After last weekend was super warm, we cooled to more seasonable temperatures during the middle of the week, but will warm again for Friday and Saturday, before chilling to a high barely in the fifties on Sunday. While I like those warm days as much as anyone, this canít be good for our fishing. The water warmed up and the fish got active and now itís cooling again
Overall our weather has been pretty good except being windy. Friday looks fishable and Saturday may allow a run offshore in a larger boat, but probably is a day to stay in sheltered water in smaller craft. Sunday looks cold with another warming, but not quite as hot trend Tuesday night and Wednesday
Cold will roll in again overnight on Wednesday, with Thanksgiving and next Friday forecast to have highs that barely make the forties. We are looking at some showers and chances of rain, so carry your rain gear when you head outside. When the weather is warm, rain is pretty easy to deal with, especially when the fish are biting, but when the bite slows and itís cold and raining, that isnít good.
This will be my last column before Thanksgiving and I hope everyone has plenty to be thankful for and gets to spend time with family and friends as they want.
Once we got to November I began just occasionally glancing at the tropical weather map, but this Monday morning there was something there. Early in the day, a large area of clouds and thunderstorms were associated with a non-tropical low pressure area centered about 800 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and before noon this had strengthened and begun rotation to become Subtropical Storm Melissa.
Subtropical Storm Melissa remained active until sometime late Thursday and then dissipated. I hope our tropical weather is over for the year, but I will keep looking Ė just in case. I was tracking Subtropical Storm Melissa at the National Hurricane Center website (www.nhc.noaa.gov) and at Mikes Weather Page (www.spaghettimodels.com), which is also on Facebook. Hopefully this is the last time they have a system to track during 2013.
The winds continue to control our fall fishing more than we would like. It sure has been a mixed bag so far this year. As we entered November it seemed the fan was turned on more often and to a higher setting. Some days it has been strong and from directions that even inhibits inshore fishing. The good news is that overall our fall fishing has been good when the conditions allowed going.
Itís a long run to the edge of the Gulf Stream, but some days it is really worth it. The Gulf Stream fishing has been a little hit or miss lately, but when you find a rock or current eddy that is holding wahoo or tuna, it can be real good. The only concentration of yellowfin tuna seems to be off Oregon Inlet. There are blackfin tuna off most of the other N.C. Inlets and they are typically larger now than they were in the spring. A few dolphin are still being caught and the big surprises are billfish that havenít headed south yet.
Offshore bottom fishing and king mackerel fishing donít require quite the offshore run as Gulf Stream fishing. They can also be done in a smaller weather window. I received a couple of calls and e-mails this week to verify that black sea bass and beeliner seasons hadnít closed this year. They havenít, but donít call me. If I make a mistake and get it wrong, you still get a ticket. The regulations are posted at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council website at www.safmc.net.
Offshore bottom fishing is a highlight this fall. Black sea bass and beeliners have recovered to the point their seasons didnít have to close and there are some fat ones waiting to try to abscond with your bait. Other offshore bottom fish being caught well include grouper, grunts, porgys and triggerfish. There are also some hog snapper and African Pompano off Cape Fear.
With the cold fronts and cooling water of the past few weeks, king mackerel have pushed offshore. There are still good numbers of kings around many of the rocks and wrecks in 100 to 110 feet of water. Kings will readily gobble up live baits, but many fishermen have said the cooling water has made them more aggressive and they are hitting dead baits well too.
Off Cape Lookout and Wrightsville Beach, fishermen are finding small schools of false albacore within sight of the beach. While they will occasionally hit a large lure or bait, fat Alberts are usually feeding on smaller baits, like glass minnows. Whether trolling or casting, small shiny baits that are moving quickly usually get their attention best. Be careful not to spook the school by trying to get too close. They have been fished enough in the past few weeks they are super wary.
On the inshore side, I still havenít heard of a sustained spot run and am about to give up hope for this year. There have been some good catches occasionally, but the same spot may be barren the next day.
As the water cools, pier fishing is slowing. There are still some mixed catches of red drum, black drum, bluefish, speckled trout, flounder and sea mullet, but the numbers are dropping. That line of mullet minnows heading south down the beach has all but disappeared and the fish that fed on them are slowly moving to their winter addresses. Most of the piers along the entire N.C. coast will be closing for the season by Thanksgiving weekend and it is wise to call ahead to be sure they are open. There are occasionally some good catches during the winter when the weather stays nice for a week or so at a time.
With some occasional hiccups, especially when the temperature plummets overnight and the barometer drops quickly, fishing for speckled trout and redfish continues to be pretty good. Fishermen are also catching a lot of black drum and are still finding some flounder. With the warm temperatures, the water temperature rose a few degrees, especially towards the back of creeks where there isnít a lot of water flow.
The Morehead City area has a couple of special reports this week. There have been reports of mixed size specks at the Cape Lookout Jetty so it is a place to check when the weather allows. There has also been some good speckled trout action from time to time in the surf along Shackleford and Bogue Banks. This isnít happening all the time, but when it goes off, it tends to be really good. A good friend with a cell phone can be invaluable.
Sea mullet (whiting, Va. mullet) are a popular fall fish and there are some being caught from the piers, in the Morehead City Turning Basin and in the lower Cape Fear River. Sea mullet prefer the freshest shrimp possible and locate a lot of their food by smell, so they can tell the difference and it often shows in the catch.
There are specks and redfish in many of the creeks along the Intracoastal Waterway and most coastal rivers. There are also some nice stripers in the Neuse River, Tar Pamlico River, lower Albemarle Sound and Cape Fear River. Stripers like inclement weather and often bite well on days specks and reds like to sleep in. A combo redfish, speck and striper trip is possible in most of these areas and makes for an interesting day.
The ever-changing weather has confused the fish more than fishermen. This makes them difficult to pattern. Red drum may be schooled one day and in singles and pairs on another. Speckled trout start to move deeper and then the weather changes and they might be on the edges of the flats or along grass lines and oyster rocks. Flounder are moving toward the ocean, but it seems they pause and feed fairly frequently.
The advice here is to fish shallow and deep. Cast to the flats and over the drop-off into the holes. Vary your retrieve speed too. Weíre probably past the time for fast retrieves until the spring, so weíre dealing with variables of medium and slow. My experience is that when nothing else works, slow down your retrieve and switch to smaller baits. This may not always save the day, but it has often enough I keep trying it.
Here is your bonus for this week. There are trout, both specks and grays, swimming around out there with tags worth up to $100. If you catch one with a tag, take the time to check the tag. The red spaghetti tags that are worth $100 and the yellow tags earn you some goodies for participating in the tagging program. It is wise to check the tags on any species. You can help with research that will help the fish and may pick up gas money for your next fishing trip for your efforts.
This week finds one of the great white sharks that have spent time in our area very active and the other not so much. Lydia has been southeast of Newfoundland along the Continental Shelf for several weeks and seems to be enjoying it. She is coming to the surface and pinging her location more often than at any other time in the 10 months she has been tagged.
On the other hand, Mary Lee has suddenly decided to spend time under the water again. This is a little unnerving as her last locating ping was last Saturday and she was only a few miles offshore of Kiawah Island, S.C. Her tendency to swim the beaches or head inside an inlet definitely makes one wonder where she may be. Hopefully she comes to the surface and pings her location sometime soon. 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 Marine Fisheries Commission met in Atlantic Beach November 13-15 and made several decisions of particular interest to recreational fishing. One of these was to direct the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to solicit public comments on a draft supplement to the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan (FMP) until Jan. 18. The draft supplement provides the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) with alternatives to implementing stricter commercial and recreational spotted seatrout fishing regulations set to begin in February 2014. It was developed to address a MFC vote in August to keep the current commercial and recreational size, bag and trip limits for spotted seatrout. This cannot be done without changing the Spotted Seatrout FMP.
The current Spotted Seatrout FMP regulations include a14-inch minimum size limit, four-fish recreational bag limit, 75-fish commercial trip limit and weekend commercial closures (except in Albemarle and Currituck sounds) that will end in February. In February, the daily recreational bag limit will drop to three spotted seatrout per person, with a Dec. 15-Jan. 31 recreational closure, and the commercial trip limit will reduce to 25 fish, with no commercial closures.
The draft supplement examines the reasons for not implementing the stricter management measures as required by the current Spotted Seatrout FMP and provides the commission with several options to the existing FMP, including the option of maintaining the existing regulations. Another option included in the draft supplement allows the commission to implement less stringent regulations that keep the 14-inch minimum size limit but increases the recreational bag limit to a six-fish (with no more than two of the six fish greater than 24 inches) and eliminates the commercial trip limit but keeps the provision for no commercial possession or sale on weekends (except licensed finfish dealers).
A copy of Draft Supplement A to the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan can be found online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/fmps-under-development. For more information, contact Chip Collier at 910-796-7291 or Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov. Comments should be sent to Chip Collier, 127 Cardinal Drive, Wilmington, N.C. 28405 or Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov.
An Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan requires states to implement black drum possession limits and a minimum size limit of at least 12 inches by Jan. 1, 2014 and at least 14 inches by Jan. 1, 2016. At their meeting last week, the MFC voted that effective January 1, 2014, black drum will have a bag limit of 10 fish, with a slot size of 14 to 25 inches and one fish exceeding the slot size will be allowed.
The Shrimp Fishery Management Plan was a hot topic and the MFC approved the Shrimp FMP for public comment after adding a recommendation that expands on a Division of Marine Fisheriesí recommendation to convene a stakeholder group to initiate industry testing of different bycatch reduction devices. The MFC added a 40 percent reduction target for the study and stipulated if this target is not met, further restrictions will be placed on the shrimp trawl fishery.
The MFC also adopted a slate of other rules that include giving the division director proclamation authority to set size, recreational bag, commercial trip, gear, season and time restrictions on the taking of sheepshead if needed to maintain a sustainable harvest; and giving the division director proclamation authority to implement federal shellfish harvester and dealer requirements for the protection of public health.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website (www.ncdmf.net) is an excellent source for information on limits and other regulations.
On Thanksgiving weekend Carolina Outdoor Journal on UNC TV will air a show on kayak fishing for speckled trout featuring Capt. Ricky Kellum of Jacksonville and me. This is Jubilee Weekend on PBS and the show will not air in its regular time at 5:00 P.M. on Saturday, but only at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday. Set your recorder and watch it later. I believe youíll like it; we catch some nice specks.
The Red Drum Tournament will be held from Jeanetteís Pier in Nags Head on November 30. If you are in the Nags Head area and ate so much turkey you need to get out, this might be a good reason. The tournament will feature multiple species in a 7:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. format with hot chili served at the awards shortly after 1:00. Jeanetteís Pier is now part of the N.C. Aquarium and has numerous similar events. For more information visit http://www.jennettespier.net/.
Good Fishing and Happy Thanksgiving