I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and even more I hope you had many reasons to be thankful.
After making it almost all the way through hurricane season without a direct hit, we were thinking we were home free from destructive weather for the year. No one thinks of tornadoes at the coast, but Tuesday night was a shock back to reality for all of us; some far worse than others. Atlantic Beach and Morehead City were struck by tornadoes on Tuesday night.
While there was serious damage in both towns, we are very fortunate no was seriously injured or killed. We will miss things, but they can be replaced. Our friends and family canít and they made it through. My prayers and best wishes to all who were affected.
Even discounting the tornadoes, our weather has been unusual. When the temperature rises in a day from below freezing to above 70 degrees, neither man nor beast can get comfortable. The same applies when the temperature does a similar nose dive. This change messes with many species of fish also, but some species seem to weather it surprisingly well and they will be highlighted in the report below.
The dang wind has been howling too. This week I had to postpone several fishing trips because of wind. Unfortunately as we head into winter, the nice weather windows will become more like portholes than picture windows and caution is advised. Donít let your desire to go fishing or duck hunting override your common sense. Several folks have already been rescued this week.
The weather has some ups and downs when thinking about fishing this weekend too. Friday is a possibility, with the wind breezing up sometime late afternoon to evening. The wind settles back out for Sunday and Monday, but they come with chances of rain and highs only in the low 50ís. If you head out, be sure to dress to stay warm and dry.
Speckled trout fishing has been good for a while and got even better this week with the colder weather. While there has been a recent influx of smaller specks, there have been many nice ones caught also. Capt. Matt Lamb at Chasiní Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach said he has weighed a lot of citation specks this week including a 9.73 pounder caught by Michele Williams while fishing from a dock in a local creek. The trout are hitting a variety of baits, including lures, live shrimp and minnows. Williamsí big trout ate a live mud minnow.
Even better news about the specks is that they are being caught across most of the state. Good reports are coming from Calabash to Manteo both in inside waters and the surf zone. With all the north wind, the surf is usually fishable on the south-facing beaches even when other areas arenít.
Red drum are also biting pretty well, but have taken a back seat to the recent uptick of speckled trout fishing. Donít forget the pups. Theyíre usually pretty close to the specks, but up in a little shallower water. Pups will also eat chunks of cut bait and shrimp.
A few flounder were also caught this week, but that is really slowing. The cooler water has some flounder mudding up for the winter and others heading a bit offshore in the ocean.
Gray trout are being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin, off Shackleford Banks, off Fort Fisher and at the artificial reefs, including the WOFES off Southport. The grays like speck rigs and jigs like Stingsilvers and Jig Fish. Some large gray trout are feeding under the Morehead City High-Rise Bridges at night, but many times you have to fight your way through a layer of bluefish to get a bait or lure down to them.
Sea Mullet (whiting, Va. mullet) are biting the Morehead City Turning Basin, off Shackleford Banks, in the Topsail Surf and in the lower Cape Fear River. These tasty panfish use scent as a primary means of locating food and prefer the freshest shrimp possible. Seriously, the freshness of you bait can be the difference in catching or not.
There have been some really good reports of stripers in the Neuse River and Pamlico Rivers around New Bern and Washington. There are some nice size stripers in the mix, with a surprising number around the 10 pound mark.
The typical lures for stripers in the Neuse and Pamlico are Rattletraps and soft plastic jerkbaits. They still work, but with the abundance of menhaden in the river this fall, some fishermen have been trying live baits and with good success. Capt. Mitchell Blake of Fish IBX.Com said schooling stripers will not let a struggling menhaden pass.
There are also stripers in the sounds around Manteo and Manns Harbor and a growing number are moving into the Cape Fear River around Wilmington.
When the weather allows, the offshore fishing has been good. There are still good numbers of wahoo, plus some blackfin tuna, dolphin and even a few late sailfish. Recently there have been some excellent catches of dolphin and that is unusual. Many fishermen are reporting having shots at sailfish on just about every trip.
Offshore bottom fishing is good. With the beeliner and black sea bass seasons open during the fall for the first time in a while, there is plenty of variety for offshore bottom fishermen. Grouper are biting well and grunts, porgys and triggerfish will try to steal your baits too.
The rapid fire fronts are pushing the king mackerel around and pushing them offshore. If you want to chase kings, plan on going to at least 100 feet deep to be successful. The exception to this is at the end of Frying Pan Shoals around Frying Pan Tower where the kings are shallower. Live baits produce well if you can get them, but the kings are also hitting frozen cigar minnows and rigged ballyhoo trolled slowly.
I didnít hear about any false albacore this week, but that could be more of a product of not many fishermen being out because of the weather and the Thanksgiving holiday. In the past few weeks, the fat alberts have been around Cape Lookout on both sides of the shoals in good numbers. If you decide to head out after them, that would be a good place to start.
Lydia, the great white shark that was tagged off Jacksonville Beach, Fla. last winter and spent time in our area early in the fall continues with her attraction to Newfoundland. She has been off the coast there for about a month and is pinging locations there actively again this week.
Mary Lee, who weíve been tracking for a little more than a year now, is another of the great white sharks tagged by Ocearch. Mary Lee must be a southern girl as this week she has moved south just a little to the general area off the end of the Savannah Shipping Channel between Hilton Head, S.C. and Tybee Island, Ga. In addition to liking warmer southern waters, Mary Lee likes to occasionally swim into the surf or through an inlet. 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.
At their November 13-15 meeting in Atlantic Beach, the Marine Fisheries Commission made the decision 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) through January 18. The draft supplement lists alternatives to implementing the stricter commercial and recreational spotted seatrout fishing regulations scheduled to begin in February 2014. The draft supplement 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. Unless the Spotted Seatrout FMP is changed, 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 retain the 14-inch minimum size limit but increases the recreational bag limit to 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.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will meet December 2 through 6 at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside in Wilmington. A full agenda, with meeting times and rooms is available at the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
While numerous Amendments are on the agenda, the most impassioned debate is anticipated to be on Regulatory Amendment 17 (Marine Protected Areas) during the Snapper Grouper Committee meeting. The Snapper Grouper Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, December 3, 2:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.; Wednesday, December 4, 8:30 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. and 1:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
In addition to other actions, the Snapper Grouper Committee will review options for MPAs including modification of existing MPAs and/or development of new MPA sites. The reasoning is for consideration to help reduce bycatch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper. MPA sites that will be discussed include changes to existing MPAs and the addition of six more N.C. MPAs south of Cape Hatteras, plus numerous more MPAs off S.C., Ga., and Fla. The committee is scheduled to approve the amendment for public scoping during January 2014.
There will be two opportunities for public input during the week-long meeting:
* The first public input opportunity will be Wednesday, December 4, at 5:30 P.M. during an Informal Question / Answer Session that will be led by NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree and SAFMC Chairman Ben Hartig.
* The second public input opportunity will be Thursday, December 5, at 5:30 P.M. during a session just for public comment. At this time, formal public comment will be accepted on all amendments scheduled for Secretarial approval and other agenda items. Details are available in the meeting agenda and briefing book materials available at www.safmc.net.
On Sunday morning, December 1, the Carolina Outdoor Journal show 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 sill not air at 5:00 P.M. on Saturday, but only at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday. Set your recorder and watch it later at your convenience. I believe youíll like it; we have fun and 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 tired of turkey and being inside, bundle up and head on out. The tournament looks to be fun. It 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 www.jeanettespier.net.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver