Hello everyone.  I'm sure you have realized this report was MIA the past few weeks and I heard from some of you asking why and others that had heard of my surgery and were wishing me well.  If you didn't know, I had some surgery and haven't been able to tolerate sitting in my office chair.  The Reader's Digest condensed version of what happened is that  I went to my cardiologist in late August for what I thought was a routine visit and didn't get home for several weeks and needed several weeks of initial recovery that is still ongoing.   

The good news is I now have some new plumbing and the Docs promised me that in six months I will be better than I was.  My recovery is progressing slowly and steadily and that's the way it should go - even if I want it to be quicker.  I was able to get some fishing reports out to the newspapers this week and I'm back here too.  Even more good news is there is good fishing to report - and it should continue to improve.

While I was out, fall snuck in.  While there are still warm days, they aren't sweltering like during the summer and that's good.  Bait is moving and fish are chasing it and that's how things are supposed to be heading into October.

The peak of hurricane season has passed, but there is still potential for one to form and head our way.  We've had several nasty October hurricanes and hopefully they will stay away this year.  However, Hurricane Matthew formed late Thursday afternoon in the Caribbean and most forecasts have him headed our way after mid week next week.  The current projected models have it mostly passing offshore, but the uncertainty is high.  The projected track of this storm should become more certain beginning about Sunday.  There are some ridges and troughs that may shift or shift it and several other factors influencing its movement.

I have always suggested monitoring the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) for the official projected track and Mike's Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) as an unofficial alternative with good information.  I want to add another site with lots of good information to this list.  Tropical Tidbits (www.tropicaltidbits.com) has a wealth of information and things are explained very well in Levi's Blog.  It's a video that can be a little long, but he explains things very well and draws on the map so we can understand.

The US Open King Mackerel Tournament is this weekend in Southport and the N.C. Seafood Festival is this weekend in Morehead City.  These are both very big events and worth visiting if you are in one of the areas.  The US Open welcomes spectators and actually has some bleachers set up.  It is the largest king mackerel tournament in the country and this year has 464 boats.  There is a boat parade and fishermen bring lots of big king mackerel to the scales each afternoon.  The N.C. Seafood Festival is built around sampling a bunch of excellent seafood prepared by area chefs.  It also includes a boat show and lots of music.  For more information, visit www.usopenkmt.com or www.ncseafoodfestival.org.

Fishing is good along the entire N.C. Coast and should continue to improve for a while.  beginning at the Gulf Stream, wahoo are the primary catch and catches of 6 or more are increasing common, with occasional catches reaching double digits.  Blackfin tuna are also biting well and a few dolphin are still around too.  Some billfish, mainly sailfish, are also grabbing baits and putting on a show.

A little closer in, offshore bottom fishing is really good.  The key is to find a rock or wreck holding fish and getting anchored so your baits drop down to them.  The catches include grouper, snapper, triggerfish, black sea bass, porgys, grunts and more.  At the southern end of the state, fishermen are also catching hog snapper and African pompano.  Some seasons are closed, so check the regulations before dropping anything into your fish box.

The water is cooling a little and that seems to have the king mackerel more excited and feeding.  Most fishermen are slow trolling live baits, but they will also hit slow trolled dead baits, plus spoons and some lures.  Bait suspended up in the water column is a good sign of feeding kings.  You may catch a cobia also, but that season closed for private boats on Wednesday and will close for charters, piers and land-based anglers after Friday, September 30.  More information on cobia season and proposed regulation is below.

Spanish mackerel have been biting well near the beaches.  They have been joined by a growing number of false albacore in the Cape Lookout area and those guys will really stretch your string. Quickly trolling small spoons and rapidly retrieving small flashy lures should catch both. 

There have been a few large red drum in nearshore ocean waters all summer, but in the past week or so some huge schools have moved into Long Bay between Cape Fear and Little River Inlet.  These schools are generally following schools of bait, but occasionally hold around an artificial reef or other structure.  Red drum have a slot size of 18 ton 27 inches for keeper fish and all of these will exceed that.  There is a release citation available for releasing red drum of 40 inches and longer and most of these ocean fish will easily make that size.

The big drum have been caught on live baits intended for kings and flounder, dead baits, jigs and more.  When you find a school, these large drum are usually willing biters.  They are lots of fun to catch, but handle them with care while taking a quick photo and releasing them.  They are hardy fish, but can be hurt by keeping them out of the water too long and mis-handling them.

I'm on my soap box now, but you must handle these big drum with care!  The worst thing you can do is to hold one of these large fish up by a fish grip, a lip gaff or its gill plates.  They need to be cradled under the belly and have their weight supported.  Holding them by the jaw or gills in a vertical position can damage their internals and throat ligaments necessary to breathe and feed.  If you want to weigh one, weigh it in your landing net and then subtract the weight of the empty net.

Releasing them is also more than throwing them back over.  Occasionally one will swim off if treated this way, but many will float on top and they often become shark food before they recover. 

They should be lowered into the water and either moved forward through the water or have their tail pumped.  If the boat is moving, turn their head into the current and in a minute or so they will begin kicking to let you know they are ready to swim off.  If you are anchored, lean over the side and pump the fish's tail while supporting its belly and head.  It will let you know when it's ready to go.

One of the worst ways to release these big drum (and any fish) is by moving them forward and back in the water.  They lose all water from their gills when moved backwards.  Move them forward or pump their tail. 

Pier fishermen have had some good catches too.  Fishermen at piers along the entire coast have caught king mackerel in the past week.  Fishermen at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island have caught (and released) more than 30 citation red drum (40 inches minimum). There have also been a few cobia and false albacore.  On the bottom and casting lures, they are catching a mixture of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish and an assortment of other bottom dwellers. 

Fishing doesn't slow inside the inlets.  Fishermen are catching flounder, pups, and specks.  There have been citation flounder (5 pounds minimum) weighed at many tackle shops from Harkers Island to the south and more are coming regularly.  Most of the inside flounder have been caught on live minnows, but some have hit bucktail jigs.  There are still flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs too.

Flounder season for recreational fishermen and gill net commercial fishermen has been scheduled to close on October 16.  However a suit was filed in Carteret County Superior Court to not let this happen and a temporary restraining order was issued on Wednesday.  There will be another hearing on October 6 to see if the regulations stand or a permanent restraining order is issued.  More details on this are in a special section below. 

Inside fishermen are also connecting with puppy drum and speckled trout.  Most fishermen believe live baits are best for them and use a mixture of shrimp, mullet minnows, peanut pogies and mud minnows.  These can be fished on a Carolina rig on the bottom or under a cork.

Specks and pups are getting more active and feeding harder as the water cools and are biting topwaters early and occasionally late in the day.  They are hitting soft plastics and suspending or sinking hard lures during the middle of the day.  It helps to put some scent on all artificials and I like Pro-Cure Scent Gel in shrimp, mullet, menhaden or their saltwater inshore flavors.  It stays on well and lasts a while.  

2016 Cobia Season Closes This Week
While cobia season in Federal waters (3-200 miles offshore) has been closed since June, N.C. tightened their regulations to keep the season open longer in state waters (0-3) miles offshore.  This season will also close today, Friday, September 30, and will reopen on January 1 in state waters.  With the current regulations, charter operations, land-based and pier anglers may keep a cobia until the final day.  With the Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule set for private boats, the final day for private boats has already passed.  It was on Wednesday, September 28.  

Feds Propose New Cobia Regulations in Hope of Avoiding Closure During 2017
At their September meeting, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council adopted new cobia regulations for federal waters (3-200 miles offshore) for 2017.  The new regulations reduce the bag limits and increase the minimum size in hopes of avoiding a closure during the 2017 season.  However, there are also provisions to close the season if the allocation is caught.

The new federal regulations allow 1 fish per person up to a maximum of 6 per boat, with a 36 inch fork length (tip of lower jaw to middle of fork in tail) minimum size. 

North Carolina currently has more restrictive regulations and the Marine Fisheries Commission will have to decide to stay with the current N.C. regulations or change the lesser limits and larger minimum size to meet the federal regulations.  If N.C. stays with the current regulations, they will in effect become the regulations for federal waters off N.C. also as fish must be landed at ramps and marinas in N.C. waters.  Information on N.C. regulations can be found at www.ncdmf.net and information on federal regulations can be found at www.safmc.net.   

Recreational and Gill Net Flounder Seasons May Not Close on October 16
A Carteret County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the pending October 16 closure of the southern flounder season as proposed in the Flounder Supplement that was adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission in late 2015.  A hearing on a permanent restraining order is scheduled for October 6 at 10:00 A.M. in Carteret County Superior Court in Beaufort.

The Supplement adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission states that all recreational flounder fishing and commercial gill net flounder fishing will close on October 16 and not reopen until January 1.  This suit (see more details below) was filed last week to prevent the closure and this temporary restraining order does that until the hearing for the permanent restraining order.  I'll follow this as it progresses.

Commercial Fishing Organization Files Suit Over Flounder Regulations
The North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA), which represents N.C. commercial fishing interests, was joined by the Carteret County Fisherman’s Association, Inc. and Carteret, Dare and Hyde Counties in a suit challenging the regulations imposed by the Flounder Supplement that was adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission in late 2015.  This is specifically aimed at the gill net and accompanying recreational fishing closures set to begin October 16 and run through December 31.  The litigation was filed September 23 in Carteret County Superior Court.

The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries and all members of the Marine Fisheries Commission are listed as defendant in the suit.  The litigation is aimed at stopping the closure of the commercial and recreational southern flounder fisheries, scheduled to take effect this fall.

The 30-page complaint alleges the management measures made by the defendants were arbitrary and based on inadequate scientific data using an abbreviated regulatory process and did so in violation of the North Carolina Open Meetings Laws.

In a NCFA press release, Brent Fulcher, Board Chairman of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, said “Filing a lawsuit is the last resort for us. We testified many times last year before the Marine Fisheries Commission that using the supplement is the wrong approach and should be managed by a full-blown amendment that allows full public participation. Our advice was totally ignored.”

“In my 29 years of involvement with these fisheries issues, this is only the second time that we filed litigation against the Division of Marine Fisheries”, said Jerry Schill, President of the Fisheries Association. “Fishermen must have confidence in the process for management to be successful, but with the Commission and the Division ignoring the law and even their own guidelines, we have no other option left.”

A temporary restraining order was issued on September 28, so the closure cannot occur until after a hearing on a permanent restraining order or injunction is held on October 6.  If a permanent restraining order is issued at that time, the seasons will not close.

Peer Fishing Festival at Ocean Crest Pier on October 7
Operation North State, in conjunction with Ocean Crest Pier, will be hosting the Oak Island Peer Fishing Festival on October 7.  Operation North State is a North Carolina organization based in Winston-Salem and this is the final of seven events in their 2016 Top Shelf Fishing Festivals.  It is also their only salt water event.  The Peer Fishing Festival is open to Wounded Warriors and Disabled Veterans.

Volunteers are needed to assist the vets and warriors.  Those interested in learning more or volunteering for the event can visit the website at www.operationnorthstate.com.  You can also volunteer by calling Ocean Crest Pier at 910-278-6674.  This is an excellent opportunity to give a little back to some folks who sacrificed to keep us free.  It's also a really good time with some of the best people you will ever meet.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest.  For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the “Learning” tab.  The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. 

The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette’s Pier in Nags Head.  The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium is local and others are at Fort Fisher and Manteo.  For more information on the Aquariums and their programs, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select your preferred location.

Free Seminars on Handling and Processing Deer
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, along with the N.C. Wildlife Federation, is hosting two free "Practical Deer Processing, From Field to Freezer" seminars at the Commission's education centers in Raleigh and Fayetteville.  The first seminar was Sept. 27 in Raleigh and the second seminar will be on Oct. 4 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, 7489 Raeford Road, in Fayetteville.

The seminars, which are offered as part of the Wildlife Federation's Farmers and Communities Manage Deer program, will feature video demonstrations and tips from the experts on how to process a deer from field to freezer. Topics include field dressing, taxidermy, skinning, safe meat handling and basic home processing. Pre-registration for the deer processing seminars is required and participants must register online.

A Wildlife Commission spokesman said these seminars are for people new to hunting or new to processing their own deer.  For more information on the seminars, contact Walter "Deet" James at 919-707-0059 or walter.james@ncwildlife.org.  Visit www.ncwildlife.org/hunting and click on the "What to Hunt" link for information about deer and deer hunting in North Carolina.  

Fisheries Meetings
September 30:   Marine Fisheries Commission Standard Commercial Fishing License Criteria Committee, 10:00 A.M., Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.  

October 4-6:  Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Commission,   Stockton Seaview Hotel, Galloway, NJ, www.mafmc.org, On-line access http://mafmc.adobeconnect.com/october2016.  

October 5:  Public Hearing on Pamlico County Shellfish Lease, 6:00 P.M., Pamlico County Courthouse, Bayboro, Contact Valerie Wunderly at 252-808-8061 or Valerie.Wunderly@ncdenr.gov.  

October 23-27:  Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting, Harborside Hotel, Bar Harbor, ME, www.asmfc.org/home/2016-annual-meeting.  

November 16-18:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

December 5-9:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, DoubleTree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront, www.safmc.net.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 1 to September 30:  Sheepshead Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.

July 1 to October 15:  Flounder Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.           

July 1 to October 31: Spanish Mackerel Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.       

September 17 - October 1:  Emerald Isle Recreation Department Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament, Weigh at Bogue Inlet Pier, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.com.  

September 29 - October 1:  US Open King Mackerel Tournament, Southport Marina, Southport, www.usopenkmt.com.   

September 30-October 2:  N.C. Seafood Festival, Morehead City waterfront, www.ncseafoodfestival.org.

September 30-October 2:  Freeman's Surf Fishing Challenge, Freeman's Bait &Tackle, Atlantic Beach, www.freemanstackle.com.

October 6-8:  NCKFA Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament, Ocean and Inshore Divisions, Ocean View United Methodist Church, Oak Island, www.nckfa.com.

October 7:  Operation North State Peer Fishing Festival, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.operationnorthstate.com.

October 7 - 9:  Fall Brawl King Classic, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.   

October 7-9:  Cape Lookout Shootout 3, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.   

October 7-9:  Crystal Coast Surf Fishing Challenge, Atlantic Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  

October 8-9:  Rumble on the Tee Pier King Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.  

October 8-30:  Hook a Hoo Rodeo,  Multiple weigh stations from Atlantic Beach to Murrells Inlet, S.C., www.hookahoo.com.

October 12-15: Swansboro Rotary 50 King Mackerel Tournament, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.     

October 14 and 15:  Bald Head Island Bluefish Bonanza, Delphina Cantina Courtyard, Bald Head Island, www.BaldHeadIsland.org.   

October 14-16:  NC Troopers Association Offshore - Inshore Saltwater Challenge, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.1042KMT.com.   

October 16-18:  Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  

October 17-November 28:  Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation, Weigh at Reel Outdoors, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.  

October 20-22:  Cape Lookout Albacore Festival, Anchorage Marina, Atlantic Beach, www.capelookoutalbacorefestival.com

Good fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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