Fall officially arrived on Monday and most of this week has seen fall weather. It would be nice to have a few days without rain, but the fish are biting so put on your raingear and go. The water temps have dropped a few degrees in the past week and it has made the fish aggressive. Unfortunately, the forecast that brought us cooler temperatures also includes a lot of northeast winds and some pretty good chances of rain.
Donít do anything foolish, but there are places to hide from a northeast wind and fish. The more the wind is to the north, the better the conditions will be and the more it moves to the east, the worse the conditions will be. There are creeks for the smaller boats and medium size boats can stay close to shore in the ocean. Unless the weather shift is much better than the forecast, only larger boats should consider heading offshore.
In years past, yellow butterflies and northeast winds were considered good signs of pier and nearshore ocean fishing on the way. I fished the nearshore ocean one day and saw yellow butterflies and the winds were definitely from the northeast. Fishermen on the piers from Topsail down to Wrightsville Beach have been catching spots for a week. Wouldnít it be great to have a good spot run over the next few weeks?
Unfortunately the wind has been blowing for a while and there isnít an abundance of fishing tales to tell. Except for a few fishermen in large boats, fishermen have been limited to protected waters inside and for a couple of miles offshore in the ocean.
Much of the inside water is muddy. This has been a rainy summer and even moreso inland. All the runoff from the rain eventually finds its ways into creeks and rivers and heads downstream. The extra water running downstream kicks up sediments and tugs on the banks harder to cause erosion and get muddy.
Thankfully the fish have adapted and there are still some surprisingly good catches of flounder and puppy drum, with a growing number of trout over the past few weeks. Flounder fishing has been the best for a while and it was good again this week. Flounder like structure and an abundance of food. Mullet minnows and other baits have been working their way out of the smaller creeks for a few weeks and with the cooling weather of the next week that will become even stronger.
Flounder will stage at the mouths of creeks to take advantage of the bait moving out of them. Any structure that disrupts that bait is good. Flounder will be around oyster bars, along hard banks, around bridge bulkheads and pilings and other places where the structure disrupts the flow of the water and disorients the bait.
Most flounder fishermen prefer to use live baits on Carolina rigs. Just about anything smaller than your hand will work for larger flounder. Their mouths will open really wide. Flounder fishermen generally use mullet minnows and mud minnows. Flounder will also hit lures. Many are caught on soft plastics while fishing for other species. Flounder also like the flash of spoons and spinnerbaits.
There have been some nice flounder caught everywhere, but the flatfish catch of the past week was the massive 12 pounder David Derrick caught at Oak Island on Sunday. Derrickís big flatfish measured 29.5 inches long and a whopping 25 inches in girth. Wow and congratulations!
Puppy drum fishing has been picking up, but I didnít hear as many reports of them this week. Some pups are caught by fishermen seeking flounder and they like live minnows. They like live shrimp too, but will hit a wide variety of lures. As the water cools, puppy drum will become aggressive and attack a lot of lures. Most will probably be caught on soft plastics, but they will also hit the spinnerbaits and spoons like flounder. Drum also like stick baits.
Speckled trout can be very demanding and finicky. They may only bite on certain stages of the tide and may only take a few baits. They may also change their bait preferences. The one bait that can usually convince a speck to bite is a live shrimp, especially if it is suspended under a cork and struggling. Specks will also hit live minnows and lures like soft plastics and stick baits, just not as reliably as live shrimp.
Large red drum have been biting well in the lower Neuse River and around the edges of Pamlico Sound. Several knowledgeable fishermen said they anticipate the cooling water will get them moving back towards the ocean. The big drum have been feeding in shallower water during the morning and mid day and moving to the mid depths in mid to late afternoon and staying there into the evening. The shallow drum have been hitting jigs and soft plastics fished under popping corks and diving lures. The deeper drum prefer chunks of mullet and menhaden fished on the bottom.
King mackerel have been biting at the piers from Emerald Isle to Kure Beach. There have been some nice Spanish macks at most piers and jack crevalle at Bogue Inlet Pier. The pier catches this week also included a few flounder, trout, pompano, bluefish, puppy drum, and black drum. There has also been a spot run at the Topsail piers for about a week.
There were more reports of schools of tarpon moving along the beach this week. These were moving quickly, not milling around and I didnít hear of any catches, jumpoffs or anything. They were scattered from just beyond the ends of the piers to a couple of miles off. I think these guys moving back south is a clue that fall is here and the water is cooling.
There were mixed reports of Spanish mackerel fishing last week. Several fishermen reported catching them well and others said they were scattered, hard to find and werenít always biting when you found them.
I went Spanish fishing with my friend Christopher Minish off Oak Island last week and we had a pretty good day. It took a while to find some Spanish and the bite wasnít on fire by any means, but we caught enough for several meals and left them biting.
Early on, the bite was really scattered and we were picking up a few on Mackerel Master and bird rigs on the surface. Mackerel Master rigs are made by Capt. Noah Lynk of Noahís Ark Charters in Harkers Island and the only place I know selling them is Cape Pointe Marina at Harkers Island. What I really like about Mackerel Master rigs is they can be trolled without planers or trolling sinkers and can be used on trout, flounder and puppy drum tackle. That makes it a lot more fun to catch Spanish macks.
We finally found a couple of small slicks in about 26 feet of water that were holding some Spanish. I donít know what they were feeding on as they never pushed it to the surface, but we marked several suspended pods on the fishfinder. This was a subsurface bite and size 1 planers were the right depth. The Spanish liked 0 size Clarkspoons and it didnít matter if they were gold or silver.
The bite wasnít on fire, but every pass we picked up one or two. After a while there were plenty of Spanish in the cooler for tacos that night and a few extra meals. It was nice to catch what we wanted and leave them biting.
My point here is two-fold. First - with the water temps cooling, fish may be feeding anywhere from the surface to the bottom and it would be wise to put out a trolling spread that covers various depths and the surface. Second Ė pay attention to what is happening. There wasnít much bird activity that day, but those two small slicks were the only sign of fish we saw and luckily there still were feeding fish under them. It really can be the small details that make a fishing trip productive.
False albacore fishing has been good around Cape Lookout and off Wrightsville Beach. The fat alberts have been hitting a variety of lures, jigs and spoons. They are also whacking flies and providing lots of fun for fishermen using light tackle.
King mackerel fishing had been picking up a little until it was interrupted by this wind. I have always believed that fall northeast winds bring kings toward the beaches. This wind is supposed to blow through at least the weekend, so it appears we will get a chance to see if that holds true this fall. The Rumble in the Jungle KMT is this weekend and the US Open KMT is next weekend. Iím expecting to see some big kings carried to the scales.
The past week is the first time in a while I havenít received lots of good reports about offshore bottom fishing. Iím pretty sure the fishing hasnít fallen off, but fishermen just arenít taking the beating to get there. Before the wind came up offshore bottom fishermen were catching limits of grouper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts and I expect this to continue when this little blow passes. They were also occasionally catching amberjacks, almaco jacks, hog snapper and African pompano. Porgy season closed on September 17, so donít keep any jolthead, knobbed and whitebone porgys or scup.
Offshore trolling was really good before the wind came up and the wind shouldnít affect it except for keeping smaller boats at the dock and making it difficult for fishermen in larger boats. The fall wahoo fishing is in full swing and there have been excellent catches every day. Fishermen knowledgeable about wahoo have been catching limits and fishermen just learning the ropes have been catching enough to keep them interested.
In addition to the wahoo, fishermen are also catching good numbers of blackfin tuna. There are also pods of dolphin scattered along the grass and weed lines and a few wandering billfish. For those who donít remember, in 1987 Buddy Grooms caught the state record sailfish (100 pounds) the first Saturday in October.
MAD 9 Southport and Peer Fishing Festival on Oct. 17-18
Military Appreciation Day 9 was scheduled for September 20 from Southport Marina in Southport, but was postponed until Saturday, October 18, because of gusting winds. With the delay, there is still time to volunteer to assist with the day. Volunteers with boats who would like to take the troops fishing are needed, plus volunteers for the shoreside duties of setup, takedown, registering troops in, preparing and serving the meal, and even cleaning fish. This is a project of the Military Appreciation Day organization (www.militaryappreciationday.org) based in Charlotte through the Military Appreciation Day Ė Southport Chapter and assisted by volunteers from across N.C. and beyond. It is simply a day of saying thank you by taking members of the active duty military fishing.
MAD events are all-volunteer events and any assistance is appreciated by the organizers and the troops. Even if you have limited time, there are ways to help. 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. Iíve been volunteering at MAD events for a handful of years now and highly recommend it. Itís a day you wonít forget. Iím pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing.
The Peer Fishing Festival will be held on Friday, October 17, at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. The Peer Fishing Festival is for Disabled Veterans and Wounded Warriors and is a project of Operation North State. Operation North State (www.operationnorthstate.com) is based in Winston-Salem and utilizes North Carolinaís people, places, products and pride to provide numerous military support services for the men and women currently serving or who have served in the armed forces.
The Peer Fishing Festival is open to the first 275 disabled vets and Wounded Warriors and their caretakers. My last report is there were more than 150 already registered. Operation North State needs volunteers familiar with pier fishing to assist with the program that will run from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. The program will include fishing, lunch, snacks, prizes and more. Those interested in volunteering can get more information at www.operationnorthstate.com or by calling Steve Saunders, manager of Ocean Crest Pier, at 910-278-6674 or 910-540-2878.
Marine Fisheries Commission Seeks
In addition, the commission is seeking a commercial pound net fisherman to serve on the Sea Turtle Advisory Committee. Advisory committee applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. Advisers will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
The Marine Fisheries Commission chairman appoints members to these committees for three-year terms, and several terms will expire in January. Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at Division of Marine Fisheriesí offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications should be returned by Nov. 1 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557, Attention: Nancy Fish.
October 6: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Information Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or www.ncdmf.net.
October 6 and 7: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council SEDAR (SouthEast Data, Assessment, and Review) Steering Committee, Crowne Plaza, North Charleston, S.C., Information www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar or www.safmc.net/meetings, 843-571-4366.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings and
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 19 to October 4: 8th Annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament, Flounder, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.com.
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.
October 2-4: US Open King Mackerel Tournament, King mackerel, Southport Marina, Southport, www.usopenkmt.com.
October 3 to 5: Topsail Island Surf Fishing Challenge, Multiple Species, East Coast Sports, Surf City, www.fishermanspost.com.
October 4 and 5: Crystal Coast Fall Surf Fishing Classic, Multiple species, Atlantic Beach to Emerald Isle, www.coastalanglermag.com/surf.