Unfortunately, it appears the weather has turned cool quickly as many feared it would. The rain and clouds of last week gave it a little head start and Jack Frost pounced with a vengeance beginning Thursday night. By Sunday night the lows had dropped to the 30s and the water temperature was taking a nosedive also.
Water temperatures across the area have dropped into the low 60s. This is an eight degree drop in about 10 days and it shocks the fish almost as much as the fishermen. This should signal the end for the year of some of the fish that prefer warmer water, but fire up those that like it a little cooler.
There are small craft advisories along the central coast over the weekend, but primarily for large swell. The daytime highs are forecast to only reach the mid 60s over the weekend, but should reach the low 70s a couple of days next week. The days are supposed to be sunny through Tuesday and if it isn't windy, the days should be nice.
In spite or the weather last week, pier fishermen had some good catches. Several filled coolers of spots, but some nice flounder were also caught. Red drum and black drum are biting also and the pier fishermen are seeing more speckled trout. Other pier catches include bluefish, whiting, blowfish, and more. The spot fishing keeps threatening to get really good, but so far has primarily been a few short streaks, not the real run. Those fishermen who put in a day usually manage to fill most of a cooler, but the bite fires off in short spurts several times, rather than going on all day. The one constant has been that the most consistent pier fishing has been on the rising tide.
The boat fishermen may be catching spots a little more consistently, but is hasn't sustained the run for long at a time. While a few spots are being caught in many places, the most popular spots to try for them continue to be around the drawbridge in Gallants Channel at Beaufort and along the Intracoastal Waterway between Island Harbor Marina and the Bogue Inlet Channel.
In the past several weeks, speckled trout numbers have grown from almost nonexistent to pretty good, and are bordering on excellent in some places. However, a great many of the trout are spikes, or young of the year, and are running 11 to 13 inches long. The good news here is these numbers indicate the older trout managed to spawn before the water got so cold last year and the freezes occurred.
Trout that survived the cold water were moving slow and some slowly succumbed to the cold or to predation from porpoises, otters and other predators that wouldn't normally catch trout. There are some large trout in the mix and pulling one from a drove of the spikes makes fishing exciting. An excellent local example of large trout is the 8.37 pounder that Carl Edwards caught to take the lead in the Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Challenge.
Without a doubt, the best trout bait is a live shrimp suspended under a cork. Unfortunately with this cold the last of the shrimp are either fleeing the creeks or burrowing in the mud for the winter. A few schools of mullet minnows are still moving along the waterway and some peanut pogies are holding deep in the creeks and marshes and they are the next best thing.
If you fish with lures, the soft plastic grubs, especially the bio-scented ones are easy to use and work well for most folks. They can be fished with a steady slow or erratic retrieve and trout will bite them. Many fishermen feel larger trout respond better to hard baits such as MirrOlures and X-Raps.
The cooling water fires up puppy drum and they were biting well already. Pups are rarely choosy and will hit anything a trout will eat. Usually the drum are on the high side of the hole the trout are hiding in, but sometimes they will mix. A mixture of drum are in area waters right now and fishermen are reporting catches from 12 to 33 inches. The slot to be able to invite one home for dinner is 18 to 27 inches.
Some flounder are still being caught inshore, but this latest push of cool water explains why so many have been caught in the surf and from the piers lately. Flounder like live baits and can eat surprisingly large fish. Occasionally they hit soft baits intended for trout or puppy drum and I caught one while trout fishing this past week.
Excellent king mackerel fishing continues east of Cape Lookout Shoals and the cooling temperatures and northeast winds should spur it on. 1700 Rock, the Atlas Tanker and Chicken Rock are being mentioned often. Kings are also biting well off Wrightsville Beach and Southport. The action begins at about 15 -- 20 miles offshore. Most fishermen prefer using live baits, but the action has also been good using frozen cigar minnows and ballyhoo.
While the wind makes the trip tough, the kings are usually pretty receptive when you arrive. On cloudy days it may take a couple of hours for the kings to get going, but by mid-day they should be feeding well. I guess they like to sleep late when it's cold and dreary too. That shouldn't happen for a while as the weatherman is predicting a stretch of sunny, but cool weather.
The wind kept the offshore waters bumpy for most of last week, but the reports were of pretty good fishing when the weather allowed making the trip. Wahoo are the primary offshore fish along the central and southern coast, with blackfin tuna being second in number. More tuna, including some yellowfins, are being caught north of Cape Hatteras. I also saw one dolphin and talked to two fishermen who had released sailfish.
A week ago I was invited by Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service (www.pamlicoguide.com) to make a trip with him down the Neuse River from New Bern to Oriental and document a double handful of primo fishing spots. Capt. Beckwith is an authority on this area and an excellent fisherman, so it was an offer I couldn't refuse. On the appointed morning, I was on the road well before daylight to meet him at the ramp in New Bern.
After launching the boat at Lawson Creek Park, we motored up the Trent River for a few miles to a couple of spots that often hold trout, puppy drum, flounder and stripers. Capt. Beckwith explained this was legally a fresh water area and had always held stripers, but the saltwater fish had been coming there consistently since the flooding associated with the hurricanes of the 1990s.
The saltwater/freshwater boundary changes at the railroad bridge in downtown New Bern and once downstream of it, we were in water governed by saltwater regulations. This is only a couple of hundred yards from where the Trent River enters the Neuse River and soon we began our trip down it.
Approximately a half mile below the Highway 17 Bridge, we came to the upstream end of a set of four yellow buoys marking the perimeter of Artificial Reef 392. This is one of two artificial reefs constructed in the Neuse River. The other is AR 396, located off Whitehurst Point just downriver from Oriental.
As we continued down the river looking into several creeks, several coves and checking out points along the way, Capt. Beckwith explained that most of the Neuse River bottom in this area is sand, with virtually no structure. He said that is why the points, artificial reefs and about any structure has potential to be a good fishing spot. He also said there is virtually no tide and wind influences the water level and movement far more than anything else.
To illustrate his point of any structure would probably hold fish, we stopped at one small breakwater near Minnesott Beach that had a few rocks running about 30 feet out into the river. It took a few minutes to locate them, but we caught a half dozen or so puppy drum holding along the rocks and barely off the beach. We also stopped at a small bridge between Minnesott and Oriental and caught a few spike trout as the wind created a little tide, moving water from the creek into the river.
This was an interesting trip and much of the information gleaned from it will be presented in a 2011 story in North Carolina Sportsman magazine. I learned a lot from Capt. Beckwith about what he looks for and how he fishes in that area and plan to incorporate some of his ideas and techniques into my personal fishing.
Fishermen and other concerned persons have until Friday, November 12, to send their written comments on Amendment 18A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Amendment 18A primarily focuses on measures for the commercial golden tilefish and black sea bass fisheries to account for anticipated shifts to those fisheries as regulations become more restrictive for other snapper grouper species. The amendment also addresses methods to improve the accuracy, timing, and quantity of fisheries data for both commercial and for-hire fisheries. A summary of the Amendment 18A public hearings is to be posted on the Council's website at www.safmc.net.
Written comments on the Management Plan can be sent via email to: SGAmend18AComments@safmc.net, or hard copies mailed to: Robert K. Mahood, Executive Director, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405.
The Secretary of Commerce has approved Amendment 17A to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. A final draft is being written and will be posted in the federal register soon. Amendment 17A indefinitely extends the red snapper closure and closes approximately 5,000 square miles of ocean between Georgia and central Florida to all bottom fishing.
NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on Amendment 17B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Amendment 17B establishes annual catch limits (ACLs), accountability measures (AMs) and Specifies Management measures to address overfishing for many species of snapper and grouper and prohibits harvest and retention of other species of snapper and grouper. Electronic copies of Amendment 17B may be obtained from the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
Written comments on this amendment must be received by November 22. Comments may be submitted electronically through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, http://www.regulations.gov, by entering ANOAA-NMFS-2010-0091" in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ASelect or by mail to Kate Michie--NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 or by fax attention of Kate Michie at 727-824-5308.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission met last week in New Bern. On their agenda were the first review of an amendment to the Southern Flounder Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), the final review of an amendment to the Spotted Sea Trout FMP, and adjustments to the Oyster and Scallop FMPs. There was some controversy headed in regarding the Spotted Sea Trout FMP and HB 1713 / SL 2010-13 and a clarifying amendment to the law.
That didn't rear its head near as much as finding a way for the commercial sector to achieve their required 28.5 per cent reduction in harvest. Much debate and re-debate was done before the meeting was adjourned and now an emergency meeting has been called for Nov. 22 to examine this again and to consider revoking a previous Commission decision that closed all state waters south of Cape Lookout to commercial harvest of menhaden.
Before I discuss the outcome of the meeting, allow me to take a minute to explain the hierarchy of N.C. Marine Fisheries. This is of the utmost importance to understand how saltwater fisheries are managed in N.C.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) is the rule-making group for all N.C. saltwater fisheries. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and the commission is balanced with equal commercial and recreation seats (3 each), plus two at-large and one biologist seat. This makeup and all contact information for the commissioners can be found on the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net. The current Chairperson of the MFC is Robert Bizzell of Kinston, who holds an at-large seat.
The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is a division of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources charged with doing research for the MFC and implementing MFC decisions. The N.C. Marine Patrol is the enforcement branch of DMF. The Director of DMF is selected by the MFC and the current DMF Director is Dr. Louis Daniel.
As was expected, the draft of the Southern Flounder FMP moved forward to be presented to the Seafood and Aquaculture Committee to be reviewed. The provisions in the Scallop and Oyster FMPs were also approved. All the discussion came regarding the Spotted Sea Trout (Speckled Trout) FMP.
The trout FMP came with a required 28.5 per cent reduction in catch across the board. The initial plan for the recreational sector to meet this was with a 14 inch minimum size, a reduction in limit to six fish and only three of those could exceed 24 inches. This was modified to only allow two of the fish to exceed 24 inches and passed handily.
The first option for the commercial sector to achieve their 28.5 per cent reduction was 150 pound trip limits, but there were not provisions for the overages of long haul and beach fisheries and it was shelved. The next option was weekend closures. This was also rejected saying it would affect too many other fisheries. The next option was a closure in December and January, which was tweaked to begin December 15 and extend through February. This passed on Thursday, then was rescinded Friday morning and passed again, after much more debate, later Friday.
I was expecting to see a proclamation from DMF Director Daniel this week stating the new requirements for meeting the trout reductions, but instead, on Wednesday, received notice of a called MFC meeting on Nov. 22 at 1:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. The only topics scheduled for this emergency DMF meeting were more discussion on how to meet the required 28.5 per cent commercial reduction and to consider revoking a previous Commission decision that closed all state waters south of Cape Lookout to commercial harvest of menhaden.
A provision in the code governing how the MFC functions allows the chairperson to call a meeting or a meeting can be called when any four commission members request a meeting in writing with a specific purpose. In this case, the meeting was requested by commissioners Bradley Styron, Cedar Island; Mikey Daniels, Wanchese; Joe Smith, Hampstead and Edward Lee Mann, Manteo. Styron, Daniels and Smith hold MFC commercial seats and Mann holds a recreational seat. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net or call 1-800-682-2632.
The Southern Kingfish Association National Championship Tournament was held last week in Fort Pierce, Fla. This tournament was originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday (Nov. 5 and 6), but was shortened to just Friday due to rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. There were 212 entries and North Carolina fishing teams enjoyed their typical excellent showing. Tar Heel fishermen claimed a win in the Class for boats of 23 Feet or Less and second in the Open Class.
In the smaller boat class, the Reel Thrill / Team Bone Suckin' Sauce, with Capt. Vaughn Ford of Raleigh, claimed the win with a pair of kings that totaled 68.79 pounds and included the largest fish for the small boats at 37.60 pounds. They were followed in third and fourth places by the Reel Buzz / Team Airtran, Capt. Chip Nifong, with 55 pounds and On The Fly, Capt, Bill McLamb, with 53.01 pounds.
The Open Class was won by the All In with Capt. Terry McCray of Florida with two kings that totaled 69.75 pounds. Just a few pounds behind, Capt. John Parks, Jacksonville, led the Animal House to second place with 66.19 pounds and also had the largest fish for the open boats at 43.36 pounds. You may recognize Parks as the second place / winning angler from the Carnivore in this year's Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
The next N.C. boat in the Open Class was the Black Gold, with Capt. Mike McDuffie in fourth place with 62.86 pounds. The Contend This, with Capt. Hunter Woodell, finished eighth and the Sea Drag'n, with Capt. Al Morris, Jr., finished ninth for the N.C. teams. They caught 57.57 and 56.77 pounds respectively. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
The Fourth Annual Oorah (Marines) Vs Hooah (Army) Wounded Warriors Fishing Battle was held Friday (Nov. 5) from the Dockside Marina at Wrightsville Beach. Teams of 18 Marines from Camp Lejeune and 18 Soldiers from Fort Bragg fished on local boats with local captains for honors in Most Fish, Largest Fish and Smallest Fish categories.
The Army swept the tournament winning all three categories. The fish count was 30 to 23. Jay Reaves caught a 67 pound wahoo on the Pole Position to claim the Largest Fish award and Billy Mortison fished on the Above Grade to catch a 12 ounce bluefish to win the Smallest Fish award. The tournament is a project conducted by Hope for the Warriors (www.hopeforthewarriors.org) and more information on this and other projects and events can be found on their website.
A rather unique flounder tournament was held in Wrightsville Beach on Saturday (Nov. 6). The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament, which was held from the Dockside Restaurant, requires fishermen bring in their flounder alive. The flounder are then used for brood stock in the UNCW Aquaculture Department / Marine Science Center and the proceeds are donated to the South Brunswick High School Aquaculture Department. Twelve boats entered the tournament and donated 27 live flounder.
The winner was the Masonboro, with Capt. Taylor Barefoot and crew, who caught a flounder that weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces. Capt. Wes Barbour and the Island Tackle Charters crew caught a 5 pounds, 4 ounces flounder to finish second. Dennis Durham fished on the No Name to catch a 5 pounds, 2 ounces flounder and finish third. 6.
The tournament has a special division for the boys in Cub Scout Pack 225. The winners there were Caleb Holland in first with a 2 pounds, 1 ounce flounder, Decklan Swartz in second at 1 pound, 5 ounces and Chase Rogers in third with 1 pound. For more information visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
The 53rd Annual Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Team and Open Individual Invitational Surf Fishing Tournaments were held Thursday and Friday, Nov. 4 and 5, at Buxton. Surf fishermen from all along the east coast gathered to test their skills in the prestigious tournament held around the famous cape. The wind howled and the rain poured on Thursday, with Friday being much more conducive to good fishing and the results bore this out. For only the second time in the tournament's 50 plus year history, a ladies team won the overall and for the first time ever, ladies' teams finished first and third.
The Hatteraskals, of Frisco, claimed first place, while the Eastern Shore of Va. Anglers Club, Salisbury, Md, was second and the Sand Bunnies, Of Manteo were third. Each team fished morning and afternoon sessions for two days and a total of four sessions. The Sand Bunnies won the first session, the Eastern Shore of Va. Anglers Club won the second session, the Ocean City, N.J. Fishing Club won the third session and the Hatteraskals won the final session.
In the competition for largest fish caught by individuals, there were three ties in the six categories. William Harvey, the Mulletia and Jon Crute, Bald Hooters, caught 17 1/4 bluefish. Yvette Everette, Showstoppers and Janice Neuman, Mermullets, caught 11 inch bluefish. Dick Dimmig, Stop N Shop, and Jimmy Sneed, SOVA Surfcasters, caught 19 inch channel bass. Rossie Jackson, Hatteraskals, caught a 29 1/4 inch channel bass. Doug Barker, Tri Village Anglers, caught a 23 1/4 inch black drum and Janice Spake, Keepers of the 'Lite', caught a 17 1/2 inch flounder to lead the catches for other than a red drum, channel bass or bluefish.
The Bob Bernard Open Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament was held in Buxton on Saturday, Nov. 6, after the team tournament. In the Adult Division, Keith Van Laarhoven was a double winner catching the largest bluefish at 1 pound, 1 ounce and the largest sea mullet at 15 ounces. Richard Ward caught a 2 pound, 12 ounce red drum, Brent Douglas caught a 1 pound, 13 ounce flounder and Marty Bull caught a 13 ounce gray trout to lead those species.
Two divisions were held for younger fishermen. In the Junior Division (Age 13-16), Cameron Johnson recorded the only catch, an 11 ounce sea mullet. In the Youth Division (Up to 12), Shane Rinier, Jr. caught an 8 ounce sea mullet and Nicholas Midgett caught a 6 ounce bluefish. For more information visit www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.
The 8th Annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began Oct 23 and will run through December 4. It is being conducted by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department, with a weigh-in station at The Reel Outdoors. The tournament pays three places based on weight, plus there is a prize for the largest speck caught from a pier, a mystery weight prize and prizes for the first and last fish weighed in. Danny Glover is the current leader with a 20.5 inch trout that weighed 3.24 pounds. While the state minimum size for speckled trout is 14 inches, the tournament has a 15 inch minimum size. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
A couple of tournaments are on tap for this weekend. The Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. For more information visit www.swansboro.nc.och.schoolinsites.com.
The N.C. Kingfish Championship begins Saturday, Nov. 13 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 21. This tournament is open to all fishermen. Participants pick two of the nine days to fish and there are weigh stations at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort and Hatteras Landing Marina in Hatteras. For more details or to register, visit www.oifc.com.