I thought the weather had thrown us a few curves this fall, but this latest is the most unique yet. This time we got cold enough I wore my high-tech snuggie top one day to stay warm. Then there was the rain. We may have a little more rain today (Friday), but we are supposed to be clearing up for the weekend. The forecast even has us back to 70 degrees by Tuesday. I hope the fish don't get any more confused than me.
The good news is the water has cooled a few degrees this week and the northerly flow has allowed the nearshore water to clean up. It was 74 degrees at Bogue Inlet Pier on Monday and had dropped to 72 degrees by Wednesday. It may have fallen another degree or two by the time this is printed. The cooling water has gotten some fish excited and the fishing is generally good. There are just those occasional periods when the fish stop biting as the weather changes.
The pier fishing is generally good and is exceptional at times. The spot bite has been on and off, but this cooling should help with that. They have been catching nice size spots, but haven't yet seen any of the big yellow belly one. This cooling may be just what is needed to bring them out. Other fish being caught from the piers include kings, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, sea mullet, flounder and puppy drum.
The Spanish mackerel fishing has been excellent for weeks but it slowed a little earlier this week. Some folks think the cooling water may have the Spanish numbers thinning out as they begin to move back south. Others think they should still be around for a few more weeks. Some of the best Spanish fishing has been just a little off the beach around AR 315 and AR 320 at Morehead and the old Sea Buoy at Southport. There have also been good catches from the buoy at the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty out to Cape Lookout Shoals. Some of the Spanish are big enough they are eating menhaden intended for kings.
Speaking of kings, the nearshore king bite fired off again late Sunday afternoon. They were up and down the beach off Shackleford Banks and from the Cape Lookout Jetty out to the Rock Barge at Cape Lookout and from between the beach and Yaupon Reef out to Lighthouse Rocks at Southport.
While the bite has slowed some with the unstable weather of the past week, wahoo continue to be the primary catch for the offshore boats. There are also some blackfin tuna, occasional dolphin and a few very scattered billfish. The wahoo bite has been spread from the 100/400, south of Cape Fear, to a little northeast of the Big Rock, off Cape Lookout. Yellowfin and bigeye tuna are being caught north of Cape Hatteras.
In both the catch and the number of boats, the spot fishermen have taken over the inside fishing. These spots have been running a little smaller than the ocean spots, but that could change at any time. Bloodworms and synthetic bloodworms on double drop rigs is all you need to catch spots.
The cooling water has speckled trout, red drum and flounder really active in inside waters. There were several really big flounder caught this week. Several came from along the wall at the state ports. Other flounder are also being caught well near the inlets and on the nearshore ocean reefs.
The specks were already biting well, but have gotten a little better this week. Marsh points or oyster rocks in creeks or islands that deflect the flow of the current are good places to find specks. Remember the minimum size for speckled trout increased to 14 inches on October 5. You can still keep 10, but they have to meet the new minimum length. Live shrimp are the hot bait for specks. In Morehead, a favorite local way to use live shrimp is to impale them through their horn onto a jig head and fish them along the bottom. In Southport, the favorite local ways to fish shrimp is suspended under a cork and fished a foot or so above the bottom.
Puppy drum are also spread all along the coast. Some larger pups are just outside the breakers along the beaches and are feeding on all the baitfish moving along the beaches. Many folks find finger mullet to be good baits for these drum. They will also hit a variety of lures, especially soft plastic jerkbaits. Some flounder and bluefish are also mixed with the drum. Red drum are also in the marshes and creeks in inside waters.
Some sea mullet and gray trout are also being caught in the Turning Basin and Beaufort Inlet Channel. Some will be out in the deeper areas, but most are holding along the drops at the edges of the channels. At night the grays move under the lights of the bridges and feed on the baitfish and shrimp that gather there.
Some gray trout are also being caught at Johns Creek Rock, Sheepshead Rock, the WOFES and AR 425 (Yaupon Reef). Jigging Sea Darts, Stingsilvers and speck rigs is a good way to catch grays.
I had the opportunity to visit with one of the NASCAR drivers again this week. I shot sporting clays at Primland with Kurt Busch on Wednesday and in spite of having to endure a cold rainy day, we had a good time. Kurt is one of the drivers that remains in good championship contention in the Sprint Cup Chase. He is also an outdoorsman who shoots clays to relax and re-focus. He shoots pretty well and said he has become an avid hunter. He even told one story about bear hunting with his bow between races.
The sporting clays event was a social/promotion for the Tums Fast Relief 500, coming October 25 at Martinsville Speedway. Spokesmen for the speedway were in attendance and said they had reduced the price of many seats to make it more easily affordable for the fans and there were seat remaining for as little as $25. You can check out the locations and availability at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
Assuming you are a fishermen to be reading this, if you are also a hunter, shooter or golfer you should also check out Primland. It is a 12,000 acre country club with skeet and clay ranges, plus fishing and upland bird, turkey and deer hunting. They also have a beautiful and challenging golf course that wraps around the mountain. Primland is just a few miles across the Va. line above Greensboro and Winston-Salem and the mountain rises to about 3,000 feet. Check them out at www.primland.com.
The Bogue Inlet Pier King Tournament began last Monday October 5 at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle and ran through Friday, October 9 and the deadline for this column was before the tournament ended. The tournament had it share of unusual things like the wind blowing so hard on Wednesday they shut down fishing.
Only one king was landed during the tournament and it was caught before the wind got up on Wednesday. Johnnie Wise, of Peletier, who was the early leader reported here last week, held on to win the tournament with a 24.5 pound king.
Several other prizes were also awarded. Dale Collins caught the largest Spanish mackerel using a live bait and it weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces. Eric Smith outdid him by an ounce to win the prize for the largest Spanish caught on a lure. Lynn Chilton caught a 3 pound, 2 ounce bluefish to claim the prize for the largest blue. For more information visit www.bogueinletpier.com.
The Calcutta Wahoo Challenge fished Thursday though Saturday with daily weigh-ins at the Morehead City waterfront. While there wasn't a monster fish landed during the tournament, the top five wahoo all weighed more than 50 pounds.
The winner of the tournament was the Ava D, with Capt. Jerry Jackson and angler Bernie Doss. They landed a 54.80 pound wahoo and collected $9,112.50 for their efforts. Capt. Curtis Strange, of golfing fame, led angler Chris West and the Lady Sarah crew to second place. They were less than a pound off the pace with a 54 pound hoo. The Impulse, with Capt. Cameron Guthrie and angler Jim Brow was third at 52.05 pounds while the Sandy Beach and Mattie G also boated fifty pound plus wahoo.
The Impulse crew backed up their 52 pounder with another 35 pounder and collected the bounty for the heaviest two-fish aggregate weight. Their total weight was 87.15 pounds.
The Sandy Beach, with Capt. and angler David Argay, topped the small boat class. The 51.60 pound wahoo that secured fourth place was almost six pounds heavier than the closest small boat. The Magic Marlin, with Capt. Daniel Lee and angler Kenny Gallimore was second in the small boat class and the Cat Baby, with Capt. Randy Hoft and angler Jon Henry was third.
Daily prizes were awarded to the Cardinal Sin, David Barbar, Thursday, 43.35; Magic Marlin, Daniel Lee, Friday, 45.70; and Sensation, Dale Britt, Saturday, 34.00. The Top Lady Angler for the tournament was Susan Chapman, who caught a 36.85 pounder on the Finish Line. Henry Gregory caught a 29.30 pounder on the Lady Sarah to earn Top Junior Angler honors. For more information visit www.thewahoochallenge.com.
The second of two Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Tournaments was scheduled for Saturday, October 10, from Casper's Marina in Swansboro, but was postponed. At this time the new date has not yet been announced. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net.
Another pier tournament, the Kings of the Coast Tournament was held over the weekend at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. The southerly winds had the ocean a little stirred up, but a full field of 56 (the field is limited to the number of king fishing spots at the end of the pier) was registered and ready to go. The king action from the pier had been sporadically hot for the past two weeks and the fishermen all had high expectations.
Thomas Cutler began Friday with an early strike and decked a 21 pounder to take the lead and set the pace. A few hours later, Dana Tabrinni joined the party by landing a 15 pound king. This was Tabrinni's first king and he picked a great time to catch it. Friday ended with Cutler and Tabrinni in first and second places and their fish also held through Saturday when no kings were caught.
The tournament changed on Sunday. While still a bit windy, the wind was from the north and the water was trying to clear. Before time was up, Jimmy Ezzell struck paydirt with a 30 pound king. It was the only king caught on Sunday, but proved to be the winner and bumped Cutler and Tabrinni down a spot each. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
The fishing is heating up and lots of tournaments are taking place in the next few weeks. A couple have already started. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament is run by Chasin' Tails Outdoors on the Atlantic Beach Causeway and features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. Registration is open and ongoing, but fishermen must be registered for a minimum of five days before they can enter a fish.
The current leader is Carl Griffith with a 4.46 pound speck. The monthly prize for October is a 7-foot trout rod and the weight to hit is 3.0 pounds. No one has matched that weight yet. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
Tournaments are popping up all over and many are not on the list compiled by the Division of Marine Fisheries, which is the only "official" list. With that said, this looks to be another busy weekend for tournaments and some may be missed. If a tournament you are looking for is not included, it was only because I didn't receive notice of it or have an e-mail or phone number to get the results. Please let me know of any new tournaments.
The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA-NC) will hold their annual Inside-Out Tournament this weekend in Morehead City. The tournament features an Inside Division for flounder, speckled trout and red drum and two Outside Divisions. One Outside Division is for king mackerel and the other is a blue water tournament for tuna dolphin and wahoo. For more information visit www.ccanc.org.
The Onslow Bay Sportfishing Club will hold an Artificial Lures Only King Mackerel This weekend in Swansboro. For more information visit the Tournament Talk forum at www.captainstanman.us or call 910-353-2659.
The Music Maker Relief Foundation will host a Wahoo Hooha tournament in Hatteras on October 16 and 17. In addition to raising money for older musicians struggling with the times, this tournament will feature one day of fishing with two nights of live blues with the Music Maker Blues Revue at the Hatteras Village Civic Center. For more information visit www.fishinblues.com.
The Cape Fear Red Trout Celebrity Classic will be held this weekend from Figure Eight Island. This tournament features a release-only format for red drum and speckled trout. For more information visit http://carolinas.cff.org/capefearredtrout.
The Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge will be held this weekend in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. The tournament features multiple species, plus top junior, senior and lady anger awards. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 4.5 is headed to Oak Island and Southport this Saturday, October 17. This is not as large an event as at Morehead City and Atlantic Beach during the spring, but is just as highly appreciated. The day will feature fellowship, many varieties of fishing and a big meal at the Oak Island Moose Lodge at the end of the day.
Volunteers are needed for all phases of the event. This includes everything from registering folks in the morning to serving food to providing a boat to take some of them fishing. The website for the event is www.militaryappreciationday.org and it lists the many ways someone can register to help and also a way for the service personnel to register.