A bunch of North and South Carolinians are in a bad way after Hurricane Matthew, but we were actually pretty lucky along the southern and middle N.C. Coast.  Unfortunately, most of the Outer Banks and many inland counties have been pummeled by excessive rainfall and flooding from the storm. 

I understand a few rivers crested yesterday and last night and more are expected to crest today, but the situation isn't good.  Our last 500 year flood was only 17 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd and this flooding has been deeper and worse in many areas.    

The feelings of awe and helplessness were more real with this storm too as with web cams and people constantly posting pictures and updates on the Internet, folks could see it as it was happening, rather than just seeing the aftermath.  Some of it was downright scary.  This is a prime example of why you prepare for a hurricane, even if you are barely in the Cone of Uncertainty.  The forecasters are usually pretty good, but they can't always predict a storm's track and when it will turn.

If there is a good thing to be taken from this, it is how people have helped each other.  Many families evacuated ahead of rising waters and don't yet know what they will return too, while others already know they have lost everything.  If you are a person who prays, give a special prayer for everyone affected by Hurricane Matthew.  It seems a little odd that people on the coast would be collecting clothes and food for hurricane victims inland, but many churches, civic groups, businesses, and individuals are already hard at it.

All the fishing tournaments scheduled for last weekend were postponed or cancelled.  The list, with the action and their website is the Tournament Tidbit section below.  I've got the basics and suggest checking their websites for the new details.  The NC Troopers King Mackerel Tournament scheduled for this weekend from Jaycee Park in Morehead City has been postponed until next weekend.  Check their website for information. 

I am among the many fishermen that are surprised at how good the fishing has been since the storm.  The inshore action has been good in spite of much of the water looking like day old coffee.  Not all of the runoff has reached the coast yet.  The Neuse River is supposed to crest at Kinston Friday night and the Cape Fear at Wilmington sometime Friday.  It will be another week or more before all the runoff reaches the coast and then it has to dissipate.  Some of the smaller rivers have less effluent and should clear quicker than the big rivers and might be good places to check for a few weeks. 

The water was already cooling, but cooled a little more this week and it was just the right amount to get the fish active and feeding.  If it cools too quickly, it tends to give them lockjaw.  Fishermen who ventured forth caught flounder puppy drum and speckled trout

Bait is active and fish are zeroing in on the bait.  Several fishermen reported mixed schools of pups and specks and not just during the early morning.  They were hungry and feeding all day.

Flounder weren't as widespread, but when you found them, there were usually a few or more.  On high tides flounder were shallow, but as the tide dropped, they moved to deeper water.  There are also flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs and rocks.

I asked several good fishermen about fishing inshore after the storm and received two primary opinions.  One was that live baits would become a premium as they are active and fish are looking for them.  The bait that is moving right now includes mullet minnows, peanut pogies and shrimp, so these are what you should be using for bait. 

The other opinion was that you can cover more water fishing lures and that was the way to go.  This seems to work better as visibility in the water diminishes.  One almost universal suggestion was that when fishing lures in dirty water, it is a good idea to coat them well with scent.  Each tackle shop can suggest their favorite, but a lot of guides like Pro-Cure and they rely on catching fish to make a living.  

Some fishermen also suggested lures with rattles to help the fish locate them in dirty water. 

The large red drum action in the nearshore ocean continues.  There have been large red drum caught from many of the piers from the Outer Banks south, but the hot spot is off Oak Island.  Most of the N.C. piers had no or only minor damage and reopened earlier this week.  Oak Island Pier lost some length, but has reopened.  Ocean Crest Pier is finishing repairs and will open Saturday, October 15.  Several days the big drum moved close enough the surfcasters could reach them.  There is also a regular group of boaters and kayak fishermen chasing them in the first quarter mile or so off the beach. 

The king mackerel and Spanish mackerel must have been pushed a little offshore by Hurricane Matthew and haven't returned yet.  They were biting for all, including pier fishermen, last week, but not so much this week.  However, where the piers are open, there were some willing replacements.

Pier fishermen have been catching a mixture of speckled trout, puppy drum, large red drum, black drum, pompano, bluefish, a few gray trout, and even a couple of good catches of spots at Emerald Isle and Topsail. 

Not many fishermen headed out for kings this week, but there were some biting.  Most of the kings were offshore and the northeast winds that kept the ocean calm along the beach made it get rough pretty quickly as you moved offshore. 

Only a few larger boats headed offshore this week and they found fish.  They were scattered, but the storm didn't push the wahoo and blackfin tuna away.  I haven't heard of many dolphin since the storm, but it is about time for them to head south anyway.  The weed lines are still broken up pretty badly, but rips, color changes, and temperature breaks were holding fish.  There may be a few late sailfish too, but I didn't hear of any this week.

There weren't reports of offshore bottom fish this week, but that's because no one was fishing for them.  Expectation are they weren't displaced and are holding on the rocks and wrecks from 80 feet on out.  A few are sneaking closer inshore as the water cools.  Fishermen can concentrate on grouper or move to a different rock and fill the fish box with beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts and more.  A tip is that if you are catching big grunts, there are probably some grouper close by.

I've only heard one false albacore report this week and it was at Cape lookout.  They might be moving back in quicker, but they probably got pushed offshore with the mackerel.  With the cooler days and cooling water, they should return next week to be the stars of the show at the Cape Lookout Albacore Festival.     

Recreational and Gill Net Flounder Seasons Will Not Close on October 16
In late 2015, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted a Supplement to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan that would require all recreational flounder fishing and commercial gill net flounder fishing to close on October 16, 2016 and not reopen until January 1, 2017.  A suit was filed September 23 in Carteret County Superior Court to prevent the flounder season from closing and on October 6, a Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

At the first hearing,  Judge John E. Nobles, Jr. granted a temporary restraining order until a full hearing could be held.  Nobles, a former partner of the plaintiff's lawyer, Stevenson Weeks, of Wheatly, Wheatly, Weeks, Lupton and Massie in Beaufort, later recused himself and Judge John Jolly, Jr. a Superior Court Special Judge based in Raleigh, presided over the second hearing on October 6 in Carteret County Superior Court. 

Judge Jolly listened to two hours of testimony during the morning session and returned after lunch to announce his decision to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent closing the flounder season.  Jolly's ruling was given pending further orders of the court. 

This injunction prohibits the flounder fishery closures for large mesh gill nets and all recreational fishing that were scheduled to begin October 16.  It also stopped the proposed reduction in harvest for pound net fishermen and the daily reports that were to be required of them. The minimum size limit of 15 inches, minimum mesh size of 6 inches, and escape panels that became effective on January 1, 2016 will remain in effect.  

The suit was filed by the North Carolina Fisheries Association, which represents N.C. commercial fishing interests, and joined by the Carteret County Fishermen's Association, plus Carteret, Dare and Hyde Counties.  It names the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries and all members of the Marine Fisheries Commission as defendants. The 30-page complaint, which was amended on September 30, alleges the management measures enacted by the Marine Fisheries Commission were arbitrary and based on inadequate scientific data using an abbreviated regulatory process and done in violation of the North Carolina Open Meetings Laws. This litigation was specifically aimed at preventing closure of the large mesh gill net fishery, but also prevented closure of the recreational flounder season.

Feds Propose New Cobia Regulations in Hope of Avoiding Closure During 2017
At their September meeting, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council adopted new cobia regulations for federal waters (3-200 miles offshore) for 2017.  The new regulations reduce the bag limits and increase the minimum size in hopes of avoiding a closure during the 2017 season.  However, there are also provisions to close the season if the allocation is caught.

The new federal regulations allow 1 fish per person up to a maximum of 6 per boat, with a 36 inch fork length (tip of lower jaw to middle of fork in tail) minimum size. 

North Carolina currently has more restrictive regulations and the Marine Fisheries Commission will have to decide to stay with the current N.C. regulations or change the lesser limits and larger minimum size to meet the federal regulations.  If N.C. stays with the current regulations, they will in effect become the regulations for federal waters off N.C. also as fish must be landed at ramps and marinas in N.C. waters.  Information on N.C. regulations can be found at www.ncdmf.net and information on federal regulations can be found at www.safmc.net.   

SAFMC to Hold Public Hearing Webinar About Recreational Cobia Changes
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) will hold a public hearing webinar about changes to the recreational fishing season for Atlantic cobia on October 25, 2016 at 6:00 P.M.  The proposed changes would impact management of Atlantic cobia, which extends from the FL/GA border northward to NY.

Coastal Migratory Pelagics Amendment 30 includes one action to change the recreational fishing year for Atlantic cobia.  In combination with the proposed changes to the recreational bag/vessel limit and minimum size limit in Framework Amendment 4 (approved by the SAFMC in September 2016), the change to the recreational fishing year is expected to reduce the risk of exceeding the recreational annual catch limit before participants in all states have opportunities to fish for cobia.

This webinar will be the only public meeting on this.  Registration is required to participate in the webinar and can be done by visiting https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8828138666354489601.

SAFMC staff will provide a presentation on the amendment and provide participants an opportunity to ask questions. Once the Q&A session is complete, staff will open the public comment portion of the hearing and participants will be able to provide verbal public comment via the webinar using the mics on their computer or phone. participants may access the amendment documents and a video presentation in advance by visiting the SAFMC YouTube channel.

Those who cannot participate in the webinar may submit written comments by using the online public comment form, mail, or fax.  The amendment materials are posted to the website and comments must be received by 5:00 P.M. on November 15, 2016.

There is an online public comment form at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf2M4xv4fu3OZdOGLon1xbZZ8Zw8rL8v-CSENu-EKgWsxeSOw/viewform?c=0&w=1.  Comments with letterhead, graphics, images and the like must be mailed or e-mailed.  Fax comments to Gregg Waugh, Executive Director, SAFMC, at 843-769-4520 or mail to Gregg Waugh, Executive Director, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC  29405.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest.  For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.  The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. 

The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head.  The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium is local and others are at Fort Fisher and Manteo.  For more information on the Aquariums and their programs, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select your preferred location.

Wildlife Resources Commission Will Host Public Forum on Alligators
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) and the N.C. Alligator Task Force are holding public forums Nov. 1, 2 and 3 to receive public input on management of American alligators in North Carolina.  Alligator Task force members will consider this input as they develop an alligator management plan. At these meetings, Commission staff will not present proposals for changes in regulations governing alligator hunting.

The locations for the forums, which will run from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. are:
* November 1, Leland Town Hall, Council Chambers, Leland;
* November 2, Swansboro Parks and Recreation, Multi-Purpose Room, Swansboro;
* November 3, Dare County Center, Multi-purpose Room, Manteo.

Gordon Myers, WRC executive director, appointed the 15-member North Carolina Alligator Task Force and charged it with writing an alligator management plan for the state.  Task force members include landowners, homeowners, scientists and WRC staff. The alligator management plan will include:
* Evaluation of all available biological information on alligators in North Carolina;
* Identification of knowledge gaps and additional research needed on alligator population demography, historical changes in alligator habitats, and public attitudes and opinions on alligator conservation;
* Identification of areas where alligators may be over-populated and recommend biological and social strategies to address alligator management issues in these areas;
* Recommendations of geographical management zones;
*Recommendations for metrics to establish the number of permits per year that could be issued for opportunities to harvest alligators by hunting where sustainable and consistent with local alligator population, habitat, and social conditions; and
* Recommendations on a framework for gathering public input on the North Carolina Alligator Management Plan.

Those who cannot attend a forum but would like to offer input can submit their comments to Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program coordinator, at allen.boynton@ncwildlife.org.  For more information on alligators in North Carolina, visit www.ncwildlife.org/conserving.

Tournament Tidbits
The tournaments that were scheduled for the weekend of October 7-9 were all postponed or cancelled.  A list is below, with the new dates and website to check for more information.

October 6-8:  NCKFA Oak Island Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament, Ocean and Inshore Divisions, Ocean View United Methodist Church, Oak Island, www.nckfa.com.  The tournament has been cancelled.

October 7:  Operation North State Peer Fishing Festival, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.operationnorthstate.com.  Event has been postponed, but no date set. 

October 7 - 9:  Fall Brawl King Classic, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.   Postponed until October 29-30.

October 7-9:  Cape Lookout Shootout 3, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.  Postponed until October 29-30.   

October 7-9:  Crystal Coast Surf Fishing Challenge, Atlantic Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  Postponed until October 28-30.

October 8-9:  Rumble on the Tee Pier King Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.  Tournament has been cancelled.

Fisheries Meetings
October 18 - 20:  South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Scientific & Statistical Committee, Charleston Marriott Hotel, Charleston, SC, www.safmc.net

October 23-27:  Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting, Harborside Hotel, Bar Harbor, ME, www.asmfc.org/home/2016-annual-meeting.  

November 16-18:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

December 5-9:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, DoubleTree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront, www.safmc.net.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 1 to October 31: Spanish Mackerel Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.  

September 10 to December 3:  Tex's Tackle Trout and Flounder Tournament, Tex's Tackle, Wilmington, www.texstackle.com.      

October 8-30:  Hook a Hoo Rodeo,  Multiple weigh stations from Atlantic Beach to Murrells Inlet, S.C., www.hookahoo.com.

October 12-15: Swansboro Rotary 50 King Mackerel Tournament, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.     

October 14 and 15:  Bald Head Island Bluefish Bonanza, Delphina Cantina Courtyard, Bald Head Island, www.BaldHeadIsland.org.   

October 14-16:  NC Troopers Association Offshore - Inshore Saltwater Challenge, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.1042KMT.com.  Tournament has been postponed to October 21-23.  

October 16-January 31:  Intracoastal Angler Speckled Trout Shootout Tournament, Intracoastal Angler, Wilmington, www.intracoastalangler.com.  

October 17-November 28:  Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation, Weigh at Reel Outdoors, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.  

October 20-22:  Cape Lookout Albacore Festival, Anchorage Marina, Atlantic Beach, www.capelookoutalbacorefestival.com

October 21-23:  Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, Carolina Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  

October 22:  Jacksonville Speckled Trout Tournament, Casper's Marina, Swansboro, 910-548-FISH.

October 29:  Tammy Baxley Memorial Redfish Tournament:  Surf City Welcome Center, Surf City, www.facebook.com/fishfortammy/?fref=ts.  

October 29:  Cape Lookout Shootout 3, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.  Postponed from October 8.  

October 29-30:  Fall Brawl King Classic, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.  Postponed from October 8-9.

October 29-30:  Crystal Coast Surf Fishing Challenge, Atlantic Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.  Postponed from October 8-9. 

Good fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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