I don’t believe it’s possible to have a fall weekend any nicer than the one just passed. It warmed enough that by Saturday afternoon there were a few fishermen mentioning the heat, but that’s typically a good thing during October. It was a little warmer than predicted, and with the lack of much breeze combined to build some sweat on fishermen who were busy catching fish. Unfortunately, this week has been a lot different, but the winds are forecast to drop out some for the weekend.
We escaped another storm when Tropical Storm Karen fizzled in the Gulf of Mexico over last weekend, but its remnants just won’t leave us alone. The latest report is for them to be gone on Friday and hopefully they are. The weekend forecasts have the rain chances backing out to about 20 percent and the wind tapering down to around 10 to 15 knots, while staying from the north. That will keep the ocean real calm near the beach and there has been lots of fishiness pretty close to the beach.
If you check the forecasts, be prepared to see notices many government agencies are closed. The NOAA Marine Weather website and the National Hurricane Center websites are up and running, but both websites open with an announcement at the top of the pages that they are only still working because they are needed to protect life and property.
Early in the week there were two small areas in the South Atlantic Basin the National Hurricane Center was watching, but as of Thursday that had cleared to one and its probability of development to a tropical depression is considered medium, but then it is to hit wind shear and stall, so there is a good possibility it won’t affect land anywhere. They are no longer tracking the remnants of TS Karen except as the low bringing all this rain.
The cell they are tracking is well across the Atlantic, not too far off the African Coast and several hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. You can follow the progress of this and any tropical weather systems at the National Hurricane Center website (www.nhc.noaa.gov). Mike’s Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) is another website where I find a bunch of tropical weather information. Mike’s Weather Page is also on Facebook.
After the good news that the National Hurricane Center and NOAA Weather are open, there is bad news about the federal government shutdown. Government agencies, including the National Park Service, have been ordered to shut down private businesses that are concessions and lease holders on federal lands. Locally this is the Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras National Seashores. Expanding across the state this reaches the National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most civilian employees at our military bases have been called back to work, but not all.
As this relates to fishing, this includes those folks renting cabins, running ferries, running fishing piers and other businesses on the federal lands. However, this spills over because if fishermen can’t get on the beaches at Cape Lookout, Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands to fish, they don’t need tackle, fuel, food and other supplies, so businesses in the general area are suffering too.
Even Oregon Inlet Fishing Center was ordered to shut down and they have contracts they have already paid. There are reports the National Park Service is also trying to close multiple square miles of open ocean and the Gulf of Mexico around Everglades National Park. With this reasoning, the ocean water from 3 to 200 miles offshore are the federal Exclusive Economic Zone and you have to wonder if they may try to close that too.
My point with this is not to stir feelings; there is enough of that already. I am just trying to make folks aware their vacation, fishing or hunting plans may have been changed without them knowing it. It has already hit close to home with several of my friends that fished on a boat docked at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center last week.
While they were fishing, the captain received a radio call from the marina telling him the marina was closing at 6:00 P.M. and he needed to be back in time to unload his charter and move the boat to another location or his boat would be locked in the marina. If you have plans to travel and fish or hunt and it involves anything with federal land, it would be wise to check ahead and verify your plans.
Fishing is good. Kings are biting just from just off the beach out to around 100 feet of water. The action has been good from east of Cape Lookout Shoals to the S.C. state line. If this cold front cools the water as expected, the kings should move in to around the ends of the piers.
While the water is still warm, king mackerel fishermen are finding a few lost wahoo and dolphin well inshore. The closest wahoo I heard of to the beach was a big one (70 pounds plus) caught at AR 285, just east of Cape Lookout.
Spanish mackerel continue to be around in good number and with lots of larger fish. They should be around for at least a few more weeks, but once the water drops below about 70 degrees, they’ll be headed south pretty quickly. The smaller Spanish (up to several pounds) are hitting lures trolled behind planers and trolling sinkers, while larger ones are holding out for live baits.
There are bluefish mixed with the Spanish macks and more false albacore are arriving almost daily off Atlantic Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Small shiny lures trolled or retrieved quickly are like candy to the fat Alberts.
The weather and sea conditions were nearly perfect last weekend and many fishermen headed offshore. Those who made the offshore trip were rewarded with good catches of wahoo, a good scattering of blackfin tuna, some dolphin and even a couple of yellowfin tuna. Several billfish encounters were also reported.
Offshore bottom fishing is really good right now too. For the first time in several years black sea bass season is open in the fall and there are lots of them around. Beeliners, grouper, porgies and grunts are biting too.
Fishermen bouncing the bottom offshore should keep at least one light line out the back with a live bait or a frozen cigar minnow. The action of the bottom fish going up and baits going down often create some interest from other fish and they get excited and bite. This is an excellent way to add kings, dolphin and even wahoo to the fish box.
Fishermen on the piers are seeing a good mixed catch. There have been a lot of Spanish and bluefish caught from the all the piers, with the best king action from the Topsail area piers. Pier fishermen are also catching some flounder, red drum, sea mullet and a few spots, but the big fall spot run hasn’t happened yet.
Fishermen in the inshore waters are catching good numbers of flounder and puppy drum, with speckled trout action improving steadily. That broken record saying check the mouths of creeks when the tide is falling continues to play. Many different species of fish gather around the mouths of creeks as baitfish and shrimp have to move into larger waters during the lower tides.
After the creek mouths, any other places that concentrate baitfish or channel water flow are good places to look for inshore fish. Typically red drum will be feeding shallower, flounder like to work the edges and drop-offs and trout generally hang out in the deeper water, but will rush up into the shallows to grab some food.
Work the whole area and give it most of a tide before giving up – unless you have a spot you are very confident in nearby. While the water warmed a little last week and over the weekend, it is cooling again and that spurs fish to feed more aggressively. When feeding heavily, puppy drum and flounder will usually hit both live baits and soft plastics, especially the scented ones.
A lot of nice flounder have been caught over the past few weeks. Without giving up anyone’s tops spot, I’ll just say a lot are being caught under docks along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Every time I think the water is cooling enough to get the trout going well, we have a week like last week and warm it back up. I fished in 71 and 72 degree water on Tuesday that was back to 76 degrees on Friday and has only crept down a degree or two so far this week. When the water is warm, trout can be picky and let lures pass. Live baits, especially a shrimp struggling on a hook suspended under a float, usually get their attention better.
As the water cools, trout get less picky and hit a wider variety of lures. Two of the most effective are scented shrimp shapes in soft plastics and suspending hard baits, like the MirrOlure MirrOdines. Trout and redfish can also be teased into hitting topwaters, especially early and late in the day.
Fishermen in the Pamlico Sound and Neuse River are still finding a few scattered large red drum, but that action is about over for the fall. Those fish should show up in the surf between Hatteras Inlet and Cape Lookout over the next few weeks. If you want to chase them, you should be considering a contingency plan for going by boat and casting in to the beach rather than out from it. So far, the national seashore beaches have been closed during the government shutdown. There are also some large red drum holding at many of the nearshore artificial reefs all along the coast.
The final area of inshore state waters will be opening to large mesh gill nets effective Monday, October 14. Other state waters that had been closed reopened last week and the interactions with sea turtles were minimal. On Monday, southern Core Sound, Back Sound and the North River will reopen after being closed since early in the summer. The use of large mesh gill nets (larger than 4 inch stretched mesh) is regulated by an Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit for sea turtles and the agreement of a suit that was filed by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net and red the news story about the Incidental Take Permit.
The southern great white sharks seem to have found the Outer Banks to their liking. Mary Lee has been holding around the inshore edge of the Continental Shelf off Cape Hatteras for a week or more. Lydia is just a little farther north, off Oregon Inlet, and had been a little closer in, but moved back to the edge of the Continental Shelf early this week. You can follow the travels of Mary Lee, Lydia, Genie and other sharks around the world by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
Several MFC Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled during the next few weeks.
* The Nominating Committee will meet October 14 at 3:00 P.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters Conference Room in Morehead City. For more information contact Michelle Duval at 252-808-8011 or Michelle.Duval@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* The Law Enforcement and Civil Penalties Committee will meet October 14 at 4:00 P.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters Conference Room in Morehead City. For more information contact Rex Lanier at 252-808-8130 or Rex.Lanier@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* The Finfish Advisory Committee will meet October 15 at 10:30 A.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact David Taylor at 252-808-8074 or David.L.Taylor@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meeting will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
* There will be a series of three public meetings concerning funding for the observer program required for commercial fishing in specific areas and at specific times, such as in the large mesh gill net fishery. More information on these meetings is available by contacting Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meetings will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The meeting dates, times and locations are:
-October 16 at 6:00 P.M. at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo;
-October 22 at 6:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City;
-October 24 AT 6:00 p.m. at the New Hanover County Executive Development Center in Wilmington.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists who would like to serve on volunteer committees to advise them on various fisheries issues. Two regional advisory committees – Northern and Southern – and three standing advisory committees –Finfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean – review matters referred to them by the commission and recommend management strategies.
Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. There is no pay, but advisers are reimbursed for travel and other expenses related to their official duties.
The MFC chairman appoints committee members for three-year terms and several terms will expire in January. One qualification for serving on an advisory committee is that applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at the Division of Marine Fisheries’ offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by November 1.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule and its associated draft environmental impact statement, which aims to reduce discards of Atlantic bluefin tuna, and outlines measures to help ensure compliance with international quotas. The proposed measures in the draft of Amendment 7 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan are designed to control bluefin tuna landings and dead discards in the pelagic longline fishery, enhance reporting in all bluefin tuna fisheries, and ensure U.S. compliance with binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
While NOAA Fisheries has identified bluefin tuna as a species of concern, they are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries will accept public comments on the proposed management measures through October 23. Electronic comments should be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0101 and click the "Comment Now!" icon.
NOAA Fisheries is also seeking public comments on Amendment 27 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 27 published in the Federal Register on September 18, 2013, (78 FR 57337). Amendment 27 Contains the Following Actions:
* Extending the South Atlantic Council’s management responsibility for Nassau grouper to include the Gulf of Mexico.
* Increasing the number of allowable crew members on dual permitted vessels (vessels that have both a federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Permit for Snapper-Grouper and a South Atlantic Unlimited or 225-Pound Snapper-Grouper Permit) from three to four crew members.
* Allowing captains and crew of for-hire vessels with federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Snapper-Grouper Permits to retain bag limit quantities of all snapper-grouper species.
* Allowing routine changes of catch limits to be modified quickly through an abbreviated process.
* Removing blue runner from the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.
Copies of Amendment 27 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2013/am27/index.html or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Web site at www.safmc.net.
Comments on Amendment 27 must be received no later than November 18, 2013.
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0085 and click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments, or by mail to NOAA Fisheries – Southeast Regional Office – Sustainable Fisheries Division, c/o Kate Michie, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Last week I mentioned Coastal Buoy, 41036, which is located 30 miles offshore of Topsail Island in Onslow Bay. This is one of a series of buoys that provide weather and oceanographic information, such as air temperature, barometric pressure, water temperature, and wave heights, for a range of fishermen, scientists and students. UNCW purchased buoy 41036 from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center and has been paying $40,000 annual maintenance costs, but this year the maintenance cost rose to $60,000 and there isn’t funding for the increase. Without the maintenance funding, the National Data Buoy Center will no longer maintain the buoy and they will have the US Coast Guard remove the buoy.
Buoy 41036 is one of the primary means of providing real-time conditions for fishermen and mariners in Onslow Bay, which runs from Frying Pan Shoals to Cape Lookout Shoals. Concerned fishermen and CORMP supporters are asking fishermen and mariners to contact their N.C. Federal Legislators and ask for continued support of this important buoy. I can’t speak for others, but I support this as Buoy 41036 is what I check for current sea conditions when considering fishing between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear.
The contacts are:
Senator Richard Burr: www.burr.senate.gov/public;
Senator Kay Hagen: www.hagan.senate.gov/contact;
Congressman Mike McIntyre: http://mcintyreforms.house.gov/contact;
Congressman Walter B. Jones: https://jones.house.gov/contact-me/email-me.
Congressman David E. Price: https://forms.house.gov/price/webforms/contact_form.shtml.
The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Oak Island Fall Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament is actually two tournaments (an Ocean Slam and an Inshore Tournament) that will be held from Ocean View United Methodist Church in Oak Island. The Ocean Slam Tournament was scheduled to begin on Thursday, but Thursday’s fishing was postponed because Small Craft Advisories and kayaks in the ocean aren’t compatible. The Ocean Slam Tournament will now fish Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12, if the sea conditions allow. This features an aggregate length of one each of king mackerel, red drum, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and flounder.
The Inshore Tournament fishes on October 12 and features flounder, red drum and speckled trout as individual species divisions, plus a slam division and special categories for lady and youth fishermen. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The Brown Bag Wahoo Tournament will be held from the Morehead City Waterfront on October 12. The captains meeting is October 11 at Jack’s Waterfront Bar. Proceeds will be donated to Hope Mission in Morehead City to benefit those less fortunate. For more information visit www.sensationsportfishing.com.
The CCA Inside and Out Tournament will be held October 12 from Portside Marina in Morehead City. This tournament has division for fishing in the ocean or inside waters and recognizes multiple species of fish. For more information visit www.ccanc.org.
The Davis Island Fishing Foundation Annual Surf Fishing Tournament will be held at Cape Lookout October 10 to 12. This tournament recognizes multiple species. For more information visit www.diffclub.com.
The Ocean Crest Pier Fall Rumble King Mackerel Tournament will be held October 12 and 13 from Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island. Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be secondary species. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier-nc.com.
The Fall Brawl King Classic King Mackerel Tournament will be held October 12 and 13 from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. This is the final of five tournaments in SKA Division 9. Fishermen will be allowed to choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday. For more information visit www.oifishingcenter.com.
The 2013 Martini's Fall Hook-A-Hoo Rodeo will be held October 12 to 27 with multiple weigh stations in Southern N.C. and Northern S.C. from Wrightsville Beach to Georgetown. Fishermen pick one day to fish during the two week event and weigh their fish at the most convenient location upon returning. Proceeds are donated to the Shriners Children’s Hospitals of the Carolinas. For more information visit www.hookahoo.com.
The New Bridge Bank Spanish Mackerel Open that was scheduled for September 28 from Sea Path Marina in Wrightsville Beach has been postponed until October 12 due to the high winds last weekend. This is the first year for this event as a Spanish mackerel tournament. It was held as a king mackerel tournament for several years. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament will be held October 9 to 11 from the Ramada Inn in Kill Devil Hills. This is a team tournament. For more information visit www.nagsheadsurffishingclub.org.
The Swansboro 50 King Mackerel Tournament presented by the Swansboro Rotary Club will be held October 18 and 19 from Casper’s Marina in Swansboro. This tournament is limited to the first 50 entrants. For more information visit www.swansbororotary.com.
The 9th Annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament will be held October 19 through November 2. This event is held each year by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department to honor former dedicated town councilman and fishermen Gordie McAdams. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
The Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge will be held at Carolina Beach on October 19 and 20. This is a multi-species event for surf fishermen. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.