I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! Hopefully you eat way too much good food, visited with family and friends and generally had a relaxing time. Now it's time to see what's been biting and what might bite again before the weekend is over.
Reaching Thanksgiving weekend is sort of like the end of the extended tourist season for the coast. There may be a few fishermen still coming on weekends, and some out-of-town owners enjoying their beach houses, but for the most part the casual tourists and fishermen are done for the year.
The forecast has Friday as the final day of a few days of southerly flow, then the breezes return to the north with a passing cold front on Saturday and Sunday. That front moderates a little as it moves through and the winds return to the west on Monday.
We need a few days with the southerly or westerly breezes or the water will cool too far too quickly. The water temperature has dropped almost ten degrees since last week and was shown at 54 at Bogue Inlet Pier in the mid week.
Those fishermen who wanted to head offshore got a little weather break Sunday and Monday and made the trip. The boats that made the trip reported good catches of wahoo and a few blackfin tuna. There were reports of yellowfin tuna, but all were from off Hatteras and farther to the north. This trip looks possible several days this weekend.
There were reports of good grouper catches also. I hate to doubt science, but the grouper seem to be in much better supply than they should be if they are as over fished as the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) says they are. While N.C. Senator Elizabeth Dole has written a letter to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez asking him to step in and override the Interim Rule, there is an Interim Rule set to go into effect on January 1 to close grouper season for four months. Under the terms of this same Interim Rule, the limits would be greatly reduced when the season reopens on May 1.
The SAFMC is meeting at the Hilton in Wilmington November 30 to December 5 to discuss many things, but one of the primary topics will be further restrictions on grouper and beeliners (vermilion snapper). The Council will also hold an informal question and answer session, and may hold a public comment session regarding Interim Rule measures to address over fishing of red snapper. For more information, visit the SAFMC web site at www.safmc.net.
With the calm condition of Sunday and Monday, many king mackerel fishermen headed out to see what was biting. The kings were biting from the horseshoe off cape fear to the Smell Wreck off Cape Hatteras and the bluefin tuna were biting off Cape Lookout. While some big kings were caught by the king fishermen, fishermen with heavier tackle landed a pair of bluefins on Sunday and another half-dozen or so on Monday.
Several guides reported good schools of false albacore between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout and some smaller schools moving west along Bogue Banks. There had been some around the corner at Cape Lookout and they should still be there also. One of the keys to catching these small cousins of tuna has been using small flashy lures and trolling or retrieving them quickly. These fish are quick enough you won't crank fast enough to keep something they want away from them.
Last week I mentioned that it seems like the pier fishing fires up just before the piers will be closing. This has happened again this year. Thanksgiving weekend is typically the final hurrah for the piers each year. Most will be closing on Sunday and they have a bite going on right now. The bite is a variety of fish, but includes speckled trout, red and black drum, bluefish, sea mullet, blowfish and more. If you would like to catch some, this weekend will be your last chance for the year.
The good speckled trout bite continues. Even with the water cooling, they are still in the marshes and creeks and in the ocean. Live shrimp are well-worth the extra expense and effort to get them. They are as close to a "sure-thing" bait as you can get. Many fishermen say they are also catching specks with a variety of soft plastics and MirrOlures.
This continues to be one of the best years in a while for gray trout. They are being caught over much near-shore structure in the ocean, plus in the Morehead City Turning Basin and the channel from the Turning Basin to Beaufort Inlet. One of the best spots to catch gray trout is under the lights of the Morehead City area high-rise bridges at night. They gather under the lights to eat the minnows and such that are attracted by the lights.
Fishermen are also catching puppy drum in a variety of places. Some of the best pup action has been in the surf. The first slough along most beaches has been a particularly good spot for them and this week they were holding along the Cape Lookout Jetty in good numbers. They have also been in the breakers at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Hungry drum are not very choosy and these have been hitting many of the same lures as trout.
There is still a mixture of fish in the Morehead City Turning Basin and this is a spot to consider if the ocean or inlet is too rough. Fish being caught in the tuning basin include large pigfish, some spots, sea mullet, gray trout and bluefish.
Over the past few days, I have been speaking with fishermen returning from the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) National Championship in Biloxi, Miss. They said the wind had blown 20 knots plus all week and the fishing had been slow and rough. The good news is that another SKA National Championship was brought back by a Tar Heel fisherman.
Randall Edens, of Hampstead, who fishes with his father George and Chris Gaddy on the East Coast Sports Fishing Team, landed a 43 pound king on Friday and added a 46 pounder on Saturday to claim the 2008 SKA 23 and Under Class National Championship. Capt. Stan Jarusinski, of Swansboro, and the crew of the Mister Stanman made it a 1-2 sweep of the small boat class for N.C. anglers by finishing second with a pair of kings that weighed 75.68 pounds. The N.C. Sportsman Team, with Capt. Raymond Pugh, was the only other Tar Heel team to finish in the top ten with 62.54 pounds and sixth place.
The Open Class Championship was claimed by Ed Mechella of St. Simons Island, Ga. and the crew of the Fish Fever, who were the only boat to catch a heavier aggregate weight than Edens and crew. Team Donzi, with Capt. Ken Upton of Wilmington, was the highest placing Tar Heel boat, with an 81.65 pound aggregate. The Ocean Isle Fishing Center Team, led by Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle, finished in sixth place with 79.66 pounds.
A couple of tournaments will conclude Saturday and then one more on December 6 and the season will be over except for the annual NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament run by the Division of Marine Fisheries. This is a multiple species tournament, with no entry fee. Fish just have to meet minimum weights and be weighed at one of many certified weigh stations along the N.C. coast. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament at Emerald Isle began in October and ends Saturday, November 29. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd or call the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department at 252-354-6350.
Captain Kyle's Thanksgiving Inshore Classic will be held from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center Thanksgiving weekend. Final Registration is Friday, with fishing and awards on Saturday. This is a speckled trout tournament based on a three fish aggregate weight. For more information, call 910-840-7186.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center will hold a week long king mackerel tournament November 29 through December 6. Registration may be done on-line or at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. Two sets of scales will be open for participants, with one weigh-in at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort and one weigh-in at Hatteras Landing Marina in Hatteras.
Fishermen may fish any two days of the time period, but fishing days must be declared before fishing. With the time period allowed for this tournament and knowing there is a good king bite happening off Hatteras, many fishermen are declaring this an unofficial N.C. Championship. For more information, visit www.oifc.com.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) has announced a series of public hearings regarding proposed changes in fishing (fresh water) and hunting regulations for the 2009-2010 seasons. Some of the proposals are very different from current regulations. The changes involve seasons, limits and manner of taking fish and game.
A complete list of all the meeting dates, times and locations statewide, plus all of the proposed regulations changes can be found on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org. The meetings will begin at 7:00 P.M.