While the forecast hasn't been on target for the early part of the week, it has been wrong in the right direction. The breezy northeast winds haven't materialized and fishermen that were able to take advantage of the mistakes have enjoyed some really good fishing. The forecast has it pumping up to Small Craft Advisory intensity on both side of Cape Lookout for Friday but beginning to fall out by the afternoon and getting better to real good for Saturday and Sunday. A couple of cool mornings are predicted, but hey, it's November and we should be having some cool mornings.
After rising to 68 degrees last week at Emerald Isle Pier, the water temperature was still holding at 67 degrees Thursday morning. On these sunny days the upper part of the water column probably warms another two degrees by the afternoon. That is really warm for this time of year.
Fall is considered the best time of the year for king mackerel fishing and the king bite was really good again this week. Even though the forecast didn't say so, there were several days that were easily fishable and kings caught whenever there was a good effort. Every time I believe the water has cooled enough the kings will be moving offshore, I get another report of a run along the beach. This time there was a good run of kings early in the week at the Dead Tree Hole and from just off the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty out to the Rock Barge and Trawler wrecks at Morehead city and one was caught off Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island on Sunday.
As was expected, there was also a strong bite east of Cape Lookout. East Rock was mentioned often, but 30 Minute Rock, 1700 Rock, the Atlas Tanker, Four Mile Rock and Chicken Rock were also mentioned. Live bait has been difficult to find at times, but was worth the effort for larger fish. Smaller fish were readily hitting frozen cigar minnows. Some of the offshore boats even reported a few kings around the edges of the Gulf Stream.
Many folks thought the Spanish mackerel would leave after last week's cold, but they have held out at least one more week. There may have been some smaller ones caught by nearshore trollers, but the king fishermen have been catching some really nice ones. Looking back, Robert Cranton's 13 pound world record was caught at Ocracoke in November, so it could happen again.
There have been good reports of false albacore all week. They have been all along Shackleford Banks, between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout and offshore for a few miles. Several days they were thick inside the hook. A few have even stolen some baits intended for trout at the Cape Lookout Jetty and that is a surprise for the fisherman. I've heard a few reports also at Wrightsville Beach and Ocean Isle, but nothing like the numbers at Cape Lookout. The alberts seem to be keying in on small lures and flies that can be retrieved quickly.
The offshore catches have varied a bit this week. There have been some wahoo, plus a few blackfin tuna, kings and even a few scattered dolphin. Several boats also reported catching a sailfish or two.
Pier fishermen had another good week of mixed catches. The most prominent fish were some larger black drum. Doug Leister said he had seen some real whoppers from the Sheraton Pier, but no one had managed to land one yet on spot and flounder tackle. Pier fishermen are catching good numbers of bluefish, plus some sea mullet, blowfish and a few spots.
Mike Stanley at Bogue Inlet Pier said the spot numbers had dropped dramatically, but there could be another run. He also said the black drum action had been better in the morning, with more sea mullet being caught in the late afternoon into evening.
Inshore fishing is also going gangbusters. Capt. Noah Lynk, Noah's Ark Charters, said the specks were really biting well in some of the holes around Harkers Island and out toward Cape Lookout. He said there are fish at the Cape Lookout Jetty if you are willing to fight the crowd. He prefers to work the backwaters and around Middle Marsh and North River. He said he was also catching some reds and an occasional flounder.
The report from Capt. Matt Lamb at Chasin' Tails was for good numbers of smaller specks in the Haystacks as well as at the jetty. He said there were also gray trout in Beaufort Inlet, along the jetties in the area and around the high-rise bridges. He said there were sea mullet along the Morehead City Ship Channel, through the inlet out to the Dead Tree Hole.
Red drum are scattered through the inshore marshes, but some big three year olds and overslot fish are in the surf scattered up and down the beaches. Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout and other uninhabited beaches usually hold more of these reds than the beaches with people and a lot of lights at night.
It isn't a local award this year but it could be in the future and it's good news anyway. DMF Director Louis Daniel this week announced a pair of appropriations from the Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund. The deals have not been completed and are contingent upon completing the acquisition of the land, but the committee approved $2.8 million for a ramp and parking in Hampstead and another $2 million for a ramp, docks and parking in Sneads Ferry.
More good news came from the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show over last weekend. Reports from the show note an increased number of new products, including new boat models, increased attendance, and initial reports of sales being up a little. Hopefully this spark of activity in the boating market will continue.
Early in the week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council (ASFMC), which regulates fisheries in the coastal states from the Carolinas to Maine, voted 8-6 not to allow a rollover of uncaught commercial striped bass quota to the next season. A second motion was made to allow a 25 per cent rollover and it was also defeated. While they are not currently listed as overfished or undergoing overfishing, fishery managers are reporting smaller numbers of striped bass in their surveys, recreational fishermen are reporting releasing fewer and the fatal disease Mycobacteriosis has become prevalent among the Chesapeake Bay spawning stock in recent years.
The letter stating notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) from the Karen Beasley Turtle Rehab Hospital at Topsail continues to be the hottest topic of conversation wherever fishermen gather. Quickly stated, the letter said the NMFS and N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) are out of compliance with the Incidental Take Permit issued to DMF and requests all gill nets be removed from N.C. waters. The letter also states that if a solution is not reached in 60 days, the legal action will proceed. The letter may be viewed at http://cfrgnc.blogspot.com.
The conversations on this point are often heated and contentious. They tend to group folks as either netters or net haters. I believe the actuality is that most people fall somewhere in-between the extremes. Unfortunately I haven't yet found the right words to describe the tweeners.
I contacted the DMF requesting a position or statement on the situation and was directed to the N.C. Attorney General's Office. Because of the impending potential for litigation, all the Attorney General's Office would say is they were working with the DMF on the matter. It may already be too late to stop this from proceeding to federal court, but I believe we would be far better off in the long run to work this out locally and prevent federal involvement. Like many fishermen, commercial and recreational alike, I'm just not comfortable when the feds are looking over my shoulder.
The South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council (SAFMC) is holding a series of public meetings to solicit public input on the proposed closures and changes (Amendments 17A, 17B and 18) in the Snapper-Grouper fisheries. Our closest meeting was in New Bern Tuesday night, but I haven't seen a report from it. The meetings continue into next week, with the closest remaining meeting being in Newport News, Va. on November 16. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
The Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) will be holding their Redfish Tour Championship in Orange Beach, Ala. this weekend and a handful of local teams will be representing our area in the event. One team, the Dingbatters Fishing Team of Capt. Rennie Clark and "Hurricane" Drew Arndt is in the running for IFA Team of the Year. Fishing began today (Friday) and will finish tomorrow. Good luck to all the fishermen, but especially those representing our area. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com.
There is another week or two of tournaments and then just a few that 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 Tom Holland's 7.13 pound speck. The special weight for November is 3.25 pounds and it had not been matched as of Thursday morning. 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 New River King Mackerel Tournament was 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 until this weekend. The weather forecast was challenging enough two other tournaments were cancelled, but a small group of dedicated fishermen wanted to fish anyway. The winner was Hector Reyes, who caught a 44.15 pound king in his Carolina Skiff, What Ever.
The Cedar Point King Mackerel Tournament, also known as the Winberry's King Tournament, was cancelled for the year after running afoul of windy weather for the second weekend in a row. For more information call 252-725-9717.
After being postponed from the previous weekend, the Carolina Grouper Slam, presented by FryingPanTower.com, was again cancelled due to another bout with windy weekend weather over the weekend. Tournament organizers are talking about expanding the scope a little and holding something in the spring after grouper season reopens. For more information visit www.fryingpantower.com.
The Fall Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament will be held Saturday in Atlantic Beach. Registration is through Friday evening at the Tackle Box on the Atlantic Beach Circle, with fishing on Saturday. For more information call 252-342-6100.
The Ed Sewell Memorial Trout Tournament will be held Saturday in Swansboro. Registration will be through Friday evening. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net.
A very important tournament for this weekend is the Flat Bottom Girls Flounder tournament scheduled for Saturday at Carolina Beach. The beneficiary of all the funds raised by this tournament is Fish for Tomorrow.Org (www.fishfortomorrow.org). Among other noteworthy projects, they are one of the primary supporters of the aquaculture program at South Brunswick High School and were on hand to film the students release several hundred flounder into Big Davis Canal at Oak Island on October 14.
During the Flat Bottom Girls tournament, flounder are kept alive and are transferred to fishery labs. At appropriate time, the eggs and milt are stripped from them to raise wild strain flounder in hatcheries. If you are a flounder fisherman, this is a tournament you should support. For more information visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
A rather unique king mackerel tournament will begin this Saturday. While it is hosted and coordinated by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, the fishing is primarily in Raleigh Bay (Cape Lookout to Cape Hatteras) and there are weigh stations in Hatteras and Beaufort. The tournament runs the nine day period from November 7 through November 15 and fishermen may pick any two of the days to fish.
This tournament is scheduled to coincide with the arrival of the really large kings in Raleigh Bay. The tournament organizers and most participants expect a king of 50 plus pounds will be needed to win the tournament and would not be surprised if the winner is heavier than 60 pounds. The multiple days are to allow for a suitable weather window. For more information visit www.oifc.com.