the marshes and trout are sometimes prowling both. The last of the rising tide and the falling tide are usually the best times to fish.
In spite of the surf building and dirtying up the immediate nearshore water during the approach of Tropical Storm Hanna, the piers are reporting a building bite from several bottom feeding species. Bogue Inlet Pier reports the water temperature at 83 degrees and growing catches of puppy drum, black drum, small spots, pompano and sea mullet.
The dirty water has pushed the Spanish mackerel out beyond the piers, but boaters are catching them and the pier fishermen are expecting the hot Spanish bite to return as soon as the water clears.
Last week I reported the small sailfish Jerry Jones caught from Nags Head Pier while jigging a Got-Cha for Spanish. This week I have a pair of reports of recent hookups (and jumps) but no landings of a couple of sailfish at AR 315. The most unusual catch though was a bonefish in Core Sound. I can't verify who caught it, but I saw a picture and it definitely was a bonefish and not a ladyfish. This has happened before, so it's not unheard of, but it still is a noteworthy catch.
We were concerned that the blow and building seas might negatively affect the nearshore king fishing, but it hasn't yet. There were several good reports of kings this week from the Dead Tree Hole. This spot means slightly different locations to different people, but its general location is off Shackleford Banks in 25 to 40 feet of water and 1-1/2 to 4 miles from the Beaufort Inlet Channel. I know that's a big area, but look for pods of bait and fish around them.
Once the seas calmed down a bit, some boats headed offshore and found the fishing hadn't been affected badly by the storm. Starting at the 90 Foot Drop they caught some wahoo, dolphin and even a couple of sailfish. The water temperatures are still pretty warm and this fishing should improve as the inshore water cools a bit.
Those boats heading offshore also found the grouper still biting. They caught red, gag and scamp grouper, plus a collection of other offshore bottomfish that included red and silver snappers, beeliners, black sea bass, porgys, grunts and more.
There is an abundance of tournament activity this weekend, including one tournament that was postponed from last weekend. The second annual Bay Creek Classic Flounder Tournament scheduled for Southport last weekend was postponed to this weekend. For more information call 910-363-4038 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Atlantic Beach Saltwater Classic, formerly the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament, will be held in Atlantic Beach, with final registration on Friday and fishing on Saturday. The primary species is king mackerel, but secondary prizes will also be awarded for Spanish mackerel, cobia, dolphin and wahoo. For more information, visit www.bluewaterpromo.com or call 1-800-KING MAC.
The final open tournament of the Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Series will be held in Swansboro, with registration on Friday and fishing on Saturday. This tournament will determine which fishermen qualify to fish the CCFA Redfish Series Championship, which will be held on October 11 in conjunction with the Swansboro Mullet Festival. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net or call 910-340-2651.