The remains of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ida have kicked our butt this week. Thankfully we had a good weekend and got through Monday and part of Tuesday before the rains came. The rains have been devastating. Many low lying areas have flooded and schools were canceled or delayed in many N.C. counties on Thursday.
The winds and swells were pumped up too. Thursday morning there was an internet report the Oregon Inlet Bridge was closed due to heavy surf in the inlet. When I checked, this was not being announced on the 511 traffic line or the N.C. DOT Traffic Updates website at www.ncdot.org/traffictravel, but it would be wise to check before heading to the Outer Banks. These services were reporting heaving flooding on Dare county highways and secondary roads. Some roadway flooding has been experienced in every coastal county, so be careful while driving.
The gusty winds and heavy swells are forecast into Saturday morning, but should begin laying out that afternoon, beginning south of Cape Fear and working up the coast. The ocean will be stirred up and the rivers swollen and dirty, but manageable fishing conditions should return in many areas by Sunday. The question will be how has this affected the fish?
The water temperature at Emerald Isle Pier has climbed a degree since last week. Even with the cloud cover of the past few days, the water temperature in the surf was holding at 68 degrees early Thursday morning. I shouldn't have to remind anyone that is noticeably warm for the second week of November. The inshore water temperatures are several degrees cooler at the inlets and up to 10 degrees in some spots.
There must be something to the water temperature and how it affects fish. In the past week there have been several reports of great white sharks off Topsail and Wrightsville Beaches. One was reported to be a little longer than the 18 foot boat the fishermen reporting it were in. They took a picture, but it wasn't clear enough for me to identify the fish in it. There was a big fish of some kind in it.
While it may be a few days before conditions improve to the point of getting there comfortably, the king mackerel fishing was off the hook over the weekend and into Tuesday. There were four kings entered into tournaments during that time that surpassed 50 pounds and surely there were a few of those big girls caught by fishermen who weren't in the tournaments. All were caught in Raleigh Bay, between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Fall is considered the best time of the year for king mackerel fishing and these catches pretty much put an exclamation point on it.
There is also a good king bite, but with fish that aren't as large, along the entire coast from Cape Lookout to the S.C. line. Live baits have been the ticket for the larger fish, but the smaller ones have been hitting frozen cigar minnows and a variety of lures.
There were numerous good reports of false albacore until it got too rough to go chase them. The highest numbers have been near Cape Lookout, but there have also been some scattered schools off Wrightsville Beach and near the S.C. state line. They have been great sport for fishermen on light tackle spinning and casting gear and are a favorite target for fly fishermen. The hot tickets for the Alberts have been small flashy lures and flies that can be retrieved quickly.
There were some good reports from offshore over the weekend. The better action was with wahoo and blackfin tuna, but there were a few sailfish on some of the inshore temperature breaks and a few dolphin scattered well offshore. Some yellowfin tuna were caught off Hatteras and to the north. Several cobia were landed also. The largest was an 84 pounder caught by Mike and Michael Mann while grouper and sea bass fishing off Cape Lookout.
Pier fishermen had a big catch this week--literally! Bob Funderburk, Maysville, and Randy McIntyre, Gibsonville, landed 58 and 73 pound black drum from Bogue Inlet Pier on Tuesday. A 62 pounder was landed in the surf near the pier on Saturday. In addition, fishermen there caught some smaller black drum, sea mullet, bluefish and blowfish. At the other end of Bogue Banks, fishermen on Oceana Pier had a similar catch except no big black drum, but they caught some four to six pound specks on Sunday. Most of the other piers reported a mix of red and black drum, puffers, blues, sea mullet (whiting) and a few spots.
The speckled trout bite is going off. The Cape Lookout area has numerous reports of small specks. I fished around Harkers Island Sunday with Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters and we caught lots of those little trout everywhere we went. He put us on some larger trout, plus some red and black drum, but we had to work through all those small specks to catch them. We probably could have kept our limits if we measured closely and kept a bunch of 14 to 14 1/2 inch trout, but we released all of them and just kept a couple of nicer ones for dinner.
We caught the trout on live shrimp and an assortment of lures. The lures we used are some being made to Capt. Lynk's specs. You can check them out and order them from his website at www.noahsarkfishingcharters.com. The Glass Minnows and Strike Shrimp produced the most strikes and largest fish.
Other good trout bites are at Swansboro in the White Oak River, at Sneads ferry in the New River and at Southport in the Cape Fear River. In Morehead City, some larger gray trout are being caught along the edges of the ship channel from the turning basin to the inlet and under the lights of the high-rise bridges at night. Good numbers of smaller grays were on the WOFES off Bald Head Island before the storm. Maybe they will still be there.
While a few flounder are still in the marshes, they are also being caught in the sloughs between the bars at most inlets. A few flounder are occasionally mixed with the specks and reds.
If your schedule wouldn't allow you to make one of the earlier meetings regarding the looming closures of red snapper season and possibly large sections of offshore bottom, there is one remaining meeting. It will be in Newport News, Va. on Monday, November 16. More information can be found at the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council website at www.safmc.net.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and industry allies have filed a complaint against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke over the recent recreational closure of the Atlantic recreational black sea bass fishery north of Cape Hatteras. The RFA contends that the recent closure is not only unprecedented for a fish whose stocks are considered rebuilt and not overfished, but that the action is also based upon "misapplication and misuse of a fatally flawed angler survey which NMFS itself has acknowledged is not to be used for this type of decision." The 40-page complaint was filed Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court of New Jersey.
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 Monday 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 Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) held their Redfish Tour Championship in Orange Beach, Ala. over the weekend and several local teams received invitations. One team, the Dingbatters Fishing Team of Capt. Rennie Clark and "Hurricane" Drew Arndt, was in the running for IFA Team of the Year. Unfortunately, their lack of experience in the Alabama waters put them at a severe disadvantage and they were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Clark and Arndt qualified for the IFA Team of the Year competition by winning that honor in the Atlantic Division, which comprises N.C., S.C. and Ga. and in 2009 had tournaments in Surf City and Beaufort. For more information visit www.redfishtour.com.
A very special tournament was held on Saturday in Carolina Beach. The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament is the primary fundraiser for Fish for Tomorrow.Org (www.fishfortomorrow.org). Fish For Tomorrow is a major supporter of the fishery lab at UNCW and the aquaculture program at South Brunswick High School.
During the Flat Bottom Girls tournament, flounder are kept alive and are transferred to the fishery lab at UNCW. At appropriate time, the eggs and milt are stripped from them to raise wild strain flounder in hatcheries. For more information on this process, visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
While the sizes of the winning flounders were down from past years, Tim Barefoot, of Fish For Tomorrow, said it was one of the healthiest catches in the tournament's history and he was looking forward to them doing great things in the fishery labs.
Dennis Durham of Carolina Beach caught the winning flounder, which weighed 6.1 pounds. A mere .1 pound behind, Gary Hurley, Wilmington, boated a 6.0 pounder to claim second place. Fred Davis, Carolina Beach, secured third place with a 5.1 pounder. All were nice fish, but not the double digit weight doormats usually caught during this tournament.
A pair of ladies, fishing on the Two Brothers boat with Luke Donat, won the top lady angler prize and 10th place overall with a 1.2 pound flounder. The Soggy Dollar crew of Doug Dameron and Marc Gilson donated their winnings back to Fishing For Tomorrow with hope of helping produce more large flounder for upcoming years.
The Fall Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday in Atlantic Beach. The weather was excellent and some very nice kings were caught. The winner was Tommy Johnson on the Summer Breeze with a 51 pounder. Johnson had been considering selling his boat, but this may make him reconsider. Second Place went to Miles Bunn and the crew of the Rod Hog for a 38.90 pound king. The tournament also had an aggregate category that was won by the Fishing Buddys, with second going to Tide One On.
A rather unique king mackerel tournament began Saturday and will continue through this Sunday. While it is hosted and coordinated by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, 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 multiple days are to allow for a suitable weather window and that was needed this year. The current leader of the Big Fish Category is Capt. Mike Williams and the crew of the Release, with a 53.90 pound king. This is the largest of three that weighed in excess of 50 pounds. The leader in the Aggregate Category is Capt. Brant McMullan and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center Fishing Team with a pair of kings that weighed 97.0 pounds. McMullan and crew caught one of the other 50 pounders. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Ed Sewell Memorial Speckled Trout tournament was held Saturday in Swansboro. The team of Buddy and Jake Gainey claimed the top honors for the heaviest trout and for the 5-Fish Aggregate. Their big trout weighed a little more than 4 pounds and their aggregate weight topped 18 pounds. For more information visit www.crystalcoastfishing.net.
The Swansboro Century Club Friendly City Speckled Trout tournament will be held this Saturday in Swansboro. Registration is through Friday evening at Casper's Marina. For more information call 910-326-2400