Wow, the weather got chilly last weekend. Monday morning was the coldest with temperatures at daylight flirting with freezing. They didnít quite get there on the beaches, but dipped below freezing at a lot of places on the mainland. The wind fell out too, which allowed the cold to settle and give us our first frost.
Of course, if you donít like cool or cold weather, just give it a little time. I was sweating doing some things in the yard Wednesday and Thursday, but understand the temperatures will be cooling again by the weekend. The early forecast is that many places near the coast will dip into the high 30s Friday night and inland some places will approach freezing. The daytime highs are projected to reach the mid to high 50s, which isnít too bad. Weíll probably warm up again, but in the last week fall got a lot more real.
The big news inshore this week is flounder. Flounder have been biting off creek points, in channels and out the inlets to the surf and nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottoms. Most of these flounder are 2 to 4 pounds, but there have been enough citation size flounder (5 pounds minimum) mixed in to keep things interesting.
Several fishermen said flounder are moving toward the inlets pretty hard now that the water temperature has taken a serious drop. Several fishermen said the flounder numbers were down a little this week, but there were more large ones. The flounder were mainly hitting live minnows and soft plastics, but I heard of several that were caught on gold weedless spoons being cast for puppy drum.
There is one flounder tale I have to tell. This year the waters from Carolina Beach down to Oak Island have given up several double digit flounder. It happened again this week when Tommy Craddock caught a 12 pound, 14 ounce flounder. Craddock, who runs a stump grinding business was killing a little time waiting his turn at a job site and went to the nearby dock of a friend to fish for a while. He was fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway at the west end of Oak Island and caught a 12 pound, 14 ounce flounder. The big flatfish, which hit a 3 inch Berkley Gulp Shrimp, was 29 Ĺ inches long and 25 inches in girth. Congratulations!
Trout are biting well also. There are reports of limits and more fish released almost daily. Even better, many of the trout are well above the 14 inch minimum size. Trout are generally in water a little deeper than flounder, but puppy drum tend to feed in many of the same areas as flounder and on much of the same food, so they are often caught mixed together. While flounder usually feed around puppy drum, they occasionally move deeper and are sometimes mixed with trout.
At seminars I am often asked to give depths for this and it isnít avoiding the answer, but sometimes the depths overlap. I usually look for puppy drum in water less than 4 feet deep, but occasionally to 6 feet deep, while I typically begin looking for trout in water 6 feet or deeper. Flounder mix with both and I have caught them from a foot deep next to the bank to along the edges of the ship channel at 40 feet plus.
Food, or lack of it, is the determining factor. These fish live in close enough contact that they know when there is an abundance of baitfish and shrimp moving through an area and sometimes (typically at different stages of the tide) the bait is shallower and sometimes it is deeper.
It seems like I say it every week, but fishermen using live baits need to be familiar with Carolina rigs for fishing the bottom and popping cork rigs for fishing suspended baits. These rigs will also work with a variety of soft plastics, especially those with scent or baits with scent added. Berkley Gulp baits are one of the innovators of scented baits and Pro Cure is one of the most popular scents to be added to baits.
With the cooler weather, the number of pier fishermen is falling. While this season has lasted late, most years the crowds are gone and the piers close by Thanksgiving Weekend. Fishing is pretty good right now and it makes one wonder if this might be the year to stay open later.
Pier fishermen have been catching a mixture of flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, puppy drum, black drum, whiting, pompano, spots and more. The water cooled a lot last weekend and the only place that reported kings was Oak Island Pier at Oak Island. Fishermen there caught one on Friday and several Saturday morning before the front rolled in. A cobia was caught at Ocean Crest Pier, also at Oak Island. The water temps had dropped into the mid 60s on Monday and these were probably the last striking fish of the year from an N.C. pier.
Thursday morning there was an 82 pound black drum caught at Bogue Inlet Pier and the reports are several other large one were lost when they wrapped around the pier pilings and broke lines.
There are nice gray trout on the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottoms along most of the central and southern N.C. Coast. The two things mentioned most often as catching the grays are metal jigs, such as the Jigfish, Stingsilver and Hopkins, and speck rigs. The minimum size for keeping a gray trout is 12 inches and that hasnít been an issue. The issue is only being allowed to keep one.
Black sea bass are also being caught at the artificial reefs. Unfortunately, most of them are a little shy of the 13 inch minimum. They arenít choosy at all and have been hitting metal jigs, speck rigs, plus a lot of live baits intended for flounder and more. You may be able to work through enough to find a limit of keepers, but the percentage of keepers is low. That should improve as the water continues to cool.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be great when the sea conditions allow making the trip. Grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass and more are biting well. Some fish have been caught as close in as 60 feet deep, but most are in the 80 to 110 foot depths. There have also been king mackerel and a couple of stray wahoo caught light-lining while bottom fishing.
It has been a great fall for false albacore around Cape Lookout. They have moved offshore a few miles, but continue to hit small lures and flies. False albacore generally tolerate cooler water temperatures than mackerel and should be around for a while.
Kings and Spanish mackerel bit really well last week. The Spanish were just a ways off the beach and had plenty of bluefish mixed with them. However, they may be packing their bags and heading south this week. The kings ranged from rocks and wrecks just a few miles off the beach and out. The ocean water has cooled rapidly this week and that usually pushes mackerel offshore, so be prepared to go a little farther to find them.
Several fishermen, who found kings last week before the winds began, said they were hitting frozen cigar minnows about as well as live baits. One of the plusses of using frozen baits is being able to troll a little faster that the dead idle of live bait speed. This allows covering more water and potentially trolling in front of more fish.
Fishermen wishing to troll frozen baits for kings (and more) should check out the Pirate Plugs made by South Chatham Tackle (www.southchathamtackle.com) in Sanford. They use a weighted sloped head to stabilize the lure and help it dive. Baits donít spin using Pirate Plugs. I believe they are sold locally, but you can certainly purchase them at South Chatham Tackleís on-line store. They have sizes for cigar minnows to ballyhoo and a series of deep divers.
Itís a long run to the Gulf Stream and the edge of the Continental Shelf, but wahoo continue to bite well and when the weather is good the trip can be a lot of fun. You can also make friends happy with fish or put a lot of steaks and fillets in the freezer. Offshore trollers are also catching blackfin tuna, a few late dolphin and even an occasional billfish.
One of my fishing trips was with Eric Bachnik of L&S Lure Company (www.mirrolure.com). Many fishermen donít always recognize L&S Lure Company, but when told it is the parent company of MirrOlure, Iland Lures and Paul Brownís Original Series Lures, they definitely recognize those products.
These companies donít rest on their laurels and are constantly working on new products. Ericís grandfather started the company and he once told me that he personally tests every new product. They have a few new lures I havenít tried, so I asked Eric if I could tag along on a research and development trip if he made one while I was in town. Being a good friend, he set one up for the morning before MREP started. As I think youíll see, I learned a few things from this trip Ė and caught a few fish too.
Eric picked me up at the hotel while it was still dark and we headed for a ramp on the edge of Tampa Bay. He wanted to be in the water and at our fist stop by first light. This was at a mangrove island in a small bay and we could hear fish smashing mullet that were being swept by in the falling tide. However, because of the rapidly falling tide, we would only have a short time after daylight to fish and leave the shallow bay.
We were rigged with MirrOlureís new Pro Dog JR with clear eyes (C85MR). This is a topwater bait made to imitate mullet. We were throwing by sound for a while, but as the first light cracked over the small bay, we could begin to see the splashes of several schools of mullet being crashed by what we thought were redfish. Some were passing by out of our casting range, but there were enough in range to keep things interesting.
Eric saw a push in shallow water beside a point on the mangrove island and launched a cast to it. He had only twitched the lure a couple of times when the lure disappeared and the water exploded. His reel screamed as the fish stripped line from it while heading upcurrent. Pretty quickly the fish reversed direction and made a swing out away from us. After a second run it began slugging it out with Eric and I was pretty sure it was a big redfish until it rolled again and we saw the tail. This was a snook and a nice one too!
I cleared my line and grabbed the net. The snook flashed by the boat once, but it was too deep and moving too quickly for me to attempt to net it. After that short run, Eric got it to the surface and led it to the boat where I scooped it up. The sun was barely cracking the eastern horizon and we already had a trophy. Eric held the snook for a few quick pictures and then sent it on its way.
Moving back into position off the mangrove island we scraped the bottom at one point and Eric said we should make this our last drift unless we wanted to take a chance on spending most of the day there. I had a big swirl around my lure that was followed by a strike, but I didnít get the hook set. It felt good for a few seconds, but quickly pulled free. I got in one last long cast to try again, but the fish wasnít coming back and we moved out of the small bay into a larger one.
Once the sun cleared the horizon trout started biting. We caught trout, a pair of mangrove snapper, ladyfish, lizardfish and more as the morning progressed. We fished the topwaters for a while, then switched to suspending lures and finally to some Lil John soft plastic twitch baits on very light jig heads. As the tide continued to fall, a few fish were biting, but the intensity of the action fell off.
A storm cloud was building over the Gulf of Mexico and we were both keeping an eye on it. The rain wasnít an issue, but neither of us wanted to be caught in the open water if it started lightning.
Finally, Eric said we should go get some lunch and might have to call it a day, with the cloud building. I though we were headed in, but instead we ran to Sea Critters Cafť, near Pass A Grille, where Eric quickly cleaned a few trout and one of the mangrove snapper and took them in to be prepared for us. This was a nice touch and the lunch was excellent. Ericís timing was top notch too. After lunch, we ran back to the ramp, loaded the boat and he dropped me back at the hotel, just as it started raining.
Marine Resources Educational Program
MREP participants came from the Gulf Coast, up the Atlantic Coast to N.C. and Puerto Rico. They were from varied jobs and positions across the commercial and recreational fisheries. Capt. Dave Timpy of Wavelength Charters (www.wavelengthcharters.com) in Wilmington and I were the attendees from N.C.
The MREP Fisheries Science Workshop was held April 22-24 in St. Petersburg, Florida and included two afternoons at the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Resources Institute. While the classroom sessions were very informative, Iím a hands-on kind of guy and especially enjoyed the afternoons at the FWC Institute in the labs seeing how they age and check reproductive potential of fish and checking out the different equipment for catching and releasing fish and how it is evaluated.
The MREP Fisheries Management Workshop was held September 30 through October 2 in Tampa, Florida and I was wondering what to expect from it. Even though it was all classroom, I was very pleasantly surprised at how interesting it was and the depth of the material offered. One of my (and most of the other attendees) favorite parts of this module was a role play of a fisheries meeting where we were all given positions that were different, primarily opposite, of those we hold in real life.
I wouldnít go so far as to say Iím smarter now, but I can say I understand a little more about the complex issues of fishery science and management. MREP Ė Southeast will be offered again in 2015 and I would recommend it to anyone in the fishing industry who would like to try to understand the process of managing and regulating our fisheries. The available openings are limited, but there are grants to fund the travel and lodging/meal expenses. Those interested can get more information on MREP and the process of applying at www.gmri.org/our-work/fisheries-convening/mrep-southeast.
NOAA Weather Station 41013 Broadcasting
The proposed rule is based on key conclusions from a Biological Report and the Extinction Risk Analysis conducted by NOAA Fisheries. The results of the comprehensive status review are as follows:
(1) The species still occupies its historical range made up of a single population over a broad geographic area, (historical range means areas where Nassau grouper were typically found);
(2) The species possesses life history characteristics that increase vulnerability to harvest;
(3) The species forms large spawning aggregations, (spawning aggregations are areas where large numbers of fish come to reproduce); spawning aggregations are declining in size and number across the species' range;
(4) Current regulations and/or lack of law enforcement throughout the species' range are not effective in protecting Nassau grouper or their spawning aggregations;
(5) The combination of vulnerability to harvest, life history characteristics, and a lack of regulations and/or law enforcement indicate that the species is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
For more information on the listing process, please visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/listing_petitions/faqs/index.html.
Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by no later than December 31, 2014 to be considered by NOAA Fisheries. Electronic copies of the proposed rule may be obtained from the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office's website. The biological report is also available at the same webpage.
Comments may be submitted electronically by visiting the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and entering docket number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0235 into "Search" box. Select the appropriate title, and click "Submit a Comment," which will display the comment web form. Attachments up to 10 MB will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Jason Rueter Ė NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office Ė Protected Resources Division Ė 263 13th Avenue South Ė St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.
Angler prize with a 2.62 pounder and Evan Sewell caught a 2.38 pounder to earn the Top Junior Angler prize.
The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament that was scheduled for November 1 at Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach was postponed until November 8 due to the inclement weather. For more information visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
The kings were biting for the Southern Kingfish Association Professional Kingfish Invitational Tournament held November 4 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The winning boat, Sweet Caroline, captained by Ron Hildum of Jacksonville, Florida combined kings of 62.58 and 60.36 for a very impressive aggregate weight of 122.944 pounds. The Top local boat was Windy Conditions, with Capt. Henry Tillet and crew, who finished in fourth place with 85.92 pounds. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
November 19 to 21: NC Marine Fisheries Commission Business Meeting,
Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. - Public Meeting, Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. - Business Meeting, Nov. 21 at 8:30 a.m. - Business Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
Agendas for all public meetings are posted on the NC Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net under the Public Meetings tag on the home page.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings
September 1 to Dec 31: Chasiní Tails Outdoors Speckled Trout Challenge, Chasiní Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
October 18 Ė November 29: Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Speckled trout, The Reel Outdoors, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.org.
October 22 to November 9: Martiniís Fall Hook-A-Hoo Rodeo, Wahoo, Multiple weigh stations Myrtle Beach, SC to Atlantic Beach, NC, www.hookahoo.com.
November 6-8: Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Team and Individual Invitational Surf Fishing Tournaments, Multiple Species, Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, Buxton, www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.
November 7-9: Southern Kingfish Association National Championship Tournament, King mackerel, Point Cadet Marina, Biloxi, MS, www.fishska.com.
November 8: Swansboro Century Club Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament, Speckled trout, Casperís Marina, Swansboro, 910-389-0607.
November 8: NC Kayak Fishing Association Specks and Spots Kayak Fishing Tournament, Speckled trout and red drum, Federal Point Boating Access, Fort Fisher, www.nckfa.com.
November 8: Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament, Flounder, (live weigh-in required), Dockside Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishfortomorrow.org.
November 14 and 15: Lowcountry Redfish Cup Championship, Red drum, St. Johns Yacht Harbor, Charleston, S.C., www.lowcountryredfishcup.com.
November 22: Jacksonville Rotary Speckled Trout Shootout, Jacksonville Landing, Jacksonville, www.jacksonvillerotaryclubnc.org.
November 22 and 23: Cool Water Surf Fishing Classic, Multiple species, Topsail Island, www.coastalanglermag.com.