Just as soon as I say this, we'll get a run of 90 degree days just to prove me wrong, but I believe those 90 degree days are over for 2009. We'll still have some warm days, but not quite to that point and it will make the fishing better for the fishermen. The water is cooling too and dropped another degree or two again this week, which makes it better for the fish. As the water cools, the fish get more active and the reports bear that out. The water has only dropped a few degrees, but the fishing has picked up noticeably. It's a good thing!
If you were anywhere near the water around high tide at the end of last week or over the weekend, you saw plenty of water. The new moon was Thursday night and the combination of northeast wind and plus lunar tides stacked up some water in the marshes. The tide was around two feet over normal high in many places and a few got a little more. At the peak of the tide several evenings the marsh around many bridges disappeared and many finger piers were covered with water.
While it was inconvenient for many, this high tide had some good points for fishermen and hunters. Many fishermen reported finding good numbers of red drum feeding in the flooded marsh grass. The tide was high enough that many shallow draft boats could be poled across most of the marsh, but the best way to catch those fish is by wading. They seem to be able to sense the presence of a boat and usually spook just a few yards beyond casting range.
While I didn't hear from a lot of them, the marsh hen (rail) hunters apparently had a heyday also. When the tide is that high, there are only a few hummocks and sections of high grass for the marsh hens to hide. They will usually hold tight and must be spooked into flying. Sometimes it takes poking the grass with an oar or the push pole. I was working and didn't get to go, but maybe one of my friends will invite me over for some marsh hens and pastry. If not, there will be a full moon in a couple of weeks and I'll just have to go get my own.
We are looking at a marginal weekend for small boat fishing. The best thing about it is the wind is supposed to get back to the south by Sunday. Hopefully it will only be a few days after that before the ocean straightens up.
While we don't have a threatening weather system moving in on us right now, the forecasts vary from sprinkles to thunderstorms and it would be wise to have some raingear handy. It's a lot easier to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
I went by the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach Saturday morning and talked with Wally for a while. He said they had been catching Spanish, flounder, red drum and bluefish pretty well, plus some seam mullet and a few other things. While I was there they landed plenty of bluefish and a few flounder. I didn't see a Spanish or a pup, but the water sure was pretty and there was plenty of bait. Those fish probably slept in that morning and arrived after I left.
Speaking of the piers, there has also been a good bite at most of them and it included all of the above mentioned fish, plus some king mackerel. The Sheraton pier was broken off during one of the hurricanes in the 90s and has never been extended again. The water temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier is holding at 77 degrees.
Numerous fishermen were talking about the good Spanish mackerel bite. They said they were almost everywhere from just inside the inlet to up and down the beach for miles. More citation Spanish were caught at AR 315 and AR 425 this week. Several of the other reefs may have also been holding big Spanish, but I didn't receive any reports from them. There was also a good flounder bite at many of the nearshore artificial reefs. The Spanish and the flounder were keying on finger mullet, which are plentiful right now, so catching bait was pretty easy.
The results of the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament bear out there are kings spread over the entire area. There were kings caught from the beach out for 30 miles and from Cape Hatteras to Cape Fear. The top two kings in the tournament were close to shore down off New River Inlet and Topsail, while the third place fish was caught east of Cape Lookout. Even a few skiffs weighed nice kings, so they couldn't have been too far off the beach or away.
There weren't many boats that headed far offshore during the last week, but those who endured the bumpy ride caught a mixture of fish. There were some dolphin caught across much of the area and many boats had a wahoo or two. A few billfish were also caught, but that action seems to be slowing rapidly from its torrid pace of the summer.
A good tuna bite has begun from Cape Hatteras to the north. One fisherman in the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament said they ran to the Smell Wreck off Hatteras and couldn't keep lines in the water for the yellowfin tuna. Oh, to have a problem like that when not in a king mack tourney.
The white marlin bite was white hot off Oregon Inlet and is still pretty good, but should fade soon. This week the focus of many of the charter boats in that area has been tuna and they have been catching them well. Numerous citation yellowfins were caught during the middle of the week.
There was a massive fish kill in the Neuse River near New Bern late last week. The estimates have ranged as high as 50 million fish. The dead fish are primarily menhaden, but there are concerns with how their decaying carcasses will affect other fish. Numerous possible reasons for the kill have been offered and the investigation is ongoing. All the fingers point to reduced oxygen levels, but offer different reasons for them. The bottom line is the river is not healthy and needs some help. Now the question is--will the Neuse River get the help it needs?
I don't know if it was something related to the fish kill, just unlucky timing, or what, but I made a quick trip to Oriental Monday afternoon to fish for old drum with Capt. George Beckwith (www.pamlicoguide.com) and his wife, Anna and we didn't catch them well. The sun disappeared while I was driving and I arrived during a light sprinkle.
George caught bait with one cast of the net and we thought we were back on track, but unfortunately it didn't happen that evening. Anna caught a 44 inch drum we tagged and released and that was it. George speculated the spawning was about over for the year and the drum were leaving. He said we would see them next in the surf at Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets.
Having already mentioned drum, I'll continue with other reports of them. That is as simple as saying there are some puppy drum scattered very widely throughout the area. They are being caught back in the creeks, in the marshes, in the ocean just beyond the breakers. Most are fish from just under to just over the slot, but a few old drum are showing up at places like the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks. A 25 to 40 pound drum is quite a surprise when fishing for 3 to 5 pound flounder.
Everyone is talking flounder right now and they are biting well. The wall at the Morehead City State Port and The lower Cape Fear River at Snows Cut have been giving up some true doormats. Flounder are also being caught on the nearshore artificial reefs, wrecks and rocks.
Trout fishing was already pretty good for as the warm water and all the baitfish scurrying about have gotten the trout excited. There are plenty of live shrimp and finger mullet pouring out of local creeks and they are great trout baits. Just about any hole, oyster rock or other hiding place could be a great place to work a bait by a feeding trout. A variety of soft plastics, especially DOA and Billy Bay shrimp, are catching specks well and they are starting to respond well to topwater MirrOlure and Rapala lures.
A few gray trout are being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin and some of the nearshore rocks from there south. Johns Creek Rock and the WOFES have been mentioned several times this week. Jigging Stingsilvers and speck rigs is a good way to catch grays.
The Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament was held over the weekend in Atlantic Beach. This tournament featured two days of fishing with the proceeds going to the Atlantic Beach Fire Department for training and purchasing special equipment. The Final Registration and Captains Meeting was held Thursday at Atlantic Station in the former Outer Banks Outfitters Building, with fishing on Friday and Saturday and the Weigh-in site beside McCurdy's Restaurant.
The weather was a little windy and definitely rainy on Friday, but some very nice fish were caught. The tournament leader at the conclusion of Friday's fishing was the Amanda Gail, with a 37.61 pound king. This nice king slipped a few spots, but held third place at the end of the tournament for Captain David Lucas and the Amanda Gail crew. Lucas also captured third place in the Senior Angler standings.
With better weather on Saturday, the tournament field spread out and found a few larger fish. Defying what is commonly felt to be the hot tip for this tournament, the top two boats headed to the west between New River and Topsail Inlets rather than crossing Cape Lookout Shoals and heading east.
Team Zebra, with Capt. David Tedder and crew, approached the scales just before they opened at 3:00 and said they had a nice king. A few minutes later that was confirmed as they pulled it out of their king bag for a few quick pictures. Heading up to scales there was a little murmur through the crowd and crew asking if they thought the big king might reach the 50 pound mark. It didn't quite reach that mark, but at 47.98 pounds it was big enough to capture the tournament win and Top Senior Angler honors for David Godbold.
A few minutes after Team Zebra left the scales on Saturday, Ron Dorsey, Jr. brought the King's Ransom to the weigh-in dock. The smile on face of his dad, Ron Dorsey, Sr., said a lot. They didn't think their big king would displace the Team Zebra fish, but they thought it might become the new second place fish. The scales settled out to 39.31 pounds and it did. The big king also moved Dorsey, Sr. into second place in the Senior Angler standings. There must be something to be said for experience as the top three boats in the tournament all included senior anglers.
The Sea Drifter, with Captain Walter Simpkins, is a two-time winner of the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament. This year they didn't quite add another overall win, but added a first place in the 23 and Under Class, plus another Top Youth Angler honors for Reid Dressler, Simpkins grandson. The Sea Drifter king weighed 32.09 pounds.
Sherry Littleton, fishing on the Unbelievable, collected the Top Lady Angler honors. The Unbelievable's big king weighed 36.45 pounds and also collected fourth place overall.
The Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament also featured a Mixed Bag Tournament Within A Tournament for Cobia, Dolphin, Spanish Mackerel and Wahoo. There was only one cobia brought to the scales, but it was slightly undersize and was not allowed. The largest dolphin weighed 10.15 pounds and was caught by the Reel World, with Capt. John Porterfield. The Spanish mackerel competition was closer, with several nice fish being brought to the scales. The largest was the 5.27 pounder weighed by the Rod Hog and Capt. Miles Bunn. Only one wahoo was weighed and that 39.43 pounder won that division for the Wall Hanger and Capt. Brian Allen.
The third of three Redfish Action Tournaments was held Saturday September 19 from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. Fishermen were faced with the tidal extremes of the new moon phase, but produced a good catch. After fishing all day and working through their culled fish to find the largest pair, the difference between first and second places was only .01 pound. This is less than a quarter ounce.
The winners were the Dingbatters Fishing Team of Rennie Clark and "Hurricane" Drew Arndt. Their two red drum weighed 13.48 pounds and included a larger fish that weighed 6.98 pounds. This win scored enough points for Clark and Arndt to claim the Team of the Year Award and top seed in the Redfish Action Championship Tournament.
Ever so slightly behind was the Crystal Coast Graphics Team of Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor. Their aggregate weight was 13.47 pounds. Cronk and Taylor also barely missed out on the Heaviest Fish prize. Their largest fish weighed 7.31 pounds, which was .02 pounds behind the winner. Second isn't bad, but to end there twice by a total of less than a half ounce has to be hard to take.
The Chasin' Tails Team of Matt and Ray Lamb scored a third place overall fishing with 12.22 pounds, but one of their two fish was the big fish winner. It weighed 7.33 pounds.
Gayle Mace, of the Beavertail Fishing Team caught the largest redfish by a lady angler. It weighed 6.27 pounds. The only prize whose competition wasn't close was the Tournament Within A Tournament for the red drum with the most spots. The Skinny Water Fishing team of "John Boy" Moore and Bryane Gerald landed a pretty five pounder that had 9 spots.
Redfish Action will host a championship tournament for their top twenty teams and all other teams that fished in all three 2009 events. That tournament will be held October 17 from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.
The North Carolina Flatfish Championship was held over the weekend from Joyner Marina in Carolina Beach. Troy Philip had the winning 2-fish aggregate at 15.92 pounds. This was anchored by a monster 12.28 pounder that also collected the big fish money for the event. The top six finishers in the event all caught nice flounder and had aggregate weights heavier than 10 pounds. Eddie Stewart was second with 12.58 pounds and Scott Scarola, last year's winner, was third with 10.75 pounds.
Individual awards went to single largest fish and they were all citations size (5 pounds) fish. Maria Denton had the largest fish of the ladies with her 7.22 pound flattie. Chase Davis led the juniors with a 5.30 pounder and Cleveland Godbold, caught a 7.37 pounder to top the senior angler standings.
Several tournaments, including an Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) regional redfish tournament and the last qualifying king mackerel tournament event of the Southern kingfish Association Division 1 are on the schedule for this weekend.
The IFA will hold the third of three redfish tournaments in their Atlantic Division from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort on Saturday. This is the Cabela's Redfish Tour and will feature some of the best puppy drum fishermen in the southeast, with a weigh-in on Saturday afternoon. Fishermen will be traveling to the event from several states. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com.
The Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament will be held this weekend in Swansboro. This is the final of five events in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 1. The Final registration and Captains meeting will be Friday evening with fishing on Saturday. For more information visit www.obokmt.us.
The Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department will host a surf fishing tournament for flounder beginning September 26 and running through October 3. All fish must be caught while on foot and from the surf between Fort Macon and Emerald Isle. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org.
The Third Annual Bay Creek Classic Flounder Tournament will be held this Friday and Saturday, September 25 and 26 at the Wildlife Boat Ramp and Wildlife Bait and Tackle. The tournament is to benefit Brandon Matthews, a Southport fisherman who fell from a tree stand several years ago and ruptured his C-6 vertebrae, losing most of his mobility.
The proceeds from the tournament will go to the Brandon Matthews Fund for use in future surgeries, including tendon by-pass surgery, to regain some use of his hands and for adaptive equipment.
The tournament is a one day flounder tournament with no checkout and no boundaries. The entry fee is $50 and there is a guaranteed $1,000 payout for the winner. For more information on the tournament visit www.baycreekclassic.com.
The 31st running of the US Open King Mackerel Tournament in Southport will begin next week. The tournament will begin with the Captains Meeting and Final Registration on Thursday, October 1, followed by fishing on October 2 and 3, with the awards following fishing on Saturday. For more information, visit www.usopenkmt.com.
At that same time, Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island will be holding their King of the Coast Tournament for fishermen without a boat. The tournament registration is through October 1, with fishing on October 2, 3 and 4. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 4.5 is headed to Oak Island and Southport on October 17. This is a day to thank our service men and women for all they do for us. The day will feature fellowship, many varieties of fishing and a big meal at the Oak Island Moose Lodge at the end of the day.
Volunteers are needed for all phases of the event. This includes everything from registering folks in the morning to serving food to providing a boat to take some of them fishing. The website for the event is www.militaryappreciationday.org and it lists the many ways someone can register to help and also a way for the service personnel to register.