The pleasantly cooler weather we enjoyed all week remains in the forecast through next week. Several days have an early forecast high of 80 and 81, but thatís still pretty nice for the second week of fall. October is a month of change and it can be really hot or have a cold front that brings out sweatshirts and windbreakers. Thankfully, there isnít anything like that in the forecast for the coming week. Most will be nice sunny days in the high 70s.
Not only has the weather been unusual here, it has also been an unusual summer in the tropics. There has been activity, but of the nine systems that developed enough to receive names, only two have intensified to hurricane levels. This isnít a complaint; I love it, but I just canít get comfortable and keep a daily watch through the Caribbean and across the Atlantic.
This is typically the most active part of the hurricane season and on Thursday there were no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin and none expected to form in the next 5 days. The was one small area of thunderstorm about 1,000 miles west of the Lesser Antilles that the National Hurricane Center had identified, but isnít expecting to develop. The remains of Invest 95 that was last week expected to become Hurricane Jerry and never made it, is what will be causing the winds this weekend as it heads out into the Atlantic.
I could start this week anywhere and have a good lead as the fish are biting everywhere. They were already starting to bite well and it seems like they had the first day of fall marked on their calendars to shift into a higher gear. The fishing is really good right now and I talked with several guides this week who expect it to get even better.
Wahoo fishing is very good. I spoke with several fishermen this week that said they never found the water conditions they were looking, but caught wahoo anyway. Wahoo are holding over structure along the edge of the Gulf Stream. Not only are there good numbers of them, there are some really big ones too.
In addition to all the wahoo, Gulf Stream fishermen are also catching dolphin, plus a few tuna and some scattered billfish. The tuna are mainly blackfin south of the Big Rock, with yellowfin entering the mix off Cape Hatteras and getting stronger approaching The Point and northward. The white marlin bite continues to be red hot off Oregon Inlet, but there are concerns the current cold front and low may begin scattering them.
Offshore bottom fishing is good. The action begins with grunts and black sea bass closer in, then adds porgys and beeliners a little farther off. Some grouper begin nibbling at around 60 to 80 feet too.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council made two announcements this week. One was confirming what they told us earlier in the year about adding quota to black sea bass and allowing the season to stay open longer. The other was to remind fishermen that the red snapper season that was reopening was for the Gulf of Mexico only and not for anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
It looks like the king mackerel bite is beginning to ramp up and move inshore. The inshore water is clearing and finally beginning to cool and there are lots of baitfish. Live bait fishermen have had a little difficulty finding pogeys for bait early, but once the sun shined on the water they began flipping better. There were a few dolphin, some sailfish and even a couple of wahoo mixed with the kings.
Big Spanish mackerel were caught this week all along the coast. The tide lines just outside inlets were mentioned several times. Several of the large Spanish hit menhaden that were being trolled for kings, but some hit finger mullet that were cast to schools or fished on light lines while anchored on the nearshore artificial reefs.
Spanish mackerel were also hitting Clarkspoons trolled behind planers and trolling sinkers and many jigs that were cast and retrieved quickly. Bluefish to several pounds and the first of the fall false albacore are mixing with the Spanish macks and creating some variety.
The water around the ocean piers cooled a few degrees this week and the action from the surf to about mid-pier increased. That catch includes red drum, black drum, flounder, trout, pompano, sea mullet, spots, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The pier end action is picking up, especially in the Topsail area and should spread to the Crystal Coast and Cape Fear Coast at any time.
Surf fishermen have been catching some red drum, flounder, bluefish, pompano and more.
The inshore fish are biting well. It has been an excellent week for flounder, with fishermen catching numbers and some big ones. Red drum are in many places from the creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway, rivers and sounds to the surf. Trout are probably the least prolific of the inshore fish right now and their catches also picked up some this week.
Trout are found in the creeks and sounds at many of the same locations as drum, but will often be a few yards off the bank, oyster rock or structure in water that is just a little deeper. Trout may move shallow to feed early in the morning or late in the day, but when the sun is high overhead, they like to be deeper. Live shrimp, fished under a float, has been the most effective trout bait, but with the cooling weather they are hitting more topwaters while feeding in the shallows early and late.
Most fishermen like live mullet minnows for flounder and they do catch well, but I like to fish a little faster and cover more ground. I like to use gold spoons with curltail trailers and spinnerbaits for both flounder and red drum. Red drum typically arenít particular and will usually hit artificials and live baits. Other than covering more ground, I like being able to set the hook when I feel something and that even works most of the time with flounder caught on artificials.
Sheepshead, black drum and ladyfish are also biting inside. Many are caught incidental to fishing for specks, reds or flatfish. Sheepshead are usually found around structure, like docks and bridge pilings. They really like fiddler crabs and sea urchins, but will occasionally bite pieces of shrimp too. Black drum like meat, but will occasionally hit soft plastics. When ladyfish are feeding, they will hit a lot of things, even baits too large to fit in their small mouths. If they have a real preference, it is live shrimp and a bunch are caught each year using shrimp shapes in soft plastics.
The large red drum bite is still going strong in Pamlico Sound off Cedar Island and in the Neuse River from around Oriental out to the mouth. However, fishermen are concerned this may be the cold front that sends them on their way across the sound to the Outer Banks Surf. They are hitting chunks of mullet fished on the bottom. Remember that special circle hook rigs are required from 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. through September 30. Information on the circle hook rig can be found on the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net. Many fishermen have also had good luck fishing lures suspended under popping corks.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 8 in Southport was Saturday Sept. 21 hosted by Southport Marina. This is a smaller version of the MAD 8 event held June 1 in Morehead City. At the captains meeting and dinner on Friday and everyone was excited with a really good weather forecast for the troops to go fishing on Saturday. Saturday arrived with some early cloud cover and threatening rain, but the winds stayed light and the rain stayed away and by afternoon the sun was shining brightly on 62 boats carrying 122 happy fishermen.
With the excellent weather, MAD fishermen were spread from the inshore creeks to the Gulf Stream. Even better, everyone caught fish. One group even caught and released a pair of sailfish while fishing on the Tag Team. Wahoo and dolphin were caught offshore, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sharks and a variety of bottom fish were caught in the ocean inshore of the Gulf Stream and inshore fishermen caught flounder redfish, black drum, red drum and more.
Smiles were the uniform of the day and there were broad ones everywhere. Most of the troops got much more than the "Just something to pull back," they had asked for. Coolers of fillets and steaks were loaded into vehicles heading back to Fayetteville, Spring Lake, Goldsboro, Jacksonville, Havelock and numerous other towns around military bases. More than just going fishing, the troops knew they were appreciated.
After the day of fishing, MAD 8 volunteers treated all the fishermen to a picnic of hot dogs and hamburgers prepared on site at Southport Marina. The fish cleaners stayed busy cleaning fish most of the afternoon and until well after dark. Many of the troops commented on how much fun they had. Iím sure the troops had fun, but maybe not as much as the fishermen who had them aboard their boats for the day. Every fisherman I spoke with told me how great it was to have the troops with them. I certainly enjoy it and have made some good friends over the years.
MAD events are all volunteer events to show support for active duty service members from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. This year there were MAD events at Morehead City, Virginia Beach, Va. and Southport. At MAD events, volunteers also prepare and serve the food, plus handle registration and all aspects of the day. There are numerous ways to show your support for the troops even if you donít have a boat to take them fishing. The next MAD Event will be May 31, 2014 in Morehead City. For more information on MAD and the MAD events, visit their website at www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The next time you renew your boatís registration, you will be greeted by a fee increase. Effective October 1, the registration fee for boats up to 26 feet will increase to $30 annually or $90 for 3 years. For boats longer than 26 feet, the increase will be to $50 annually and $150 for 3 years. The title fee will also increase to $30.
Two other boat registration changes also take effect on October 1. Previously, boats used for commercial fishing could receive the annual registration at no charge. They are no longer exempt. The final change is that federally documented vessels that are in North Carolina more than 90 consecutive days must be registered and the fee paid, even though no title will be issued.
These changes are from the state budget act (Senate Bill 402, Section 14.22) which also requires that 50 percent of these fees be transferred to the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel and Lake Dredging fund. The funds are to be disbursed with 50 percent local matching funds to pay for channel and inlet dredging. However, I canít find who has the final say in prioritizing and approving the dredging projects.
Our longest staying "South Atlantic resident great white shark," Mary Lee, is on the move and headed north. It appeared she was headed back towards Cape Cod, where she was tagged on Sept. 17, 2012, but she stopped and has pinged several times just inshore of the Continental Shelf offshore of Ocracoke. The question is if she was following the same urge as Genie, who was also tagged off Cape Cod last fall and returned there about a month ago.
Lydia hasnít given a locating ping since August 12 and was roughly at the Continental Shelf off Hilton Head Island, S.C. then. There is now a question of where she may be. The difference is that Lydia was tagged just off the beach at Jacksonville, Fla. on March 3. Iím worried a little about Lydia as she hasnít been to the surface and pinged a location in six weeks.
Some of my friends say Iím just worried about the locations of these sharks in relation to where I am. With Lydia being caught just off a popular surfing spot and Mary Lee entering the Cape Fear River once late last fall and moving into the surf zone several times last winter, I guess thatís right. These are large great white sharks and whatever your reason, they are much more fun to follow when they are leaving a trail. You can follow the travels of Mary Lee, Lydia, Genie and other sharks around the world by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
Several MFC Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled during the next few weeks.
* The Southern Regional Advisory Committee will meet October 2 at 6:00 P.M. at the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office in Wilmington. For more information contact Mike Marshall or Chip Collier at 252-808-8077 or 910-796-7215 or Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov or Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* The Northern Regional Advisory Committee will meet October 3 at 6:00 P.M. at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office in Washington. For more information contact Kathy Rawls or Katy West at 252-264-3911 or 252-946-6481 or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov or Katy.West@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* The River Herring Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet October 9 at 6:00 P.M. at the Chowan County Agricultural Extension in Edenton. For more information contact Amy Larimer or Kathy Rawls at 252-264-3911 or Amy.Larimer@ncdenr.gov or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* The Finfish Advisory Committee will meet October 15 at 10:30 A.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact David Taylor at 252-808-8074 or David.L.Taylor@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists who would like to serve on volunteer committees to advise them on various fisheries issues. Two regional advisory committees Ė Northern and Southern Ė and three standing advisory committees ĖFinfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean Ė review matters referred to them by the commission and recommend management strategies.
Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. There is no pay, but advisers are reimbursed for travel and other expenses related to their official duties.
The MFC chairman appoints committee members for three-year terms and several terms will expire in January. One qualification for serving on an advisory committee is that applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at the Division of Marine Fisheriesí offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by November 1.
This weekend and next week have one of the busiest event and tournament schedules of the year to date. The events begin with the Fourth Annual Southport Wooden Boat Show on September 28. The show will be from 10:00 A.M. through 4:00 P.M. and is well worth the drive to Southport to see some of the classics that will be displayed. Even better, there is no admission charge. In addition to seeing all the fine wooden craft and talking with owners, builders and those who appreciate the craft, there will be a Clam Chowder Cook-off and live music from the Wilmington-based group, Out on the Ocean. For more information visit www.southportwoodenboatshow.com.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will Celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 28 at all their education centers. There will be numerous exhibits, seminars and activities aimed at getting more people involved in enjoying the outdoors. For more information visit the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the education tab.
The Emerald Isle Annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament will be held September 28 through October 5. Registration is through the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department and must be done in advance. Fish will be weighed at Bogue Inlet Pier and The Reel Outdoors. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament will be held September 30 to October 4. Spots are usually filled for this tournament by now, but there are still a few remaining this year. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The NC Fall Redfish Shootout will be held September 28 from the Wildlife Ramp at Fulchers Landing in Sneads Ferry. This is a team redfish tournament with each team weighing and releasing their catch alive. For more information visit www.rileyrods.com/?page_id=2067.
The New Bridge Bank Spanish Mackerel Open will be held September 28 from Sea Path Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This is the first year for this event as a Spanish mackerel tournament. It was held as a king mackerel tournament for several years. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Carolina Fall Challenge Pier King Mackerel Tournament will be held September 28 and 29 on Kure Beach Pier, Carolina Beach Pier, and Johnnie Mercerís Pier. For more information visit www.southeasternkingmackerelclub.com.
The Bay Creek Classic will be held at the Oak Island Wildlife Boat Ramp in Oak Island on September 28. This is an annual flounder tournament held as a benefit for Southport fisherman Brandon Matthews, who was severely injured in a fall from a tree stand several years ago.
News from the Bay Creek Classic is that Carolina Beach flounder fisherman extraordinaire Fred Davis has offered a fishing trip as one of the auction items. If you arenít familiar with Fred and his daughters, they are some of the best flounder fisherpeople in the area and win flounder tournaments regularly. Donít be bashful with your bids on this one. For more information visit www.baycreekclassic.com.
The Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament Committee has taken a long hard look at the weekend weather and decided to move their fishing day from Saturday, September 28 to Sunday. This tournament will be held from Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach and is the fourth tournament in SKA Division 9. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
The Neuse River Back Water Open tournament will be held October 5 from Lawson Creek Park in New Bern. This is a two-person team tournament that will allow only artificial baits and scoring will be based on an eight fish aggregate weigh of two each of speckled trout, red drum, flounder and striper. For more information visit www.nrbwo.com.
The first weekend in October is time for the big one. The US Open King Mackerel Tournament in Southport has been the largest king tournament in the country for the past few years and is on target to do it again in 2013. The Captains Meeting and final registration will be held at Southport Marina on October 3, with fishing days on October 4 and 5. Daily weigh-ins will be at Southport Marina, with the heaviest crowds between 3 and 5 on Friday and 2 and 4 on Saturday. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
The Fish For A Friend Flounder and Red Drum Tournament will be held October 5 from Inlet Watch Yacht Club in Carolina Beach. Proceeds from the tournament, which is being held by Saltwater Marine, will be donated to the family of 2 year old Stella Menius to help with the expenses for Stellaís battle with lymphoblastic leukemia. For more information visit www.fishforafriend.net.