These cooler mornings really get me fired up. They get the fish fired up too. There have already been a few mullet runs and some kings have moved up on the beach. The water has dropped a few degrees, with more to come, and the fish are getting more active. The great fall fishing is knocking at the door and ready to come on in.
Red drum and flounder are still biting fairly well and the spots are moving in. The drum are schooling and feeding heavily. Some big flounder are looking for a big mullet minnow around most inlets and along the edges of the channels approaching them. Spots have showed up in good numbers at the Ship Channel and Turning Basin at Morehead City and should be spreading along the entire coast over the next week or so.
Fishermen are starting to catch more speckled trout and there has even been a run of gray trout reported. Specks can be pretty finicky and hard to find at times. Very early mornings and late afternoons have been the times when the trout are most active, but with the cooling water that activity will start to continue all day. While many soft plastics and topwater baits are working to some degree, live shrimp get their appetites fired up best. Remember, we have some new gray trout regulations. The absolute minimum size is 12 inches. If any gray trout in your creel is under 14 inches, then you may only have 4. If all the gray trout in your creel are over 14 inches, then you may keep 10.
The striper activity is near incredible at Manns Harbor. Catching 100 fish in a morning is happening pretty regularly. This is a special management area, with its own season and limits, so verify everything before you go. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries Web Site is at www.ncdmf.net. Right now you can keep 2 stripers per person on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a minimum size of 18 inches.
Due to the anticipation and need to prevent further terrorists attacks, there will be places that we are used to fishing that may be closed to us. Probably the most popular is along the wall at the Morehead City State Ports facility. The port will be under heavy security and an extended perimeter, especially when armed forces vessels are in port. Not fishing here for a while is a small price to pay for the many freedoms we enjoy. If you are approached by a patrolling vessel, please immediately comply with their request.
Surf and Pier
Fishing is good on the piers right now. Spots are making up the bulk of the catch, with flounder, sea mullet (whiting), bluefish, pompano, a few black and red drum, blowfish, sharks, and skates in the mix. There are still some spanish mackerel around, but they prefer those days when the water is clean.
The king mackerel fishing on the piers has picked up. Every day, more baitfish are moving along the beaches, so it is just a matter of WHEN the kings will move in to feed. The kings have been inshore of the sea buoys for a week or so and the pier catch has improved. One day soon it should go ballistic.
There are schools of spanish mackerel and bluefish along most of the NC coast. They are hitting a variety of trolled spoons and casting lures. Your trolling speed is very important here; Troll faster for spanish and slower for bluefish.
Just like on the piers, the king fishing in nearshore waters has been improving each week. With the baitfish moving down the coast, the kings have returned to the nearshore waters to feed on them. Most of the placing kings in last week's US Open King Mackerel Tournament were caught within sight of the beach.
Fat alberts have arrived at Cape Lookout and the surrounding waters. Choose your favorite fly, spinning or casting gear, get a bait in front of them, move it quickly, and hang on. This fishing should get better for a few more weeks and continue into December.
Bottom bouncers have been doing well with sea bass, grunts, snapper and a few grouper. Some wahoo have also invaded this water, while looking for an easy meal. The dolphin are about gone from this area for the year, but the kings will be back through in about another month. A stray wahoo is a good possibility here also.
The first small concentration of large kings showed up off Hatteras in the last few days. Several boats had catches of 30 and 40 pounders. The really big ones shouldn't be far behind.
There are some yellowfin tuna being caught all along the coast, with the best catches being from the Big Rock to the north. While there are still plenty around, the numbers of dolphin in the offshore catches has fallen off a bit. A wahoo or two are also present in many catches and sometimes even a king or two. The Point, south of Oregon Inlet, has been holding some nice bigeye tuna for a while now. Many of these fish are in the 100 pound range or over and will test even the heaviest tackle.
The white marlin are about gone from off Oregon Inlet. Up until this last blow, the Oregon Inlet boats were still occasionally having a double digit day. This action has peaked already, but there are still a few around. The bigeyes can amuse you if the whites leave before you get a chance to go.
Potential Record Catches
There is still no word on the two blackfin tuna catches that were submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record.
A pair of potential state record spadefish have been caught off Southport. One is just a an ounce or two more than the existing record of 8 pounds and 2 ounces and the other is almost a pound larger.
The certification process for a catch to become a state record involves pictures, positive identification, certified scale verification, and more paperwork, which is not yet complete on either.
As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.