The wind is back. After several nice fall weekends, the wind has decided it has had enough vacation and has come back Ė with a vengeance. Last weekendís weather was a little unusual as the Small Craft Advisories began Thursday night with basically southerly winds that switched to northerly on Sunday and continued blowing for a few days, then ramped back up through Friday. The temperatures also dropped when the wind switched on Sunday and stayed cold on Monday, but it wasnít as cold as the cold snap the week before and warmed back during the week.
Generally, the inshore action seems to pick up when the weather cools. That is good news except that at some point the water will cool enough the inshore bite begins to slow again. There are fishermen who believe the offshore bite also picks up for a while as the weather cools. Unfortunately, the cooling weather is usually associated with strong winds, typically from a northerly direction, and fishermen canít get out to the fish until the winds subside.
We are now in November and I already donít like the shift back to Eastern Standard Time. It is nice to have daylight an hour earlier in the morning, but it will take a while to get used to dark coming so early. I guess the old Indian really was wise when he compared Daylight Savings Time to cutting one end off a blanket and sewing it on the other end. It didnít get any longer, but was just rearranged. I still want a minimum of 12 hours of sunlight.
There is really good news from weathermen this week. Hurricane season ends on November 30, but Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) said on his Nov. 1 blog that for all purposes, the 2013 hurricane season is over. He cited the meteorological terms and conditions, but said current conditions dictated that even if something formed, it wouldnít intensify.
The National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) had one area of low pressure on their map earlier this week, but it has already disappeared. Mikeís Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com) talked about this area late last week and said it wouldnít gain any strength. Mikeís Weather Page, both the internet and Facebook versions, are featuring Dr. Mastersí blog as their lead.
Itís time for a spot alert! The spots had been picking, but not really showing for a while and last week the bite picked up. The ocean piers have been catching down to Topsail and Gallants Channel has been a hotspot in the Morehead City-Beaufort inshore area, while around the Hwy 58 (Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle) Bridge has been an inshore hotspot on the Swansboro end of Bogue Sound. Several tackle shops said their sales of double drop bottom rigs, 2 ounce sinkers, bloodworms and synthetic bloodworms had been brisk since late last week.
As last weekís report was hitting the news stands, the wind started blowing and there hasnít been a lot of open water fishing in anything but the largest boats. The good news is there was pretty good action the last few days fishermen were able to run offshore. Starting with king mackerel from a few miles off the beach, fish were biting all the way to the Gulf Stream. Offshore bottom fish were definitely gnawing and the wahoo bite continues to be pretty good.
As has been the case for about a month or two, fishermen who made the run to the edge of the Gulf Stream after wahoo have also caught some blackfin tuna, an infrequent yellowfin tuna, some scattered dolphin and an occasional late season sailfish. The forecast has the winds laying out enough to make the offshore trip on Saturday and Sunday, but that is a long range forecast and is a little unsure.
Closer to shore false albacore have been biting well. They have been caught from the surf and piers as well as from boats. A couple of things to remember about fat Alberts are to use a small shiny lure and retrieve, strip or troll it pretty quickly. Also cast as soon as you are within range so you donít get close enough the boat will spook them.
The other ocean fishing is the piers. Red and black drum fishing has been on fire at Bogue inlet Pier and spots and whiting have been filling coolers at Topsail, with mixed bags elsewhere. Pier fishing has been so good no one has really noticed the Spanish mackerel are disappearing. The last of the Spanish were nice ones, but after spending the winter in Florida, theyíll be back next spring. Seriously, the drum action is good enough, they havenít really been missed.
The simplest way to say it is that inshore fishing has been good for several weeks. It was improving and the cold front of two weeks ago kicked it into high gear. There was a little hiccup from the cold low pressure on Monday, but inshore fishing is pretty good. Fishermen are catching specks, pups, flounder and black drum. Some folks like to overlook black drum, but donít. Once the water starts cooling, their meat sweetens up and it is already white and flaky.
Finger mullet and peanut pogies will be hard to find at tackle shops, but most have mud minnows and live shrimp. Live shrimp are a treat for trout and can occasionally get them to feed, even when they arenít ready. Pups will readily eat live shrimp too most days, but occasionally they get finger mullet or pogies on their mind and hold out for them. A selection of all, plus your favorite lures will usually result in fish for dinner, but occasionally it requires a little looking to find something to eat them.
I donít know exactly how they decide who goes and who stays, but many flounder are moving to the ocean for the winter. They are most likely to be caught around creek mouths and along the edges of the channels from the creeks and marshes to the inlets. Flounder are usually on the drop between the deep and shallow water along the channel edge. They are more aggressive in the cooling water, which allows fishing faster and covering more bottom.
Specks and reds are spread throughout the marshes and creeks. While the specks are usually a little deeper, the water temperature right now is just about perfect and they will often be right up on the flats and in the shallows feeding with the reds. The key here is the stage of the tide. At lower stages of the tide specks tend to hold in channels and deeper water, but as the tide passes about halfway in, they will move to the shallows and will often feed there the rest of the rising tide and the first hour or so of the falling tide.
Red drum generally like shallow water with some current until the water gets cold. They will find somewhere to hide out of the current and swoop out to attack baitfish and shrimp that are pushed by with the tide. Look for those places where sand bars or oyster bars concentrate the current flow or where a couple of currents blend. There is usually more bait in these areas and that attracts the reds.
All of the inshore fish will hit lures too. Trout and red drum like soft plastics and hard baits. Red drum will also hit spinnerbaits and spoons. Flounder will hit soft plastics, spinnerbaits and spoons. Black drum are the least caught on lures and typically only hit soft plastics, but donít be surprised if you catch one on something else. When competing with specks or pups for food, they sometimes get aggressive.
Mary Lee and Lydia, the great white sharks that spent much of the past year off the southern U.S. have become so popular they now have Facebook pages. They are doing things different right now and have gone in different directions. Lydia, who was tagged off Jacksonville Beach, Florida last winter, has moved to the north and into cooler waters. She has been just southeast of Newfoundland for more than a week and has moved between the coast and the Continental Shelf.
Mary Lee, who was tagged last September off Cape Cod, hasnít been back there in more than a year. She spent a few weeks off the Outer Banks in early October, but has moved back to the south. She has been about 25 to 30 miles offshore in the general area between Hilton Head and Edisto, S.C for more than a week. On Tuesday of this week, she headed up into St. Helena Sound, which is between Beaufort and Edisto and didnít move back into the ocean until Thursday afternoon.
About this time last year Mary Lee made a trip into the Cape Fear River at Southport, but stayed less than a day. I donít know about you, but it makes me wonder if there is any significance to these inshore jaunts? You can follow the travels of Mary Lee and Lydia, plus other tagged sharks around the world by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is seeking public comments on issues they would like to see addressed in an upcoming amendment to the stateís hard clam and oyster fishery management plans. DMF is also looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists to serve on a Hard Clam and Oyster Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee.
Individuals interested in serving on these advisory committees should have backgrounds in one or more of the following areas:
* Commercial harvesters using mechanical methods;
* Commercial harvesters using hand methods;
* Shellfish leaseholders and shellfish Aquaculture Operation Permit holders;
* Recreational harvesters and Under Dock Oyster Culture Permit holders;
* Clam and oyster dealers; and
* Scientists with expertise in clam and oyster biology and shell bottom habitats.
Individuals interested in serving as an adviser may not have had a significant fisheries violation in the past three years, plus should be willing to attend meetings at least once a month and participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies. These are volunteer committees and there is no compensation except that advisors will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
Applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees or at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheriesí offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by Nov. 15 to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, Attention: Lauren Morris or to Lauren.Morris@ncdenr.gov.
The division is beginning a mandated five-year review of the stateís hard clam and oyster fishery management plans that were adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in 2008. It is anticipated that amending both plans will be necessary as management issues concerning harvesting with mechanical gear and administration of the shellfish lease program have already been identified.
Written comments will be accepted until Nov. 15 and should be addressed to Tina Moore or Mike Marshall, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or by email to Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov.
The Marine Fisheries Commission will meet November 13 to 15 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Atlantic Beach. There will be times for public comment during the evening on November 13 and again in the morning on November 14. An agenda is posted on the Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
NOAA Fisheries is also seeking public comments on Amendment 27 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 27 published in the Federal Register on September 18, 2013, (78 FR 57337). Amendment 27 Contains the Following Actions:
* Extending the South Atlantic Councilís management responsibility for Nassau grouper to include the Gulf of Mexico.
* Increasing the number of allowable crew members on dual permitted vessels (vessels that have both a federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Permit for Snapper-Grouper and a South Atlantic Unlimited or 225-Pound Snapper-Grouper Permit) from three to four crew members.
* Allowing captains and crew of for-hire vessels with federal South Atlantic Charter/Headboat Snapper-Grouper Permits to retain bag limit quantities of all snapper-grouper species.
* Allowing routine changes of catch limits to be modified quickly through an abbreviated process.
* Removing blue runner from the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.
Copies of Amendment 27 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2013/am27/index.html or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Councilís Web site at www.safmc.net.
Comments on Amendment 27 must be received no later than November 18, 2013.
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0085 and click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments, or by mail to NOAA Fisheries Ė Southeast Regional Office Ė Sustainable Fisheries Division, c/o Kate Michie, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will only be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats.
The 56th Annual Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament will be held November 6 to 9 from the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club in Buxton. For more information visit www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.
The Southern Kingfish Association National Championship will be held November 8 to 10 from the Golden Nugget Casino and Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi. Numerous N.C. teams will be in attendance and usually do well. In fact, N.C. teams own more SKA championships than fishermen from any other state. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
The Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament, presented by the Swansboro Century Club, will be held November 9 from Casperís Marina in Swansboro. For more information call Mike Gilhart at 910-389-0607.
The Specks and Spots Kayak Fishing Tournament will be held November 9 from the Federal Point Wildlife Ramp at Fort Fisher. This tournament targets speckled trout and red drum in a CPR (catch, photograph and release) format and is based on the longest combined length of one of each. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver