The ocean may have a reddish brown tint from all the fresh water running down the rivers into it, but the fall king mackerel have arrived. The push of fresh water has flushed loads of baitfish out into the ocean and cooled the water a few degrees and the kings have responded. There were a few kings caught from Ocean Crest Pier and boats fishing around the Cape Fear River Channel and Yaupon Reef last week, but on Saturday the kings moved in and bit everywhere. Boat fishermen and anglers on both piers had excellent king reports.
They look off color through the heavily tinted water, but make no mistake, the kings are off the Cape Fear River and Oak Island and they are hungry. Most experienced fishermen had said the fall fishing was running a week or two late and that indeed seems to be the case. The king action should be excellent for the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament that was postponed until this weekend. Now if the weather will just cooperate.
Just two weeks ago the water temperature was in the low 80s and the nighttime temperatures had just begun to cool. Certainly all the rain was a major factor in this, but two weeks later the nights have been cool, with one or two dips even into the 40s, and the days have been cool to seasonable and the water has cooled to around 74 degrees. This is ideal for fall fishing and has excited the fish some and got them feeding. If the fresh water will go ahead and work its way through, the fishing should fire up to that fall frenzy we have been anticipating. The good news is that the fishing is already better than many had feared after all the rain
The spots haven't really arrived yet, but fishermen are testing the waters with everyone hoping to hit the front end of the run. There are enough moving through to make it a worthwhile day fishing for them, but the run that produces overflowing coolers hasn't hit yet. This may be the week the spot run leaps into overdrive.
You can see the spot fishermen lining the piers and the number of empty trailers at area boat ramps is up. Two favorite spots for spot fishermen in the Southport-Oak Island area are around the entrance to the Coast Guard Channel near Fort Caswell and in the stretch of Intracoastal Waterway between Lockwood Folly Inlet and Lockwood Folly River. When the run hits, the word will spread incredibly fast and the crowds at these spots will grow from the couple of dozen boats to around a hundred. Fishermen should remember to anchor out of the channel and cast over into it.
Spot fishing is pretty basic. A two drop bottom rig is standard, with some enthusiastic fishermen adding a third hook. Personal preference is for a plain rig or a beaded one. The preferred hooks are Eagle Claw 072 or 066 series in size 4. The difference in the hooks is the material, with the 072 being bronze and the 066 being stainless steel. This is an extra long shank hook, with a slight offset. A couple of ounces of sinker will usually hold it in place well. Bloodworms have long been the favorite spot bait, but Fishbites and Blurp synthetic bloodworms have produced well for the past few years.
In addition to the kings and spots, pier fishermen are catching flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, puppy drum, speckled trout, whiting, black drum and more. The numbers aren't huge, but the bite is steady and increasing. Mullets from large finger to corncob size are moving down the beach and wherever they are is a good place to fish. This will be a little farther out on lower tide stages and just off the beach on high tide. On the high tide, the mullets are moving close enough to catch in a cast net from the beach.
Spanish mackerel are being caught around the inlets, along the tide lines a little farther out the inlets and along the beaches. Trolling with Clarkspoons is a popular and productive way to catch Spanish, but live baiting them using trout tackle is a load of fun and usually produces a little larger class of fish.
Some folks prefer a live bait Spanish rig with two hooks, but I feel I catch as well with a single size 6 treble hook that is inserted just below the dorsal fin. A foot or so of light wire (number 2, 3 or 4) protects against their sharp teeth and then a small swivel to tie to the line. This can be fished drifted back in the current or suspended under a float. A three pound Spanish will make a trout reel sound off and a five pounder is a real handful.
The deluge of rainwater has negatively affected the inshore fishing the most, but the fishing is holding up surprisingly well. When you have the amount of rain we did in such a short time, it goes everywhere. I have checked a few places well up creeks that aren't affected in a typical downpour and they are all reddish brown from all the fresh water.
I don't want to overrate the inshore fishing, but it is better than most folks had anticipated after all the rain. There still aren't reports of good trout catches, but flounder and puppy drum fishermen are finding a few spread along. There doesn't seem to be a particular pattern either. They are in places you would normally think to find them, but not in big numbers. Hopefully the bulk of the rainwater runoff has passed this week and the water will begin clearing. I believe the fishing will become more productive then.
I spoke with several folks who were planning to take advantage of the good weather and head offshore over last weekend, but I only heard from one of them after the trip. Joe Seegars said he had a great trip catching four wahoo, three blackfin tuna, several skipjack tuna and bailing 21 dolphin. I know he caught some dolphin as I had some of it for dinner Monday night--and it was good! Everyone knows you don't give away dolphin unless you have plenty, so I believe he had a good catch. Thanks!
Even with the fresh water running out the inlet, the large drum bite at Little River Inlet continues. The reports have them outside the jetties and scattered between them. The mullet in the surf are about perfect size for bait. If you make this trip, you will need a South Carolina License. While it is less than 100 yards for the north jetty, the jetties are in S.C. You can launch under the bridge at Ocean Isle, under the bridge at Little River/North Myrtle Beach or run down the beach in the ocean.
I mentioned kings a little earlier, but want to highlight them some more. King mackerel are the "everyman's game fish" for N.C. and our Cape Fear Coast is one of the hotspots. The pier king fishing here is some of the best anywhere and the nearshore bite can be exceptional at times. The fall run is one of those times.
The U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament is scheduled to be during the king run, but had to be postponed this year because of the flooding and small craft advisories issued with the passing of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. That postponement may prove to be a blessing in disguise. We certainly could have done without the flooding, but the delay positions the tournament again right in the middle of the fall bite that was delayed a couple of weeks by Mother Nature. Fishermen in the tournament should find kings from the beaches out to Frying Pan Tower.
We had a fishing first at Oak Island on Saturday. The Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament held there included a king mackerel division and Kirk Talbert of Hampstead won it with a 45 1/ inch king. This was definitely a first for N.C. and tournament organizers said they could find no record of a kayak tournament with a king mackerel division ever happening previously. Kings are occasionally caught by kayak fishermen, but this was the first tournament.
Talbert said he began the day trolling two baits, a ballyhoo and a finger mullet. About an hour into the tournament he caught a nice Spanish mackerel on the mullet and got a little adrenaline spike. Once the power boats began running up and down the beach, he moved inshore to where they were catching bait and caught another nice Spanish.
Talbert said his first strike on the ballyhoo was a feisty bluefish that he decided to put back out as a live bait. The light wind had switched to the southwest by late morning and he began paddling out and letting it drift him back in. Some time after 1:00 he decided he would begin working back towards the check in/out point, which was at the Cabana at Southeast 46th Street. He was between the check point and Yaupon Pier and said paddling into the breeze was a little worrisome with his baits, so he shortened the bluefish up to about 20 feet behind the kayak and left the mullet long.
Destiny came calling on that paddle back. "I was just paddling along and suddenly the rod with the bluefish slams back in the holder and I turned just in time to see my float disappear," Talbert said. "Then the line screams off my reel toward the outside and I watch as 300 yards of line melts down to the point that I can see the spool.
"I started to work the fish toward the boat and it seemed like it took forever to get the line back," Talbert continued. "I had so much line out I was afraid that a power boat might come between me and the fish."
Talbert said about 40 yards from the boat the fish crested a wave and in the brown water it made it look brown and he wondered if it might be a shark, even though it was fighting like a king. He didn't give up and when he worked the fish close to the boat he got a good look and could see it was a large king.
However, this was just the beginning of the end and the drama didn't end quickly. The king was still very much alive and hooked in the side near the pectoral fin. Talbert said every time he could get the leader to the rod tip, the king would strip out line and stay beyond the range of his three foot gaff. He said this continued for at least a very tense 10 minutes before the tired king allowed itself to be lead within gaff range.
"As soon as I gaffed him and lifted him in the boat, I secured him and began to paddle back to the launch," Talbert said. "I was way relieved to finally get him on the sand."
Congratulations Kirk! Job well done.
On the hunting side of things marsh hen season is open and the big tides of last week were just what the hunters ordered. They will get another opportunity next week as the moon builds to full on Saturday the 23rd.
Muzzleloading deer season (Eastern N.C.) will be closing on Friday (Oct. 15), but gun season will be opening on Saturday and continues through January 1. Deer may also be taken by bow and arrow during the muzzleloading season. Several small game seasons will be opening on Monday and hunters should check the Regulations Digest or Wildlife Resources Commission website, www.ncwildlife.org, for the latest information.
NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on Amendment 17B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Amendment 17B establishes annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for nine snapper-grouper species including speckled hind, Warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, golden tilefish, black sea bass, red grouper, gag grouper, black grouper, vermilion snapper, and red snapper.
Amendment 17B would also specify management measures intended to address overfishing, including a prohibition on harvest and retention of snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper, beyond 240 feet in federal waters of the South Atlantic. This species prohibition is intended to prevent incidental catch of speckled hind and Warsaw grouper which have a designated ACL of zero.
Written comments on this amendment must be received no later than November 22. Electronic copies of Amendment 17B may be obtained from the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
Comments may be submitted electronically through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, http://www.regulations.gov, by entering ANOAA-NMFS-2010-0091" in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ASelect or by mail to Kate Michie--NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 or by fax attention of Kate Michie at 727-824-5308.
The remaining N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings for October include:
* October 19, 10:30 A.M., MFC Nominating Advisory Committee, DMF Central District Office, Morehead City;
* October 21, 6:00 P.M., Central/Southern Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, NCDENR Regional Field Office, Washington:
There will be public comment periods at these meeting. For more information on the meetings visit www.ncdmf.net or call 1-800-682-2632.
The Oak Island Classic Kayak Tournament, hosted by the N.C. Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) and Oak Island Parks and Recreation was held Saturday Oct. 9, at Oak Island. This tournament featured inshore divisions for trout, flounder and red drum, plus an ocean division for king mackerel. The 45 participants came from as far north as Chesapeake, Va., as far south as Hilton Head, S.C. and inland to Fleetwood and Sparta in the N.C. mountains. Proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program.
As noted earlier, Kirk Talbert, Hampstead won the King Mackerel Division with a 45 1/2 inch king. While several others were hooked, this was the only king landed. Jason Nall, Southport, won the Redfish Division with a pretty 29 1/4 inch pup. Celia Norwiki, Sanford, was second with a 23 3/4 inch drum and Corbin Bruton, Southport, was third with a red that measured 17 3/4 inches.
Bill Page, Southport, won the Trout Division with a pretty 18 inch speck. Michelle Little, Sanford, was second with a speck that measured 15 3/4 inches and Isadore Johnson made the trip from Eden to catch a 15 3/8 inch speck and finished third.
Kaleb Dutil, Leland, had an excellent day on the water. He caught a 22 1/4 inch flounder to win the Flounder Division and anchor his winning Slam Division total of 49 inches. The Slam division was the combined length of three fish (1 flounder, 1 trout, 1 redfish). Ken Butler, McLeansville, finished with the second largest flounder at 19 7/16 inches and Paul Clarke, Wilmington, finished third with a 16 7/8 inch flounder. Wayne Stirewalt, Kannapolis, landed the only other slam and scored second place there with a total of 34 1/2 inches.
Keith Owens, Troutman, won the raffle for the Red Fish wrapped Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 kayak. Species divison winners were awarded kayaks from Heritage, Hobie, Hurricane and Native, while others received kayak accessories. For more information about the tournament or kayak fishing in general, visit www.nckfa.com.
The Rumble on the Tee King Mackerel Tournament was held October 8 through 10 at Ocean Crest Pier. This was a winner-take-all format tournament and Peggy Groneman won $1,000 for catching a 32 pound, 1 ounce king. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
Due to the highly stained water from all the runoff after the heavy rains of two weeks ago, the October tournament for Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder Series was cancelled. For more information visit www.topdoginc.org.
Another rumble, the Rumble at the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament was held by the Little River Inlet Fishing Club on Oct. 9. This was a bit of a rumble too as the top three places were all within half a pound. Also impressive was the fact that more than 60 of the 102 boats weighed kings.
The In 2 Deep, with Capt. Kevin O'Neale and crew won with a 34.77 pound king that also garnered Top Lady Angler honors for Michelle Stroud. Only a quarter pound behind at 34.52 pounds was the Keeping It Reel. Another quarter pound back was Chad Morris and The Sea Horse crew 34.29 pound king that also won Top Junior Angler honors for Madison Morris.
The top 23 Foot and Under boat was the Miss Janelle, with Capt. Chris Dawson and crew. Their fish weighed 31.28 pounds. The Top Senior Angler was Terry Grantham, Captain of the My Three Sons, who caught a 33.40 pound king. Proceeds benefit fisheries projects in the Little River area. For more information visit www.littleriverfishingclub.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament fished Oct. 4 through Oct. 8 and no kings were caught. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The Swansboro Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament was held Oct. 9 in Swansboro. Proceeds are used for Rotary projects in the Swansboro area. Mike Williams and Gordon Dunn on the Release paced the 113 boat field with a king that weighed 46.74 pounds. Second place fell to Matt Gay and Vernon Jones on the Southern Bale with a 43.78 pound king. The Ocean Isle Fishing Center Fishing Team of Rube and Barrett McMullan finished third with a king that weighed 41.96 pounds.
The Class of 23 was won by Bert and Margaret Ferebee on the Second Catch with a 21.58 pound king. The Top Lady Angler was Renee Wallace, who fished on the Rugman and caught a 27.64 pound king. Brandon Mitchell fished on the Triple Trouble and earned Top Junior Angler honors with a 24.70 pound king. For more information visit www.swansbororotary.com.
The Swansboro Rotary Inshore Tournament was held in Conjunction with the king mackerel tournament. Twelve boats signed up for the event, which featured speckled trout. Jake Gainey of Hubert won the event with an aggregate weight of 9.34 pounds. Richard Peterson of Swansboro was second and his catch weighed 7.48 pounds. Third place went to Robert Hall of Hubert and his trout weighed 6.76 pounds.
Several tournaments are on tap for this weekend, but the one with the most local importance is the rescheduled US Open King Mackerel Tournament. Final Registration and the Captains Meeting will be Thursday (Oct. 14) at Southport Marina with fishing on Friday and Saturday. For more information visit www.usopenkmt.com.
A pair of surf fishing tournaments are scheduled with one at Pleasure Island (Carolina and Kure Beaches and Fort Fisher) and the other at Davis Island (Cape Lookout National Seashore). The Davis Island Tournament will be Oct. 14 to 16 and more information is available at www.diffclub.com. The Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge will be Oct. 15 to 17 and more in formation is available at www.fishermanspost.com.
The Carolina Kingfish Classic will be held Oct. 16 at Sneads Ferry. For more information visit www.carolinakingfish.com.
The Calcutta Wahoo Challenge that was originally scheduled for Oct. 13 to 16 from the Morehead City Waterfront has been rescheduled to Oct. 27 to 30. For more information visit www.calcuttawahoo.com.