Once again we've had another week of fall weather that has been uncharacteristically unsettled. We were cold early last week, warmed into a weekend that was much nicer that the forecast and dealt with some cool temperatures and the threat of rain again trough the middle of the week. The kicker is the forecast that has us rising back to sunny and approaching 80 for today and in the high 70s over the weekend.
The water temperatures have risen back to 68 off Emerald Isle and 70 off Wrightsville Beach and it appears they may gain another degree or two by the end of the weekend. I know I'm getting old and my memory is both failing and selective, but I sure think I remember mainly falls that were more uniform with subtle changes, not the extreme swings we've been having the past few weeks.
Last week I mentioned the letter stating notice of intent to sue that was sent to the National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) by the Karen Beasley Turtle Rehab Hospital at Topsail. Undoubtedly this was some of the biggest non-fishing news from our area for a while. I spent a lot of time since last week researching this and there are many differing opinions and interpretations. However, there are facts to show the likelihood of more turtle interactions than the Incidental Take Permit allows and that some turtle interactions have gone unreported, which puts the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries out of compliance with the permit.
The letter requests all gill nets be removed from N.C. waters. If a solution is not reached in 60 days, the legal action will proceed. The letter may be viewed at http://cfrgnc.blogspot.com.
This is not good news for sea turtles or N.C. fishermen. The brunt of any corrective action will probably be directed at commercial fishermen, but recreational fishermen could also face restrictions in gear and access. For the time being, there is a 60 day period when suitable solutions could be reached and the suit would not proceed. If the suit proceeds, the Turtle Hospital will be represented by the Duke University Law School. The DMF has already closed some areas of the Pamlico Sound to large mesh gill nets and other areas, particularly one in the lower Cape Fear River, have seasonal closures and stricter requirements for nets.
This is serious business and should not be taken lightly. Birds haven't affected us as much as in other parts of the state, but the basis for closing much of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to vehicle and foot traffic began with a suit to protect a handful of nesting plovers. The number of sea turtles involved is far greater than those few plovers and several species are already classified as endangered species. It may already be too late to stop the wheels from turning too far, but I believe we would be far better off in the long run to work this out locally and prevent federal involvement.
In other fisheries news--the South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council will hold a series of public meetings during November to solicit public input on the proposed closures and changes (Amendments 17A, 17B and 18) in the Snapper-Grouper fisheries. The closest meeting will be Tuesday, November 3 in New Bern at the Hilton New Bern, Riverfront (252-638-3585). The meeting will begin at 3:00 and run through 7:00 P.M. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
The recreational season for beeliners (vermilion snapper) will close at 12:01 A.M. on Sunday, November 1. It will remain closed until April 1, 2010. The commercial season for beeliners closed on September 18, after the 2009 quota was filled. The commercial beeliner season will reopen on January 1, with a new quota for 2010. Recreational and commercial seasons for shallow water grouper will close on January 1 and reopen on May 1--unless the looming closures for red snapper prohibit it.
Spot fishing has been good at various times, but the changing weather and warming water has created some unpredictable slack times. The general feeling is the bite is better during the rising tide, but not always. However, they are migrating fish and it can fire back off in a matter of minutes when another school arrives.
There are numerous locations along the coast that are preferred spot locations and any local tackle shop should be able to direct you to a few. Pier fishermen are also catching spots. Bloodworms or one of the synthetic bloodworms on basic double drop bottom rigs are the standard technique for catching spots.
The king bite was really good again this week. Every day that was fishable there were kings caught. Kings were spread from just a few miles off the beaches on out. There was a strong bite at the popular spots east of Cape Lookout and off the Cape Fear River at Southport. Live bait was difficult to find several mornings, but was worth the effort.
Many folks thought the Spanish mackerel would leave after last week's cold, but they haven't--at least not yet. There were some nice ones caught again this week by pier fishermen and trollers. Pier fishermen also caught some big black drum, sea mullet, bluefish, flounder, red drum, spots, specks, blowfish and more.
I have heard numerous reports of false albacore off Shackleford Banks, between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout, off Wrightsville Beach and even a few off Southport. They have been mainly smaller fish, but with a few studs mixed in to catch you off guard and test your tackle. Hopefully the warming water doesn't affect them. While not generally considered to be of good table quality, false albacore are determined fighters and are lots of fun to catch.
The changing weather has kept a lot of boats, especially smaller ones, from heading offshore during the past week. The main fish offshore fish below Cape Hatteras are wahoo and grouper. Some kings have also move offshore. A few tuna were caught, but the tuna action remains very slow south of Cape Hatteras. The Oregon Inlet charter boats reported surprising numbers of small dolphin mixed with the tuna this week. With beeliner season closed, grouper, black sea bass and grunts will be the big offshore bottom catches.
On the inshore side of things, the cooling water has the specks, reds and flounders excited and feeding. Numerous fishermen have reported their best catches of the year so far. Many times a drift along a marsh grass bank or down one of the many coastal creeks will produce all three on the same bait in the same trip.
With shrimp all but gone for the year, mullet minnows are probably a better compromise for live baits. Specks, reds and flatties will all sometimes eat peanut pogies and mud minnows and they are certainly better than no live baits.
For those who prefer artificials, or rather not take the time to find live baits, specks and reds will hit a wide variety of spoons, hard baits such as MirrOlures and soft plastics. The scented soft plastics give a definite advantage and are very easy to fish. While not generally as aggressive, flounder will also occasionally hit many of these artificials. The largest one I have caught this year hit a MirrOlure 27MR in a shallow bay.
In generalities, the pups will usually be cruising the edges of the marsh and along oyster rocks. Flounder may be in these same general locations but are often on the edges and breaks where the current carries a lot of bait by. Specks usually hold in the slightly deeper water just a few feet away from the drum and flounder, so don't end your retrieve too quickly. Work the lure all the way back to the boat. Specks and reds are also moving into the surf and around the jetties, especially at Cape Lookout. Flounder are working through the inlets to many nearshore ocean rocks and artificial reefs.
As the fishing heats up so do the number of tournaments. A couple last longer and are ongoing. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. The current leader is Carl Edwards 5.09 pound speck. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The 7th Annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began Saturday (Oct. 24) at Emerald Isle and runs through December 5. All fish must be caught fishing on foot in the surf, from a pier, in the inlet or in the sound between Fort Macon and Emerald Isle. This tournament is sponsored by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Dept. More information is available by calling 252-354-6350.
The 7th Annual Jacksonville Speckled Trout tournament was held October 24 from Sneads Ferry Marina/ Power Marine Outfitters in Sneads Ferry. The tournament is held each year to benefit the USO of North Carolina. This year 33 boats participated in the event which featured largest trout and five fish aggregate categories.
Capt. Ricky Kellum showed again why he calls his charter business the Speckled Specialist. First place went to the Betts Tackle Team of Kellum and Walter Bateman of Jacksonville. Their aggregate weight was 13.86 pounds and their heaviest trout was 2.86 pounds. Kellum and Bateman pocketed $1,500 for their efforts.
Unlike many tournaments that use weigh-in time to break ties, this tournament does not. There was a tie for second place, so the prize money for second and third places was combined and each team received half and finished in second place. This is similar to the system used in golf and some other sports and I like it. I don't think it makes you a better fisherman to quit early and head in.
David Moore and Mike Phillips of Swansboro combined to use their trout fishing talents as Team Goose Creek Marine and earn one of the second place finishes. Their aggregate weight was 13.73 pounds and their big fish weighed 3.17 pounds. Richard Peterson, Swansboro, and Steve Myslinski, Richlands, claimed the other second place as Team Peterson Builders. Their aggregate was also 13.73 pounds and their big speck weighed 3.68 pounds.
The largest trout of the tournament was caught by Connor Behan of Swansboro. Behan's trout weighed 5.45 pounds and was his first citation speck. He won the Top Junior Angler category and received a rod and reel outfit valued at $100 and a pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses. Behan's big speck was 25 3/4 inches long and 12 inches in girth.
The Big Fish Award for the tournament was won by Todd and Tyler Blum of Jacksonville. Their trout weighed 4.85 pounds and earned them $725. Ron McElheney, Sneads Ferry, and Travis Barfield, Jacksonville, caught a 4.43 pound speck to finish in second in the Big Fish Category. Third place in the Big Fish category went to Billy Parkin and Steven Whited, Swansboro for their 3.85 pounder.
Four lady anglers were registered in the tournament, but unfortunately none of them weighed a fish.
There were a couple of firsts at the NC Beach Buggy Association's Red Drum Tournament held at the end of last week at Avon. This was the first year that the popular tournament, originally begun as the Frank and Fran's Red Drum Tournament and still headquartered at Frank and Fran Folb's tackle shop in Avon, has been run by the NCBBA. It was also the first time the tournament winner, Danny Fletcher of Elizabeth City, had caught an overslot red drum on the Outer Banks.
Except for it being the middle of the night at 11:15 P.M. October 23, Fletcher picked an excellent time to improve his red drum resume. Unfortunately no one was around to get a picture of Fletcher and his 50 inch fish. The fish was measured and certified by a tournament judge before being released.
For his exceptional catch, Fletcher received a prize package worth approximately $2,200. This included free entry and lodging for the 2010 tournament, $1,000 cash, a $450 carving of a red drum (the first-place trophy), a WR1 Nitro reel and $200 from One More Cast.
There were 300 participants in the tournament and they represented 19 states. The entries included 33 senior anglers, 26 lady anglers and 10 junior anglers. The competition area was limited to a section of approximately 19 miles of the seashore. It extended from two miles north of Ramp 23 to two miles south of Ramp 38. Red drum had to reach the slot minimum of 18 inches to be registered in the tournament and there were 151 registered during the three days. All red drum were released alive.
Second place went to the early leader, Matt Hooper of Salvo, who landed (and released) a 46.5 inch red drum just after dark on the first day of the tournament. Hooper is just 14 years old.
The tournament also featured awards for the largest red drum each day that wasn't one of the overall winners. On Thursday and Friday, that award went to Tom Cahall of Georgetown, Delaware for a pair for fish that measured 29 and 29.25 inches respectively. Chad Clegg of Greensboro caught a 44.5 inch drum to win the daily award on Saturday.
Other awards included Most Red Drum Registered--15--Mike Frick of Nashville, Tennessee; Longest Red Drum-Lady Angler--27.5 inches--Jeanne Griffin of Moncure; Longest Red Drum Junior Angler--25.25 inches--David Holland of Downington, Pennsylvania; Longest Red Drum Senior Angler--25 inches--Jeanne Griffin--25 inches--Moncure; Longest Bluefish--Jeanne Griffin--19 inches--Moncure; Heaviest Sea Mullet--David Griffin--18 inches, 2 pounds, 9 ounces--Holly Springs. There was also an award for the longest striper but none were caught during the tournament.
The Fall Brawl King Classic was held at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach Saturday and Sunday. This tournament features one day of fishing per team, but allows them to choose either Saturday or Sunday. That is good as only 17 of the 170 boats elected to fish on Saturday, with the remaining 153 fishing on Sunday. This was the final event in SKA Division 9.
Brothers Mark and Billy Emmart, of Wilmington, put their Moon Doggie into the winners circle with a 41 pound king they caught on Sunday. There are several rumors as to where they caught the fish, but with the brisk east-northeast wind, the odds are they weren't very far off the hill.
The Sea Byrd, with Capt. Ricky Byrd of Pittsboro, claimed the second spot with a 38.55 pound king. Ginny Matthews was fishing on the Sea Byrd and received the Top Lady Angler Award for their catch.
The Steel Fishing, with Capt. Randy Spainhour of Southport, was the highest placing boat that fished on Saturday. Spainhour and crew were the early leaders of the tournament with the 35.25 pound king they caught Saturday afternoon. With a pair of larger fish weighed on Sunday, they slipped to third place.
The top small boat in the tournament was the Wishful Thinking. Capt. Frank Byrum, Monroe, led his crew to a 31.35 pound king which was also the fifth place fish overall and garnered Top Junior Angler Honors for Brice Byrum.
The Top Senior Angler honors went to Rusty Russ, Shallotte, on the Mr. Goodhands for their 32.90 pound king. Russ and his sons also finished in fourth place overall in the tournament.
A Top Fishing Family Award was presented to Chad Morris and his family on the Sea Horse. The Morris Family is from Troy and caught a 21.15 pound king.
Between a few tournaments that were already scheduled and a pair of tournaments that were postponed from last weekend, this will be another busy tournament weekend. 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 Cedar Point King Mackerel Tournament, also known as the Winberry's King Tournament, that was scheduled for last weekend will be held this Saturday in Cedar Point. Registration will be open through October 30. For more information call 252-725-9717.
The Carolina Grouper Slam presented by FryingPanTower.com that was scheduled for last Saturday in Carolina Beach will be held October 31. Registration will remain open until October 30. This tournament features individual categories for gag, scamp and red grouper, plus an aggregate category. For more information visit www.fryingpantower.com.
The New River King Mackerel Tournament will be held Saturday from Old Ferry Marina and Campground in Sneads Ferry. This originally also was to have a grouper category, but that was dropped when the Carolina Grouper Slam was postponed. For more information call 252-236-2450.
A tournament to benefit the Fishers of Men Missions will be held from River Forest Marina in Belhaven on October 31. The tournament will feature speckled trout (5 fish aggregate) and flounder (single largest fish) and checking out at River Forest Marina is required. The entry fee is $50 and includes two fishermen per boat. For more information call 252-945-8995.