The days are still warm, but fall has arrived and is carrying cooler northeast winds. The fall northeast winds usually stimulate the fishing, but this fall they want to blow Friday through Monday and only lay out during the middle of the week. That's good if you live at the coast, but sucks if you don't.
Earlier in the week the weekend forecast looked better, but the wind forecast has increased as the week progressed. The forecast is still for sunny and pretty warm, but a small craft advisory has been posted for Friday into Saturday morning from Topsail ton the north and the winds are just below that to the south. I hate it, but it looks like another bumpy weekend.
Last weekend's weather also carried a small craft advisory and caused the cancellation of a couple of king mackerel tournaments. It wasn't too rough right along the beach, but once offshore a few miles it was really sloppy. Now it appears the forecast is similar for this weekend. I haven't received any postponement or cancellation notices, but it would be wise to check before traveling.
We received the bad news late last Friday we had been expecting regarding black sea bass. Officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have determined the 2011-2012 allocation for black sea bass from Cape Hatteras to Key West will be caught by October 16. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) announced black sea bass season will close on October 17. This allows us to fish for them through this weekend. If you want another mess of them this winter, you should hope the winds lay out on Sunday as forecast. More information on the closure is available at www.safmc.net.
While the black sea bass numbers were being computed last week, I spoke with Dr. Michelle Duval, who is the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries representative to the SAFMC. She said the draft version of a new black sea bass stock assessment was being verified and the preliminary findings were the stock was in better shape than anticipated. Duval, said not to expect the season to reopen immediately, but this could affect future black sea bass seasons and allocations.
Duval said once the draft stock assessment was verified and approved there would be a series of public meetings regarding it. One of those meetings is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14 in North Myrtle Beach and the final will be the first part of the SAFMC meeting Dec. 5 through 9 in Raleigh. The information from the draft stock assessment and the public meetings will be presented to the SAFMC at their Dec. meeting in Raleigh. More information is available at www.safmc.net.
We do have some good news this week! This is very important to those who go to the Outer Banks and residents of the Outer Banks. Highway 12 opened Monday afternoon to vehicle traffic from Nags Head to Hatteras Island. The temporary bridge at the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge Headquarters is completed and the breaches at the north end of Salvo have been filled and paved.
This is an important lifeline to all the villages there and allows businesses to get supplies to the islanders and then have access for tourists and fishermen to come buy them. Visitors should not expect every thing to be repaired yet and some businesses may be closed, but vehicle access to Hatteras Island has been restored and the locals welcome you to go fishing.
The October full moon was Wednesday night and it was bright enough it shined through the clouds. The fall full moon tides are some of the highest tides of the year and fishermen have been reporting seeing redfish chasing shrimp, minnows and fiddler crabs through the flooded marshes since last weekend. That should continue through this weekend also. The tide is forecast to be more than a foot above normal high tide, so you should be able to pole most skiffs across the marsh.
The sight of a puppy drum tail sticking up out of the water is like fishing crack to me. When you see this, you have spotted a fish that is actively feeding. Once it is spotted, you must then get within casting distance without spooking it. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes they are extremely wary. I sometimes find I am holding my breath during the sneak to the fish.
Once within casting distance, it is a matter of dropping a lure or fly in front of the feeding red and getting it noticed without spooking the fish. If he sees it and isn't spooked, he will eat it. Once that happens the deal is on.
During the past week, fishermen reported reds were feeding well in many locations. They will readily cruise a marsh bank or hold in the slack current off an oyster bar. Another great spot is under docks. Some reds were also caught last week in the surf. When you catch one, there are usually others around.
Flounder fishing was good last week too. The hot spots were the port wall in Morehead City and Carolina Beach inlet to Snows Cut at Carolina Beach. Both produced flounder in excess of 12 pounds. Many fishermen also caught flounder to eight pounds incidental to catching red drum and many hit artificials.
While I saved trout for the last of the inshore species, they have become more active during the past week and the reports with trout encounters are increasing. I don't want to make it sound too good, but there were a surprising number of specks caught over the weekend. There were some of the 10 to 13 inch trout that are the young of the year and a positive number of 18 to 20 inchers. Around deeper water in creeks with moving water and structure has been the best trout action.
In the southern end of the state pier fishermen caught a pair of kings over the weekend. Thomas Cutler decked a 14 pounder at Ocean Crest Pier and Mike Long caught a 16 pounder at Oak Island Pier. Both piers are at Oak Island.
Pier fishermen also caught some blues, but not many Spanish this week. Other pier catches include flounder, red drum, black drum, spots, sheepshead, speckled trout, sea mullet and more. Spot fishing is a favorite from the piers and it has become sporadic right now. Some days they bite and some they don't. The water temperature along the ocean beaches is still holding above 70 degrees, but it is slowly cooling.
Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach said the boat fishermen were catching spots best right now. He said the Taylors Creek and Gallants Channel channels around Radio Island and Pivers Island were the best in that area. Similar reports are coming from every area along the coast. Check with the local tackle shops to see where the hot location is in each area. Remember it is illegal to block these channels, so anchor beside them and cast over into them.
In addition to flounder, fishermen in the Morehead City Turning Basin have also been catching sheepshead, gray trout and sea mullet. The sheepshead are holding along the port wall and the bridge pilings. The gray trout and sea mullet are holding along the channel edges, down into the deepest sections, from the turning basin out the channel and through Beaufort Inlet.
The reports of Spanish mackerel slowed during the past week. With the water still holding in the low seventies, I hope that is more a product of the windy conditions than the Spanish leaving for the year. Hopefully they simply moved offshore just a little more than most boats were comfortable in the northeast winds. The Spanish should be around as long as the ocean water temperature remains above about 67 degrees. Live baits should catch larger Spanish, while trolling Clarkspoons should produce more, but smaller, fish.
There have been a couple of calm mornings and fishermen have run to the waters off Masonboro Inlet and around Cape Lookout looking for false albacore. The schools aren't as thick as they should get once the water cools a little more, but they are finding some. False Albacore are cousins in the tuna family and fight well. They like small shiny lures retrieved quickly and are a fun and favorite quarry of the buggy whip fishing brigade.
The past week hasn't been a good time to try unless you have a large boat, but the offshore bite has been good when the ocean was calm enough to go there. The fall wahoo bite is on and many fishermen are reporting double digit strikes and landing up to 10 of them. Wahoo have a bad habit of sometimes charging the boat and the hook seems to just become unattached. Wahoo like large lures and baits.
The other fish in the same areas as wahoo is blackfin tuna and they average around 10 pounds. These smaller fish have some difficulty eating baits intended for wahoo and larger fish, but they try. Sometimes you will catch blackfin on larger baits, but it is wise to carry some smaller baits and lures for when they show up.
As I noted earlier, black sea bass season will close on Oct. 17 and remain closed until June 1, 2012. Other offshore bottom fishing remains good and fishermen will be releasing a lot of black sea bass. There are red mouth grunts and white grunts in good numbers at most rocks and wrecks. Many fishermen don't appreciate grunts as they should. They are willing biters, good fighters and they taste good.
With the black sea bass season closing this early, it is time to learn a lot more about grunts and porgies. Other offshore fish biting well include triggerfish, grouper and beeliners. Beeliner season has a scheduled closing beginning November 1, so if you want some for the winter, you should get them soon.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will meet November 2 through 4 in Atlantic Beach. One of the major points of that meeting will be to discuss the recommendations of the advisory committees and make a decision on a Fishery Management Plan for speckled trout. The recommendations of the committees and information on the November MFC meeting can be found on the MFC website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home.
The Second Annual Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament, presented by the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) and the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department held October 8 is a unique tournament and I want to talk about it a while. This would be a good type of tournament to hold somewhere in Carteret County. I'm not a tree hugger, but think it is good this tournament highlights people powered boats and donates its proceeds to the Oak Island Sea Turtle Preservation Project.
The Oak Island Classic is different from many kayak tournaments as it adds a division for king mackerel in the ocean in addition to the inshore species. Unfortunately the small craft warning for high winds forced the cancellation of this popular division in the tournament. Tournament organizers had been watching the weather all week and had a backup plan ready -- just in case. The Hobie Revolution kayak that was to be the first place prize in the King Mackerel Division became the prize for the largest fish overall and the second and third place prizes were given as additional raffle prizes.
Without the king mackerel division and with the small craft advisory, the ocean was made off-limits to the kayakers and all the fishing moved inshore. The divisions for inshore species included flounder, red drum, speckled trout and the slam, which is based on a combined length of each fisherman's one longest flounder, redfish and trout. With the addition of the Largest Fish Prize, there were five ways to win a new kayak by fishing inshore.
The winners in each division received kayaks donated by the manufacturers. Second place finishers received prize packages that included a WaveSpin Reel and Star Rod, Flying Fisherman Sunglasses and Buff sun gloves. Third place finishers received prize packages based around Bending Branches Angler kayak paddles, Norton Brass Rattler Fish Grippers and Angler Mate fillet knives. There were also several special prizes and more.
While fishermen could keep legal fish if they wanted, the tournament followed a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format where the fishermen took a picture of their catch on a measuring device and then could release the fish. There were concerns with how many fish would be caught in the strong northeast winds, but the 87 fishermen defied all odds. Sure, a few fishermen didn't find fish or had stories about "The one that got away," but the majority of the stories were about catching fish, usually lots of fish. One of the special prizes was the "I Caught Nothing" award and there were only two fishermen who entered that category.
Other special prizes included the Slum Slam (longest pinfish, lizardfish and croaker combined), the Deadly Duo of the longest shark and bluefish, the Stingray Award and all were given and received in fine jest, with miniature stainless steel trash cans as the trophies.
Fishermen began at 7:00 A.M. from public ramps on Oak Island and within two miles of the island on the mainland. There was not a "stop fishing time," but fishermen had to be back at the Oak Island Recreation Center by 4:00 P.M. to turn in their photo cards.
When all the results were turned in and the results were tabulated, two fishermen, Mike Eady and Paul Clarke, were leading in more than one division. The rules allowed the fishermen to select their preferred category and then removed them from the other category so they would win a single prize.
Mike Eady topped the Largest Fish and Redfish Division with a 29 3/8 inch redfish and chose to win the Redfish Division and took home a Diablo Adios kayak. Paul Clark topped the Flounder and Slam Divisions and moved to the lead in the Largest Fish Division with a 27 3/4 inch redfish when Eady chose the Redfish Division. Clark chose to win the Largest Fish Division and took home a Hobie Revolution kayak.
Adam Gilmore topped the Slam Division with a combined 56 inches of one redfish, one trout and one flounder and won a Native Manta Ray kayak. Ryan Sadler topped the Speckled Trout Division with a 19 and 1/2 inch trout and won a Cobra Marauder kayak. Calvin Almond won the Flounder Division with a 24 and 1/2 inch flounder and won a Hurricane Phoenix kayak.
The second place finishers (rod and reel outfit) were Reed Heckert, 22 3/4 inch flounder; Jeff Asher, 17 3/4 inch trout; David Hagerman, 24 1/4 inch redfish (tie broken by time); and Terry Eason, 48 inch slam.
Third place finishers (paddle outfit) were Adam Almond, 20 inch flounder; Mark Smith 15 5/8 inch trout; Rebecca Squires, 24 1/4 inch redfish (tie broken by time); and Jacci Hohnstein, 45 inch slam.
At the Captains Meeting and Awards, NCKFA announced they would be hosting a Specks and Spots Kayak fishing tournament for speckled trout and puppy drum from the Federal Point Ramp at Fort Fisher on November 12. Proceed from this tournament will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Fishing Club at Camp Lejeune. For more information on either tournament or kayak fishing in general, visit www.nckfa.com.
The Kings of the Coast Pier King Mackerel Tournament was held at Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, on Friday through Sunday, October 7-9. Unfortunately the strong northeast winds slowed the fishing and there was only a single king mackerel caught. Spanish mackerel and bluefish were secondary species and second and third prizes were awarded for those catches.
Thomas Cutler caught the only king of the tournament and won the tournament. Cutler's king weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces. The battle behind Cutler was fierce and waged until the final minutes. Bobbi Diaz earned second place with a bluefish that weighed 13 ounces. Jerry Faw caught an 11 ounce bluefish to finish third. For more information visit www.oceancrestpiernc.com.
The Fifth Annual Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament that began on September 24 wrapped up on Saturday, October 8. The two-week tournament, which featured surf fishing for flounder along Bogue Banks, drew 68 participants.
Rich Bauguess of Swansboro was the winner with a 19 inch flounder that weighed 3.60 pounds. Mike Riedel, Emerald Isle, finished in second place with a fat 16.75 inch flounder that weighed 2.23 pounds. Dave Johnson, Emerald Isle, caught a 17.5 inch flounder that was a little on the thin side and only weighed 1.93 pounds to secure third place. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
Douglas Gorchess is the new leader of the 2011 Chasing' Tails Speckled Trout Challenge with a 2.71 pound trout caught last week. The October Wild Card Weight is 3.12 pounds and the fisherman closest to that weight will win a trout fishing outfit, while the overall winner of the tournament will collect some cash and nice prizes. Trout fishing is improving and fishermen may register at any time and registration is ongoing. Participants must be registered for five days before entering a fish. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The 61st Annual Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament began on October 6 and fished through October 8 in Nags Head. This is a team surf fishing tournament that also recognizes individuals. The bite was on and the top two teams caught 100 fish or more.
Slammin' Sammy's Hurricanes of Nags Head caught 170 fish and totaled 337 points to win the tournament. Team members are Sam Stokes, Charlie Griffin, Zack Garcia. Wade Davis, John Smith and Wert Wright.
Second place went to the Rising Tides, Nags Head, who caught 100 fish and tallied 219 points. The Ridge Anglers, Kitty Hawk, caught 92 fish and scored 172 points to finish third.
On the ladies side, the Showstoppers, Nags Head, didn't catch as many fish as the second place team, but scored 128 points with 41 fish to secure the win. Team members are Judy Mullen, Hazel Basnight, Virginia Perlot, Karen Graf, Annah Petty and Yvette Everette.
TW's Mullet Mamas, Kitty Hawk, caught 87 fish, but only tallied 90 points and had to settle for second place. The N.C. Sea Hags, Kill Devil Hills, finished third with 29 points on 19 fish.
On the individual honors side, Zack Garcia, of Slammin Sammy's Hurricanes, caught 44 fish to pace the male anglers, while Ashley Bahen, of TW's Mullet Mamas, led the ladies with 11 fish. Zack Garcia and Sam Stokes, both of Slammin' Sammy's Hurricanes scored 80 points to lead the fishermen, and Hazel Basnight, Showstoppers topped the ladies with 45 points. Frank McCargo, Outer Banks Saltmasters, caught a 25 inch puppy drum, which was the largest scoring fish for the men and Hazel Basnight, Showstoppers, caught a 26.5 inch puppy drum to lead the ladies. For more information visit www.nagsheadsurffishingclub.org.
This was already a busy tournament weekend and a pair of postponed tournament from last weekend add to the hustle and bustle. The Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament that was scheduled for Oct. 7 to 9 from Harbourgate Marina in Little River, S.C. has been postponed until this weekend. It will be held Oct. 14 to 16. This tournament is the fourth of five tournaments in SKA Division 9 and usually runs concurrent with a SKA Professional Kingfish Tour event. Tournament officials said the pro tournament had been cancelled and fishermen could choose either Saturday or Sunday to fish. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
Somehow, I missed the Cedar Point King Mackerel Tournament that was scheduled for last weekend and I apologize. However, I am getting a second chance as the strong winds forced it to be postponed until this weekend. Because this now is on the same weekend as the Swansboro Rotary King Mackerel Tournament, this tournament will allow fishing both events and will accept a weigh receipt from the Swansboro Rotary Tournament.
The Swansboro Rotary Club King Mackerel and Inshore Tournament will be held October 14 and 15 in Swansboro. The inshore tournament features speckled trout. The captains meeting and awards will be at the Swansboro Civic Center, with weigh in at the mainland dock at Hammocks Beach State Park. For more information visit www.kingbluewater.com.
Other tournaments scheduled for the upcoming weekend include the Topsail Island Open Inshore Classic will be held from Soundside Park in Surf City on Saturday, Oct. 15. This is a flounder and speckled trout tournament. For more information visit www.topsailislandfishingclub.com.
The Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge will be held Oct 15 and 16 at Carolina and Kure Beaches and Fort Fisher. This is a multiple species surf fishing tournament with several weigh-in points. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Davis Island Fishing Foundation Club Tournament will be held at South Core Banks Oct 13 through 15. This is a multiple species surf fishing tournament. For more information visit www.diffclub.com.
The Jacksonville Trout Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15 from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. For more information call 910-346-4328.