Wow, what a difference a week makes! We began last week approximately 15 inches in arrears in rainfall for the year and had excitedly looked at the rain coming down early in the week. By sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday we had received enough rain to alleviate the drought and were staring to get worried.
My deadline expired before the rainfall ended, but it rained long and hard enough we went from drought to flooding in a few areas. While we weren't surprised that some low-lying local roads had flooding issues, there were several major highways that flooded to the point of closures. Highway 17 was a prime example as there were flooding issues from Brunswick County in the south to Perquimans County in the northeast. Many low lying areas began bearing a scary resemblance to lakes.
Severe flooding occurred in Pender County along the Northeast Cape Fear River and in Edenton and Windsor along the Chowan and Cashie Rivers. Some people reported the flooding was worse than during Hurricane Floyd. Hurricane Floyd still holds the single day rainfall record in the Wilmington area, but new records for two, three, four and five consecutive days were set.
I drove to Camp Lejeune one morning and returned in the late afternoon to early evening. The drive there wasn't fun, but the drive home was worse and with added tension of possible flooded spots on the roads. Listening to the radio was even scarier as every five minutes there were warnings and reports of roads being closed. It seemed to be better along the coast above Pender County, but from Pender County to the south, schools were closed on Thursday and Friday.
Weather like this affects us and we feel trapped and can't or don't enjoy our outdoor activities. Fishing and hunting reports were scare simply because no one was fishing and hunting.
The weather affects the fish and animals too, except they are outside and having to confront it head-on. Deer and other animals that had carved out niches in the many almost dry swamps have been forced to flee those areas. Many bedding and feeding areas are now under several feet of water. Some areas may not hold deer for the rest of the season and other areas have just received an influx of deer from the flooded areas. It isn't all bad, but the game has changed. Hunters who had been supplying supplemental food and tracking animals with trail cameras and diligent scouting are back at the starting gate.
On the fishing side, the main thing to remember is that all that rain has to run off somewhere. Typically, it works its way through swamps into area creeks, then to the rivers and sounds and finally to the ocean. The added current will wash out many brush piles in the fresh water creeks, plus extend way up into the flood plains and fill the creeks and rivers with debris. It has been a while since the water was this high and extended into the flood plains, so some large blown down trees and such will get swept out into the rivers and washed downstream. Fishermen downriver will have to contend with a massive influx of fresh water and floating or mostly submerged debris.
I always want to look for the silver lining in dark clouds, but this one is a little difficult. It's not as bad as having a hurricane, but it wasn't good. In looking for that silver lining, the thing I keep coming back to is that this was pretty much a coastal event. While I have a friend that received 10 inches of rain in Fayetteville, most of the heavy rain was east of I-95. There won't be trillions of gallons of water continuing to rush down the rivers from concerns with flooding of Falls, Gaston, Jordan and Kerr Lakes and other points west of I-95, so hopefully this will clear out pretty quickly. A lot of the runoff will be coming down the Cape Fear River after the Northeast Cape Fear joins it at Wilmington.
The big part of the flood is over and, barring any immediate storms, the water should return to normal levels in a couple of weeks. Several knowledgeable fishermen said the influx of the rainwater runoff should help cool the coastal waters, which had been about six to eight degrees warmer than usual, and push the bait that had been holding upriver down it and into the ocean. The ocean temperatures have dropped three to four degrees in the past week and the cooler weather forecast for this week should help keep it cool and maybe help another degree or two. The magic numbers this week have been 76 and 77 degrees early with Bogue Inlet Pier reporting 74 degrees Thursday morning after two very chilly nights. Hopefully the dirty water clears quickly too.
While there is a named storm in the Atlantic Basin, it doesn't appear to be a threat to the U.S. Sub-tropical Storm Otto is near the Caribbean and is expected to briefly reach hurricane strength. However, the forecast path is northeast away from land and out into open ocean where it should dissipate. I'm glad that for a change we are not looking at an adverse weather system bearing down on us.
As of my deadline, it has been more than a week since I received a report of a king caught from a pier. There is bait along the beaches and pelicans are diving on it. The cooling water temperatures should help bring in the kings as soon as the dirty water from last week's rains dissipates.
Pier fishermen are catching flounder, bluefish and Spanish mackerel, plus some puppy drum, a few specks, some whiting and a steadily growing number of spots. I've only heard of one two-at-a-time spot bite and it only lasted one afternoon, but it could happen at any time. Bloodworms have been the preferred bait for spots for years, but the Fishbites and Blurp synthetic bloodworms were the hot bait during the most recent hot bite.
There have been a few rumors this week of a few king mackerel being caught around several of the artificial reefs within sight of the beach, but I haven't found anyone who was there when it was happening. It is time for the kings to move in there, plus off the jetty at Cape Lookout and in the Dead Tree Hole. I sure hope they arrive soon.
As reported by the pier fishermen, there are Spanish mackerel along the beaches. Many are even closer than the ends of the piers. The NC Kayak Fishing Association (www.nckfa.com) is hosting the Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament that includes a king mackerel division on Oct. 9 at Oak Island. Several of the participants have been there vacationing and pre-fishing and they reported excellent Spanish fishing just a few hundred yards off the beach. They began by using frozen cigar minnows and switched to live mullet minnows once they could catch them. I joined them for a while Sunday afternoon, but the best bite had been earlier in the day.
Mark Patterson, NCKFA founder, had a real surprise on Monday when a six foot blacktip shark grabbed one of his baits and launched itself into the air about 30 feet in front of his kayak. Mark said the sleigh ride was just getting good when the leader parted. That may have been a good thing.
Puppy drum and flounder are biting from the marshes to the surf in spite of all the fresh water. There are also some reports of speckled trout fishing improving. Many fishermen have been waiting for the water to cool to see just how well the trout survived and rebounded from last winter's cold and the time is getting near. Capt. Matt Lamb at Chasin' Tails said they have seen a few more trout being brought in to be weighed this week and are cautiously optimistic.
Lamb also said the gray trout were biting well in the Turning Basin. The regulations for gray trout have changed since last year and the new regulations only allow one fish per person per day. The minimum length remains at 12 inches.
Only a few boats headed offshore this week and the results were mixed. Most found a few wahoo and some found some blackfin tuna. There have been some yellowfins from Hatteras to the north and hopefully they will begin moving southward. This cold may signal the last of the fall run of dolphin.
I spoke with Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service (www.pamlicoguide.com) several times regarding the fishing for large drum in Pamlico Sound. He said the fishing had been and was still very good, but he was concerned that a large influx of fresh water would push the fish back across the sound and into the ocean. He said the bait and higher water temperatures had indicated a couple more weeks of good fishing, but the rain and freshwater runoff was hanging the sound and he just didn't know how it would affect the big drum. He said it should help turn on the smaller drum, flounder and trout.
On the southern end of the state, there has been a run of large red drum at Little River Inlet for about a week. Several of them approached 50 inches long. For more information on these fish and scheduling a trip, visit www.fishmyrtlebeach.com. Capt. Mark Dickson guides and also books for several other boats.
A state record for golden tilefish was established a couple of weeks ago when the 45 pound golden tilefish Guy R. Jones of Newport News, Va. caught on July 3 was recognized as the first N.C. record for golden tilefish. The world record is 59 pounds, 3 ounces and was caught in Maryland in 2007. Jones fish was 43.5 inches long and 30 inches in girth. He was fishing from Hatteras with Capt. Derek Taylor on the Carolina Girl.
The season for resident Canada geese is closed and the first of three dove season segments will be will be closing on Oct. 9. Marsh hen season remains open and is a hunt you need to experience to appreciate. The extra high fall tides are required to flush marsh hens from their marsh hammocks and the new moon was Thursday night, with a full moon on Oct 23.
Muzzleloading season (Eastern N.C.) for deer began Oct. 2 and continues through Oct. 15. The gun season will begin on Oct. 16. Deer may also be taken by bow and arrow during the muzzleloading and gun seasons. Several new regulations for the 2010-2011 season allow archery hunters to hunt on private land on Sundays and use crossbows. There are more new regulations and all of them 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.
This Saturday, Oct. 9, Quality Deer Management Association will be offering a Wildlife Habitat and Deer Management Conference 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 commercial fishery for beeliners closed on Oct. 6 and will remain closed through January 1, 2011. The commercial fishery for black sea bass closed on Oct. 7 and will remain closed until June 1, 2011. These closures are due to the poundage of the allowable catch having been caught. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on Amendment 17B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Amendment 17B establishes annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for nine snapper-grouper species including speckled hind, warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, golden tilefish, black sea bass, red grouper, gag grouper, vermilion snapper, and red snapper. Amendment 17B includes actions to establish ACLs and AMs for eight of these species as well as black grouper. Red snapper is being addressed separately in amendment 17A.
Amendment 17B would also specify management measures intended to address overfishing, including a prohibition on harvest and retention of snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper, beyond 240 feet in federal waters of the South Atlantic. This species prohibition is intended to prevent incidental catch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper which have a designated ACL of zero.
Written comments on this amendment must be received no later than November 22, 2010, in order to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. Electronic copies of Amendment 17B may be obtained from the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
Comments may be submitted electronically through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, http://www.regulations.gov, by entering ANOAA-NMFS-2010-0091 in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ASelect or by mail to Kate Michie--NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 or by fax attention of Kate Michie at 727-824-5308.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee met Oct. 7 at 6:00 P.M. at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Field Office in Washington. The primary discussion at the meeting was to be the first amendment to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. The draft plan has been presented to all the MFC advisory committees and is coming back to the Southern Flounder FMP Committee for final approval before being presented to the Marine Fisheries Commission. It was after my deadline and I hope to have a report from the meeting next week. For more information on the meeting visit www.ncdmf.net.
The only tournament scheduled for this past weekend was the US Open King Mackerel Tournament from Southport Marina in Southport and due to the flooding, seas and winds left over from the passing of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole it was postponed to October 14 to 16. At that point the daily schedules and locations will remain the same. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament began Monday (Oct. 4) and will continue through Friday (Oct. 8). There had not been any kings caught by my deadline, but the fishermen were still hard at it and the water conditions and bait situation were improving. I will have the results next week. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The Swansboro Rotary Club King Mackerel and Inshore (Speckled Trout) Tournaments will be held Saturday (Oct. 9) in Swansboro. The king mackerel tournament was formerly a Memorial Day Weekend tournament whose date was changed to a time when fishing was typically more productive. This is the first year the king mackerel and inshore tournaments have run concurrently. Proceeds are used for Rotary projects in the Swansboro area. For more information visit www.swansbororotary.com.
As noted earlier, the Oak Island Classic Kayak Tournament, hosted by the N.C. Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) and Oak Island Parks and Recreation will be held Saturday (Oct. 9) in Oak Island. The final registration and captains meeting will be on Friday. 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. This is the first kayak tournament to offer a king mackerel division and information on NCKFA and the tournament is available at www.nckfa.com.
The Rumble on the Tee King Mackerel Tournament will be held October 8 through 10 at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. While they hadn't reached the piers at my deadline, kings had been caught at the nearshore artificial reefs earlier in the week. There were a few slots remaining at my deadline. More information is available at www.oceancrestpier.net.
Another rumble, the Rumble at the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament will be held by the Little River Inlet Fishing Club on Saturday, (Oct. 9). This tournament has checkouts at Little River and Shallotte Inlets, with weigh-in at Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach. Proceeds benefit fisheries projects in the Little River area. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
The October tournament for Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder Series will be held Saturday (Oct. 9) from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. Proceeds from the Top Dog tournaments are used to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children in Brunswick County. For more information visit www.topdoginc.org.
The 60th Annual Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Tournament began Wednesday in Nags Head. The tournament features team overall, session and individual prizes. For more information visit www.nagsheadsurffishingclub.org.