If you think the morning of the past week have been cold, you are in for a rude awakening. When this front rolls through on Friday the world will get cold and windy until sometime next week. The cool days we have already had dropped the water temperature, even if they were sunny. The water cooled three to four degrees, depending on where measured it.
However, few fishermen were upset with this and many said it was "about time." Many fishermen are speculating the cooler water will turn the fish on and get them to bite. Several gave the magic temperature to be between 65 and 69 and Thursday morning the reading in the surf was 67 at Bogue Inlet and 68 at Ocean Crest Pier. Once the initial shock is over, the fish should be turning on, so you might best get a firm grip on your fishing rod.
There are even good chances of rain Friday into Saturday and again on Monday. It appears fall has finally arrived and it's time to get out and take advantage of the nice weather when we have it. As we learned last year, winter can come early and stay longer that we want.
Flounder and puppy drum are two of the more popular fall fish and both have been biting fairly well. Many fishermen feel the water temperature dropping into the high sixties during the past week will make these fish more active and get them feeding actively and catches will increase.
While some flounder, most notably those along the Morehead City Port Wall, are caught in deeper water, many are caught in water less than five feet deep, like along the marsh islands in the lower Cape Fear River. Many are caught by drum fishermen and conversely, flounder fishermen also catch drum. This should be expected as they eat similar things and hold in the same places.
Flounder and drum both like live finger mullet and peanut pogies. They will also eat small croakers, spots and pinfish. Both will eat live shrimp too, but more drum are caught with live shrimp than flounder. They both will hit artificial baits too, especially the new bio-baits. Mullet, jerkbait and shrimp shapes all work well and many flounder fishermen highly tout the shrimp shapes. Maybe they just can't catch the live ones real well?
Good spots to find puppy drum and flounder are at creek mouths, along marsh banks, along oyster bars, over rip-rap, in the first slough from the bank in the surf and under docks. A moving tide is important and many fishermen consider the falling tide to be better. The last of the falling tide and the first of the rising tide will become the prime times once the water cools a few more degrees.
I'm still having some trouble getting comfortable with it, but the numbers of speckled trout are increasing slowly and steadily as the water cools. The biggest numbers seem to be from about 12 to 15 inches, which are young of the year up to just over a year old. Next in numbers are those specks of 17 to 20 inches and they are two years old. There don't seem to be as many larger specks as in the past few years and many fishermen are blaming that on the severe cold of the past two winters. The biologists agree on this one and all hope this will be a mild winter.
Since the limit has dropped to one fish, we don't talk much about gray trout, but they are arriving. Bottom bouncers in the Turning Basin are catching a few gray trout. So are fishermen at the WOFES, Sheepshead Rock, Johns Creek Rock, the hardbottom just out New River Inlet and from the Dead Tree Hole up to just off the Cape Lookout Jetty are catching a few grays. Jigfish and Stingsilver jigs and speck rigs are favorite lures for grays, but with a limit of a single fish, it is usually caught accidentally while fishing for something else.
There weren't a lot of reports from pier fishermen this week, but they are catching a mixture of fish. There were a few spots caught during the early part of the week, but nothing significant. Many pier fishermen believe there should be another hard run of spots and this drop in water temperature may be just the thing to jump start it. Meanwhile, pier anglers are catching a mixture that includes bluefish, flounder, red drum, sea mullet, sheepshead and speckled trout.
Over the past few weeks spot fishing has been a little better inside than in the ocean, but still wasn't always productive. Regardless of where you are, the best bait for spots is bloodworms and they have been biting the real things and FishBites synthetic bloodworms equally well.
The only Spanish mackerel report I received this week was the one Henry Tillett and the Finatic crew caught to win the Spanish Mackerel Division in the Fall Brawl Tournament. That Spanish weighed more than five pounds and hit a pogie being slow trolled for a king. This may be the last time I mention them for the year.
Hopefully this cold front won't interfere as king mackerel are biting from just off the beach out to 100 feet of water. There are good numbers of 12 to 20 pounders off the end of the Jetty at Cape Lookout out to the Rock Barge and the Trawler Wreck. Some are also scattered up the beach toward Beaufort Inlet. They are a little farther off at Wrightsville Beach, and run from Lighthouse Rock to Frying Pan Tower off Oak Island. In deeper water, any rock or wreck that is holding bait should be holding kings too. The key seems to be having sea conditions that allow getting to them.
For folks who want to play with the smaller cousins in the tuna family, there are schools of false albacore (little tunny) scattered along the beach at Cape Lookout and off Masonboro Inlet. These football size cousins in the tuna family are lots of fun on fly fishing or trout tackle.
Wahoo are biting well along the temperature breaks at the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. There are also some nice blackfin tuna mixed with the wahoo and many fishermen find them easier to catch. The key to finding both is to locate a hard temperature break of at least one degree in water 70 degrees or warmer. Most of the time the fish are on the warm side of the break, but if they aren't there, try the cooler side before giving up
Combining an offshore trolling trip with some bottom fishing on the way back usually makes for a fun and productive trip that brings back a variety of fish. Remember black sea bass season is closed so they must be released. Right now you can keep limits of grouper, beeliners, pinkys, grunts and triggerfish, but beeliner season will begin its annual closure on November 1.
I enjoyed the changing of the leaves and did some fishing for different trout last week. If you have never been to the North Carolina Mountains during mid October, let me suggest it as a trip you should take. Not only are the leaves changing, but the mountain trout are biting. With the addition of numerous outdoor expos and farmer's markets, there is truly something for everyone.
North Carolinians are blessed with having some excellent public streams for rainbow, brook and brown trout. There are Wild Trout Waters, Hatchery Supported Waters, Delayed Harvest Waters and Catch and Release/Single Hook Artificial Lure Waters and all are marked. Rainbows and brookies are typically found at lower elevations, while browns are more likely to be seen and caught at higher elevations.
Starr Nolan of Brookside Guides (www.brooksideguides.com) in Asheville is an accomplished flyfisher who has traveled widely fishing in both fresh and salt water. Starr has been featured on ESPN and is on the board of several organizations, including Casting for Recovery (www.castingforrecovery.org) and Land O' Sky Trout Unlimited (www.landoskytu.com). She was gracious enough to allow me to tag along with my camera one of the mornings as she guided a client to a fishing trip I considered exceptional.
They caught (and released) so many rainbows and brookies that I ran out of fingers and toes and lost count.
However, this wasn't the wide open fly casting often seen on TV. In fact, this would have been very difficult to film for TV without spooking the fish. Star and her client moved slowly and silently along the edges of a small stream in Pisgah National Forest while using overhanging branches and streamside bushes as cover to approach pools without spooking the fish.
This wasn't fancy, but was effective. Short roll casts dropped dry flies and nymphs into bubble lines and beside rocks where hungry, but wary, trout were lying in wait. I chuckled openly after 30 minutes and more than 15 takes at the first pool, which was small and well-hidden and only a few hundred steps from the parking area. It was a little off the established path and numerous fishermen had passed without considering this little pool or maybe even without knowing it was there.
I had to move very slowly and cautiously while trying to find camera angles without spooking the fish. Many times the overhanging branches were just too thick and made too many shadows to get a clear picture without a flash. I didn't get those shots because I didn't dare use a flash as it would have certainly spooked the fish.
I didn't make a cast that morning, but am a better fisherman because of it. I appreciate Starr allowing me to tag along and don't think she realizes how much I learned by watching and not doing.
Jay Dodd and Rick Wedell are the other Brookside Guides and they offer full or half days of instruction and fishing, plus a "Ladies Only" Flyfishing School each spring. If you are making a flyfishing trip to the Asheville area and considering a guide, I would highly recommend checking them out.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will meet November 2 through 4 in Atlantic Beach. One of the major points of that meeting will be to discuss the recommendations of the advisory committees and make a decision on a Fishery Management Plan for speckled trout. The recommendations of the committees and information on the November MFC meeting can be found on the MFC website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) is scheduling a series of public meetings regarding the stock assessment for black sea bass and Amendments 18A and 20A to the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan. One of those meetings is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14 in Myrtle Beach and the final will be the first part of the SAFMC December meeting in Raleigh. The information and comments gathered at the public meetings will also be presented to the SAFMC at their December meeting.
SAFMC is also soliciting comments regarding Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) and Accountability Measures (AMs) for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia. Amendment 18A addresses this and was published in the federal register on Oct. 24. Comments may be sent by mail, fax or e-mail, but must be received by Nov. 21. Information on the rule and how to send comments is available at the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
The Fall Brawl King Classic was held Oct.21 to 23 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. This tournament allows fishermen to choose either Saturday or Sunday as their fishing day and 192 fishermen competed. Most fished on Saturday, but the top three fish were caught on Sunday. This is the final of five tournaments in SKA Division 9.
Team Instigator, led by Capt. Keith Logan, caught a 35.50 pound king in just over 100 feet of water to claim the win. Brian Aycock led the Hail Yeah crew to second place overall and shared Top Junior Angler honors for Austin Aycock, Alex Mercer and Edward Julian, with a 30.90 pound king. The Get Floor'd, led by Zack Faulkner, caught a 30.20 pound king to finish third.
Mike Kennerly led the Blue Pearl to a 29.00 pound fish that was good for fifth place and Top Senior Angler honors. Margaret Pennstrom claimed Top Lady Angler honors with a 22.15 pound king caught on Clearly Hooked. The largest cobia weighed 55.80 pounds and was caught by Shawn Evans on the Rock-N-Robin. Henry Tillett and the Finatic crew caught a 5.15 pound Spanish mackerel to win the price for the largest Spanish. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Fish for a Friend Tournament is a flounder and red drum tournament that was held to raise money to offset medical bills for Leslie Armstrong, wife of Mark Armstrong of Salt Water Marine at Monkey Junction in Wilmington. Leslie has been diagnosed with cancer and has just begun treatment. With the raffles and other donations, the tournament raised $14,000.
Scott Hampton couldn't find a 10 pound flounder, but his 9.15 pounder was enough to top the Flounder Division. Jeb Clay caught a flounder that weighed 8.45 pounds, but had to settle for second place. Teresa Lomas was third in the Flounder Division at 6.70 pounds. Warren Plautz won the prize for the flounder closest to 3 pounds with one that weighed 3.10 pounds.
In the Red Drum Division, Tony Delcutto was the winner with an upper slot fish that weighed 6 pounds even. Second place went to Brian Niemczyk with a 4.35 pound red. Fred Davis moved from his usually placing in the Flounder Division to score third in the Red Drum Division with a 4.30 pounder. Scott Armstrong won the special prize for the drum closest to 3 pounds with one that weighed 2.20 pounds. For more information visit www.fishforafriend.net.
The CCA Inside and Out Tournament was held Oct. 22 from the Boathouse Marina in Beaufort. This tournament had an Inshore Division that was based on the aggregate weight of one each, speckled trout, flounder and red drum. The Outside Division featured prizes for king mackerel by weight and false albacore by length.
Lee Padrick and Dwayne Smith, (the Redfish Guys) and Jay Feimster (North Carolina Saltwater Fishing) won the Inshore Division winners with a trout that weighed 2.4 pounds, a flounder that weighed 3 pounds and a red drum that weighed 6.5 pounds. All their fish were weighed alive and released, so they received 3 bonus points for a total weight of 14.9 pounds.
Second place in the Inside Division went to Team Warrens + 1 of Willis, Ward and Paul Warren and B.C. Cone who also weighed all three fish alive and totaled 13.13 pounds. Glen Rose and Alec Combs of Team intruder were third with 11.8 pounds including 2 bonus points.
In the Outside Division, Team Gone Coastal, of Chris Wright, Aaron Penny and Justin Smith caught the largest king at 13.12 pounds. Chris Tutak and Nathan Henley, Team Olive Jane, caught a 11.14 pound king to finish second. No false albacore were caught. For more information visit www.ccanc.org.
The Second Annual Jacksonville Rotary Speckled Trout Shootout was held Saturday, Oct. 22, from Laguna Bay in Jacksonville with 19 boats competing. This tournament was based on the aggregate weight of three trout. Proceeds will benefit the Jacksonville Rotary Club and its numerous civic projects.
The tournament was won by Robbie Hall and Tommy Jones with three healthy specks that weighed 8.15 pounds. Brent Banks and Travis Barfield were second with a total of 7.55 pounds. Buddy and Jake Gainey's three largest trout weighed 6.67 pounds and they secured third place.
Richard Peterson and Steve Mylinski caught a trout that weighed 3.56 pounds to earn the Largest Trout TWT. Charlene Gumphe topped the lady anglers with a speck of 1.57 pounds. The largest Redfish weighed 2.64 pounds and was caught by Don Meyerchick. For more information visit www.jacksonvillerotaryclubnc.org.
The North Carolina Beach Buggy Association (NCBBA) Red Drum Tournament fished Thursday through Saturday at Avon. The tournament drew 245 fishermen from 15 states. This is the tournament that began as the Frank and Fran's Red drum tournament and was taken over by the NCBBA a few years ago. The tournament was in danger until the Highway 12 Bridge at Pea Island Refuge was completed and Highway 12 was opened.
A pair of 50 inch red drum paced the tournament. Matt Burleigh caught his first and was declared the winner on a time based tiebreaker. Logan Sheriff was second. Mike crew caught the Longest Bluefish at 21 inches. John Ross had an excellent tournament that included catching the Largest Sea Mullet that weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces and was 15.75 inches long, catching the longest red drum by a senior angler at 46.75 inches and catching a 49 inch red drum to lead all fishermen on day three..
Bonnie Connelly caught a 44.50 inch red drum to earn Longest Red Drum by Lady Angler honors. Abbie Sterling led the junior anglers with an 18 incher. The longest red drum of the day were a 48 incher caught by Scott Alsbrook on day one, a 48.25 incher caught by Ian Gilmore on day two and Ross' 49 incher on day three. For more information visit www.ncbba.org.
The Cape Fear Red Trout Celebrity Classic Tournament was held from the Blockade Runner in Wrightsville Beach on October 21 to 23. This tournament includes a banquet and raises funds for cystic fibrosis research.
George Brinson and Scotty Gould, who were guided by Capt. Rennie Clark, claimed the lion's share of the awards. Brinson and Gould began with the Team Grand Champions award. Brinson was the Grand Champion and Gould was the Runner-up Grand Champion. Gould also was the champion in the Spin Division.
Liz Pitts was guided by Capt. Jot Owens and represented the ladies well while winning three divisions. Pitts was the Lady Grand Champion Angler, the Bait Division Champion and also caught 31 trout to win the Most Trout award. Jeanette Gallaher, who is a perennial winner at this tournament, won the Largest Trout award this year. She was guided by Capt. Jon Huff.
The Celebrity Grand Champion was Jimbo Meador of Point Clear, Ala, who is touted as being the person who taught Tom Hanks to be Forrest Gump. Meador was guided by Capt. Drew Arndt.
James Breegle, guided by Capt. Mike Hoffman, was the Junior Grand Champion Angler and caught (and released) the largest redfish at 26.5 inches. Richard Sear, guided by Capt. Seth Vernon, was the Fly Division Champion and Capt. Allen Cain led James Weathers to six redfish, which was the most caught by any angler. For more information visit www.cfredtrout.com.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began Oct. 22 and will continue through Dec. 3 in Emerald Isle. All trout must be caught on foot on Bogue Banks. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
During the past week, Clay Knudsen became the first fisherman to surpass the three pound mark in the 2011 Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Challenge. Knudsen's trout weighed 3.19 pounds, which makes it the current leader overall and also closest to the October Wild Card Weight of 3.12 pounds with only a few more days remaining in October. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
After all the tournaments of the past few weekends, only a few tournaments this weekend will almost seem like a weekend off. The Battle on the Neuse, formerly named the Neuse River Backwater Open, will be held in New Bern on Saturday, Oct. 29. This tournament benefits Tryon Palace and features, speckled trout, flounder, red drum and striper. For more information visit www.sportsmanstoystore.com.
The World of Outlaws/Carolina Kingfish Classic will be held at New River Marina in Sneads Ferry on Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29. This tournament includes numerous raffle prizes that will be drawn at during the Awards Dinner on Saturday after fishing. Non-fishermen are invited to attend and buy a dinner plate and/or raffle tickets. The Grand Prize is a trip to the World of Outlaws Championship at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For more information visit www.carolinakingfish.com.
The Holden Beach Festival by The Sea will hold a three phase fishing tournament as part of the festival on Saturday, Oct. 29. There will be a king mackerel tournament, a pier, land surf, bank or ICW tournament and a kid's tournament. For more information visit www.hbmerch.com.