What is with this weather? Suddenly it seems our fall weather is trying to be worse than our spring weather and I expect you remember how long it took that to get straightened out. The early forecast for this weekend wasn't good and Friday and Saturday still look to be awful rainy. The wind is forecast to fall out to around 10 knots beginning late Friday and the seas less than 4 feet, so you might get in a good day of fishing if you don't mind wearing raingear. The rain should be trailing off on Sunday and some folks will have nice days. The chances of rain taper off a lot for most of next week and the early forecast is for lighter winds and slight seas. Things may work out for a good fishing trip if you have some free time during the week.
Even though it includes a named storm, there is good news from the tropics. Tropical Storm Ida seems to be stuck in the open ocean northeast of the Windward Islands with no steering currents. It made a loop earlier this week and the Thursday morning forecast has it wandering a bit more and then slowly moving off to the northwest. The current forecast is for it to slowly fade away to a depression or low. There may be some strengthening, but not enough to become a hurricane.
Even with the wind and threat of rain, there were a lot of folks on the water during the last week. Some were fishing for fun and others were at the Southport Military Appreciation Day that was held Saturday in spite of the weather. The wind blew hard, but the rain held off. The conditions certainly didn't help things, but I believe the catches were actually a little better than anticipated.
The Southport Military Appreciation Day isn't as large as the one held in Morehead City each May. There were about 60 boats and 160 troops. The weather changed fishing plans, but boatload after boatload of smiling Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard personnel left Southport Marina Saturday morning and all came back smiling - well, except for a few who lost big fish late in the day.
The wind had just enough north angle that some of the larger boats went into the nearshore ocean and caught Spanish, flounder and large red drum. The smaller boats stayed inside and chased trout, flounder puppy drum and a mixture of assorted bottom fish. My guest for the day was Jon Willis, a Marine from Ohio who is currently stationed at MCAS Cherry Point.
We were in my 16 foot flats boat and began the day in really protected water. After only catching a few small to maybe legal flounder, we decided to cross a few miles of rough water to another calm spot and see what we could do there. The ride was sporty, but not too bad, and there was a mixture of fish at this spot. We caught red drum, more flounder, a really nice croaker and had a couple of heartbreaking escapes and break-offs.
At one last stop to end the day, Jon hooked into something that made several runs and fought really hard before coming to the surface and revealing it was a big skate. Still, it gave Jon a good tug and stout fight and was released to thrill someone else later. All in all, it was a much better day that we were concerned it might be with the weather forecast.
After a cookout of burgers, hot dogs, wings and more, the troops boarded busses or piled into cars to head back to base. Most wore smiles and had a good meal that wasn't from the chow hall. Ladies and gentlemen of the U.S. military, thank you for all you do. I'm certain I can speak for all the fishermen when I say we were honored to have you aboard for the day.
The king mackerel bite continues to creep closer to shore. There have been a few scattered catches at the southern N.C. piers, but it just hasn't quite taken off. That run could begin at any time. More bait is showing up off and around the piers and boaters are catching a few kings closer to shore. The water has cooled about 5 degrees since last week and that is usually a good sign for fall pier fishing. This wind typically brings bait and kings to the beach, so maybe there will be pier kings to talk about next week.
Pier fishermen are catching Spanish mackerel in good numbers. There are some nice ones too. It is nearing time for the Spanish to head south and they are feeding hard. Some have hit larger live baits intended for kings, some have hit mullet minnows that are suspended under corks or free lined and some are hitting jigs that are cast and retrieved quickly.
Many pier fishermen consider the early run of spots at Bogue Inlet Pier at Emerald Isle to be the best news of the fall so far. They aren't consistent yet, but several nights two fishermen have been able to catch enough to fill a 48 quart cooler. Pier fishermen are also catching pompano, flounder, black drum, sea mullet and an assortment of other fish.
Boaters are finding good numbers of Spanish mackerel from just beyond the surf out for a few miles. It's probably time to get some of them if you want more before they leave for the winter. Sometimes the water stays warm and they stay longer, but they are often heading south by the last week or so of October. Trolled Clarkspoons and a variety of jigs cast and retrieved quickly should catch them.
There are schools of false albacore out beyond Shark island on Cape Lookout Shoals at Morehead City and a few showing off Wrightsville Beach. They sometimes mix with schools of Spanish mackerel, but are more aggressive as they feed. False albacore are generally regarded as poor table fare, but are lots of fun to catch. They will hit most of the lures Spanish mackerel like.
Flounder are still holding on the nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs. It is now fall and the water has begun cooling. The weather last weekend and this week have definitely helped with that. As the water cools, the flounder numbers will fall off, but there should be some larger ones in the catch. I really like to fish a bucktail jig and trailer, especially during the fall. With the jig and trailer I don't have to wait for a flounder to turn and eat a live bait before setting the hook. With larger flounder, the sooner you can get them away from the structure, the better, and you can set the hook as soon as you feel them with a bucktail jig and trailer.
King mackerel are still holding 10 to 30 miles offshore, but a few are already moving inshore. As the water cools, more will follow in the next few weeks. There is plenty of bait and with the cooling water, they may put in a big nearshore appearance at any time. They usually put in a big showing at the US Open King mackerel Tournament at Southport and it is next weekend.
The generality is that kings up to about 20 pounds might eat just about anything and those larger than that prefer slow trolled live baits or at least natural baits. Unfortunately, not everyone can throw a cast net and catch their own baits. One of the most popular lures to keep frozen cigar minnows and ballyhoo from spinning is the Pirate Plug from South Chatham Tackle in Sanford. I believe several of the local stores have them, but if you can't find them the website is www.southchathamtackle.com and you can order from there.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be excellent and the wahoo action at the edge of the Gulf Stream is getting better weekly. There are good numbers of dolphin and some blackfin tuna mixed with the wahoo. If you like to bounce the bottom, that fishing is red hot. The offshore bottom fishing catch includes grouper, beeliners, grunts, triggerfish, porgeys and more.
I'll mention spots as the first inshore fish this week. They aren't everywhere and don't seem to be in quite the numbers as the spots moving down the ocean beaches by the piers, but there have been spots caught inshore in the Morehead City and Beaufort area. We've already seen lots of yellow butterflies and October begins on Thursday, so there should be a spot run at any time.
Flounder and red drum were the headliner inshore fish this past week. There are some occasional trout biting too and all this fishing should pick up as the water cools. Most fishermen have been using live mullet minnows fished on Carolina rigs. They will also eat soft plastics and several fishermen have been doing well bouncing weedless spoons along the edge of grass banks and islands. Flounder and red drum might be feeding as shallow as water that will barely cover the drum. The full moon is Sunday night and there should be drum feeding in the flooded grass for a few days on each side of the full moon. Maybe the weather will give us a break to go chase them.
Large red drum bit well in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River again this week and the large drum action off the Brunswick County beaches is picking up. Those who braved the wind and occasional rain storms had some good catches. The large drum are moving, so don't be too surprised if one tries to abscond with a bait or lure you intended for something else. Just smile, take your picture and release it quickly and carefully.
Trout have been holding in deeper water, but as the water cools, they will get aggressive and chase bait into shallow water. This could be the week the trout action begins firing up for the fall. Trout like live shrimp suspended under floats, but so does every bait thief in the marsh. Live shrimp are tedious to catch and expensive to buy to feed pinfish and sand perch.
Once the water cools and the trout get aggressive, they will pile right on a lot of soft plastics and some hard lures. Many fishermen believe they catch more trout on the soft plastics, but catch larger ones with the hard baits. Suspending hard baits like the MirrOlure MirrOdine series catch a lot of trout each year. They come in their regular size (MR 17), a smaller size (MR 14) and a large size (MR 27). The key is to match the bait they are feeding on and when in doubt, go smaller rather than larger.
It is wise to load lures up with scent. If it smells good enough, even a large fish will pick up a small bait. There is something to be said for elephants eating peanuts.
National Hunting and Fishing Day - Sept. 26, 2015
There will be a variety of interactive activities and demonstrations for each event, with each location providing unique opportunities for participants of all ages to connect with nature and test their outdoors skills. A few of the activities include: Fishing, archery, shooting air rifles, shooting rifles and shotguns, reptile and amphibian exhibits, raptors exhibits, outdoor cooking, tracking and game recovery and much more. The events will be held at: Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, Knotts Island; Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, Corolla; John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville; Lake Wheeler Park, Raleigh; Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, Pisgah Forest; Rose Hill Farm, Nashville; and McKinney Lake Fish Hatchery, Hoffman. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.
Peer Fishing Festival
NC Wildlife Resources Commission Free Deer Hunting Seminars
Pre-registration is required. For more information, including a list of locations and dates or to register, visit the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.
Marine Fisheries Commission Seeks Comment on Kingfish and
Interjurisdictional Fishery Plans
The Kingfish Plan covers three species: southern, northern and Gulf kingfishes. These species are also commonly known as sea mullet or whiting. Comments on the Information Update to the Kingfish Fishery Management Plan should be addressed to Beth Egbert, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 1965, Manteo, N.C. 27954, or sent by email to Beth.Egbert@ncdenr.gov.
Through the Interjurisdictional Plan, the state adopts by reference fishery management plans approved by federal councils or the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Comments on the Information Update to the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan should be addressed to Michelle Duval, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or sent by email to Michelle.Duval@ncdenr.gov.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to give final approval to the information updates at its November business meeting.
October 21: Marine Fisheries Commission Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board, 10:30 A.M., DENR Regional Office, Wilmington, Contact: Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other
September 26: Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament, Harbourgate Marina, N. Myrtle Beach, third of three tournaments in SKA Division 3 and fourth of five tournaments in SKA Division 9. www.rumblekmt.com.
September 26: National Hunting and Fishing Day, multiple locations across N.C., www.ncwildlife.org.
September 26: Southport Wooden Boat Show, Old Southport Yacht Basin, Southport, www.southportwoodenboatshow.com.
October 1 to 3: US Open King Mackerel Tournament, Southport Marina, Southport, www.usopenkmt.com.
October 3: Carolina Redfish Series Championship, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
October 8 to 10: North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Oak Island Fall Classic, Ocean View United Methodist Church, Oak Island, www.nckfa.com.
October 8 to 10: Davis Island Fishing Foundation (DIFF) Surf Fishing Tournament, Cape Lookout, www.diffclub.com.
October 9 to 11: Fall Brawl King Classic, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle
October 10 and 11: Rumble on the Tee King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
October 12 to 31: Martini's Hook A Hoo Rodeo, Multiple Weigh Stations from Murrells Inlet, S.C. to Atlantic Beach, N.C., Fish your choice of 1 day, www.hookahoo.com.
October 14 to 17: Swansboro Rotary King Mackerel Tournament, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.
October 16 to 18: Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
October 16 to 18: NC Troopers Association Offshore - Inshore Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.1042KMT.com.
October 23 and 24: Cape Lookout Albacore Festival, Anchorage Marina, Atlantic Beach, www.capelookoutalbacorefestival.com.