The weather for the year continues to be odd. At the end of last week and over the weekend, there were rain forecasts that kept letting just enough sunshine in to get fishermen out and then wet them with a scattered shower. Some of that also followed early this week, but there were extended periods of Sunshine. The wind began blowing on Wednesday and hasnít let up yet.
The cold front weathermen have been talking about for the past week arrived overnight on Wednesday. Thursday morning much of the coastal temperatures dropped into the forties and inland areas dipped even farther into the thirties. At least it is supposed to be sunny while itís cold and itís supposed to warm back up to more seasonal temperatures beginning on Monday.
Expectations are the cold will affect fishing in both positive and negative ways. The hope is there will be more positive than negative. The water temperatures have been holding in the low to mid 70s and this should drop them a few degrees. Typically the bite will slow for a day or two, but may be returning as soon as the weekend. The good news is that while we will be cold, the days will be sunny and hopefully the water temps donít fall quickly and shock the fish. This will also probably be the trigger that prods some of the warmer water fish, such as Spanish mackerel, to begin their fall migration south.
Late Monday morning TD 13 formed about 600 miles southeast of Bermuda and was moving northeast toward open ocean. Later in the day it was upgraded to Tropical Depression Lorenzo. The prediction for this storm was that it would be very short lived as it would encounter strong wind shear over the next few days and dissipate. As of Thursday morning it was barely maintaining tropical depression status and may have dissipated by the time you are reading this. You can watch this for yourself on-line at the National Hurricane Center website (www.nhc.noaa.gov) and Mikeís Weather Page website (www.spaghettimodels.com). Mikes Weather Page is also on Facebook.
I had really expected the biggest fishing news of the past week to be the excellent wahoo fishing and it has been good to excellent. However, there have been an unusual number of large cobia caught in the past week in the center of the Tar Heel Coast and large red drum caught along the beaches along the southern N.C. Coast.
The cobia are primarily being caught as incidental catches while trolling live baits for king mackerel, but some are being caught trolling lures farther offshore and some are being caught bottom fishing. There have been surprisingly good numbers of cobia off the northern Outer Banks all summer and this must be them working their way back south. Whatever the reason, I havenít heard anyone complaining.
The large red drum are shadowing schools of pogies from the Cape Fear River to across the S.C. state line. These large drum can pick out the one injured or struggling pogey in a school of thousands and they pick it up quick. If you havenít had a strike in about five minutes, there arenít any large drum there and itís time to move to another school of pogies.
The kings are biting too. On days they donít mind weathering the sea conditions, fishermen have been catching kings. There have been kings as close as the piers out to about 100 feet deep. There have been a few wahoo, dolphin and sailfish mixed with the kings, especially those in the deeper water.
Farther offshore, the wahoo bite is hot. Most fishermen are getting double digit strikes and about half of them stay on the hook long enough to be boated. Several fishermen have reported double digit wahoo catches. Offshore trollers are also catching some dolphin, mostly blackfin, but a few yellowfin tuna and the last of the sailfish for the year.
The cooling inshore water is beginning to move the sailfish, dolphin and wahoo that had moved inshore back to warmer water along the edge of the Gulf Stream. There are temperature breaks of several degrees and places where the water changes from green to deep blue. These changes are holding fish and when one crosses significant structure, the fishing can be exceptional.
In that zone from about 50 to 150 feet of water, the bottom fish are biting. There were some nice grouper caught this week, plus limits of black sea bass and beeliners and lots of porgys, grunts and triggerfish. Most fishermen find they do better anchored over a specific rock or ledge, but fish are caught drifting also.
Closer to the beach, Spanish mackerel are biting from just beyond the breakers out to about 10 miles. There were some nice Spanish macks caught this week, including a handful of citation size fish of 6 pounds and larger. There is concern that this may be the cold front that pushes the Spanish macks back to the south.
The false albacore action has been red hot this week between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout. Fat Alberts are a little strong for most folkís palates, so most are released to thrill someone else again. These are sport fish, caught just for the fun and are lots of fun on light tackle and fly fishing gear. The hot lure is small, shiny and retrieved quickly.
Fishermen on the ocean piers are still catching a mixture of fish. In addition to several kings scattered from Kure Beach to North Topsail, Keith Fisher of Freemont landed a 47 pound, 7 ounce cobia from Bogue Inlet Pier last weekend. I believe this cold front will be just enough to move them offshore or have them heading farther south.
There have also been some nice Spanish macks and bluefish, plus a variety of bottom fish that include flounder, red drum, black drum, trout, sea mullet, pompano and a few spots. There still hasnít been a big spot run this fall. Hopefully it will come with or after the cold front.
On the inshore side of things, red drum and flounder have been biting for a while and the tout action began improving last week. There are also sheepshead, black drum and gray trout.
Flounder have been moving out of the backs of the creeks and marshes and heading towards the inlets for several weeks. Every time they would begin moving the water would warm back up and they would slow and stop. The cold front that arrived Thursday morning may be the one that really gets them moving.
Flounder have been hitting live mullet minnows, mud minnows and small menhaden. They have also been hitting a variety of soft plastics. Flounder have to catch, turn and swallow a live bait so you have to fish it still or moving slowly. A soft plastic folds in their mouth so they grab it and try to gulp it down immediately.
When looking for flounder, you can cover more ground by casting and retrieving soft plastics and by fan casting to an area, you can see if there are any flounder there. When you catch one, cast right back to the same place. There will often be another there.
There were some nice sheepshead caught this week in Morehead City. Many fishermen forget about them once the water begins cooling and the trout and red drum get active and that is a mistake. Sheepshead will be holding around structure such as bridges and large docks until the water gets real cold. A fiddler crab or sea urchin fished right beside the pilings will usually get a bite, but sometimes it is so subtle it is near impossible to feel.
The puppy drum action has been good for a while and with the water temperature dropping below 70 they have gotten even hungrier. This makes them bolder in trying to catch baits and results in more strikes. Reds have been in shallower water in the creeks, marshes, sounds and surf and in addition to live shrimp, minnows and cut bait, they are also hitting topwater lures, soft plastics, gold spoons and spinnerbaits. Spinnerbaits seem to agitate or frustrate redfish and they really smack them.
With the cooling water, speckled trout are feeding on the last of the baitfish and shrimp in the creeks and marshes. Often on the lower stages of the tide they will be just a little deeper than the redfish, but as the tide rises, trout will move into shallower water and often compete with the reds for food. Specks will hit mullet minnows and other baitfish, but they prefer live shrimp. Dangle that shrimp under a float and if it goes by a trout heíll usually eat it.
On the artificial side, specks and reds have been crashing topwaters. MirrOlure, Rapala, Zara Spook and Bomber all make topwaters in several sizes and lots of colors. Most of the time these lures require the side to side "walking the dog" motion to get a fishís attention, but the fish got so fired up one day earlier this week they were even hitting floating lures that were simply bobbed and jigged in place. Right now there are still enough shrimp moving out of the marshes trout are keyed to them and shrimp shaped soft plastics, especially Gulps or others with scent, are producing really well.
Specks, reds and flounder may gather at the mouth of almost any creek during the falling tide. They somehow know that the shrimp and minnows that went up that creek on the rising tide will have to come back out as the tide falls. No creek mouth is insignificant. Begin with the ones that fall out dry shortly after the tide begins to fall and when they do, move to the ones that still have some water.
Last week I was able to report the government had reached an agreement to keep things going until February 2014 and that meant the national parks and national seashores could reopen. This was good news for those who rely on things relative to the military bases, national parks, national seashores, hatcheries and wildlife refuges or any other federal government source for part of their income, but unfortunately it is short lived and will probably become an issue again shortly after the first of the year.
I donít want to take a political stance, but I have e-mailed our U.S. representative and senators asking them to at least put something in place that prevents closing national parks, national seashores, military bases and national monuments that are open air and require virtually no overseeing and the private businesses that operate on them. In past government shutdowns they were never closed. More money was spent during the past several weeks to close many of these than would have been required to allow continued access.
It particularly upset me when veterans were barred from the WWII Memorial that was built in their honor. Senators, Richard Burr (202-224-3154) and Kay Hagan (202-224-6342) and Representative Walter Jones (202-225-3415) and Mike McIntyre (202-225-2731) need to know how you feel. Other contact information for senators is listed at www.senate.gov and for representatives at www.house.gov.
Mary Lee and Lydia, the southern great white sharks that had been off the Outer Banks until about a week ago have parted ways and headed in different directions. Lydia must have gotten an urge for colder water as she headed for the waters off Sable Island and Nova Scotia last week and pinged Thursday morning off Newfoundland.
Mary Lee had been holding near the Continental Shelf off Cape Hatteras, but decided to move south and inshore. Monday morning she pinged just outside the surf at Fort Fisher and then later in the day again just beyond the surf at Carolina Beach. Since then, she had moved around the area, even crossing Frying Pan Shoals once and pinging off Oak Island, but her most recent ping has been back off Carolina Beach Inlet about 4 to 5 miles. 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.
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 Ė Northern and Southern Ė and three standing advisory committees ĖFinfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean Ė 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 Fisheriesí offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by November 1.
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 Councilís 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 Councilís 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 Ė Southeast Regional Office Ė 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.
Several local fishermen are in Houma, Louisiana for the Inshore Fishing Association Redfish Tour Championship this weekend on October 25 and 26. I wish them well. Several N.C. fishermen were also there last weekend for the Inshore Fishing Association Kayak Fishing Tour Championship.
The Inshore Fishing Association Kayak Fishing Tour Championship was held October 18 and 19 in Houma, Louisiana. Jameson Redding of Wilkes County was the highest placing N.C. fisherman in 18th place. However, two fishermen with N.C. connections also fared well. Benton Parrot, who grew up in Kinston, but now lives in Spanish Fort, Alabama, finished in fifth place and won the awards for the Largest Redfish at 44.75 inches and Largest Trout at 23.00 inches. Nathan Raycroft, who recently moved from Fayetteville to Jacksonville, Florida, finished in 17th place. Steve Lessard, who was in 6th place at the end of the first day, surged to the win with 114.38 inches in 2 redfish and 2 speckled trout. For more information visit www.ifakayakfishingtour.com.
The NC Trooperís 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 and also has an inshore division. 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 Casperís 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.
The Ed Sewell Speckled Trout Tournament will be held November 2 from Casperís Marina in Swansboro. For more information contact Chris Sewell at 910- 459-2257.
The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament will be held from Dockside Marina in Wrightsville beach on November 2. This tournament requires flounder to be brought in alive and benefits fish for tomorrow and the aquaculture programs at UNCW and South Brunswick High School. For more information visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
The Southern Kingfish Association Pro Tour Championship will be held November 4 to 6 from the Golden Nugget Casino and Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi. Several N.C. teams will be in attendance and usually do well. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
With the National Seashore back open the 56th Annual Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament will be held as scheduled on November 6 to 9 from the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club in Buxton. For more information visit www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.
The Southern Kingfish Association National Championship will be held November 7 to 10 from the Golden Nugget Casino and Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi. Numerous N.C. teams will be in attendance and usually do well. In fact, N.C. teams own more SKA championships than fishermen from any other state. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
The Specks and Spots Kayak Fishing Tournament will be held November 9 from the Federal Point Wildlife Ramp at Fort Fisher. This tournament targets speckled trout and red drum in a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format and is based on the longest combined length of one of each. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver