Fishing was going well last week through Friday morning and then came Hurricane Sandy. The big, slow moving storm screwed things up for a few days for part of the coast and things are still out of whack along the Outer Banks. Still, we fared better than the folks in Delaware, New Jersey and New York and our hearts go out to them. They havenít been subjected to a nasty storm in quite some time and Iím sure they wonít remember this one fondly. We should all be thankful it was only a Category 1 and wasnít any stronger.
We have all seen many pictures of the destruction now on television and through the internet and it is bad. What is amazing to me is that in our modern age of wireless internet and cell phones, pictures can be sent that werenít possible even a decade or two ago. All day Sunday I received pictures of the flooding from Down East and along the N.C. Outer Banks.
One picture that stands out to me was of Highway 12 between Atlantic and Cedar Island. All that was visible in the picture were some tall sections of marsh grass, a line of telephone poles and lots of water. There wasnít any sign of the road and no road signs were showing either. If you didnít know that a road ran beside those poles, you wouldnít have known there was a road there. It was stark and this flooding really hasnít been mentioned, except locally. I hope the folks living out that way were prepared and didnít get flooded out like happens so often.
On the Outer Banks, some fishermen were stuck on Cape Lookout and Portsmouth Island and made the best of it. They were sending pictures of them fishing again by Sunday afternoon. Farther up the Banks, Ocracoke got it first, then Hatteras Island and up to the Nags Head-Kitty Hawk area.
One of the problems with the Outer Banks, especially Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands along Pamlico Sound, is the flooding comes from both sides. As the storm approaches the water comes from the ocean and then once it passes the soundside flooding is usually worse. Texts and e-mails from friends on Ocracoke and Hatteras said that was the case again.
Good news for the residents on the Outer Banks is that supplies and work crews began being transported earlier this week from the ferry landing at Stumpy Point to Rodanthe. According to the N.C. Beach Buggy Association, this ferry and the Ocracoke ferries will open to visitors beginning Friday, with the Hatteras Inlet Ferries also running between the Islands. There was severe damage to Highway 12 above Rodanthe and it remains closed.
The Cape Lookout Ferry reported that Cape Lookout, including Portsmouth Island, reopened to pedestrian visitors on Wednesday at noon and to vehicles on Thursday. The Great Island and Long Neck Cabins weathered the storm well and also reopened Thursday afternoon. Things arenít exactly back to normal, but the banks are opening and working through the issues.
One question I was asked numerous times over the weekend was how fast do I think the good fishing will resume after Hurricane Sandy passes and the seas calm. There is no longer any need for speculation. I told folks I thought much fishing would return pretty quickly, but I was surprised. The fish were biting as soon as there were fishermen to cast to them. The inshore trout bite from the Neuse River to Calabash has been hot. Maybe even better than before the storm. There has been a new leader in the Chasiní Tails Speckled Trout Challenge (Atlantic Beach) caught this week.
Fishing has also been excellent at many places along the nearshore ocean this week. I have gotten excellent good reports from surf fishermen and pier fishermen from Cape Lookout to the south. The reports from Bogue Inlet Pier have lots of drum, including reds from underslot to overslot size and blacks, plus sea mullets, speckled trout, bluefish and a few spots.
There were also reports of undersize pups being put in coolers at several piers and along the beaches. Donít do it. A 17 1/2 inch pup is a nice fish, but it isnít legal. Neither is one that is 27 1/2 inches. I havenít heard reports of tail trimming to make an overslot pup legal, but trimming the tail also makes it illegal. The slot is 18 inches to 27 inches and they are measured with the tail compressed. This makes them a little longer than they measure laying flat.
The anticipation is the fall run of kings has moved offshore. There were only a few scattered reports of Spanish mackerel this week too. With the stirred up water and cooler temperatures, they have probably headed south.
I believe the influx of cooler water and fresh water will get the larger flounder, which will winter offshore this winter, headed towards the inlets. Puppy drum were only off their feed for a few days, and were biting again really quickly. Speckled trout fishing has been getting better every week and that may have been interrupted for a few days, but the specks are biting strong again already.
One of my friends called Sunday afternoon and we were talking about whether different color lures might produce better if the water gets off color with a lot of rainwater running down the river. I keep some loose records of when, where, and what fish bite and gave them a quick once over.
Years back I had more success after large rainfall events with root beer, red and motor oil color soft plastics. In the past five years, I believe that has shifted to new penny and similar colors. I also noticed that I didnít really fish them faster, but made exaggerated vertical movements to help get them noticed in the off-color or dirty water.
Live baits and baits with scent will help catch fish in dirty water or low visibility situations. Live baits will move around and struggle against the hooks and that gets them noticed. With artificial baits, it is up to the fisherman to work the lure so it creates attention, but leaving a scent trail is a big plus.
Mullet are typically the most active of the minnow baits and often draw the most attention. Menhaden swim around some and mud minnows typically move the least. Shrimp suspended under a float will drift with the current and if they see something they thing is likely to eat them, you will be surprised just how active they get. I have had shrimp jump several inches out of the water when trying to escape from a hungry red or speck.
Some old-timers are saying the passing of Hurricane Sandy should push the spots down to us. That would be great news as spots are highly anticipated every fall and they have just been flirting with us so far this year. Some spots were biting, but it wasnít the big run everyone looks for each fall. Hopefully that comes soon. Expectations are to see a good, but maybe short, spot run, both inside and along the ocean beaches.
The king mackerel bite had begun moving offshore to about 50 to 70 feet of water and that was probably deep enough to hide form the wave action we received during the storm. There may be a few kings around some of the inshore rocks and artificial reefs, but king fishing should be better a little farther off. I would suggest beginning looking for them at those spots at about 60 feet deep. I would also expect there are kings at the usual popular spots just a few miles east of Frying Pan Shoals and Cape Lookout Shoals.
With the water cooling, the kings should be feeding heavily and may bite just about any bait or lure. There should be pogeys along the beach, but with the cooler weather they usually donít come to the surface and begin flipping until the sun is shining on the water. The kings should hit frozen cigar minnows and you can troll them a little faster, so you can cover more area while locating the fish.
Grouper were biting well and shouldnít have been affected by the storm. They are also moving a little closer inshore. I like pieces of a large pogy for my grouper baits, but live pinfish are often just the thing to get them going. Be aware that the annual closure on beeliners began November 1 and they wonít be legal again until April 1. Grunts, porgys and triggerfish seasons are open and there are some big ones being caught.
Wahoo were biting and that shouldnít have changed. The storm shouldnít have pushed them around too badly. In fact the storm may have helped the wahoo bite. Several fishermen said the offshore water had warmed back up. Getting some cooler water out there and creating some temperature breaks should help ramp up the wahoo and blackfin tuna action. Prior to the storm there were also occasional reports of boats catching dolphin and a few billfish. That shouldnít change either.
The N.C. Marine Fishery Commission (MFC) will meet Nov. 7-9 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. One of the primary topics for this meeting will be to revise or amend the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan. Public input will be received in a special session on Nov. 7 beginning at 6:00 P.M. and again on Nov. 8 at 9:00 A.M. Speakers will be limited to five minutes on Nov. 7 and three minutes on Nov. 8.
An agenda for the meeting should be posted on the MFC website at www.ncdmf.net. Interested persons who are unable to attend the meeting can submit comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments must be received prior to the meeting and will be forwarded to the chairman of the MFC and entered into public record.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comments on Amendment 18B for the Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic. This amendment pertains to management measures for the commercial longline sector of the golden tilefish fishery. For information on Amendment 18B, visit the NOAA Southeast Regional Office Web page at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/index.html, or view the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web page at: www.safmc.net.
Comments will be accepted via electronic submission or mail. To submit comments via e-mail, visit http://www.regulations.gov and go to docket number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0177. Follow the instructions on the screen to submit a comment. To submit a comment by mail, address it to: Karla Gore, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5505. Comments must be received no later than December 26, 2012 to be considered by NOAA Fisheries.
With oyster season open, I am seeing a lot of private and public oyster roasts. One thing we should all remember is to recycle those oyster shells so they can grow more oysters and fish. The N. C. Division of Marine Fisheries has an oyster shell recycling program that is excellent and works hard to put oyster shells back to work. The program has recycling stations spread all along the coast and in many of the more populated areas inland. Please carry your shells from a private oyster roast to one of these sites and for big events they will arrange to pick them up. For more information on the Oyster Shell Recycling Program visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/oyster-shell-recycling-program.
My favorite oyster roast each fall is the Dixon Chapel UMC Oyster Roast at Varnamtown in Brunswick County and it is this Saturday, Nov. 3. The local oysters there arenít particularly large but have a great flavor and are very salty. They are roasted over wood and some of the flavor sticks. Home made pickles, hush puppies and coffee are included. Soft drinks are available and the church has a great bake sale at the same time. Bring your own oyster knives and sauce.
The Inshore Fishing Association held their Redfish Tour Championship in Chalmette, La. on October 26 and 27. Fishermen qualified for the tournament though divisional and regional tournaments. Several fishermen from the Atlantic Division (Ga. and northward) qualified and two finished in the top ten. Congratulations are in order for Glen Finley and Dodd Wood of Charleston, S.C., who finished in third place and Matt and Ray Lamb of Atlantic Beach, N.C., who finished in ninth place. The Lambs run Chasiní Tails Outdoors on Atlantic Beach Causeway.
The Inshore Fishing Association Kayak Fishing Tour Championship is in Chalmette, La. this weekend. Several fishermen from the area are there and I wish them luck. The kayak fishermen also qualified through divisional and regional tournaments.
It shouldnít come as a surprise to anyone that the N.C. tournaments for this past weekend were postponed. I canít imagine anyone would have liked to be fishing anywhere along the N.C. Coast on Saturday. Thankfully there werenít a lot of tournaments scheduled for this weekend, so it shouldnít create a tournament logjam.
The information I have on the rescheduled tournaments is below.
The N.C. Troopers Association Offshore Ė Inshore Saltwater Tournament was also postponed from Oct. 27 and 28 to 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.
The Martiniís Fall Hook A Hoo Rodeo will begin this Friday, Nov. 2 and continue for 16 days until Nov. 17. Fishermen can fish one of the days during this time, which includes three weekends. Scales will be located at South Harbor Village Marina in Southport and Motts Channel Seafood in Wrightsville Beach. The span of time is to allow fishermen to fish a good weather day around their work and family schedules. The Shriners' Childrenís Hospitals will receive all net proceeds from the tournament. For more information visit www.hookahoo.com.
The Fall Brawl King Classic Tournament will be held Nov. 2 to 4 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. This tournament is a one day event that allows participants to choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday, but not both. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Fall Brawl King Classic was originally scheduled to be the final of five tournaments in SKA Division 9 (Southern N.C. and Northern S.C.). Due to some competitors and the SKA needing to be in Biloxi, Miss. for the upcoming SKA Pro Tour and National Championships, the SKA made the decision to base Division 9 on four tournaments and qualify a few additional boats. If any fishermen have questions regarding their status for the SKA Championship, they should contact SKA. This information and more is posted at www.fishska.com.
King mackerel fishermen from Virginia to Texas will be focusing on Biloxi, Miss next week. The Southern Kingfish Association Professional Kingfish Tour Championship and National Championships will be held there. The Professional Kingfish Tour Championship will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 6 and 7, with the National Championship Tournament following on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10. Fishermen qualified for the National Championship by competing in divisional tournaments and many fishermen from the Tar Heel State will be competing. I wish them all good luck and safe travels.