For the most part, last weekend and this week have been excellent weather for fishing. Unfortunately that is changing as I write this. Hurricane Sandy has crossed Cuba and is heading into the Atlantic and the meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center are trying to figure out exactly where it is going. As of the afternoon update on Thursday, there were finally two updates where they didnít significantly shift the forecast tracks.
Thursday at the 1100 A.M. update, the track prediction cone was shifted to the west and included much of the Outer Banks from Portsmouth Island to the north. This was still the cone at 5:00 P.M., with the eye track headed for the N.J. and N.Y. border.
Folks to the south of this area shouldnít plan much outside until after Sunday though. This storm has a huge wind field and even a close miss will cause a lot of coastal flooding and highway overwash. I donít consider myself an alarmist, but I believe it would be wise to be prepared. We have seen several times that even a minor variance in track can have devastating effects for people living around the sounds and the coast, especially along the Outer Banks.
Hopefully we will return to the great fall weather pretty quickly and with minimal damages. Fall fishing is in full swing and it includes a lot of catching for a wide variety of fish. The water has cooled to the low seventies and fish are active and feeding. There were some surprises too, including a 127 pound amberjack that may become a new state record.
Fishermen at various places along the coast have had surprise visits from large red drum for the past couple of weeks. I mentioned this last week, but there were so many of these big reds caught down south this week it merits another mention. The big reds were biting slow trolled king mackerel baits, king mackerel baits suspended from the piers and flounder baits fished on the nearshore hardbottoms and artificial reefs.
The big drum were close enough to the beach that kayak fishermen were launching through the surf and chasing them off Oak Island. Several kayakers went on Southport sleigh rides and eventually lost their fish, but several were caught. The kayak fishermen said they were very impressed with the strength of the big reds. I saw one picture and let me tell you, a 40 plus inch red drum looks even more impressive stretched out in a kayak.
Staying with drum, but moving back to the creeks, the pups are biting well too. I got in a couple of quickie trips this week and caught puppy drum on each of them. The pups ranged from about 15 to 31 inches and were mixed in the same locations. They really like live baits, but I also caught them on soft plastics and a weedless gold spoon. Large finger to corn cob size mullet and pogies from about four to six inches were the best live baits and even the smaller drum sucked them down.
Fishing for those drum reminded me how tide oriented red drum can be. One of the places was a high tide spot, while the other was a low tide spot. Depending on the stage of the tide, the drum moved where the tide would allow them or limited them, but were feeding in both situations.
Flounder are biting well also. There were lots of reports and some were of large fish. I caught several flounder mixed with the drum. Most were keepers, but there were some shorts mixed in. My best luck in the creeks was at ambush points where the falling tide was carrying bait out of smaller creeks. As I was really puppy drum fishing, some were caught on live baits and some on artificials. I believe white Gulp shrimp caught the most flounder.
Flounder are moving in the surf and being caught from the piers also. That long line of mullet minnows streaming down the beach has attracted lots of fish to near the breakers and flounder are a primary catch. This is the case along much of the N.C. Coast and Shackleford Banks is a hot spot. Many people want to cast too far. The flounder are just beyond the mullets running through the surf.
With the water cooling, speckled trout are getting active and feeding. They will hit baits now they let pass just a few weeks ago. The cool nights dropped the water temperature to about 70 in the surf and 72 or so in the sounds and bays and the action is picking up.
Live shrimp are irresistible to specks. Live shrimp can be fished in a variety of ways, but my favorite is suspended under a float. I like to use a rattle or popping float so I can make noise with it if needed. When the trout are thick and feeding, the cork spends as much time under as floating.
Trout are also biting a variety of soft plastics, plus topwater and suspending hard baits. MirrOlure, Rapala and Bomber all make good hard baits and all will catch trout. I like the higher pitch rattle of MirrOlure She Dog and She Pup lures for topwater and the 17MR and 27 MR MirrOdine series for suspending lures. You have to learn to "walk the dog" to be effective with topwaters, but the MirrOdine suspending lures will almost fish themselves in our tidal currents.
There were some good reports of gray trout in the Morehead City Turning Basin and at the Dead Tree Hole off Shackleford Banks, plus at Johns Creek Rock and Sheepshead Rock off Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher over the last week. The limit is only a single gray trout and some folks wonder if it is worth the effort. I prefer eating gray trout to speckled trout, but donít make extreme trips for one fish. However if Iím passing close by, Iíll stop and drop in a heartbeat.
Pier fishermen had another interesting week. There is a good mixture of fish being caught on the piers, but it appears the king mackerel have moved a little farther south. Most of the piers from Topsail to Sunset Beach reported king catches this week including 11 one afternoon from Carolina Beach Pier. Other pier end catches included big red drum and Spanish mackerel. Spots were biting some, but not always. That should get better for a couple of weeks. Other pier catches include good numbers of nice flounder, puppy drum, black drum, speckled trout, pompano and bluefish.
Spanish mackerel are biting just outside the inlets and along the beaches. Hopefully they will still be around next week, but with the water cooling and Hurricane Sandy approaching, they may get scattered and not regroup this fall before heading south.
My anticipation had been for some hot king action this weekend, but I believe Hurricane Sandy has eliminated that from consideration. Maybe the kings will come back inshore after the storm passes, but they shouldnít be affected in the deeper water farther off.
Most fishermen are using live baits for their kings. On the cooler mornings, it sometimes takes the bait a while to rise to the surface and start flipping, so watch your fishfinder and the pelicans in addition to scanning the water for flips. The kings that are 10 miles or more off the beach will also hit frozen cigar minnows.
Grouper are biting well and are moving a little closer to land. The problem there is that black sea bass and many other bait thieves are very thick closer in and you must try to ignore their bites and release a lot of nice fish while waiting for a grouper to bite. Many fishermen are still fishing a little farther offshore, in deeper water, to get away from the black sea bass and bait thieves. Grunts, porgys and beeliners can also be kept and there are some big ones being caught.
Those fishermen who took advantage of the excellent sea conditions earlier in the week verified the wahoo and blackfin tuna are still biting well. They also caught a few dolphin and there were several sailfish releases. Once the fish start biting, the long ride quickly becomes a lot more tolerable.
A possible state record amberjack was caught Saturday by Capt. Rick Croson while jigging for blackfin tuna off Wrightsville Beach. The big amberjack weighed 127.1 pounds and was 67.5 inches long and 42.5 inches in girth. Croson was using a Nasout Jig with an Owner Hook and Synit Kaha 300 Rod and Shimano Trinidad Reel combo. The paperwork is being processed and once everything is in order and verified, this should become the new state record.
This might be a good weekend to be away and one place to consider is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The boat show began on Thursday, Oct. 26 and runs through Monday. This is the first big boat show that has many of the 2013 models. Check it out at www.showmanagement.com.
Several tournaments were on tap for this weekend, but all I had listed have been postponed due to high winds and seas caused by the passing of Hurricane Sandy. Several are listed below and if you were considering one not listed here, it would be wise to check with them and verify their status.
Last week I had incorrect information that the Fall Brawl King Classic Tournament would be held Oct. 20 and 21. That information came from the tournament list compiled by the Division of Marine Fisheries and I didnít verify it, which was my mistake. The Fall Brawl King Classic Tournament was actually scheduled to be held this weekend, Oct. 27 and 28 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. The tournament has now been postponed until Nov. 3 and 4 to allow for bad weather conditions generated by the passing of Hurricane Sandy.
The Fall Brawl King Classic was originally scheduled to be the final tournament in SKA Division 9 (Southern N.C. and northern S.C.), but with it being postponed until so close to the National Championship Tournament, the SKA made the decision to score Division 9 based on four tournaments and grant provisions for those fishermen planning to fish the Fall Brawl. For more information on the Fall Brawl visit www.oifc.com and for more information on SKA Division 9 points and provisions visit www.fishska.com.
The 10th Annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began on Oct. 20 and will run through Dec. 1. This is a surf or sound wading tournament that is restricted to Bogue Banks between Fort Macon and Emerald Isle. The weigh station is the Reel Outdoors in Emerald Isle. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
The N.C. Troopers Association Offshore Ė Inshore Saltwater Tournament was also scheduled for this weekend, Oct. 27 and 28. Due to concerns with the weather, this tournament has also been postponed until Nov. 3 and 4. The tournament will be held from Jaycee Park in Morehead City with proceeds going to the N.C. Troopers Association Caisson Unit. This is a captainís choice tournament and participant may choose to fish either day, but not both. For more information visit http://1042kmt.com.
The Jacksonville Speckled Trout Tournament scheduled for Oct. 27 from The Hampton Inn and Casperís Marina in Swansboro has also been postponed a week. The tournament will now be held Nov. 3, with all events on the same schedule, just a week later. For more information call 910-548-FISH.
Batten your hatches and go fishing once Hurricane Sandy passes.