Weíve had some pretty weather lately and some fishermen have been fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. Last weekend was nice, but it looks like a cold front will be backing in sometime over this one. The wind forecast isnít too bad, so maybe you can get in a fishing trip. Hopefully the weather change wonít put the fish off the hot bite.
Last Friday was a beautiful and fun day on the water, but I couldnít manage to get a keeper fish all the way to the kayak. How can it be that those 10-12 inch flounder get the hook well every time and those that spin the kayak around throw the hook back at you after a handful of seconds. I managed to laugh a lot, but also couldnít resist loudly expressing some frustration a couple of times.
Saturday morning I was scheduled to do a kayak electronics seminar at West Marine in Morehead and it was a struggle to force myself to go with the great weather. I knew I wasnít going to see anyone because they were all fishing, but I was responsible and went. It was tough to do as every river I crossed was slick and Bogue sound almost did me in on the stretch of Hwy. 24 between Swansboro and Morehead.
How about those cool mornings earlier this week? Fishing is already good, but Iíll bet they fired up the fish too. Daytime highs in the mid seventies are really nice too.
With the sea conditions so nice for most of the week, many fishermen turned their attention offshore and they were rewarded. The wahoo were biting! The wahoo have been biting for a few weeks, but the weather has been rather questionable for the smaller boats and many stayed home. They got near perfect conditions beginning last Friday and many of them took advantage.
Just about every boat that headed to the edge of the Gulf Stream for a day of trolling caught wahoo. Some also caught tuna and dolphin. Most of the wahoo ran 25 to 50 pounds, but there were a few reported in the 80s. The tuna were almost all blackfins, but they were nice size blackfins, not the football size ones we often see during summer. The dolphin ran the size range from little schoolies to a couple of nice bulls. There is a good billfish bite going off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet.
There were numerous impressive catches, with several charters from Morehead City. Atlantic Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach scoring in double digits. It appears the fall offshore bite is doing well and fishermen after some wahoo and blackfin fillets should be able to find them on nice days. Fishermen question how long the dolphin will be around, but welcome them to their fish boxes as long as they would like to stay.
Last weekend was the second and last of the two weekends this fall fishermen could keep red snapper. Friday and Saturday were good fishing days, but Sunday was a little breezy. Many fishermen have reported catching red snapper, but no one sent any pictures. The commercial season was open for a week and is also now closed again.
Red snapper are scheduled for a benchmark assessment in 2014 and the National Marine Fisheries Service said they were using this short season as a test to check ways to gather data. We may or may not receive another season prior to that assessment being figured into the Red Snapper Fishery Management Plan. Hopefully everyone took their carcasses by one of the collection locations listed the past two weeks. Good science will help us get this fishing reopened under reasonable and effective regulations.
This will be the last time I mention black sea bass season is closed unless there is some real news. I know they are so prolific in depths less than 100 feet they are a nuisance, but we canít legally keep them, so donít. Black sea bass must be released through June 1, 2013.
There are some grunts, beeliners, porgys, triggerfish and gag grouper on the rocks and wrecks just inshore of 100 feet deep, but these areas are loaded with black sea bass. Rather than waste bait and release fish that may not survive, most fishermen are heading a few miles farther offshore, to 115 or so feet deep and fishing there. The number of keeper species is up and the number of black sea bass goes down.
The king mackerel bite has picked up during the past week. With the cooling water, the kings are feeding heavier and have moved much closer to shore. There was a good king bite several days this week at lots of spots in approximately 50 to 65 feet of water. Itís time for places like the Dead Tree Hole, Dallas Rock, Yaupon Reef and the Cape Fear Sea Buoy to get mentioned regularly. Isnít it great what cooling water does for the kings?
Spanish mackerel have been biting well and continue to. They will get more aggressive and feed heavily for the next several weeks. While Spanish are spread along the beaches from about 15 to 30 feet deep, they gather around the inlets.
Look for diving sea gulls or breaking fish and troll Clarkspoons or small live baits beside them. Donít get too close or the fish will dive and move. Smaller to medium size Spanish will hit the lures readily. Larger baits, trolled at very slow speeds, will usually catch larger Spanish Ė and some kings.
The fall king mackerel bite from the piers hasnít quite begun yet, but is trying to get going. There were several kings caught from piers this week and it should continue to improve. Pier fishermen are catching a variety of fish other than kings. This week there were some speckled trout, red drum, black drum, bluefish, sea mullet, Spanish mackerel, pompano and small jack crevalle.
Puppy drum are in the marshes in sizes from about 14 inches to 30 plus inches. They were difficult to find last weekend, especially any slot size fish, but they are there. The cooler water should excite them and get them in a feeding mood. Live shrimp, mullet minnows and small pogies are invitations to get your line tugged on. The pups are also hitting soft plastics fished deep and some topwater lures too. Make sure your line is good and your knots tight.
The pups should be feeding in the flooded grass through the weekend and for several days into next week. The full moon is Sunday night, Sept. 30, and it should be the highest of the fall. The evening high tide may be a little late after Friday, but they should feed well on the morning high tide too. Be patient and take a long look for waving tails and wakes to tell you where the drum are feeding.
Flounder are also biting well. Good catches have come from many places in and around the sounds, in the creeks along the Intracoastal Waterway and on the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottoms. I had a kayak trip last Friday and we caught eight and lost several more. In contrast to what I have been seeing, most of these were small, but two spun the kayak around quickly.
Flounder really like mullet minnows, but hit almost as well on Berkley Gulp soft baits. I believe the hookup ration was better with the Gulps than with the mullet minnows. The minnows try to get away and the flounder donít always grab them well. Flounder are scattered from 18 inches to deep water.
Trout action is picking up with the cooling water. Once it drops to the low 70s the trout should really turn on. Live shrimp, suspended under a float, is the best way to catch trout right now, but they are starting to chase soft lures and topwater lures a little better every week. By mid-October, I expect the trout bite to be hot.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on a draft revision to the N.C. Shrimp Fishery Management Plan, a draft amendment to the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan and a draft N.C. American Shad Sustainable Fishery Plan. Comment periods on all three plans will be held in conjunction with upcoming Marine Fisheries Commission advisory committee meetings over the next couple of weeks.
There is some confusion on the purpose of these meetings, specifically in regards to shrimping. These meetings are just for comments on a draft revision of the existing Shrimp Fishery Management Plan. I was at the Southern Advisory Committee meeting in Wilmington on Sept. 19 and the room was packed with people who thought the meeting was about shutting down inside trawling. That may come up in the future, but was not in what was presented in Wilmington and discussed by the Southern Advisory Committee.
The recommendation from the Southern Advisory Committee was to open the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan to Amendments, rather than just approve the same plan. One of the amendments the Southern Advisory Committee recommended was re-visiting why skimmer trawls are allowed in some places that otter trawls arenít and to consider making the rules the same for both gears. The most notable difference in the trawling regulations is in New River, where skimmer trawls are allowed above the Hwy. 172 Bridge and otter trawls are not. The other recommended amendment was to develop regulations specific to commercial shrimping for live bait.
Two more committees met this week and one will meet next week. The committees listen to the public comments and then forward the public comments and their recommendations to the Marine Fisheries Commission. The decisions will be made by the Marine Fisheries Commission.
Only one advisory committee meetings remains and that is the Shellfish/Crustacean Advisory Committee, which will meet at 6:00 P.M. on October 2 at the Craven County Cooperative Extension Office in New Bern. This committee will discuss the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan only. For more information, contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov or visit www.ncdmf.net.
Anyone interested in wooden boats, their history and construction may want to make the drive to Southport on Saturday, Sept. 29. The 2012 Southport Wooden Boat Show will be held Saturday, from 10:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M., at the Old Southport Yacht Basin. Visitors will be able to talk with owners and builders and cast a vote for the "Peopleís Choice" Award. A team of judges will review the entries and make awards in three categories; Best Powered Boat, Best Non-Powered Boat (row or paddle), Best Non-Powered Boat (sail). There will also be a Seafood Chowder Cook-Off. For more information visit www.southportwoodenboatshow.com.
The International Boatbuilders Exhibition and Conference will be held Oct. 2-4 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. This is a show for boatbuilders, suppliers and marine industry professionals to gather and renew relationships and view new products. Most of the Carolina boatbuilders will be represented and consumers should benefit in the 2013 models and accessories. For more information visit www.ibexshow.com.
Amazingly enough, there isnít a N.C. tournament on the schedule for this weekend. The only tournament on the schedule for this weekend is the Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament from Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 29. This event, which is the fourth of five events in SKA Division 9, has check outs at Little River Inlet and Shallotte Inlet. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament begins on Monday, Oct. 1, and fishes through Friday, Oct. 5, at Bogue Inlet Pier in downtown Emerald Isle. There was a king caught there this week and bait is plentiful, so the timing may be right for an excellent tournament. All the slots for the tournament are filled. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The US Open King Mackerel Tournament will begin next week in Southport before the paper comes out. The fishing days are Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5 and 6, with all tournament activities at Southport Marina. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
For those folks more interested in eating seafood than catching it the North Carolina Seafood Festival will be held Oct. 5 to 7 in Morehead City. There will be information booths, booths with good food, a boat show, fun and games and more. For more information visit www.ncseafoodfestival.org.
Fishermen interested in fishing the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) Oak Island Fall Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament in Oak Island on Saturday, Oct. 13 should register as soon as possible. A strong early registration has already filled 160 of the 175 slots as of Wednesday of this week.
The Oak Island Fall Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament is a unique tournament with lots of prizes. Winners in each of the five species categories receive a kayak and prizes will be awarded through fifth place. The five species categories are for the longest fish of Flounder, Red Drum, Speckled Trout, Slam (1 each of flounder, red drum and speckled trout) and King Mackerel. The lady angler and junior angler catching the largest fish will also receive kayaks. The tournament is a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format except for king mackerel, which will be brought to the beach and measured by tournament officials. To register or for more information on this tournament or the NCKFA visit www.nckfa.com.
The CCA Inside Out Tournament will be held from the Boat House Marina in Beaufort on Oct. 13. This tournament, which features multiple categories for fishermen in the ocean and inside the inlets, will be dedicated to Capt. Charlie Brown this year and the proceeds will be donated to him to assist with medial expenses. Capt Charlie was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer, but remains in good spirits and tells folks that with the Lordís help he will make it. A surprising number of people know Capt. Charlie and if you donít, you should. He is an excellent fisherman, quite a character and a good guy. More information is available at www.ccanc.org.