I’m hoping to take next week off, so I will take time now to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have many reasons to be thankful.
This cold and constantly changing weather certainly isn’t good for fishermen and it has to affect the fish too. I liked seasonably warm to a little warmer and will welcome it back.
Water temperature is still fluctuating in the surf and inshore. On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Bogus reported the surf temperature at Emerald Isle had dropped to 57 and Bogue Sound had warmed up to 48 after showing 46 degrees earlier in the week. Similar temperatures are being reported all along the N.C. Coast. Inside the inlets, there is warmer water on shallow flats and in the back of area creeks, especially around low tide and notably so when the low tide is in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day. Offshore water temperatures are warmer too with the Onslow Bay buoys showing 70 (LEJ3) and 67 (ILM3) and the Frying Pan Tower Buoy (41103) at 66 degrees Thursday morning.
Last week as this cold was approaching, almost every fisherman I spoke with was wondering how it would affect fishing. There is good news! It certainly didn’t shut fishing down. There are some places that the fishing has slowed and some where the fish have moved, but for as severely as the mercury dropped, it hasn’t been all that bad. Even though it may be stormy, I think the warming trend over the weekend and reasonably seasonal sunny days next week will help stabilize fishing and it will stay pretty good.
It has been a very good fall for trout and some of that comes from the closure after the freeze last winter. The closure was to allow the mature trout time to spawn numerous times before the season opened and get the numbers back up and it appears to have worked.
A lot of barely legal trout made it through last winter and the spring because of the closure and those trout are 16 to 20 inches long this fall. The 10 to 13 inch trout we are catching this fall were spawned this spring and will be the 16 to 20 inchers next fall. There are also a few 25 to 29 inch trout being caught and those fish weigh from 5 to 9 pounds.
Chasin’ Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach is holding a Speckled Trout Challenge that runs through December 31 and 9 of the top 10 trout are citation trout of 5 pounds and heavier. There have actually been 10 trout heavier than 5 pounds weighed, but one of them was a fisherman upgrading from a 5 pounder to a 6 pounder. The tenth place fish almost made it too at 4.99. With more than a month to go and the trout bite in the Atlantic beach area going strong, I expect all of the top ten specks will surpass 5 pounds before the challenge ends on December 31.
Puppy drum have been biting well also. The pups are well spread out and may be found from the backs of creeks to the surf. They almost always have an appetite, but the cooling water has spurred it on and if you locate a school, they’ll most likely be biting. Puppy drum will gladly hit live shrimp and minnows intended for trout and are sometimes more receptive to artificials than trout. I like soft plastics and gold spoons for their simplicity to work and ease of removal from fish to be released.
The primary way to fish live shrimp and minnows for trout and drum is suspended under a cork. I like to use a popping cork so I can make noise to help attract the fish. As the tide changes, or when changing locations, the optimum depth for the bait under the cork will change too. Rather than try to re-tie leaders for different places, a slip bobber is the way to go and allows adjusting the depth in seconds as the situation dictates. This means dedicating an outfit to always be fished with a float, but it’s a way we fish a lot and it certainly makes things easier and quicker.
A slip bobber rig uses a bobber stopper to set the depth by stopping a cork that can slide up and down the line. The bobber stopper can be moved up and down the line to place the bait deeper or shallower as needed. This also helps with casting as the cork will slide down the line to the swivel above the leader and hook, so they cast as a unit rather than helicoptering, as bait on a longer leader below a stationary cork is prone to do.
There are numerous types of bobber stoppers and I like the ones that look like little rubber footballs. There are also numerous corks made in varying shapes and sizes to use as a slip bobber. By planning ahead, you can put beads on the line to have them click, like with rattle corks. If you’re not familiar with slip bobber rigs, you should check them out. They catch fish and are easy to use.
For those who like things easy, the Billy Bay Lowcountry Lightning Adjustable Depth Floats from Betts Tackle in Fuquay-Varina come with everything you need to make a slip bobber rig except the hook and bait. They come in packages with an egg shaped float or a popping cork and should be available in most tackle shops.
We have to be getting close to the end of the fall flounder run, but it just isn’t over quite yet. This week I received reports of flounder caught from the backs of creeks to the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs. The wall at the State Ports has been a hot spot at Morehead City and the Intracoastal Waterway from Southport to the S.C. state line has given up some big flounder lately. The inshore flounder like live baits, but will hit soft plastics, while the ocean flounder show a preference for soft plastics jigged vertically on a bucktail.
There are black drum mixed with the red drum, trout and flounder. They can be a lot of fun to catch and I like to eat the smaller ones. Some people still aren’t aware, but there are now regulations on black drum. The limit is 10 and there is a slot size of 14 to 25 inches, with the provision that one black drum may be kept that exceeds the slot size.
Speaking of black drum, there have been some huge ones caught in the surf and from the piers. The 82 pounder that Roger Brown caught from Bogue Inlet Pier at Emerald Isle two weeks ago is the verified largest so far, but this week there have been a dozen or more reports of black drum that were estimated to weigh from 50 to 90 pounds, but were released and not weighed. Many of them have been caught as a surprise while fishing for puppy drum, trout and whiting. Pier fishermen are also catching smaller black drum, puppy drum, trout, sea mullet, bluefish and puffers.
In addition to those big black drum, surf fishermen have been catching some sea mullet, bluefish, puppy drum and a few flounder caught in the surf and from the piers. The cool water has moved most of the larger red drum off the beaches a ways, but there is a possibility of catching a large red drum from the surf too. Sea mullet like pieces of the freshest shrimp possible while all the others will eat live baits and bluefish drum will readily eat chunks of cut bait.
Fishermen are still occasionally catching flounder at the nearshore artificial reefs. The more prevalent catches at these reefs are bluefish, black sea bass and gray trout.
There are lots of gray trout in the nearshore ocean from Cape Lookout to Shallotte Inlet. Just off the jetty at Cape Lookout has been a hotspot and Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Ark Charters in Harkers Island said he has caught gray trout up to 5 pounds there and along the beach at Shackleford Banks. A second hotspot is the area around Cape Fear. Gray trout are thick on the rocks off Carolina and Kure Beaches and on the artificial reefs off the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The hot lures have been shiny metal jigs and speck rigs jigged vertically, but some have been caught on cut bait and soft plastics.
A few schools of large false albacore made appearances near Cape Lookout and especially around the Cape Lookout Jetty last week. They busted up a lot of trout tackle, but a few were caught to verify what they were. Most false albacore have moved offshore a ways and fishermen headed offshore are reporting seeing schools of false albacore while traveling to and from their destinations. Many have been in the 60 to 100 foot depths. This is a long run to catch albacore, but they have been there pretty consistently.
King mackerel fishing is good, but is taking place a ways offshore. You might find kings at some of the rocks and wrecks as shallow as 60-70 feet if there is a lot of bait, but the water is a little cooler than they like and there needs to be a big buffet to keep them in the cool water. Kings like water from about 67 degrees and warmer and those temps have been 30 plus miles offshore this week in approximately 100 feet of water.
Offshore bottom fishing is good whenever the ocean conditions allow going. There are some black sea bass and gag grouper beginning at about 60 to 70 feet, but the black sea bass at those depths are voracious and many are just short enough not to keep and be frustrating. More of the black sea bass are keepers in deeper water, say around 100 to 110 feet and there are other species of grouper, plus beeliners, triggerfish and more.
If you have a large boat or can make the trip when there is a weather window with calm sea conditions, there are fish biting at the edge of the Gulf Stream. Wahoo began biting in August and still are. They may be slowing a little, but they are still biting pretty well.
Blackfin tuna have begun to show in good numbers in the past several weeks. The water in the stream is warm and there are occasional catches of dolphin and billfish, but those are extra and shouldn’t be anticipated. This is an uncomfortable trip when it is rough during the summer and it becomes miserable when it is rough and cold. If you will be making the trip in a smaller boat, please exercise the patience to wait for an appropriate weather window.
Regulatory Amendment 14 will:
* Change the current fishing year for both commercial and recreational sectors of greater amberjack from May 1 through April 30, to March 1 through the end of February.
* Change the current commercial fishing year for black sea bass from June 1 through May 31, to January 1 through December 31.
* Change the current recreational fishing year for black sea bass from June 1 through May 31, to April 1 through March 31.
* Specify a 300 pound gutted weight commercial trip limit for black sea bass using hook-and-line gear from January 1 to April 30. From May 1 to December 31, the trip limit is 1,000 pounds gutted weight for hook-and-line gear.
NOTE: Black sea bass pots are prohibited from November 1 through April 30. From May 1 to October 31, the trip limit for black sea bass caught with pots is 1,000 pounds gutted weight.
*Revise the black sea bass recreational accountability measure to have NOAA Fisheries announce the length of the recreational season for black sea bass annually in the Federal Register.
*Reduce the commercial trip limit for gag from the current 1,000 pounds gutted weight, to 500 pounds gutted weight, when 75 percent of the gag commercial quota is reached.
*Implement an in-season closure for vermillion snapper if the recreational catch limit is reached, and an overage adjustment (payback) in the event that the recreational catch limit is exceeded.
For more information on the final rule for Regulatory Amendment 14, please follow this link to the Frequently Asked Questions section at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2014/reg_am14/index.html.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comments on a proposed rule to list Nassau grouper as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule filed in the Federal Register on September 2, 2014 (79 FR 51929). Currently, harvest and possession of Nassau grouper is prohibited in all U.S. waters, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, some countries have restrictions on harvest, including size limits and seasonal closures.
The proposed rule is based on key conclusions from a Biological Report and the Extinction Risk Analysis conducted by NOAA Fisheries. The results of the comprehensive status review are as follows:
(1) The species still occupies its historical range made up of a single population over a broad geographic area, (historical range means areas where Nassau grouper were typically found);
(2) The species possesses life history characteristics that increase vulnerability to harvest;
(3) The species forms large spawning aggregations, (spawning aggregations are areas where large numbers of fish come to reproduce); spawning aggregations are declining in size and number across the species' range;
(4) Current regulations and/or lack of law enforcement throughout the species' range are not effective in protecting Nassau grouper or their spawning aggregations;
(5) The combination of vulnerability to harvest, life history characteristics, and a lack of regulations and/or law enforcement indicate that the species is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
For more information on the listing process, please visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/listing_petitions/faqs/index.html.
Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by no later than December 31, 2014 to be considered by NOAA Fisheries. Electronic copies of the proposed rule may be obtained from the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office's website. The biological report is also available at the same webpage.
Comments may be submitted electronically by visiting the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and entering docket number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0235 into "Search" box. Select the appropriate title, and click "Submit a Comment," which will display the comment web form. Attachments up to 10 MB will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Jason Rueter – NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office – Protected Resources Division – 263 13th Avenue South – St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.
Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. - Public Meeting, Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. - Business Meeting, Nov. 21 at 8:30 a.m. - Business Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov. Agenda is available under Public Meetings section at www.ncdmf.net.
December 1-5: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, DoubleTree Hilton, New Bern, Contact Kim Iverson at 843-571-4366 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Agenda is available under Meetings section at www.safmc.net.
December 8: NC Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington,
December 8 to 11: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Royal Sonesta Hotel, Baltimore, MD., Briefing materials www.mafmc.org/briefing/december-2014, On-line access http://mafmc.adobeconnect.com/december2014/.
Tournaments, Seminars, Club Meetings and Events
September 1 to Dec 31: Chasin’ Tails Outdoors Speckled Trout Challenge, Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
October 18 – November 29: Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Speckled trout, The Reel Outdoors, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.org.
November 22: Jacksonville Rotary Speckled Trout Shootout, Jacksonville Landing, Jacksonville, www.jacksonvillerotaryclubnc.org.
November 22 and 23: Cool Water Surf Fishing Classic, Multiple species, Topsail Island, www.coastalanglermag.com.
November 29: Cy’s World Flounder Trout and Redfish Rodeo, Multiple species, plus duck hunting, Sharky’s, Ocean Isle Beach, 910-237-2586.