While there isn't a name associated with our inclement weather this week, it hasn't been the most conducive to doing a lot of fishing. Unfortunately the forecast for the weekend is unsettled enough it isn't very inviting either. Those of us who live close by will be watching, but there probably won't be many folks traveling to get to the coast this weekend. Next weekend is Thanksgiving Weekend and it is historically the last big hurrah at the coast until Easter.
Several weathermen have said the front moving in on us for the weekend may even have more rain than the remnants of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ida last week. That really isn't good to hear as many low lying places haven't dried out from that dousing yet. The tides were extremely high with the new moon early in the week and there was some more flooding from it. This would be a good time for the weathermen to be wrong and let us miss any more rain.
Last week I expressed some concerns regarding the roads and bridges on the Outer Banks. The DOT is still working there and conditions are improving daily. As I am writing this, the N.C. DOT Traffic Updates website (www.ncdot.org/traffictravel) says Hwy 12 is open, but only as one lane for a section north of Rodanthe. This was caused by overwash and there could be more as this front passes.
For those who will be traveling, road closings and updates can also be found on the DOT 511 Traffic Line on your phone or cell phone. Last weekend one of my friends from Hatteras found it easier and faster to drive from Nags Head to Swan Quarter and take the ferry to Ocracoke and then another ferry across Hatteras Inlet than waiting for Highway 12 to be cleared enough to open. It opened to four-wheel drive traffic on Sunday and had progressed to all traffic as of today (Thursday).
This is a time of year to keep an eye on water temperature and the water temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier has dropped three degrees since last week. It had managed to hold onto 68 degrees until besieged with the rain and cloud cover of the past week. The air temperatures were pretty warm for November, but the water temperature in the surf dropped to 65 degrees. This is still a little warmer than usual for the third week of November. The inshore water temperatures vary from three to eight degrees cooler, depending on the distance from the inlet and the amount of rainwater runoff in that area.
Some yellowfin tuna have finally been caught south of Hatteras. On the few days with light enough seas, several boats reported running north to the 900 line (Loran Coordinate 39900) and finding some yellowfins mixed with wahoo and blackfin tunas. There were even a few scattered dolphin caught by the offshore boats.
The king mackerel are biting well all along the coast, with some big kings being caught east of Cape Lookout. The issue currently is finding the weather window to get there. The kings have moved off the beach a ways and are concentrated in water roughly 60 to 100 feet deep. Several large kings have been caught at 1700 Rock, East Rock, the Atlas Tanker, Chicken Rock and the usual hotspots east of Cape Lookout. Live bait has been helpful to attract the larger kings, but the schools of 15 to 20 pounders have been eating live baits, frozen baits and a variety of spoons and lures.
There were good reports of false albacore at Morehead City this week. It seems the fresh water influx hasn't bothered them. It was rough several days, but the fish were there if you went. They were thing enough to give multiple shots to the spin fishermen and flyfishers. The schools have been scattered from AR 315, down Shackleford Banks to Cape Lookout. Several days they even moved inside the hook and it didn't matter how rough the ocean was. The hot tickets for the Alberts has been small flashy lures and flies that can be retrieved quickly.
Pier fishermen had a busy week this week, but the fish weren't as big as all those big black drum last week. The pier catch included some black drum, but none of the big horses. There were also red drum, sea mullet, false albacore, bluefish, some spots and a few blowfish.
This is the time of year when the piers close for the winter. Several closed after last weekend and most of the rest will be closing the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Some allow access around the pier house while they are closed and some do not. Check with your favorite pier if you would like to continue fishing for a while.
The inshore fishing is still going well. The flounder bite has slowed a little, but there are still some flounder being caught inshore at the mouths of creeks or areas where bait is moved by the current and nearer the inlets.
Speckled trout are biting from the backs of the creeks out to the surf. There have been good reports from the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers too. One of the favorite surf spots for specks is at any of the stop nets along Bogue Banks. Many of the trout are small, but there are some larger ones and the numbers of larger ones should increase as the water cools.
Red drum are scattered from the inland creeks and Intracoastal Waterway out to the surf. Some are also on the shoals at the capes and around the inlets. Drum are almost always feeding and are rarely particular. They will hit live baits, natural baits and a variety of grubs, spoons and lures. There have also been a few really large drum caught on the nearshore artificial reefs.
The final meeting discussing possible changes to the snapper grouper fishery could have barely ended earlier this week when the final rule for Amendment 15B to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) Snapper/Grouper Management Plan was posted on the Federal Register. This Amendment has eight provisions which can be viewed at the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
Most of the changes primarily affect commercial fishermen, but one that will prohibit the sale of snapper and grouper caught under the bag limit has proven particularly contentious to Tar Heel fishermen. Previously holders of a N.C. Standard Commercial Fishing License (SCFL) could sell bag limit catches of fish regulated federally without holding a federal permit. There are varied implementation dates for different sections of the Amendment and it would be wise to read it carefully.
Bad news for all gray trout fishermen came from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week. The Weakfish (gray trout) Committee voted to cut the recreational bag limit to a single fish per day per fisherman. The current limit is six fish per day.
The commercial limit was also reduced to 100 pounds per day, with 100 pounds per trip bycatch limit and trawlers being allowed 100 undersize fish per trip. The biologists say this will reduce the catch by more than 50 per cent.
This seems particularly harsh considering the numbers of gray trout being caught locally and along the N.C. coast right now. However, a look at the statistics shows N.C. has been in the top three states for commercial and recreational catches of gray trout for many years. N.C., Va. and N.Y. lead the recreational catches while N.C., Va. and N.J. lead the commercial catches.
This ruling is Addendum IV to Rule 4 and it is to be implemented quickly. All states are required to submit their plans for implementation to the Council by January 1, 2010. The plans must be implemented by May 1, 2010, but can be implemented earlier if approved. For more information visit www.asmfc.org.
Tournaments are quickly winding down for the year. There are only a few remaining and a pair that are ongoing and will end later. Many Tar Heel fishermen are in Biloxi, Miss. this weekend for the Southern Kingfish Association Championship Tournament. Carolina fishermen have an excellent history in this tournament and may return to N.C. with yet another SKA National Championship. Good luck to all of them.
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 has not yet been matched. 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.
A rather unique king mackerel tournament began November 7 and continued through November 15. While it was hosted and coordinated by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, the fishing was primarily in Raleigh Bay (Cape Lookout to Cape Hatteras) and there were weigh stations in Hatteras and Beaufort. While the strong winds, high seas and downpours associated with the passing of the remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida, which combined with a low for a Nor'easter that ravaged the Outer Banks for several days last week, limited the fishing days, there have been some exceptional catches.
This tournament was scheduled to coincide with the arrival of the really large kings in Raleigh Bay and it was right on time. The tournament was won by Capt. Brant McMullan and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center Fishing Team with a pair of kings that weighed 97.0 pounds. Only .05 pounds behind were Capt. Mike Williams and the crew of the Release, with 96.95 pounds. Williams and crew had the largest king of the tournament at 53.90 pounds. McMullan and crew also landed one king heavier than 50 pounds at 50.05 pounds. The third place team was the Hooyah at 73.90 pounds. The Hooyah caught the other 50 pounder, actually 51.6 pounds, as part of their aggregate.
The Swansboro Century Club Friendly City Speckled Trout tournament was held Saturday in Swansboro. The event was based upon the aggregate weight of three trout, with secondary categories for the Largest Flounder, Top Lady Angler, Top Junior Angler, and a Tournament Within a Tournament for the Largest Trout.
John Hislop and Capt. Rick Patterson won the tournament with an impressive 18.90 aggregate weight. Patterson also caught the Largest Trout, an 8.50 pound gator. They pocketed $1678.50 for their day of fishing. Not too bad all around!
Even with that impressive first place aggregate, this wasn't a runaway win. Johnny Gainey and R.D. Benedict also found some big trout and tallied a 17.78 pound aggregate. Their weight was anchored by Benedict's 6.30 pounder that also placed second in the Largest Trout TWT.
Third Place in the tournament went to Buddy and Jake Gainey, who were the winners in the previous weekend's speck tournament. The Gaineys posted a 10.16 pound aggregate. Ricky Kellum and Larry Hill finished fourth in the tournament with 9.84 pounds and third in the Largest Trout TWT with a 4.24 pounder.
The team of David and Connor Behan and Doodle Straub caught the largest flounder of the tournament. It weighed 3.62 pounds.
Breann Brown, who was fishing with Robby Andrews and Capt. Mike Taylor, was the Top Lady angler with a 3.78 pound speck. Jeremy White caught a 3.54 pounder to claim Top Junior Angler honors. Mike and Danny Teachey caught a 3.00 pound speck to claim the prize for the largest speck caught on a boat with a 60 or less horsepower motor.
I thought I would mention this now because waiting until next week might be too late to work it in around your Thanksgiving plans. Capt. Kyle's Inshore Classic Speckled Trout Tournament will be held Thanksgiving Weekend at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. This is an aggregate weight tournament with TWTs for aggregate weight and single largest fish. Registration will be Friday afternoon and evening, with fishing on Saturday. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
Happy Thanksgiving and Good Fishing