Welcome to fall! We've had a few cool mornings so far this fall, but the welcome chill of Wednesday and Thursday morning made them pale in comparison. It was a rude awakening to some, like me, as we made our first moves out to get the paper and put mail in the mailbox dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Thankfully, the days are still warming up and becoming nice by mid-morning.
After warming from the mid-week cold another cold front will move across the coast Saturday. Earlier it the week this was projected to happen during the daytime, but current forecasts predict it to be at night. There is some wind on the leading edge and gusts are expected as it approaches, with the wind switching to the north and laying out some after it does. Seas should also subside after the front passes. Sunday is shaping up to be the nicest day of the weekend, even thought it will be a few degrees cooler.
Surprisingly the water temperature has not dropped after the cool nights and mornings during the week. It was 77 degrees at Bogue Inlet Pier late last week and remains there today. Certainly the combination of cooler evenings and days that are warming later and cooling earlier will soon begin cooling the water a little more rapidly. As the water cools, a few summer species of fish will begin moving on, while the fall fish are here and the winter fish begin to arrive. Currently the fish are as active as they will be all year and fishing is good.
The October full moon is coming this weekend. I never realized there was any debate on exactly which night is the full moon until I looked at two calendars simultaneously this week in checking on this. One of my calendars shows the full moon as Friday night, while the other has it being Sunday night. I guess we're pretty sure it will be this weekend.
The significance of the October full moon is the height of the high tides. Barring any unusual weather occurrences, the September and October high tides are the highest of the year. This should be a good time to find some red drum feeding through the flooded marsh grass during the high tides. Drum will move into the flooded marshes to chase minnows, shrimp, crabs and fiddler crabs during these exaggerated high tides. It is one of the few times there is enough water in these areas the drum can easily follow their intended dinner.
The excellent pier fishing didn't include any king mackerel this week, but there was still plenty of action. The fish included spots, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, sea mullet, pompano, flounder and red drum. At Bogue Inlet Pier they caught spots two-at-a-time on several days.
The excellent Spanish mackerel fishing continued along the beaches and out to AR 315 off Morehead and AR 425 off Southport. There were a couple of days early in the week of strong southerly and southwesterly winds and the ocean water got pretty stirred up. I haven't heard of the citation size Spanish macks like the past few weeks, but there have been some two to four pounders. Maybe those bigger fish will return by the weekend.
Last weekend there was a strong king bite along the beaches too. There probably were kings in other locations, but the wind was blowing from the northeast and fishing was possible along the beaches without getting too beat up, so most folks stayed pretty close. I didn't hear of any really large fish, but there were good numbers of fish in the teens and twenties. With all the bait moving along the beaches, those fish should still be there.
The offshore boats are still catching some wahoo, plus a few blackfin tuna and an occasional billfish. The wahoo bite slowed during the wind of the past week, but they should still be in the same general area. Wahoo bites were reported from the Steeples area to north of the Big Rock. There are some yellowfin and bigeye tuna, plus a few white marlin being caught north of Cape Hatteras. The tuna bite is picking up, which is good news. Unfortunately the billfish bite is slowing.
This wasn't a week to showcase it, but the grouper fishing has been picking up for a while. There are also plenty of beeliners (vermilion snapper), grunts and sea bass being caught. Sea bass fishing will close north of Cape Hatteras on Monday (October 5). This is a 180 day emergency total closure mandated by NOAA Fisheries. South of Cape Hatteras, black sea bass season remains open with a limit of 15 fish per day and a minimum size of 12 inches. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net.
Speckled trout are biting well across most of the coast, but they will now have to be two inches larger to be kept. Fishermen should be aware the minimum size for speckled trout increases to 14 inches on Monday (October 5). This is an emergency rule made by proclamation of the N.C. DMF Director while the Speckled Trout Fisheries Management Plan is being updated. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net. Live shrimp are deadly for specks and can be floated under corks or fished along the bottom. A variety of soft plastics lures, plus MirrOlure and Rapala hard baits will also catch specks.
A few gray trout are being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin. They typically hold in the deeper water along the drops at the edges of the channels during the daytime and move into areas illuminated by the lights under the high-rise bridges at night. Jigging Stingsilver and speck rigs is a popular way to catch them. They will also hit live and cut bait under the lights at night. Gray trout have also been reported in the ocean at Johns Creek Rock between Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches and at the WOFES off Southport.
Flounder have been biting well, but there seems to be a feast or famine situation when it comes to keepers. Everything is either a half inch too short or you set up in an area full of keepers. The most consistent flounder action has been on the nearshore artificial reefs, but they have also been in the bars around the inlets and on the edges of many channels. A moving tide is important in catching flounder. Mullet minnows and strip baits drifted will the tide will both catch flounder.
Puppy drum have been biting well in many places across the entire state. They are on the flats inside Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets, in the Haystacks, up the Newport River, up Core Creek and scattered through Middle Marsh at Morehead City, in the marsh of Bogue Sound just inside Bogue Inlet at Swansboro, behind Topsail, Lea, Figure Eight, and Masonboro Islands near Wilmington and scattered through the marshes behind Bald Head Island and along the lower Cape Fear River at Southport. Live shrimp and mullet minnows work well for drum, but it is lots of fun to have them chase topwater lures.
The Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) held the third of three redfish tournaments in their Atlantic Division from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort last Saturday. The fishermen were faced with windy and rainy conditions, but responded well. 38 boats participated in the tournament and local teams fared well, claiming many of the top positions.
The winning team was the Crystal Coast Graphics Team of Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor of Swansboro. Cronk and Taylor weighed redfish of 6.92 and 6.41 pounds for a total of 12.83 pounds. Cronk and Taylor also won the Ranger Cup prize, for the highest placing team on a Ranger boat and added a $2,000 bonus to their winnings.
Matt and Ray Lamb of Atlantic Beach represented Chasin' Tails Outdoors well with a second place showing that also included the big fish of the tournament and the Rapala Big Fish Award. Their big fish weighed 7.04 pounds and was joined by a 4.76 pounder to give them a total of 11.80 pounds.
Chris Floyd and Dave Hopper combined reds weighing 6.81 and 4.93 pounds for an 11.74 pound total and third place. Kenny Mace and Mark Nuzzo were just a little behind at 11.55 pounds to claim fourth place.
The Dingbatters Fishing Team of Rennie Clark and "Hurricane" Drew Arndt of Carolina Beach have been enjoying a very good year on several tournament trails. Last week they won the Redfish Action tournament in this same area and claimed Team of the Year honors for Redfish Action. They were the fifth place finishers in this tournament and that included enough points to give them the Team of the Year honors in the IFA Atlantic Division.
The IFA will hold their championship tournament November 5 to 7 at Orange Beach, Alabama. All teams that fished a minimum of three qualifying tournaments will be invited. There will be a separate competition within the tournament for Overall Team of the Year. This is only open to the team that earned Divisional Team of the Year awards. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com.
The Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament was held last weekend in Swansboro. This is the final of five events in the Southern Kingfish Association Division 1. Tournament organizers had a tough call when a weekend long Small Craft Advisory covering the tournament area was posted on Friday. Noting the winds would be from the northeast and east, which offers nearshore protection in the waters along Bogue and Shackleford Banks to Cape Lookout, the tournament organizers made the call to hold the event as scheduled.
The 57 boats that fished the tournament found the fish biting well and more than half of the field visited the scales. Unfortunately the fish just weren't very large. The Finagle, with Capt. Ray Pugh of Nags Head, found a 29.76 pound king to claim the win.
Exactly a quarter pound behind were the husband and wife team of Jeff and Vickie Keeton of Yulee, Fla., on the Reel Office, with a 29.51 pound king. Mike Williams, of Garner, and the Release crew caught a 28.19 pound king to round out the top three.
Chuck Harris of Winston-Salem claimed Top Senior Angler honors with a 15.98 pound king caught on the Sea Rat. Kimberly Dolph of Swansboro was the Top Lady Angler with a 14.34 pounder caught on the Aquanuts. The Top Junior Angler was Corey Lane of Kenly who caught a 17.59 pound king on the Searchin II.
Capt. John Rouse, Kinston, and the Hook Me Up crew topped the 23 and Under Class with a 19.41 pound king and the Mount Maker, with Capt. Chris Kimrey, Beaufort, topped the Single Engine boat category with a 20.39 pounder.
The Third Annual Bay Creek Classic Flounder Tournament was held last Saturday at the Wildlife Boat Ramp and Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. The tournament is a benefit for Brandon Matthews, a popular Southport fisherman who fell from a tree stand several years ago and ruptured his C-6 vertebrae, losing most of his mobility. The proceeds from the tournament will go to the Brandon Matthews Fund for use in future surgeries, including tendon by-pass surgery, to allow Brandon to regain some use of his hands and for purchasing adaptive equipment.
In spite of rain and easterly winds that began before the registration ended and then ramped up during the fishing hours, 40 boats signed up for the event and most fished. The fishermen proved they could catch in adverse conditions too. Not all of the flounder were as large as the winning 5.86 pounder caught by the team of Jason McDowell, Ricky Bishop and Mike Fields, but the tournament coolers were full. Doug Cutting was second with a flounder that weighed 4.52 pounds and Chrissy Thomes caught a 4.0 pounder to claim third place.
The 5-Fish Aggregate category was won by Ricky Evans with 12.54 pounds. Doug Cutting was second with 12.18 pounds and Bob Simmons was third with 9.96 pounds.
The fishing is heating up and lots of tournaments are taking place in the next few weeks. A couple have already started. The Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department began a surf fishing tournament for flounder on September 26 that ends Saturday. The US Open King Mackerel Tournament began in Southport and the Kings of the Coast Tournament at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island began this morning (Friday).
The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. Registration is open and ongoing, but fishermen must be registered for a minimum of five days before they can enter a fish. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The Neuse River Backwater Open will be held this weekend in New Bern. Registration is Friday, with fishing on Saturday and a weigh-in at Lawson Creek Park. For more information visit www.neuseriverbackwateropen.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Tournament will begin Monday at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle. The tournament runs through next week. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The Calcutta Wahoo Challenge will begin on October 7 at the Morehead City Waterfront. Weigh-ins will be Thursday through Saturday afternoons on the Morehead City Waterfront across from Katherine Davis Park. For more information visit www.thewahoochallenge.com.
The Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Tournament will begin October 7 in Nags Head. For more information call 252-441-1670.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 4.5 is headed to Oak Island and Southport on October 17. This is not as large an event as at Morehead City and Atlantic Beach during the spring, but is just as highly appreciated. The day will feature fellowship, many varieties of fishing and a big meal at the Oak Island Moose Lodge at the end of the day.
Volunteers are needed for all phases of the event. This includes everything from registering folks in the morning to serving food to providing a boat to take some of them fishing. The website for the event is www.militaryappreciationday.org and it lists the many ways someone can register to help and also a way for the service personnel to register.