While the skies kept clouding up and the wind threatened to stiffen, the fish were biting last weekend and the gusty winds held off until early this week. Until the winds started puffing up, fishermen enjoyed good action from well offshore to the backwaters. When the wind began gusting smaller boats moved to protected waters and some fish must have moved with them as the bite seemed to improve a little.
We have been fortunate so far this hurricane season and that continued with my Thursday check of the tropics. There is one area of disorganized thunderstorms a little northeast of Bermuda that isn’t supposed to intensify or organize. This is great news as we enter a part of the hurricane season that hasn’t typically steered many storms our way. You can monitor the weather in the tropics yourself at the National Hurricane Center website (www.nhc.noaa.gov) and at Mike’s Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com). Mikes weather page is also on Facebook.
This past Tuesday, October 15, was the 59th anniversary of the worst hurricane ever to hit the N.C. Coast. None are good, but when Hurricane Hazel stormed ashore at Southport during the full moon high tide on October 15, 1954, it effects were felt well up the coast and inland to Raleigh and beyond. If the cape Fear area beaches had been developed as they are now, the destruction would have been even more devastating.
I am from Southport and this was my first hurricane. While I was young enough I don’t remember the storm, I remember much of building back. This must have started something as I’m still fascinated by hurricanes and have ridden out quite a few, even returning to the coast from inland for several. I’m also very happy when they stay offshore and don’t hit any land.
The early forecasts for the weekend have the winds and seas dropping out some, but introducing showers and thunderstorms into the forecast. Let’s hope the winds are lighter and the seas slighter than the forecast and the rain is very scattered. Fishing is good and folks want to go fishing.
There is good news about the shutdowns of federal parks and lands. An agreement was reached sometime Wednesday night to keep things going into February, but something similar could come up again then. I won’t take a political stance, but just say I’m glad to see Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras National Seashores and all of the other national parks, wildlife refuges, hatcheries and more running again. The folks working there need to work and the folks visiting shouldn’t be denied access.
The good news is that in spite of some gusty winds, fishing is good. Inshore flounder, puppy drum, speckled trout and the first few spots are biting, while in the ocean king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, red drum, flounder, gray trout, offshore bottom fish, wahoo, dolphin and more are biting. If there isn’t something in that list that gets your attention, stay tuned as there are a few surprises too.
One of the surprises is another permit caught in N.C. waters. While the previous two have come from the piers on Topsail Island, This one came from Yaupon Reef off Oak Island. Davy Whittington of Hudson caught a 22.5 pound permit while flounder fishing using a mullet minnow at the popular southern N.C. reef. That had to be a heck of a fight and a big surprise. Permit are a fish of south Florida and the tropics and shouldn’t be anywhere near N.C. Someone forgot to tell this permit and the two earlier ones caught off Topsail Island.
Artificial reefs just off the beaches, such as Yaupon Reef (AR 425) off Oak Island, are good places to fish and sometimes are very good. This fall may move into the very good category soon. Nearshore artificial reef catches include lots of flounder, gray trout and Spanish mackerel, some kings and bluefish and some large red drum.
Fishermen on the ocean piers had been catching some king mackerel prior to last week, but went on a drought then. Unfortunately no kings were caught during the Bogue Inlet Pier King Mackerel Tournament that ended last Friday. However, as if waiting to taunt fishermen, they resumed shortly after. Michael Thompson of Cary landed a 25 pound, 7 ounce king and Tyler Ketchum added one at 22 pounds, 10 ounces from Bogue Inlet Pier early this week.
At Ocean Crest Pier at Oak Island, Monty Robinson caught a 33 pound, 15 ounce king on the Friday before their fall tournament began on Saturday and got everyone excited. Unfortunately no kings were landed during that tournament either.
Pier fishermen are also catching Spanish mackerel and blues, plus flounder, red drum, sea mullet, pompano and a few spots. The water temps are easing down again and the fall fishing should continue to improve as the water cools a little, especially for the kings and spots.
A surprise for pier and nearshore fishermen has been a surprising number of large red drum, especially moving farther south along the state. It seems that many of the large red drum seen earlier in Pamlico Sound are holding close to the beaches along much of the coast.
Spanish mackerel have been biting from just off the beach out to around 10 miles offshore. While not spread down the beach like the Spanish, king mackerel are being caught around the inlets and out to around 100 feet deep. There are good numbers of kings and some large ones too. Last Saturday, James Demyan and crew caught a 51 pounder somewhere off Oak Island. The spot is rumored to be Tip Lip Ledge.
The windy weather earlier in the week kept fishermen, especially those in smaller boats, closer to shore much of the week. They caught fish well before this latest blow and expect them to still be there now the swells and wind have begun to lay out. Charter boats and those in larger boats have been catching a variety of offshore fish well.
Offshore bottom fishing is really good. Fishermen are catching black sea bass, beeliners, grouper, and a variety of grunts and porgies. With the cooling water, some gag grouper have moved closer inshore and are being caught on natural hard bottom areas as shallow as 50 feet. The variety increases as fishermen move deeper out to 100 feet plus.
Those few fishermen that headed all the way to the edge of the Gulf Stream found hungry wahoo, plus a few dolphin and some tuna. Most of the tuna are blackfin, but there are a few scattered yellowfin being caught. The yellowfin action is better north of Cape Hatteras and Diamond Shoals. There were also a few reports of some scattered billfish, mostly sailfish. This is the time of year when the cooling inshore water produces some strong temperature breaks and color changes along the edge of the Gulf Stream. These are good places to begin fishing.
The inshore waters have been producing good catches of flounder and red drum, but had been a little behind on speckled trout. Well, with the latest cool spell and all the cloud cover over last weekend and earlier this week, the trout came alive. Not only did the numbers of trout increase, but most were nice trout of 18 to 22 inches. Soft plastics, topwaters and live baits all caught trout well. The trout that held out for live baits hit finger mullet and shrimp pretty well.
Flounder and red drum catches continued to be good too. Red drum were hitting topwater lures, soft plastics and gold spoons. Flounder also likes the soft plastics retrieved slowly and both liked finger mullet fished either on a Carolina rig or suspended under a float. Several flounder definitely rose off the bottom to nail a finger mullet drifting by overhead.
Structure, especially anything that channels moving water or baitfish to a restricted area, is the key to good inshore catches. The fish are feeding and are looking for baitfish and shrimp. Oyster rocks, rip-rap, and bars at creek mouths all hold fish at some stage of the tide. Many of the odd bends and oyster rocks in your favorite marsh should trap bait and attract fish too.
Mary Lee and Lydia, the southern great white sharks that have been holding near the Continental Shelf off the Outer Banks have decided to go different directions. Lydia suddenly decided she likes open water better and has headed off to the northeast and is now off Nova Scotia near Sable Island. Someone jokingly said she had gotten tired of tuna and wanted some seal in her diet. Whatever it was, when she decided to head that way, she covered the distance pretty quickly.
Mary Lee had been holding around the inshore edge of the Continental Shelf off Cape Hatteras for several weeks, but moved south and inshore this week. She last pinged a little inshore and west of the Big Rock off Cape Lookout. You can follow the travels of Mary Lee, Lydia, Genie and other sharks around the world by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
A series of three public meetings concerning funding for the observer program required for commercial fishing in specific areas and at specific times, such as in the large mesh gill net fishery began this week. The first meeting was held Wednesday night in Manteo and two more will be held next week in Morehead City and Wilmington. More information on these meetings is available by contacting Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov. An agenda for the meetings will be available in the public meetings section of the MFC/DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
The meeting dates, times and locations are:
* October 22 at 6:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City;
* October 24 at 6:00 P.M. at the New Hanover County Executive Development Center in Wilmington.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists who would like to serve on volunteer committees to advise them on various fisheries issues. Two regional advisory committees – Northern and Southern – and three standing advisory committees –Finfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean – review matters referred to them by the commission and recommend management strategies.
Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. There is no pay, but advisers are reimbursed for travel and other expenses related to their official duties.
The MFC chairman appoints committee members for three-year terms and several terms will expire in January. One qualification for serving on an advisory committee is that applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at the Division of Marine Fisheries’ offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by November 1.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule and its associated draft environmental impact statement, which aims to reduce discards of Atlantic bluefin tuna, and outlines measures to help ensure compliance with international quotas. The proposed measures in the draft of Amendment 7 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan are designed to control bluefin tuna landings and dead discards in the pelagic longline fishery, enhance reporting in all bluefin tuna fisheries, and ensure U.S. compliance with binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
While NOAA Fisheries has identified bluefin tuna as a species of concern, they are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries will accept public comments on the proposed management measures through October 23. Electronic comments should be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0101 and click the "Comment Now!" icon.
NOAA Fisheries is also seeking public comments on Amendment 27 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 27 published in the Federal Register on September 18, 2013, (78 FR 57337). Amendment 27 Contains the Following Actions:
* Extending the South Atlantic Council’s management responsibility for Nassau grouper to include the Gulf of Mexico.
* Increasing the number of allowable crew members on dual permitted vessels (vessels that have both a federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Permit for Snapper-Grouper and a South Atlantic Unlimited or 225-Pound Snapper-Grouper Permit) from three to four crew members.
* Allowing captains and crew of for-hire vessels with federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Snapper-Grouper Permits to retain bag limit quantities of all snapper-grouper species.
* Allowing routine changes of catch limits to be modified quickly through an abbreviated process.
* Removing blue runner from the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.
Copies of Amendment 27 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2013/am27/index.html or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Web site at www.safmc.net.
Comments on Amendment 27 must be received no later than November 18, 2013.
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0085 and click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments, or by mail to NOAA Fisheries – Southeast Regional Office – Sustainable Fisheries Division, c/o Kate Michie, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will only be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats.
One last mention of Coastal Buoy, 41036, which is located 30 miles offshore in Onslow Bay. In brief, this is one of a series of buoys that provide weather and oceanographic information, such as air temperature, barometric pressure, water temperature, and wave heights, for a range of fishermen, scientists and students. UNCW purchased the buoy in 2007 and had been paying the annual maintenance fee of $40,000, but that increased to $60,000 this year and was no longer affordable.
Without the maintenance funding, the National Data Buoy Center will no longer maintain the buoy and they will have the US Coast Guard remove the buoy. This is a buoy that many fishermen rely on for providing real-time conditions any time they are fishing between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. Concerned fishermen and CORMP supporters are asking fishermen and mariners to contact their N.C. Federal Legislators and ask for continued support of this important buoy.
The contacts are:
Senator Richard Burr: www.burr.senate.gov/public;
Senator Kay Hagen: www.hagan.senate.gov/contact;
Congressman Mike McIntyre: http://mcintyreforms.house.gov/contact;
Congressman Walter B. Jones: https://jones.house.gov/contact-me/email-me.
Congressman David E. Price: https://forms.house.gov/price/webforms/contact_form.shtml.
Several Tar Heel fishermen have headed to Houma, Louisiana for the Inshore Fishing Association Redfish Tour and Kayak Fishing Tour Championships. The Kayak Fishing Tour Championship will be October 18 and 19, followed by the Redfish Tour Championship on October 25 and 26.
The 9th Annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament will be held October 19 through November 2. This event is held each year by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department to honor former dedicated town councilman and fishermen Gordie McAdams. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
The Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge will be held at Carolina Beach on October 19 and 20. This is a multi-species event for surf fishermen. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The NC Trooper’s Association Offshore/Inshore Challenge will be held October 25 to 27 from Jaycee Park in Morehead City. This is the final of five tournaments in SKA Division 1. For more information visit www.1042kmt.com.
The Pamlico County Shrine Club Speckled Trout Tournament will be held October 26 from the Pamlico County Shrine Club. For more information visit www.sudanshriners.com.
The Jacksonville Speckled Trout Tournament will be held October 26 from Casper’s Marina in Swansboro. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to the Jacksonville USO and fund a Christmas dinner for Marines still in town, plus other things. For more information call Daniel Sbrocco at 910-548-3474