If you've been enjoying the cold fronts that have been rolling through for the past several weekends, you are in for a treat this weekend. The front should roll in sometime Friday and begin pushing out early in the week. This isn't a really cold front, with temps in the forties line last weekend, but it is forecast to be carrying stronger winds. Once it departs though we are looking at some warming and daytime temps should reach the eighties again by mid-week.
This week's cold front is carrying some blustery northeast winds. In some areas they are forecast to reach 30 knots and small craft advisories have been posted for several areas and mentioned as possible for others. It looks like inshore protected waters and right along the beaches on south facing beaches are the fishing options for this weekend. Good news though is that fish are biting in these places.
The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) will be in Oak Island this weekend with their second annual Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament. The tournament is presented in partnership with the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department and the proceeds will benefit the Oak Island Sea Turtle Preservation Project.
The Oak Island Classic is different from many kayak tournaments as it adds a division for king mackerel in the ocean in addition to the inshore species. The divisions for inshore species include flounder, red drum, speckled trout and the slam, which is based on a combined length of each fisherman's one longest flounder, redfish and trout.
Winners in each division will receive kayaks donated by the manufacturers. Second place finishers will receive prize packages based around a rod and reel combination and third place finishers will receive prize packages based around kayak paddles designed with fishermen in mind. There will also be several special prizes, drawings and raffles.
With the exception of the king mackerel division, the tournament will follow a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format where the fishermen take a picture of their catch on a measuring device and then release the fish. Because of the size of king mackerel and the potential for waves and chop in the ocean, fishermen are not being asked to photograph and release their kings in the ocean, but can bring them in to be measured by tournament officials.
Do not take the king mackerel division lightly. Last year's winner was a 45-1/2 inch fish caught by Kirk Talbert of Hampstead. That is approximately a 25 to 28 pound king. Several other fishermen fought kings, but were unable to land them.
Final registration and the captain's meeting for the Oak Island Classic will be Friday evening, Oct. 7, from 5:00 to 6:30 at the Oak Island Recreation Center. Fishing will begin at safe light on Saturday morning, Oct. 8, and all participants must return to tournament headquarters at the Oak Island Recreation Center to turn in their photo cards by 4:00 P.M. in inside waters and be back to the check out/check in point on the ocean side by 2:00 P.M.
In the interest of safety and fairness, all fishermen must launch from, and return to, designated launch areas that are in or within two miles of Oak Island. The king fishermen will launch and return from the public access at 25th Place Southeast in Oak Island and are limited to the waters between Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers. A team from Oak Island Water Rescue will patrol this area during tournament hours.
A full field for the tournament is 100 kayak fishermen and NCKFA founder and tournament director Mark Patterson said he was anticipating a full field. Patterson said there were only a few slots remaining at the beginning of this week and he was sure they would be filled before the captains meeting ends. There is a $10 discount for fishermen who register on-line by Thursday, so if you are considering entering it may be worthwhile to go ahead and do it. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The moon is filling from first quarter to full between now and Wednesday. While it's not the fall equinox, the October full moon tides are some of the highest of the year. I am expecting to see many fishermen out taking advantage of the high tides to get up in the grass chasing puppy drum over the weekend. Be sure to clean your glasses and be ready as the gusting nor'easter will make them difficult to spot.
While either tide should be plenty high enough to allow drum to get into the flooded marsh, the evening high tides are usually higher than the mornings. While it will vary some depending on how far from the inlets you are, the evening high tides will be between 5:00 and 6:30 P.M. from Friday through Sunday and that is about as good as it gets. The morning tides will also be fishable for a while and then move back into the marshes to finish the falling tide.
Back to drum, the inshore big drum bite has ended, but they are showing up in the surf, on the big flat that used to be Shark Island and on many nearshore artificial reefs. They are also feeding at the ends of the jetties at Little River Inlet.
Expectations are for the cooler weather to help improve the drum bite. Creek mouths, around oyster rocks and under docks are all good places to look for drum. They aren't picky either and will eat live baits, fresh natural baits and a host of artificials.
I'm still not thrilled with the speckled trout bite, but it is improving. Much like last year, as the water cools more of those 10 to 14 inch trout are showing up. There are also some two to three pounders and Thursday I saw a picture of a seven pounder that was caught near Wrightsville Beach. Seeing those trout is a good indication that some survived the winter and have been spawning. It seems to get a little better after each cold front, so it should improve again next week.
I've said it numerous times, and at the risk of upsetting some lure fishermen, here it goes again. Live shrimp is the top bait for catching speckled trout. Until the bait thieves leave for the winter, they can be exasperating and take a lot of your bait, but they also get the trout excited and when they do, they move in, push the bait thieves out of the way and start feeding. This is when fishermen start smiling.
Flounder fishing has been good this week. Folks I have talked to except in the far northeast corner of the coast are reporting good flounder catches. There are still some shorts in the mix, but that is the promise for next year. Flounder reports say they are around the mouths of many creeks, off marsh points, in the surf and still holding along almost any underwater structure. The Port Wall at Morehead City is getting lots of attention, as had the drop at Carolina Beach Inlet and the holes in Snows Cut.
During the warm months, flounder can be picky about what they eat, but that ends when the water begins cooling. If you get a bait in front of them they will usually hit it. The list of good baits includes mullet minnows, peanut pogies, strip baits and an assortment of lures. With this cold snap and the cooling water, flounder should be moving toward the inlets.
The cooling water hasn't bothered the sheepshead either and they are biting well around many of the bridges over channels and even at some of the nearshore artificial reefs. One of the best places for sheepshead in N.C. is along the Morehead City Port Wall. They are scattered all along it.
Morehead City also has gray trout in the Morehead City Turning Basin in decent numbers. Of course, the numbers don't have to be too strong to fill a one fish limit with a minimum size of 12 inches. Most of the grays are larger than that. They can also be found on many of the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs along the entire N.C. Coast.
If you would like some spots, you need to get out and go fishing. The action has slowed a little at the piers, but could fire off again at any time. Right now the spot bite seems to be a little stronger near the inlets and in several places along channels and the Intracoastal Waterway. If you go spot fishing from a boat, do not anchor so you block the channel. It is illegal to block a channel, so anchor along side the channel and cast over into it.
In addition to spots, pier fishermen are also catching flounder, red drum, black drum, speckled trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. A day of fishing on the piers should produce a nice mess of fish to clean. The cool mornings this week don't seem to have slowed the fish, but a few times the fishermen were later in the morning getting going.
There are some big Spanish mackerel around and they are occasionally hitting larger live baits intended for king mackerel. By scaling down your king mackerel live bait rigs about a third on size and using smaller baits, you can catch more of them and still attract some kings.
Spanish can also be caught in the standard manner of trolling size 00, 0, or 1 Clarkspoons behind planers or trolling sinkers. This tactic allows covering more area and typically catches more fish, but they are also typically smaller fish.
I've heard reports and this week seen a few pictures of false albacore caught off Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout and Masonboro Inlet. While generally not considered much for table fare, these cousins in the tuna family are known for their fighting ability. They are fun to catch usually give away their location by chasing schools of minnows. They are feeding on smaller minnows, so smaller lures of flies are good choices.
Offshore fishing is good when the sea conditions cooperate. The fall wahoo bite is on and five to ten strikes or more is a normal day. Unfortunately most folks only land about half of their wahoo strikes. Blackfin tuna are also being caught trolling the temperature breaks just inside the Gulf Stream. You may also catch a misplaced dolphin, yellowfin tuna or billfish.
Offshore bottom fishing is good, but about to change. Sea bass have been a big staple since their season reopened in June, but federal fishery managers say the season will be closed again soon as the allocation is almost filled. An exact date hasn't been announced yet, but the expectation is pretty soon after the middle of October. Beeliners, grunts, porgys, and grouper are biting well too.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will meet November 2 through 4 in Atlantic Beach. One of the major points of that meeting will be to discuss the recommendations of the advisory committees and make a decision on a Fishery Management Plan for speckled trout. The recommendations of the committees and information on the November MFC meeting can be found on the MFC website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home.
One MFC Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for the coming week. It will be on Oct. 11 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Office in Washington. The meeting is for the Proposed Nomination of Strategic Habitat Areas in the Pamlico Sound System (Region Two). For more information visit the MFC website or call 1-800-248-4536 or 910-796-7315.
The Bogue Inlet Pier Family Fishing Tournament, held during the Seafood Festival last weekend, was a great success. Lou Pace of Stella was the overall winner and won a season pass for 2012. Shiela Miller of Angier caught the Largest Flounder, Skyler Campbell of Fayetteville caught the Largest Bluefish, Bo Grimsley of Greenville caught the largest spot and Leslie Jones of Kinston caught the Largest Pompano and the Largest Hogfish.
The U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament was held September 30 through October 1 from Southport Marina. The kings were just beginning to show well when a cold front began bearing down on the Southport area. The wind blew and made the seas choppy while the barometer dropped under the influence of an approaching cold front. The temperatures held warm through the first day of fishing, but by Saturday, the cold had moved in.
Larry Deal, Oak Island, and his crew on the Mako Warrior are former U.S. Open winners and were leading at the end of the first day with a 32.85 pound king. There was still a day of fishing remaining and they knew what could happen, but they also knew they would rather be leading than trailing.
Unfortunately for Deal, but fortunately for the new leaders, the lead was bumped twice on Saturday. First, Sammy Rees, Southport, and the crew of the Reel Time came in with a king that weighed 38.75 pounds. However, their lead was short lived as David Holland, Raeford, and friends on the Deep End came in a little later with the 43.55 pounder that was declared the winner.
Holland and friends secured a super payday too. There were 324 boats in the tournament and many of them had entered the TWTs. The Deep End crew was entered in all of them and collected a check for $50,515. That's a fine payday. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
The Southeastern King Mackerel Club held the Carolina Fall King Challenge king mackerel tournament Saturday and Sunday, October 1 and 2, from Oak Island, Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, Johnnie Mercer's and Cherry Grove Piers in southern N.C. and northern S.C. The only king of the tournament was a 17.5 pounder that was caught by Greg "Cowboy" Evans on Kure Beach Pier on Saturday. Evans collected first place overall and the bounty for the first king caught during the tournament.
The tournament was not without excitement and suspense however. According to Tournament Director Max Weavil, a novice fisherman hooked a huge king on Johnnie Mercer's Pier on Sunday and battled it back to the pier. However, as luck is prone to have it, it nicked the line on a piling and escaped just before being gaffed. Several seasoned fishermen saw the fish and said it was huge, probably over 50 to maybe even 60 pounds. They also said it swam off well when the line parted.
A king was landed by David Cavalier on Oak Island Pier, but he wasn't fishing the tournament. As no other kings were landed by tournament participants, second and third places were awarded by a drawing. Second place went to Jacob Thompson and third place was won by Katie Barrier. For more information visit www.southeasternkingmackerelclub.com.
A handful of tournaments are on tap for this weekend. The Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament that began on September 24 will wrap up on Saturday, October 8. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
The Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament began on Thursday, October 6 and will continue through Saturday, October 8 in Nags Head. For more information visit www.nagsheadsurffishingclub.org.
The Core Sound Delta Waterfowl Redfish Tournament that was postponed from July was rescheduled for October 8 to be held from Portside Marina in Morehead City. For more information visit www.coresounddeltaredfishtourney.weebly.com.
The Oak Island Classic Kayak Tournament will be held at Oak Island with a captains meeting and final registration on Oct. 7 and fishing on Oct.8. In only its second year, this is already the premiere kayak fishing tournament in N.C and one of the leaders on the East Coast. There are divisions for the inshore species of flounder, red drum and speckled trout, plus a slam division (combined length of 1 red drum, 1 trout and 1 flounder) and an ocean division for king mackerel.
This tournament, which is presented by the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association and the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, will be headquartered from the Oak Island Recreation Center and benefits the Oak Island Sea Turtle Preservation Program. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The Kings of the Coast Pier King Mackerel Tournament will be held at Ocean Crest Pier on October 7 through 9. As with any pier tournament, spaces are limited. For more information visit www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
The Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament, which was scheduled to run from Harbourgate Marina in Little River, S.C. this weekend, has been postponed until October 14 to 16 due to sea conditions forecast with the approaching cold front. This tournament is the fourth of five tournaments in SKA Division 9, but runs concurrent with a SKA Professional Kingfish Tour event and several local teams were entered. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.