The temperatures Sunday and Monday mornings were a bit of a shock for most folks, but I was glad to see them. I’m also glad to see the weather moderating back to warm this week. The early forecast for the weekend is for mostly sunny or partly cloudy weather with shifting winds that should be light in the mornings and building to around 10 knots most afternoons. That’s a pretty good forecast and you should get out and enjoy it.
It has been a while and we knew it wouldn’t last and another tropical disturbance has appeared on the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) weather map. Mike of www.spaghettimaps.com and Mike’s Weather Page on Facebook) had been watching a low pressure are that was a little south of this earlier but it dissipated. Late Thursday afternoon the odds of this system developing into a cyclone increased from 30 percent to 70 percent. The models show it turning off into the Atlantic in a few days and passing close to Bermuda, but not the U.S.
The fishing focus over the past week has diversified. Fishermen are finding king mackerel from the piers, near the beaches and offshore. There are lots of wahoo and hungry bottom fish offshore and a growing flounder bite inside the inlets and at the nearshore artificial reefs. There is pretty much something for everyone.
There have been several days with nice ocean conditions and lots of fishermen took advantage and headed offshore. Wahoo are still biting well and there are some scattered blackfin tuna and dolphin around the edge of the Gulf Stream. A sailfish was caught within sight of land off Atlantic Beach.
Offshore bottom fish are also biting well. Several fishermen reported limits of grouper, black sea bass and beeliners and near limits of triggerfish, grunts and other deep water bottom dwellers. With the cooling weather and water, this fishing should continue to be good and maybe even improve a little for several more months.
Spanish mackerel fishing continues to be very good just off the beach. With the water cooling, the days of lots of Spanish along the beaches are numbered. They will move off the beach first and then head south for the winter. It’s all about water temperature and if the weather stays warm, they’ll stay longer, but usually by the end of October or first of November, they’re moving out. The current world and state record Spanish mackerel, which weighed 13 pounds, was caught by Robert Cranton at Ocracoke in early November 1987.
False albacore continue to bite well off Cape Lookout and Wrightsville Beach. They are there in good numbers and several fishermen said they think the average size is increasing. Hopefully the weather stays nice and the water doesn’t cool enough to move them away before the False Albacore Festival in a couple of weeks.
The nearshore spotlight is on king mackerel. The kings are enjoying it too. Fishermen have been catching kings from the piers and at all the local hotspots from the beaches out to 100 feet of water. Several fishermen said the king mackerel fishing was absolutely “off the hook” and they were catching limits in just a couple of hours.
The king bite at the piers took a few days off, but returned mid-week. There is a King tournament at Bogue Inlet Pier at Emerald Isle and several have been caught and more fishermen are chomping at the bit waiting for the weekend king tournament at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island to begin. Unfortunately there are also a lot of hungry sharks around some of the piers and they are grabbing some of the tired kings before they can be gaffed and lifted out of the water. Pier fishermen also caught Spanish mackerel, puppy drum, black drum, flounder, bluefish, false albacore, spots, sea mullet and more.
The spot catches haven’t been red hot, like they get some years, but they appear to be improving. Spots have been caught in the surf, from the piers and also in the rivers and Intracoastal Waterway. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready to catch a bunch and have a fish fry.
Inshore fishing has been excellent too. Flounder fishing has been hot and fishermen are finding a good number of citation size (5 pound minimum) flounder. Some of the flounder were also caught on the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks. The two primary techniques for catching flounder are using live mud or mullet minnows on Carolina rigs or vertically jigging bucktails that are sweetened with a scented soft plastic.
Puppy drum and large drum bit well too. There are puppy drum to overslot size in the marshes and many of the creeks. There are also some larger red drum in the surf and around the nearshore artificial reefs along the southern N.C. beaches. Large red drum are shadowing schools of pogies moving down the beach and usually bite pretty quickly when you find them.
The numbers are dropping, but there are still a few large red drum in the lower Neuse River and around the edges of Pamlico Sound. They aren’t as wide spread as they were a few weeks ago, but there are still a few being caught. The cooling water temps are triggering them to move across the sound and back towards the ocean.
They haven’t moved into the spotlight yet, but the speckled trout bite is improving. One fisherman said they have been there all summer, but were finicky and wouldn’t bite. With the water cooling, they aren’t being as particular which baits they will hit. Live baits are certainly a plus, but trout are hitting hard and soft plastic lures.
Oak Island Classic Kayak
This is only the fifth year of the Oak Island Classic, but it is already the largest kayak fishing tournament in N.C. and one of the largest on the east coast. Participation is limited to 175 fishermen and more than 150 were already registered when I spoke to the tournament chairperson Wednesday morning.
The Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament is a joint effort of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) and the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department. Sea turtles are the big winners each year as proceeds from the tournament are donated to the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department Sea Turtle Preservation Program.
The Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament is actually two tournaments running concurrently. There is an Ocean Slam Tournament that began October 9 and allows fishermen to compete two of the three days until October 11 and an Inshore Tournament that features slam and individual prizes for several species and only competes on October 11.
Needless to say, the Ocean Slam Tournament is very dependent on the sea conditions and weather. This was originally a single day on the same day as the Inshore Tournament, but after being postponed and cancelled two of the first three years, the time window was expanded to allow a better opportunity to have weather suitable for kayak fishermen to be in the ocean.
The Ocean Slam Tournament is for fishermen who prefer to fish in the ocean. It features king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red drum, flounder and speckled trout and the scoring is based on the total length accumulated using one fish of each species. In the interest of safety, all fishermen participating in the Ocean Slam launch and return at the same beach access, which is across from the Oak Island Skate Park at 49th Place East. A final “Go or No-go” call will be made each morning at daylight for the Ocean Slam participants. Oak Island Water Safety provides water patrol and advises on suitable fishing conditions.
The Inshore Tournament is for fishermen who prefer fishing in the waters inside the inlets. This tournament features flounder, red drum and speckled trout. There is a slam division and separate divisions for each species, with special prizes for the largest fish caught by lady and junior anglers. There will also be a host of announced special prizes awarded for certain species and other things deemed appropriate. Scoring is based on the length of the fish. Fishermen pursuing the inshore species may use any public launch sites within two miles of Oak Island.
With the exception of king mackerel, which are almost impossible to measure and release alive in a kayak, both tournaments follow a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format. Fish will be photographed on tournament approved measuring boards so the length can be verified and a tournament issued identifier must be in the picture.
The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) is the group behind the Oak Island Classic. NCKFA was founded in 2008 by Mark Patterson of Greensboro as an Internet-based organization for kayak fishermen to discuss their interests, exchange information and ideas and plan fishing trips with others of the same interest. There is not a membership fee or dues to join the NCKFA. Joining takes a minute or so at the NCKFA website (www.nckfa.com) and no personal information is required.
Taking time to join the NCKFA allows access to the rest of the website and forums about all aspects of kayak fishing. There are more than 3,000 members of NCKFA and several areas have formed regional chapters and hold monthly meetings.
While the Oak Island Classic is its largest undertaking, the NCKFA hosts outings and several other kayak fishing tournaments across N.C. to raise funds for groups like Heroes on the Water, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Wounded Warriors and Military Appreciation Day. The next event after the Oak Island Classic is the Specks and Spots Tournament at Fort Fisher on November 8. For more information on the tournaments or to join NCKFA, visit the NCKFA website at www.nckfa.com.
Final registration for the Oak Island Classic will be at the beach access at 49th Place East before launching for the Ocean Slam on Thursday and Friday and at the Captains Meeting at Ocean View Methodist Church Friday afternoon for the Inshore Tournament. There were a few openings remaining Patterson expected to fill Friday afternoon.
This is a tournament where participants expect to catch king mackerel and large red drum, plus numerous other species, from their kayaks. The ocean launch location is between the ocean piers at Oak Island and in an area where fishermen have been catching lots of both for two weeks. The pier fishermen have been catching cobia too and several of the top fish for the Rumble in the Jungle and US Open King Mackerel Tournaments came from in this area. The inshore species are biting well too and there should be some notable catches on a strong leader board.
Peer Fishing Festival
and MAD 9 – Southport on Oct. 17-18
The Peer Fishing Festival is open to the first 275 disabled vets and Wounded Warriors and their caretakers. Operation North State needs volunteers familiar with pier fishing to assist with the program that will run from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. The program will include fishing, lunch, snacks, prizes and more. Those interested in volunteering can get more information at www.operationnorthstate.com or by calling Steve Saunders, manager of Ocean Crest Pier, at 910-278-6674 or 910-540-2878.
Military Appreciation Day 9 was scheduled for September 20 from Southport Marina in Southport, but was postponed until Saturday, October 18, because of gusting winds. With the delay, there is still time to volunteer to assist with the day. Volunteers with boats who would like to take the troops fishing are needed, plus volunteers for the shoreside duties of setup, takedown, registering troops in, preparing and serving the meal, and even cleaning fish. This is a project of the Military Appreciation Day organization (www.militaryappreciationday.org) based in Charlotte through the Military Appreciation Day – Southport Chapter and assisted by volunteers from across N.C. and beyond. It is simply a day of saying thank you by taking members of the active duty military fishing.
MAD events are all-volunteer events and any assistance is appreciated by the organizers and the troops. Even if you have limited time, there are ways to help. Those interested in being a part of MAD 9 can visit the website at www.militaryappreciationday.org for more information and to register as a volunteer. I’ve been volunteering at MAD events for a handful of years now and highly recommend it. It’s a day you won’t forget. I’m pretty sure I have as much or more fun than the troops I take fishing.
Commission Calls Special Meeting
Commission members called this meeting to review various laws and rules that govern its actions. The commission will also discuss guidelines and authorities pertaining to fishery management plans, proclamations and actions that could conflict with existing laws, rules or processes. An agenda is available under the public meetings tab at www.ncdmf.net. For more information, contact Marine Fisheries Commission Liaison Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
This rule is administrative in nature and establishes new criteria for determining when red snapper, blueline tilefish, gag, black grouper, yellowtail snapper, vermilion snapper, red porgy, and greater amberjack are overfished. Establishing a new threshold for determining whether or not the above species are considered overfished is expected to prevent the need for restrictive management actions when reductions in the population are due to non-fishing related factors i.e., naturally occurring events such as weather or water temperature shifts.
Regulatory Amendment 21 redefines the minimum stock size threshold (MSST) for red snapper, blueline tilefish, gag, black grouper, yellowtail snapper, vermilion snapper, red porgy, and greater amberjack as 75 percent of spawning stock biomass at maximum sustainable yield (SSBMSY). The MSST is used to determine if a species is overfished. Redefining the MSST for these species will help prevent species from being designated as overfished when small drops in biomass are due to natural variation in recruitment or other environmental variables such as storms, and extreme water temperatures, and will ensure that rebuilding plans are applied to stocks only when truly appropriate.
The Framework Action and the final rule may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2014/reg_am21/index.html.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comments on a proposed rule to list Nassau grouper as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule filed in the Federal Register on September 2, 2014 (79 FR 51929). Currently, harvest and possession of Nassau grouper is prohibited in all U.S. waters, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, some countries have restrictions on harvest, including size limits and seasonal closures.
The proposed rule is based on key conclusions from a Biological Report and the Extinction Risk Analysis conducted by NOAA Fisheries. The results of the comprehensive status review are as follows:
(1) The species still occupies its historical range made up of a single population over a broad geographic area, (historical range means areas where Nassau grouper were typically found);
(2) The species possesses life history characteristics that increase vulnerability to harvest;
(3) The species forms large spawning aggregations, (spawning aggregations are areas where large numbers of fish come to reproduce); spawning aggregations are declining in size and number across the species' range;
(4) Current regulations and/or lack of law enforcement throughout the species' range are not effective in protecting Nassau grouper or their spawning aggregations;
(5) The combination of vulnerability to harvest, life history characteristics, and a lack of regulations and/or law enforcement indicate that the species is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
For more information on the listing process, please visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/listing_petitions/faqs/index.html.
Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by no later than December 31, 2014 to be considered by NOAA Fisheries. Electronic copies of the proposed rule may be obtained from the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office's website. The biological report is also available at the same webpage.
Comments may be submitted electronically by visiting the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and entering docket number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0235 into "Search" box. Select the appropriate title, and click "Submit a Comment," which will display the comment web form. Attachments up to 10 MB will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Jason Rueter – NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office – Protected Resources Division – 263 13th Avenue South – St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.
Commission Seeks Advisers
In addition, the commission is seeking a commercial pound net fisherman to serve on the Sea Turtle Advisory Committee. Advisory committee applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. Advisers will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
The Marine Fisheries Commission chairman appoints members to these committees for three-year terms, and several terms will expire in January. Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at Division of Marine Fisheries’ offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications should be returned by Nov. 1 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557, Attention: Nancy Fish.
October 14: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Finfish Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Jason Rock at 252-948-3875 or Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey Knight at 252-948-3871 or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.
October 16: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Shellfish/Crustacean Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Craig Hardy at 252-808-8046 or Craig.Hardy@ncdenr.gov or Mike Marshall at 252-808-8077 or Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov.
October 23: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, 10:30 A.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
October 27 to 30: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting, Mystic Hilton, Mystic, CT, www.asmfc.org.
Club Meetings and Events
September 1 to Dec 31: Chasin’ Tails Outdoors Speckled Trout Challenge, Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
October 6 to 10: Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament, King mackerel, Bogue Inlet Pier, Emerald Isle, www.bogueinletpier.com.
October 9-11: North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Oak Island Classic. Multiple species (inshore and ocean), Ocean View United Methodist Church, Oak Island, www.nckfa.com.
October 10 to 12: Fall Brawl King Classic, King mackerel, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.
October 11: Cape Lookout Shootout Tournament 3 of 3, King Mackerel, Boat House Marina, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.
October 11: Redfish Shootout Series Championship Tournament, Redfish, Fulcher’s Landing Boating Access Area, Sneads Ferry, www.redfishshootoutseries.com.
October 11 and 12: Rumble on the Tee King Tournament, King Mackerel, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
October 15 to 18: Swansboro 5-0 King Mackerel Tournament, King mackerel, Saltwater Grill, Swansboro, www.swansboro50.com.
October 17: Peer Fishing Festival, Pier fishing for Vets and Wounded Warriors, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.operationnorthstate.com.
October 17 to 18: CCA Inside Out Challenge, Multiple species, Portside Marina, Morehead City, www.ccanc.org.
October 17 to 18: NC Troopers Association Offshore – Inshore Saltwater Challenge, Multiple species, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.1042KMT.com.
October 17 to 19: Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, Multiple species, Island Tackle and Hardware, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.
October 18: Neuse River Backwater Open, Multiple Species, Lawson Creek Park, New Bern, www.NRBWO.com.
October 18: Fish For A Friend Inshore Tournament, Flounder and red drum, Inlet Watch Yacht Club, Carolina Beach, www.fishforafriend.net.
October 18: Military Appreciation Day 9 – Southport, Fishing for active duty service men and women, Southport Marina, Southport, www.militaryappreciationday.org.
October 18 – November 29: Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Speckled trout, The Reel Outdoors, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.org.