It's probably understatement to say this week was unusual, but I just have to. First there was a bunch of rain on Sunday and Monday, then a Tropical Depression popped up in the Caribbean, grew to become Tropical Storm Nicole and fell apart before reaching us. A low in advance of this and the remnants wreaked havoc with torrential rainfall and some gale force winds that blew down trees and such in the water-saturated ground (20 inches plus of rain in Wilmington since Sunday). It's supposed to be gone by Friday and the sun should be back out. I don't want the gale force winds, but hopefully there will also be a breeze to help dry things out.
The ocean water is just settling down after several weeks with hurricanes passing offshore. I worked the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament over the weekend in Atlantic Beach and the fishermen reported the water was becoming cleaner and clearer every day. That tournament had to be postponed from its original date a week earlier because of large waves that required small craft advisories to be posted. When the waves rolled in, the surge created by their passing sucked sand off the bottom and suspended it in the water.
Fishermen reported they headed to the waters off Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear hoping those areas weren't as disturbed by the large waves from Hurricane Igor. They hoped the ocean had calmed and the sand had fallen out of suspension in the water. The general feeling was the conditions were a little better to the south, but there was still sand suspended and the fishermen headed well offshore. Most of the successful fishermen said they were in 100 to 120 feet of water.
There were a few kings caught from the piers along the N.C. coast last week and that is encouraging for fishermen in the Bogue Inlet Pier King Tournament that begins Monday. Hopefully there isn't much disturbance in the ocean from the passing of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. The Crystal Coast didn't get as much rain or wind as the southern coast and the pier anglers are optimistic.
If you haven't been paying attention, king mackerel fishing has been off. Describing it as slow was being kind. With the nearshore water being exceptionally warm and no rain to push the baitfish down the rivers and out the sounds, the kings moved offshore to deeper water that was cooler and holding some food and they have been very difficult to find consistently. I was told there were a lot of pogies in Pamlico Sound and way up the Cape Fear River around Wilmington. Perhaps the rain of this week, which was also pretty heavy in the Raleigh area, will push it down the river and across the sound out into the ocean. That would make it easier for fish and fishermen to find.
The US Open King Mackerel Tournament was a casualty of this weather but may benefit in some ways. The tournament was scheduled for this weekend in Southport, but was postponed for two weeks until October 15 and 16. Fishermen should check the tournament website, www.usopenkmt.com. My thought is this rain will help cool the water and move the bait down the Cape Fear River. Since this is more of a local rain event, the water may also be cleaned up pretty well in two weeks. If it all comes together, the fishing could be the best of the year.
Other ocean fishing has been pretty good. The wahoo bite is improving at the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. Some wahoo are also being caught farther inshore. Several king mackerel and grouper fishermen have reported catching wahoo in water as shallow as 80 to 110 feet. There are some blackfin tuna mixed with the wahoo and a good run of fall dolphin were biting late last week and through the weekend.
Pier fishermen were really glad to see those kings over last weekend, but have been catching Spanish mackerel, puppy drum and flounder well. Many of the Spanish mackerel are nice fish of several pounds. When the ocean is calm, the predator fish are attracted to the schools of mullet minnows headed down the beach and come in to feed. Other fish being caught on the piers includes whiting, pompano and spots.
Spots are a fish that have special places in the hearts and freezers of many fall anglers. They are a small panfish, with a reputation that far outweighs their size. Many fishermen look to fall to stock up on spots for their freezers that will be the highlight of winter fish dinners. The current numbers and size indicate the spot run is still building. The days of two-at-a-time yellow belly spots haven't happened yet this year, but it is not far away. Spot anglers should stock up on bloodworms or one of the synthetic bloodworm baits and get ready. I like Fishbites and Blurp in the bloodworm color. The little blow this weekend may be what gets the big spot run started.
I got busy and didn't get out fishing or hunting during the fall equinox high tides last week. Those marsh hens and puppy drum are safe until the October full moon tides. I heard good reports on both and was expecting it.
Flounder fishing has been good, but it seemed to be off a little last weekend. Perhaps it could have been the full moon tides were moving the bait around faster than normal and into areas where it isn't usually found. The tides are moderating now and hopefully the rain doesn't continue to alter the flounder's patterns.
Last week I mentioned my flounder trip with Capt Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Fishing Charters in Harkers Island. Perhaps you remember I said I missed a big flounder I had on long enough we saw, but hadn't allowed it enough time to swallow the big bait.
Capt. Noah called me this week to tell me he thought it weighed 7.9 pounds. When I asked how he knew, he told me he had taken a charter with several youngsters to the same spot and one of the kids caught one that weighed that. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I was until it let go. While I thought I waited plenty long enough, that was not the case. Next time I'll follow Capt. Jimmy Price's advice and put my rod down and eat lunch after I feel it and before setting the hook.
There are flounder still well up in the creeks and bays. As soon as the water begins cooling, many of them will begin moving toward the inlets. The time to catch them is when they are moving through the inlets. They may make a pause at one of the nearshore artificial reefs for a while, but they are headed offshore for the winter and to spawn.
Puppy drum have been the "fish du jour" for much of the summer and continue to be. They are so versatile in where they can go and survive. They may be well back up in the brackish water of a creek, anywhere through the coastal bays and marshes and now they are starting to work the ocean shoreline also.
This is about the time we see upper and over slot red drum begin moving toward the surf. With the rain cooling the water, that may happen quickly. These fish are usually feeding and will strike a wide variety of baits and lures.
It is also time for the fall gray trout to arrive and the limits have changed. There are already a few grays being caught around the bridges connecting Morehead City to Beaufort and Atlantic Beach. As soon as the water cools they could be at the Dead Tree Hole, John's Creek Rock, High Rock and the WOFES. The new limit is 12 inches and only one fish per person may be kept. This is a federal regulation the states are mandated to follow. You can view it at www.ncdmf.net. I would suggest using single hooks rather than trebles as they are easier to remove and you can release fish without the mouth damage often done by treble hooks.
The big drum bite in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound continues to be strong, but is nearing the end. I spoke with Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service early this week and he was questioning how many more weeks of good fishing there might be. A concern is that a lot of fresh water pushing down the rivers and sound will speed up their exit.
If you want to get in on these fish and haven't yet, you should probably plan a trip pretty quickly. These are big fish, with most exceeding the 40 inch minimum for a release citation. While some fish are caught in the morning and throughout the day, the best fishing is usually from late afternoon until shortly after dark. If you are in a good spot, a half dozen strikes might be a low number. You can contact Capt. George and his crew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The season for resident Canada geese closed on Sept 30. Dove and marsh hen seasons remain open. The eastern bow and arrow season for deer will end Oct. 1, but the eastern deer season for muzzleloading rifles will open Oct. 2 and continues through October 15. Deer may also be taken by bow and arrow during the muzzleloading season.
There are some new regulations for the 2010-2011 seasons, such as allowing crossbows and Sunday hunting with archery gear on private lands. All regulations can be found in the new regulations digest, which should be available at license agents or on-line at the Wildlife Resources Commission website, www.ncwildlife.org.
Quality Deer Management Association will be offering a Wildlife Habitat and Deer Management Conference on October 9 at Willow Oaks Plantation near Eden in Rockingham County. There will be speakers from QDMA, Clemson, University of Tennessee, NCSU, NCWRC, and agencies and organizations in the industry. Deer managers (pubic and private sector) from across the southeast are expected to attend.
The focus of the conference will be on white-tailed deer management strategy in the Southeast. Habitat management sessions will discuss management practices that benefit all wildlife. A couple of new N.C. white-tail research projects and N.C.'s new deer proposal assessment worksheet are also expected to be discussed.
Lunch, social and evening BBQ will be provided. The registration fee is $30. Participants are requested to register in advance online at www.regonline.com/QDMAConference or call (919) 552-9449 for more details. Willow Oaks Plantation is near the Va. State line above Greensboro.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) met Sept. 13 through 17 in Charleston. There were discussions on Snapper Grouper Amendment 18 to extend the management range farther to the north, new regulations for tilefish and efforts to reduce bycatch in the black sea bass pot fishery. The Mackerel Committee also worked on provisions of their Amendment 18 to examine total annual catch, trip limits and bag limits.
There was good news from the ongoing stock assessment for red snapper and some optimism the complete closure of the season for all Atlantic red snapper and closure can be modified. There is also optimism that the closure of approximately 5,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean off south Ga. and northern Fla. can be downsized or otherwise positively modified. The full report of the meeting has not yet been filed, but will soon be posted on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
More N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees are meeting during the next few weeks. The first amendment to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan is the primary topic of most of these meetings and the committees are generally reporting favorably on the draft plan. Upcoming meetings include:
* MFC Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee, October 1, 1:00 P.M., NCDENR Regional Field Office, Washington;
* MFC Shellfish Advisory Committee, October 4, 6:00 P.M., NCDMF Office, Morehead City;
* MFC Civil Penalty and Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, October 5, 10:30 A.M., Craven County Cooperative Extension Center, New Bern;
* MFC Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, October 7, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Field Office, Washington.
There will be a public comment period at each of these meetings. For more information on this and other MFC meetings visit www.ncdmf.net or call 1-800-682-2632.
Two tournaments were held over the weekend and one began that will last for two weeks. The rescheduled Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament was held Friday and Saturday (Sept.24 and 25) in Atlantic Beach. Proceeds from this tournament will be used to purchase equipment and fund training for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department.
Team Thumpin, with Capt. Linwood Clark of Raleigh, sealed the win with a 35.01 pound king they caught in approximately 110 feet of water east of Cape Lookout on Saturday. Clark said this was one of two special "coming out of retirement" tournaments he planned to fish this year with his son Brad and good friends Jack Wood, Greg Theodorakis and Keith Bell. Clark also won the Top Senior Angler award. They put their old mojo to work on this one and claimed the win. The second tournament is the U.S. Open and I'll report on that in a few weeks.
Team Toyota, with Capt. Nick Taylor of Wilson, was the early leader and held over the first night before slipping to second place. Team Toyota's fish weighed 33.77 pounds. The only other king heavier than 30 pounds was caught by Brett Barnes, Wilmington, and the crew of the Hot Rod. Their big king weighed 31.88 pounds and was good for third place.
The Top 23 Feet and Under boat in the tournament was the Last Minute, with Capt. Leonard Taylor and crew. Their fish weighed 21.20 pounds. Stepping Up/Team Calcutta, garnered the Top Lady Angler prize with their 20.25 pound king. Liquid Fire earned Co-Top Junior Angler honors for Crocket Henderson and Lakota Watson. Their king weighed 23.71 pounds.
The tournament also offered several prizes for blue water fishermen. Precision Marine, with Capt. Randy Pulley, won the Spanish Mackerel Division (3.96 pounds) and Cobia Division (24.50 pounds) and added a small dolphin on the way to winning the Nearshore Ocean Slam title. The Wall Hanger, with Capt. Brian Allen, caught a 13.80 pound dolphin to win the Dolphin Division. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
Tournament five of Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder tournaments was held Saturday (Sept. 25) from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Oak Island. Proceeds from this tournament will be used to help bring Christmas to underprivileged kids in Brunswick County.
In avenging her fourth place finish in the August Tournament, Jerri Hall brought a 4.79 pound flounder to the scales with hopes, but expectations that someone would come in with one that was larger. That didn't happen, so shortly after the scales closed, Hall was declared the winner.
Hall set a mark that wasn't to be topped this time. Third and fourth places were very close this month, just not to Hall. Anthony Hickman finished in second place with a 2.80 pound flounder. Only .04 behind, Glenn Hart had to settle for third place when his flatfish only weighed 2.76 pounds. For more information visit www.topdoginc.org.
The Fourth Annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament began Saturday (Sept. 25) in Emerald Isle and will run through October 9. The tournament is run by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department and weigh in will be at Bogue Inlet Pier. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.com.
The only tournament scheduled for this weekend had been the US Open King Mackerel Tournament from Southport Marina in Southport. Due to the lingering wind and waves from the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, the tournament has been postponed until Oct. 15 and 16. This daily schedule of the tournament remains unchanged. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament will begin Monday (Oct. 4) and continue through next week. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
How about king mackerel fishing from a kayak? The Oak Island Classic Kayak Tournament, hosted by the N.C. Kayak Fishing Association and Oak Island Parks and Recreation will be next Saturday, Oct. 9, at Oak Island. Final Registration and the Captains Meeting will be Friday afternoon (Oct. 8) and evening at the Oak Island Recreation Center. In a unique format that is a first for kayak tournaments, this tournament will feature inshore divisions for trout, flounder and red drum, plus an ocean division for king mackerel. Proceeds from the tournament will be given to the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.