Early October is a busy time for fish and fishermen along the Carolina Coast. The water is cooling, bait is moving and fishing is good from the shallowest flat in the coastal marshes to where the Gulf Stream is pushing up the edge of the continental shelf. The list of species that are biting reads like a who’s who of saltwater fishing, plus there are lots of lesser species too. This is a time to catch all the fish that should be biting, plus some that are complete surprises.
This has been a cool week overall and the water temp has dropped a few degrees. Several of the mornings have been downright chilly, but the days have warmed reasonably well. It feels like fall and that feels good. It appears the fish like it too and have gotten more active and are feeding.
There is lots of action in the ocean right now. Starting offshore bite and working back inshore, it begins with wahoo and blackfin tuna and offshore trollers are catching lots of both. The blackfin are also being caught by stopping over suspended fish marks and jigging. This action is really good right now and should hold until around Thanksgiving. The ride to the Gulf Stream is long, but a fish box full of wahoo and blackfin makes the trip worthwhile.
Offshore bottom fish, especially grouper, are biting well. There are lots of bait thieves and smaller fish closer in, but at about 100 to 115 feet the grouper bite gets really good. There are some beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys too. A grouper and wahoo trip is a great combination, plus provides lots of good meat for the table.
Closer in, the fall king mackerel bite is in full swing and there are lots of Spanish mackerel around too. The kings like live or natural baits trolled slowly, while Spanish are speed demons and can catch fast lures with little problems. Kings have moved as close to the beach as they have been all year. They were caught along the beaches from the Dead Tree Hole to Yaupon Reef in the past week.
Someone caught a king from a kayak on two different days near Bogue Inlet. I’m sorry I don’t know who, I would really like to give them credit. I was sent an unidentified photo of a friend of a friend of a friend……
This weather is just about right for the king bite that happens between the Cape Lookout Jetty and the Rock Barge each fall. The timing is about right too. This should start at any time and should continue for several weeks.
Pier fishermen caught kings during the last week. There were also schools of Spanish and some were larger and hit the king baits, while others were smaller and hit Got-Cha jigs. There were also several nice catches of spots from the piers in the past week. Late afternoon to nighttime and bloodworms was the key to catching spots and several fishermen filled coolers. Other pier catches included flounder, red drum, black drum, speckled trout and bluefish.
Spanish mackerel are biting well all along the coast. Spanish may be anywhere, but the key places to look are around inlets and jetties – places that can concentrate bait. Spanish are feeding and aren’t very picky. They will hit trolled Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons, live finger mullet and peanut pogies and a variety of lures and jigs that can be cast and retrieved quickly. Shiny lures are often an advantage also.
Flounder are biting well, the puppy drum bite is improving, black drum and sheepshead are chugging along and speckled trout are waking up hungry. Seriously, as the water cools the speckled trout are beginning to feed and feed aggressively. It should be a great fall for specks.
If you like to see explosive strikes, this is a good time to fish topwater lures. The trout splash and wallow when they hit a topwater, but red drum are a hoot to catch. Red drum have an inferior mouth that is on the bottom of their head. They have to roll at least on their side to attempt to grab something on the surface. When they do this, they look like a small submarine moving just below the surface. They often miss a time or two and each time they miss, their next strike is more aggressive.
I like MirrOlure Top Dogs and She Dogs and their smaller pup versions for specks and reds. Many fishermen also do well using Zara Spooks, Bomber Badonk-A-Donks and Rapala Skitterwalks. Trout are fun on topwaters, but there is something special about seeing an upper slot red drum roll over and grab a lure off the surface.
When you hook a fish on a topwater lure, be careful handling it to remove the hook. Most topwater lures have at least two treble hooks and a hard shake can find you hooked as well as the fish. As time is of the essence for a released fish to survive, it is also important to work to remove the lure as quickly as possible. These aren’t things that go together well, but please pay attention and be as safe and quick as you can.
If you are a kayak fishermen, this might be just the thing for you. The Third Annual Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament will be held from the Oak Island Moose Lodge in Oak Island on October 13. Final Registration and the Captains Meeting will be Friday, Oct. 12. The Oak Island Classic is presented by the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (www.nckfa.com) in association with the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to the Sea Turtle Preservation Program run by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department (www.oakislandnc.com/recreation).
Much like the parent organization, the NCKFA, The Oak Island Classic has grown dramatically in a short time. The tournament began in 2010 and attracted 68 fishermen and grew to 91 fishermen in 2011. This year the word got out it is a fun and well run tournament where fishermen catch a lot of fish and there are more than 170 fishermen pre-registered,. This makes the Oak Island Classic the third largest kayak fishing tournament on the East Coast. Only Jacksonville, Fla. and Virginia Beach, Va. attract more fishermen and the numbers are closing fast.
For the first two years, the tournament was headquartered at the Oak Island Recreation Center and the plans were to be there again this year. However, when the on-line tournament registration opened at 12:01 A.M. on September 1, the internet was buzzing. Before Labor Day Weekend ended there were already well over 100 fishermen registered. Suddenly Mark Patterson, NCKFA founder, was scrambling to find a facility that would accommodate the still growing number of fishermen.
One of the primary things that attract so many kayak fishermen to the Oak Island Classic is all the ways to win. The winners in all five species categories will receive new kayaks, plus there is also a bounty of $1,000 for breaking the state record for any of the tournament species during the tournament. To help interest the ladies and youngsters, there are special prizes of new kayaks awarded to the Top Lady Angler and Top Youth Angler for the tournament. In the individual species categories, prizes will be awarded through fifth place.
The species eligible for prizes are flounder, red drum, speckled trout, king mackerel and slam, which is the combined length of one fish each of flounder, red drum and speckled trout. All will be CPR (catch, photograph and release) qualified except king mackerel. Fishermen pursuing the inshore species will use public launch sites that are within two miles of Oak Island and all king mackerel fishermen will launch and return from the same beach access.
The NCKFA and Oak Island Classic have grown hand in hand. Each time one moves ahead the other follows. The NCKFA began after Mark Patterson tried to find a group to share information about fishing from kayaks. He was at the coast on vacation in Oct. 2008 and caught two king mackerel from his kayak. Returning home to Greensboro, he tried locally and on the internet to find a group to share the information and story, but there wasn’t one.
After mulling it over for several months, Patterson talked with Will Seeley at Get Outdoors in Greensboro about starting a kayak fishing club and meeting at Get Outdoors. Seeley agreed to try it for three months and NCKFA was born on MySpace and at Get Outdoors. The first meeting was in March 2009 and three people attended.
By June 2009 an average of 30 people were attending the NCKFA meetings and the NCKFA website was started. The club began taking monthly fishing trips to places across the state. Later in 2009, Patterson met with Kellie Beeson of Oak Island Parks and Recreation and discussed his ideas for the Oak Island Classic. Beeson agreed to let NCKFA use the Oak Island Recreation Center for the Oak Island Classic and to support the tournament.
Growth was slow for a while, but in Sept. 2010 the NCKFA reached 500 online members. A coastal chapter monthly meeting was added at Hook, Line and Paddle in Wilmington. The first Oak Island Classic was held in Oct. 2010, with 68 fishermen. Four kayaks were awarded as prizes and king mackerel was one of the featured species. As best it can be determined, this is the only East Coast kayak tournament that includes king mackerel as a tournament species. Kirk Talbert set the tournament king mackerel record of 45 ½ inches during the 2010 tournament.
In January 2011, the NCKFA reached 800 online members and was growing weekly. That year the NCKFA took over the Get Outdoors Heroes on the Water Tournament and renamed it the Battle in the ‘Boro. The Midnight Madness Catfish Tournament, Summer Smallmouth Slam, and Specks and Spots Tournaments were also added. All NCKFA tournaments have a charitable or civic beneficiary. In 2011 the Oak Island Classic participation increased to 91 fishermen, the tournament awarded five kayaks as prizes and NCKFA membership surpassed 1,000.
In June 2012 NCKFA membership passed 1,200 and NCKFA began holding regional meetings at Great Outdoor Provision Company stores across the state. Plans were finalized for the 2012 Oak Island Classic and the Battle in the ‘Boro, Midnight Madness Catfish Tournament, Summer Smallmouth Slam and Specks and Spots tournament continued. Special prizes were added for the Top Lady and Top Youth Anglers of the Oak Island Classic and the number of kayaks awarded as prizes increased to seven.
"I am very impressed with the way the fishermen have accepted and supported the Oak Island Classic," Patterson said. "Each year we have fishermen make the trip from across N.C., plus several drive in from other states."
Patterson said there was discussion of closing the tournament registration at 175, but neither NCKFA nor the Oak Island Recreation Department want to take the chance of not allowing someone to participate who has driven a long distance. Patterson said they would work with the folks at the Moose Lodge as needed to arrange the seating to handle everyone.
Kayaks being awarded as the prizes for the 2012 Oak Island Classic winners include models by Crescent, Hobie, Hurricane, Malibu, Moken and Native.
Patterson stressed there are no membership dues for NCKFA and joining only takes a minute or two on the NCKFA website. NCKFA regional meetings are held at Get Outdoors in Greensboro, Hook, Line and Paddle in Wilmington and Great Outdoor Provision Company stores in Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Information on NCKFA, the regional meetings and all the tournaments is available at www.nckfa.com and at the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association page on FaceBook.
The CCA Inside Out Tournament will be held from the Boat House Marina in Beaufort on Oct. 13. This tournament, which features multiple categories for fishermen in the ocean and inside the inlets, will be dedicated to Capt. Charlie Brown this year and the proceeds will be donated to him to assist with medial expenses. Capt Charlie was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer, but remains in good spirits and tells folks that with the Lord’s help he will make it. A surprising number of people know Capt. Charlie and if you don’t, you should. He is an excellent fisherman, quite a character and a good guy. More information is available at www.ccanc.org.
The Davis Island Fishing Foundation Club will hold the DIFF Surf Fishing Tournament on Core Banks on Oct. 11 to 13. This is a multiple species surf fishing tournament and there are no bridges to Core Banks. Any vehicles taken there must be booked through the Ferry Operators for the Cape Lookout National Seashore (www.nps/calo.com). For more information visit www.diffclub.com.
I received word Thursday that the Fishing for Kimberly Inshore Tournament that was scheduled for Oct. 13 from East Coast Sports in Surf City has been cancelled. The report said there was no plan to reschedule at this time, but there were plenty of T-shirts for sale and the proceeds from them would be donated to the family of Kimberly Batchelor, who is battling brain cancer. For more information visit the Fishing For Kimberly Inshore Tournament page on FaceBook.