The weather this weekend looks fairly good after some sprinkles and a little breeziness passes on Friday. After than we will be a little cool, with highs only in the 50's, but the winds should hold under 15 knots through Monday. It might be a good time to get out and see if some of the fish that were around over Thanksgiving weekend are still here.
Many folks from inland closed up their beach houses for the winter this weekend and several smaller motels and the piers closed for the season. Driving down the beach this week, there was the least amount of vehicles since before Easter. The strand itself was even more deserted, especially in the early morning before the day warmed and folks got out and stirring.
Some of you may find this sad and some may find it good. Many locals say it is a time of year they eagerly anticipate. Without debate, there is something about the solitude of an empty beach that puts a fisherman in perspective and gives him time and place to think. Of course sometimes the fish bite and the opportunity for introspection is lost.
A potential state record thresher shark was caught by Tony Holdaway of Ashburn, Va. over the weekend. Holdaway was fishing from Pirate's Cove in Manteo, with Capt. Ron Deel on the Little Jeannie, when he caught the 196 pound shark. When approved, this shark would replace the 185 pound thresher Brandon Bailey caught in 2005. Bailey was also fishing off Oregon Inlet. The shark's body was 6 feet long, but with the tail extended it measured 11 feet, 4 inches.
The Thanksgiving Weekend weather allowed folks to head offshore a couple of days and they reported wahoo, some dolphin, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, sailfish and at least one white marlin. That's a pretty good report for even the heart of spring or fall and there were plenty of smiles to go around. The yellowfins were only caught from Hatteras to the north, but the rest were spread all along the coast.
The grouper bite was on also. There were reports of limits of grouper, beeliners and black sea bass, plus good numbers of grunts and a few red snapper. When we see catches like this, it is hard to believe these fish could be as overfished as the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) says they are.
The SAFMC met this week in Wilmington. A report has not been made public yet, but many topics were discussed. One of the primary topics was further restrictions on grouper, with discussions regarding limiting the beeliner (vermilion snapper) following closely.
The SAFMC has already approved an Interim Rule to close grouper fishing from January 1 until May 1, plus reduce recreational limits and sets a cap on the commercial catch when the season reopens. The SAFMC has said more restrictions on grouper, beeliners and red snappers may be necessary to address overfishing of these species. For more information, visit the SAFMC web site at www.safmc.net.
Senator Elizabeth Dole has written a letter to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez asking him to step in and override the Interim Rule, but most fishermen do not believe this will happen. Dole was defeated in the November election and Gutierrez is a Bush appointee and will be replaced when President-elect Obama takes office in January.
There were several more bluefin tuna caught over the weekend and into the week, but the bite is slow. Several bluefins were hooked by king mackerel fishermen, but the result is always the same. The story has several possible middle chapters, but in the end the bluefin always breaks the line.
A king bite was on along most of the coast on Saturday. There was a good temperature break on the East Side of Cape Lookout and out near Frying pan Tower, with warm water over several well-known king mackerel hotspots. Several nice kings were caught and more boats headed back to those spots on Wednesday. I didn't have a report on Wednesday's king catch before deadline.
False albacore are still roaming the area around Cape Lookout. There are several schools of false albacore between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout, but the big concentration has been across Cape Lookout Shoals and up the beach toward Drum Inlet.
The little bit of cool weather hasn't slowed the puppy drum bite a bit. The pups are still holding in a variety of places, but some of the best action with upper to over slot fish has been in the surf. The slough along Shackleford Banks has been a particularly good spot for them and they have also been in the breakers along Bear and Browns Islands at Swansboro and Lee Island between Topsail and Wrightsville Beach. Jerk baits with slightly heavier heads have been good choices to cast across the breakers to reach them. In the creeks and sounds they are hitting a variety of live baits and grubs.
The good speck bite just keeps going and more big fish are being caught. Now be warned, they sometimes just aren't there or won't bite, so it is sometimes feast or famine, but when they bite it is really good. Some trout are still in the marshes and creeks, but the water is cooling and the action is picking up in the ocean. Live shrimp continue to be the best bait, but many fishermen are catching specks with a variety of soft plastics and MirrOlures.
Gray trout are being caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin, near the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty and at the WOFES, AR 420 and AR 425. Stingsilvers, Sea Striker Jig Fish and speck rigs are the better lures.
Gray trout, sea mullet, bluefish, pigfish and black drum are being caught on pieces of fresh shrimp in the Morehead City Turning Basin. Some folks prefer to tip a speck rig with shrimp and others use a two-drop bottom rig with small squid skirts.
I had a unique experience over Thanksgiving Weekend and while it wasn't local fishing, I wanted to pass it on. My wife and I went to Cherokee to go trout fishing. Now I know most folks go to Cherokee for the casino--and I will admit we visited one evening and saw more than the buffet--but we went to go fishing.
On the reservation, the Cherokee operate their own hatchery and stock the streams at a different rate than in state waters. There is an extra license, $7 daily, but it is well worth it. We don't know much about rainbow trout, but asked a few questions, followed the advice and managed to catch some and have a great time.
We also saw one of the elk that are being restored in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a cow, not a bull with big antlers, but it was still a great surprise and unexpected treat. The N.C. elk herd, which began with 25 elk in 2001 and 27 more in 2002, now numbers approximately 100 animals.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, which began October 18 at Emerald Isle ended on Saturday. While he weighed his fish on October 30 and had to wait since then, Rick Grither claimed the win with a 4.39 pound speck caught in the Emerald Isle surf.
Captain Kyle's Thanksgiving Inshore Classic was held Saturday from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. While the rain held the participation down, there were some nice fish caught. The team of Mike Fields and Adam Sellers won with a three fish aggregate weight of 14.90 pounds. They also had the single heaviest trout with one that weighed 5.20 pounds.
A week long king mackerel tournament organized by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center began last Saturday, November 29, and will continue through this Saturday, December 6. The Ocean Isle Fishing Center team took the early lead with a king that weighed 31.75 pounds and the wind began blowing. After taking several days off, the weather appeared to be moderating enough by Wednesday for the fishermen to head out again.
In this unique tournament, fishermen may fish any two days of the time period, but fishing days must be declared before fishing. 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. With the time period allowed for this tournament and knowing there is a good king bite happening between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, many fishermen are declaring this an unofficial N.C. Championship. For more information and an ongoing update on the standings, visit www.oifc.com.
The 2008 NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament, run by the Division of Marine Fisheries, continues through the end of December. 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.
Two excellent events will be this weekend on Harkers Island. The Core Sound Waterfowl Weekend will be at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center and the Core Sound Decoy Festival will be at Harkers Island Elementary School.
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.
The meetings will begin at 7:00 P.M. 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.