Welcome to fall. It doesnít officially arrive until Monday afternoon, but the cooler weather this week was a preview. It looks like with its official arrival, fall is bringing a cold front with it. This little bit of cooling has gotten some mullet moving and I think they will get wild next week when there are several days the highs are low 70s. That should get the fish moving and chewing too.
Beware of the wind this weekend. It is forecast to be pretty breezy Friday and Saturday, then starting to taper back beginning Sunday. Right now there isnít much chance of rain in the forecast and thatís a good thing.
There is enough wind in the forecast that Military Appreciation Day 9 in Southport has been postponed until October 18. This is supposed to be fun, not a go fishing to prove you can and get sea sick event and organizers made the tough decision to postpone it. More details are below and you can also check the details at www.militaryappreciationday.org.
This week included the anniversaries of Hurricanes Hazel and Floyd. They were two of the worst storms to have ever hit the N.C. Coast and wreaked havoc in the Southport-Oak Island area. I hope we never see anything like either of them again. The only good in that reminder is that most of us survived and have rebuilt.
Offshore fishing began picking up during the week last week and was good except for when the wind intervened. Structure is a key for wahoo, but at those depths, the effects of the structure may not be seen at or near the surface for miles. Almost everyone who made the run caught a few and some boats limited out. The wahoo ranged from about 15 pounds to 70 pounds. It wonít be long before someone decks a triple digit monster.
The offshore fishermen are also catching dolphin and blackfin tuna. Most of the blackfins are smaller, but a few approach the citation size of 20 pounds. The dolphin are a good mixture of sizes with some being slingers and the larger ones definitely being gaffers. Several fishermen also released sailfish and marlin. The bottom line is there is a good mixture of hungry offshore fish. Hopefully they will still be there when the wind lays out again.
I know it sounds like the message on an answering machine, but offshore fishing has been and continues to be good. By the time you read this, porgy and scup will be closed for recreational fishermen until January 1, 2015. This isnít the red porgy that is also sometimes called pink or silver snapper, but the joltheads, knobbed, whitebone and other porgys. The season was abruptly closed effective September 17, with a fisheries bulletin that was sent from NOAA Fisheries late Friday. The details are in a highlighted section below.
Offshore bottom fishermen are catching limits of grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts. Amberjacks can sometimes be a nuisance and they are occasionally catching a few hog snapper and African pompano, especially off Cape Fear.
King mackerel fishing picked up a little last week. The cooler weather next week should help get kings inshore and feeding. There already are a few being caught along the beaches but that action isnít hot yet and the kings are scattered. The big numbers of kings will arrive over the next month or so. The most consistent king action has been in 50 to 80 feet of water, except for east of Cape Lookout Shoals where many are in 100 to 110 feet.
Spanish mackerel fishing was good, but not great, last week. Fishermen trolling Clarkspoons behind small planers and trolling sinkers caught some Spanish around the inlets and the nearshore artificial reefs. Several fishermen who took some live finger mullet to the tide lines off the inlets and the nearshore artificial reefs reported catching larger Spanish macks by light lining the mullet minnows. This is a lot of fun on trout and puppy drum tackle.
There has been some excellent fishing at Cape Lookout for false albacore also. They have been in deeper water off the end of the jetty and spread through that area out to the Rock Barge Wreck. Several fishermen said they were feeding well and werenít spooky yet, so it was pretty easy to get within casting range. The fat alberts are hitting a variety of lures, jigs and spoons, plus flies. The Cape Lookout Albacore Festival is a month away, but this is a good opportunity to test your equipment and Ďcore skills.
This week I had a few calls and e-mails reporting schools of tarpon moving along the beach. They were scattered from just beyond the ends of the piers to a couple of miles off. One fisherman sent me a short video taken by his phone camera and it was definitely tarpon. I heard of several that were hooked, but I havenít heard of one being landed.
The piers from Emerald Isle to Topsail are catching king mackerel. Pier fishermen had a mixed catch otherwise, but several afternoons produced nice catches of Spanish mackerel. Got-Cha jigs (the ones with gold hooks) were the hot lure for Spanish. Pier fishermen also caught a few flounder, trout, pompano, bluefish, sea mullet, puppy drum, and black drum.
The award for the most unusual catch of the week goes to Omar Gracia who caught a 23 pound king mackerel from the surf at Fort Macon Wednesday morning. Yep, you read that right. Capt. Matt Lamb at Chasiní Tails Outdoors weighed the king, which was caught on a finger mullet. Lamb reported Omar said he lost one that was bigger.
There has been a little spike in surf fishing success in the past couple of weeks. Typically the surf catches are better from the east facing beaches that have a pronounced slough along the beach, but several southern facing beaches have had good pompano and sea mullet action this week. While Omar Graciaís king dominates this weekís surf catches, the primary catches have been mainly flounder, red drum, black drum, sea mullet and bluefish.
The water remains muddy in a lot of the coastal rivers, creeks and the ICW, but fish are still biting. With all the rain and runoff this summer, maybe they have gotten used to it. A lot of the dirtier water has been caused by rain and because much of the rain has been farther inland, the water isnít as stirred up in the backs of area creeks. Some fish are more active in the back of the creeks, but if you head up any of the creeks and donít know the way, please be careful. There are a lot of sand bars, mud banks and oyster rocks in the creeks and they sometimes reach out and grab unsuspecting boats.
Other fishing is coming on, but flounder fishing has been good for a while and continues to be good. Flounder have been caught along the channel edges at just about every inlet in N.C. They also like bridge bulkheads and pilings, the wall at the Morehead City State Ports, jetties and other places there is enough structure to interrupt the current and disorient baitfish. Flounder are also being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs and rocks.
Most flounder fishermen are using live baits and the consensus is that finger mullet and peanut pogies are the best. Fish them on a Carolina rig and be sure to give the flounder time to turn the bait and get it well into its mouth before setting the hook. If you set it too quickly, youíll pull it out of his mouth. Most fishermen agree a slow count to 10 is the minimum time needed to let a flounder get a live bait turned and swallowed.
Puppy drum have been biting well for a while and this week speckled trout also began biting better. With the cool weather over the weekend and the cold front next week, the water should cool a few degrees and this could spur a pretty good trout bite. Iím planning on it and hope Iím not disappointed.
Most fishermen seeking specks and pups are doing best with live baits. Shrimp, mullet minnows, peanut pogies and mud minnows have all been producing both of them. Many times trout will hold out for live shrimp, but they will also hit live minnows. Puppy drum arenít particular when they are feeding and luckily that is most of the time. Fish the baits on the bottom using a Carolina rig or suspended off the bottom under a cork. If you are having trouble with too many bait thieves, raise the bait off the bottom 6 to 12 inches at a time until you get it above them.
All of these fish will also hit lures, but they may take more convincing. Soft plastic are the most versatile and I prefer them in shrimp and paddletail shapes. Topwater lures are the most fun, but are only for trout and reds. Flounder will occasionally hit a topwater when fishing in shallow water, but it is rare. For fishing heavy structure rig a soft plastic with a worm hook and pin the hook point barely under the skin to make it weedless or use a weedless spoon.
Large red drum are biting well in the lower Neuse River and around the edges of Pamlico Sound. The big drum tend to feed best in the mid depths where the river shallows around a sand bar, point or island. For many years the primary way to catch these fish was using chunks of mullet and menhaden fished on the bottom and fishing from late afternoon into the evening.
Over the past several years, fishermen have found these large drum would also hit soft plastics and jigs fished under popping corks. Many fishermen credit Capt. Gary Dubiel of Oriental with discovering this and say it works well and allows catching the big drum during the daytime. This is a popular method for catching smaller fish back in the creeks and when used in waters holding the big drum, fishermen found they still like it.
MAD 9 Southport Postponed
MAD 9 Southport will now be held on October 18. The headquarters will still be at Southport Marina in Southport and the schedule will remain the same. Like the Military Appreciation Day event that was held in Morehead City in late May, this is a project of the Military Appreciation Day organization (www.militaryappreciationday.org) based in Charlotte. It is simply a day of saying thank you by taking members of the active duty military fishing.
MAD 9 Southport will be the effort of a large team of volunteers from across N.C. MAD events are all-volunteer events and volunteers are still needed. There is a waiting list of troops wanting to participate and the good side of the delay is it gives more fishermen time and the opportunity to volunteer. Volunteers with boats are needed to take the troops fishing and volunteers are also needed to help with the shore side duties. Shore side volunteers could do anything from helping with setup, registration and cleanup to helping prepare and serve the meal or even helping clean the fish that are caught.
I highly recommend being a part of MAD 9 if your circumstances allow it. I have made some good friends of the troops attending and MAD volunteers and the experience is priceless. Iím pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing. Those interested in being a part of MAD 9 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer.
Deer Processing Seminar
Instructors from QDMA will provide step-by-step instructions on how to process a deer after the hunt. Topics include field dressing, skinning, taxidermy preparation, safe food-handling techniques, basic home-processing procedures, as well as equipment needed. Participants will also receive a booklet of flavorful venison recipes.
The seminar is free, but pre-registration is required and attendance is limited to the first 60 participants. For more information or to register, contact Smith at 910-868-5003, ext. 14, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center offers outdoor education classes all year. Most programs are free and open to the public. For more information about the Pechmann Center, or to check on upcoming clinics, visit www.ncwildlife.org and click on the ďLearningĒ link or go to the John E Pechmann Fishing Education Center Facebook page.
QDMA is a non-profit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ensuring the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and the hunting heritage. For more information, visit the Cape Fear River Management QDMA webpage at www.capefearriverbranchqdma.org or their Facebook page.
Porgy Season Closes
The porgy complex includes jolthead, knobbed, whitebone and saucereye porgys and scup. They are a part of the reef complex species that also includes gray triggerfish, yellow jack, bar jack, almaco jack, lesser amberjack, banded rudderfish, white grunt, margates and spadefish. A total of 20 fish from the reef complex species are allowed per day per fishermen. From September 17 to December 31, this may not include jolthead, knobbed, whitebone and saucereye porgy and scup.
Red porgy, AKA pinky, pink snapper and silver snapper, is not included in the porgy complex or the reef complex and are managed separately. That fishery remains open.
The recreational annual catch limit for the porgy complex is 106,914 pounds. NOAA Fisheries said reports indicate the 2014 catch has met the annual catch limit and the season is being closed as quickly as possible to minimize the overage. The overage will be deducted from the 2015 annual catch limit.
Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries said the DMF will also issue a proclamation to close recreational fishing for the porgy complex in N.C. State waters to be consistent with the federal closure. Commercial harvest of the porgy complex remains open at this time, but is nearing the annual catch limit and will be closed if it reaches the limit.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings and Events
September 1 to Nov 29: Tex's Tackle Fall Inshore Tournament, Trout and flounder, Tex's Tackle, Wilmington, www.texstackle.com .
September 1 to Dec 31: Chasiní Tails Outdoors Speckled Trout Challenge, Chasiní Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
September 18 to 20: The Atlantic Beach Saltwater Classic was originally scheduled for this weekend. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
September 19 to October 4: 8th Annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament, Flounder, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.com.
September 20: The Redfish Shootout Fall Tournament, Redfish, Surf City Wildlife Boating Access at Waterway Park, Surf City, www.redfishshootoutseries.com.
September 22: Deer Processing Seminar, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ndwrc.org/learning or www.capefearriverbranchqdma.org.
September 27: Carolina Redfish Series, red drum, Chasiní Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
September 27: Bay Creek Classic, Flounder, speckled trout and oyster toad, Fish Factory Road Wildlife Ramp, Southport, www.baycreekclassic.com.