We saw a little swell from the storms passing offshore over last weekend, but continue to be lucky this year. Hopefully that will carry on. Our worst weather for a while has been the sudden thunderstorms and torrential rain. That seems to have slowed down with the cooler weather of this week and the change is very welcome. One of the best things about SE North Carolina weather is the long beautiful falls and I hope we get to enjoy another one this year.
With our most recent influx of cooler weather, the temperatures arenít expected to return to the nineties this year. There are some days left that will make the eighties, but hopefully they will be low to mid, rather than upper numbers. The cool rolled in overnight on Sunday and it sure was nice to wake up with low humidity and lower temperatures the last few mornings. The thermometer on my back deck has shown the fifties at daybreak most of the mornings this week. Wow!
The marine forecast shows a little bit of swells this weekend, but not a lot of wind. That should be pretty good for anyone with offshore plans, especially those wanting to take advantage of the special red snapper season this weekend.
The cooler weather has the fish excited and biting too. In the inside waters and near the ocean beaches the water continues to have a reddish tint from all the rainwater runoff that is pushing down the rivers. Sometimes this influx of fresh water can slow or stall the inshore and nearshore bite, but that doesnít appear to be the case right now. Several fishermen said the rain was flushing lots of baitfish down the rivers and the larger fish knew it and were gathering to feed. Whatever the reason, they sure havenít been bashful about eating.
Flounder continue to be the most sought after inshore and nearshore fish. They are spread from well back in the creeks off Bogue and Core Sounds to along the nearshore hard bottoms and artificial reefs. Several fishermen reported lots of success drifting the artificial reefs and jigging vertically for flatfish. The primary jig was a bucktail of a couple of ounces and a trailer. The trailer could be a mullet, pogy or squid strip or one of the scented soft plastic lures. One fisherman insisted he outfished his buddy who was fishing with live bait while using a four inch white Gulp shrimp and a bucktail.
On the inside, the flounder are eating mullets from the hordes vacating the creeks and that is the best bait for them. Fish the mullet on a Carolina rig or hooked through the lips on a jig head or light bucktail. When fishing a Carolina rig and live bait in heavy structure, you will usually do better to shorten the leader to eight to ten inches. It doesnít get hung as badly and you feel the flounder before it can move deep into the structure.
Puppy drum often feed in the same areas as flounder in inside waters, so donít be surprised to catch some while flounder fishing. Pups like mullet minnows, cut baits, soft plastics, gold spoons and more. They are rarely choosy.
Pups have been hitting topwaters pretty good and with the weather cooling this week that should improve. The MirrOlure Top Dog and Top Dog Junior are topwater lures with a single low frequency rattle. They are favorites of red drum. MirrOlure also makes a She Dog and She Pup series of topwater lures that are brighter colors and have multiple rattles of a higher frequency.
I like the Top Dogs when everything is calm as I believe that single deep rattle resonates through the water. However, I find that when the water chops up a bit the fish respond better to the higher pitch and multiple rattles of the She Dog series. Trout will hit both, but usually favor the She Dog and She Pup regardless of conditions.
Puppy drum also feed in the flooded marsh. This is a new moon weekend, with Sunday night being the dark night. New moon tides arenít as high as full moon tides, but with a little push from the northeast winds there should be plenty of water in the downwind marshes for the pups to get in and feed. When fishing for pups in the flooded grass, I prefer to use soft plastics rigged weedless and weedless gold spoons. Look for waving tails and wakes indicating the drum are there. Itís a beautiful sight.
The trout bite has been better than anyone expected most of the summer. They have been hitting scented soft plastics and live baits. Trout usually donít feed much when the water is 80 plus degrees, but they have been surprisingly consistent, just not large. The cooler water of rising tides has helped get the trout in a feeding mood too and that water should bee even cooler as this cooler weather lasts longer. In just a couple of days, there have already been reports the trout action is picking up.
Iíve said it all summer, but it bears repeating until it is ingrained. The most reliable way to catch trout consistently is to suspend a live shrimp under a float. Popping and rattling floats also make noises that help attract fish. The generally accepted setup is to suspend the shrimp about a foot or so above the bottom so it can be seen by the fish. The negative is that all the bait thieves and undesirable fish also like shrimp and will sometimes beat the desired species to them.
Pier fishermen from the surf to near the end are catching a mixture of fish. This week there were some nice pompano caught. The pompano like pieces of shrimp, but will occasionally hit live shrimp also. Pompano also like sand fleas or mole crabs, especially the females with eggs. Pompano are usually in shallow water, barely beyond the farthest out breaker.
Flounder are one of everyoneís favorite pier catches and there are some nice ones around. Flounder like mullet minnows and there should be plenty of them running along the beach in easy cast net range. Other fish being caught from the piers include red drum, black drum, speckled trout, small jack crevalle, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
Pier end fishermen got really excited this week when Faith Deskins of Knightdale hooked into a big tarpon from Bogue Inlet Pier. The tarpon really put on a show for the fishermen. Deskins worked the tarpon back to the pier and had it by the pilings and decided to not gaff it, but release it. It was a big one too and was estimated at 160 pounds. Congratulations!
King mackerel have been caught closer in this week and fishermen are wondering when they will make a pass by the ends of the piers. There is plenty of bait, so it could happen at any time. There were several pier king catches in the southern end of the state on Wednesday and Thursday.
Spanish mackerel are still biting well around the inlets and at the nearshore artificial reefs. Another good spot for Spanish is along the tide lines that form offshore of the inlets as the tide is falling. Spoons, jigs and Got-Chas will all catch Spanish well, especially the smaller ones.
Larger Spanish occasionally hit the lures, but they rarely hesitate to hit live baits. Some will hit large pogies intended for king mackerel, but a five to six inch mullet or pogy is about right for a five pound or larger Spanish. With all the mullets running down the beach, it is about time for some larger Spanish to be patrolling the edges of the schools about a hundred yards offshore. Spanish of this size will really hum the reel of a flounder or puppy drum outfit.
King mackerel have been a little hit or miss for the past several weeks, but the reports have gotten better this week. It seems like everything likes cooler weather. There is plenty of bait along the beaches and the kings have moved in some already. Several places reported the water temperature dropped to below 80 degrees and usually the kings start feeding once it cools into the seventies.
Live bait has been really abundant and has been the choice for most king fishermen. Some are trolling frozen cigar minnows and doing well too. The thing I have always heard about live baits versus frozen cigar minnows is that you might not catch as many fish with live bait, but they will generally be larger. Dead bait can be trolled a little faster and allows covering more area, which should put the baits in front of more fish.
The places fishermen have been finding kings remain pretty much the same, but should move a little closer to shore as the water cools. If I was fishing the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament this weekend, I believe I would have to begin at the 4 Mile Rock off Drum Inlet. There will also be lots of fishermen at East Rock and 30 Minute Rock. I wouldnít be surprised to hear of a couple of nice kings coming from the Beaufort Inlet Channel too.
Let me start the offshore bottom fishing part of this report with some good news. This will be the first of the two weekends fishermen can keep red snapper this fall. At their June meeting, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council requested a temporary emergency rule to open red snapper fishing this fall and that request has been granted.
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.
A benchmark assessment of the South Atlantic red snapper population 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:
* Odenís Dock, 57878 N.C. 12, Hatteras;
* Carolina Princess Fishing Center, 604 Evans St., Morehead City;
* Capt. Stacy Fishing Center, 415 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach;
* Dudleyís Marina, 106 Cedar Point Blvd., Swansboro;
* Texís Tackle, 215 Old Eastwood Road, Wilmington;
* Carolina Beach Municipal Docks, 313 Canal Drive, Carolina Beach;
* Ocean Isle Fishing Center, 65 Causeway Drive, Ocean Isle Beach;
* Hurricane Fleet Docks, 9975 Nance Street, Calabash.
A map of all the locations can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/snapper/freezer-locations.
Offshore bottom fishermen are catching an assortment of grunts in shallower water, but several said it almost isnít worth the effort now that they canít keep any black sea bass. Fishermen have moved to deeper water to get away from black sea bass, but still are seeing some.
A mixture of gag and scamp grouper are biting fairly well on the shallow side of 100 feet, but there are still lots of black sea bass and when you canít keep them, they become a nuisance. Once you get deeper than about 110 Ė 115 feet, the numbers of black sea bass reduce and grouper can get to the baits. Red grouper are found at this depth, plus an occasional snowy grouper (limit is 1 per boat per day). Beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys are the other fish in most offshore bottom fish catches.
Offshore trollers are catching lots of wahoo. The waters where the big drop starts at the Continental Shelf are usually home to a good fall wahoo bite and it has already begun. Wahoo sometimes follow temperature breaks and weed lines, but are oriented to ledges and other structure the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream crosses. Some dolphin and an occasional tuna are mixed with the wahoo.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) met this week in Charleston and will be wrapping up their meeting on Friday. Hopefully I will have a good report from that meeting next week. An agenda is posted on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on a draft revision to the N.C. Shrimp Fishery Management Plan, a draft amendment to the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan and a draft N.C. American Shad Sustainable Fishery Plan. Comment periods on all three plans will be held in conjunction with upcoming Marine Fisheries Commission advisory committee meetings over the next couple of weeks.
The advisory committee meetings are:
* Southern Advisory Committee, 4:00 P.M. on Sept. 19, NCDNR Wilmington Regional Office, Wilmington;
* Northern Advisory Committee, 4:00 P.M. on Sept. 27, Vernon G. James Research & Extension Center, Plymouth.
* Finfish Advisory Committee, 10:30 A.M. on Sept. 26 (no shrimp), N.C. DMF Central District Office, Morehead City.
For more information, contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
There are a couple of special events going on next weekend, Sept. 21-23 that I want to give everyone plenty of time to prepare to attend. Many of you know Capt. Charles Brown of Straits. If you donít, you should. He is an excellent fisherman, quite a character and a good guy. Recently Capt. Charles was diagnosed with cancer. He remains in good spirits and tells folks that with the Lordís help he will make it, but his progress isnít particularly good and the bills keep piling up. On Sept. 22 there will be two fundraising events with proceeds going to Capt. Charles and his family.
Redfish Action will be hosting a Cape Lookout Inshore Classic Slam Tournament for Capt. Charles. The tournament will be held from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort and will feature two fish aggregates of flounder, red drum and speckled trout. For more information or to give a donation, visit www.redfishaction.com.
There will also be a fundraising event at the Core Sound Museum in Harkers Island. There will be food, raffles, silent auctions and fellowship. Items are being sought for the raffles and auctions. For more information on the event call 242-241-5885 or 252-838-1126. Donations may also be mailed to Chasiní Tails Outdoors, 613 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512.
The southern N.C. Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 7 will be held this Saturday, Sept. 15 from Southport Marina. Much like the event held in Morehead City each June, the southern N.C. Military Appreciation Day is a day fishermen assemble and take members of our armed forces fishing. The day is for active duty, reserve and guard troops and there will be inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing as long as the weather permits. After fishing all will gather for a meal and lots of fish tales.
Registration is temporarily closed for troops as all the boats currently available are full. As more fishermen volunteer, registration will reopen to allow all who can to participate. Fishermen with boats are still needed as are volunteers to help with all things on land. For more information and to volunteer visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
Attention kayak fishermen: The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) and Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department Oak Island Classic scheduled for Oct. 13 is filling up fast. Initial registration was so fast and furious tournament headquarters have been relocated to the Oak Island Moose Lodge to allow more fishermen to participate. The initial cutoff was to be 125 and that has been extended to 175. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 152 fishermen registered for this tournament that supports the Sea Turtle Restoration Program run by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department.
The Oak Island Fall Classic is a unique tournament with lots of prizes. Winners in each category receive a kayak and prizes will be awarded through fourth place. There are five primary categories for the longest fish of Flounder, Red Drum, Speckled Trout, Slam (1 each of flounder, red drum and speckled trout) and King Mackerel. The lady angler and junior angler catching the largest fish will also receive kayaks. That is seven kayaks as prizes, plus prizes to fourth place in the five primary categories. To register or for more information on this tournament or the NCKFA visit www.nckfa.com.
A couple of tournaments are on the schedule for this weekend. The Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament is the fourth of five tournaments in the Southern Kingfish Association N.C. Division 1. The tournament, which benefits the Atlantic Beach Fire Department, began today, Friday, Sept. 14, and continues through Saturday. Weigh-ins will be each afternoon at McCurdyís Restaurant on the Atlantic Beach Causeway and tournament headquarters are under the big tent at Atlantic Station in Atlantic Beach. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The N.C. Inshore Championship will be held from Inlet Watch Marina in Carolina Beach on Saturday, Sept. 15. This is the final tournament in the Inshore Challenge Series sponsored by Fishermanís Post. The tournament features flounder and red drum and extra cash is awarded for weighing live fish. Awards will include the results of the tournament, plus recognizing the Series Champions. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.