Wow, we had a return of early fall last weekend and early this week until the cold front rolled in on Wednesday. The front stirred things up some, but it looks like they may calm and warm up for the weekend, with just a chance of showers. Unfortunately the next weather system is forecast for early next week and the winds may be puffing up again by Monday. This system is coming from the south and looks to be warm.
Last week I mentioned Mary Lee, the 16 feet long, 3,400 pound, female adult great white shark that is swimming around in the area off Cape Fear. The big shark was tagged by Ocearch (www.ocearch.org) off Cape Cod on Sept. 17, 2012. For a while she wandered offshore but generally to the south. Last week she made an appearance in the Cape Fear River at Southport on Thursday morning and then returned to the ocean and crossed Frying Pan Shoals and appeared to be headed back north along the beach. Well, she turned again and has been holding just offshore and across the S.C. line for most of this week.
I think itís needless to say, but itís pretty obvious that Mary Lee has captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people across the Southeast Atlantic States Ė especially those around the N.C./S.C. border.
I donít know about the rest of you, but I spend a lot of time on and in the water and have always been curious about large predators like sharks, alligators and such. My closest encounter was breathtaking, but not threatening Ė and many years ago. In the early 1970s, a friend and I were surfing one December day and had a big thresher shark pop up beside us. There is no mistaking that sickle-tail and we were both sitting on the beach before either of us could calm down enough to have any thoughts that it wasnít a "dangerous" shark.
Thatís a discussion you only have when youíre not in the water. Seriously, anything that size is dangerous, especially if it eats meat.
After seeing the original "Jaws" movie, it took me a couple of years to relax to the point I could go surfing or fishing without constantly looking over my shoulder. I kept telling myself we didnít have great whites here and I could relax, but with Mary Leeís visit last week, that might not actually be true.
While Mary Lee surfaced in the Cape Fear River long enough for her tracking device to activate and send a "ping" (location signal from the tracking gear), there isnít any way of knowing how long and where else she was in the river. The tracking device only pings once for each time she surfaces and has to get wet, then be exposed for a couple of minutes to activate and ping again. If she stays under water or on the surface, it will not activate.
When viewing the shark tracker on the Ocearch website, do not pay particular attention to the lines as they are just a means to connect the pings and establish a general direction of travel. Mary Leeís actual course is likely a meandering trail, rather than the straight lines indicated.
In addition to entering the Cape Fear River, Mary Lee has been right up to the beach at several places. This conjures up mental images of Roy Schneider and Sheriff Brody clearing the beaches in Jaws. Thankfully, this is winter and not summer.
Several biologists agree that Mary Leeís travels are heavily influenced by food. Several species considered as food for a 3,400 pound great white are large red drum and bluefin tuna. There have been many reports of large red drum in the nearshore areas Mary Lee visited in the past week and there have been reports of bluefin tuna hookups (but no catches) in the area along Frying Pan Shoals where she turned offshore.
Now, a little about OcearchÖ. Ocearch is a non profit group that conducts global research on the large ocean fish. The founder and expedition leader of Ocearch is Chris Fischer, who you may remember from a TV show (I think on the Outdoor Channel) named Go Fish. Mary Lee is named for Fischerís mother and he believes she may be the key to unlocking migration and spawning habits of great white sharks.
In addition to Mary Lee, Ocearch tagged a smaller juvenile male shark in the same area and it continues to stay around Cape Cod. They have also tagged numerous great white sharks and other sharks worldwide, especially off South Africa.
The shark tracker on the Ocearch website has been staying busy lately. They recently had to upgrade their system to handle the number of people logging on to watch the shark trackers. To see where Mary Lee is now, visit the Ocearch website at www.ocearch.org and click on the Shark Tracker. Once it loads, use the menus on the left to select Mary Lee and begin with the track for the last week or longer. If the track area is too small, it will not load.
Last week I talked about bluefin tuna and how these big fish grab the attention of so many fishermen. Well, I have not received a report of one being landed this week, but fishermen from Southport, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach have reported sightings, missed strikes, and hookups than ended in pulled hooks. The most credible was Saturday afternoon, but ended with a pulled hook after approximately a 20 minute fight.
Inside the inlets, speckled trout are still the primary target for most fishermen and they continue to bite well. Puppy drum are following close behind the specks and a few flounder still joining the others in the fish box. Most fishermen and tackle shops recommend live shrimp as the most reliable bait and suggest fishing them suspended just above the bottom under a cork. After that, soft plastics, especially the scented ones, are considered the next best baits.
Fishermen concentrating specifically on large trout may not agree on the brand, model or series, but most agree hard plastic baits are second to live shrimp for large specks. MirrOlure, Rapala, Bomber and Yo-Zuri are the brands mentioned most and their diving or suspended lures are the ones suggested. These lures will also catch pups and hungry flounder.
Speck fishing had slowed in the surf off Atlantic Beach during the nice weather, but picked up Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. With the weather forecast, this may continue a few days with the cloud cover. Live shrimp were the top baits.
This week there have also been some good reports of tautog on the jetties, bridges, port wall and other structure around the Morehead City Turning Basin. Tautogs eat many of the same baits as sheepshead and there are also lots of small to medium sheepshead mixed with them. It is an opportunity for a tasty mixed bag of fish.
Striper reports are also wide open from the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers. In the Neuse, there are a few reports from down the river where the Intracoastal Waterway enters the river across from Oriental, but more action is happening upriver closer to New Bern. There are also numerous reports of specks in the creeks off the Neuse River in this same area. In the Cape Fear, the stripers are in around downtown Wilmington and there are specks in the Cape Fear below Wilmington and in the Brunswick River.
When the wind slowed the offshore catches started slowly, but as the water cleared up later in the week the fishing returned to pretty good. The primary offshore catches were wahoo and blackfin tuna. King mackerel were biting from around 100 feet deep and out. Several fishermen reported good king catches around the Atlas Tanker and Chicken Rock off Cape Lookout and around Frying Pan Tower and the Navy Wreck off Cape Fear.
The offshore bottom fish were biting too. Black sea bass are a nuisance they are so plentiful, but must be released. Beeliners and red snapper must be released also. Grouper, triggerfish, grunts and porgys can be kept. This would be a good combination trip after limiting out on kings.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is looking for people to serve on a Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee. The committee will assist the division in drafting an amendment to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan that focuses on bycatch and associated issues. Bycatch is a term that refers to fish or other species unintentionally caught when a fisherman is targeting a different species.
The MFC is looking for a cross-section of people representing the various commercial and recreational shrimp fisheries, including those with experience using all types of shrimping gear. The MFC is also looking for scientists with expertise in the areas of bycatch and gear innovation, especially in trawls and bycatch reduction devices, as well as other individuals interested in shrimp fishing issues, to serve on the advisory committee.
Persons seeking a seat on the committee must be willing to attend meetings at least once a month and actively participate in the committee process. Committee members may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Committee members will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
Applications for the Shrimp FMP Advisory Committee are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at DMF offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by Dec. 14 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557, Attention: Lauren Morris.
I had some wives, girlfriends and family members ask me to put together another list of suggested Christmas presents for the fisherman (or fisherwoman) in their family, so here goes. If you find something you like, just leave the newspaper opened to this page on the kitchen table or by your favorite recliner. Circle or highlight what you like so it has to be noticed and with a little luck it will be under your tree or in your stocking Christmas morning.
Less Than $10
The answer for a fisherman here is lures. The new MirrOdine C-Eyes from MirrOlure (www.mirrolure.com) are getting rave reviews. These are 17 MR size lures with different colors and eyes. If you donít like new stuff the MR 17, MR18 and MR 27 MirrOlures have been popular for a few years. For soft plastics, Halo Mullets and Mullet Spins from Betts Tackle (www.bettstackle.net) have become almost as popular as their Halo Shrimp. I like spoons and loud popping corks and the Flats Intruder Spoons and Back Bay Thunder rattling and popping corks from Precision Tackle catch a lot of fish and are well made. Topwater lures are always a good choice too.
Less than $25
This amount allows including some of the nice plastic offshore lures. Iland Lures from L&S Tackle (www.mirrolure.com) are always good choices as are Jags from Blue Water Candy (www.bluewatercandy.com). Blue and white or blue and crystal are hot colors no one should be without.
Plastic Floating Fish Grips (www.thefishgrip.net) from United Plastic Molders are a great accessory to hold fish to remove hooks and posing for pictures. They donít harm the fish or your wallet.
Survival bracelets make unique gifts that are like insurance in that you hope you never need them. There are many manufacturers of survival bracelets. I would suggest looking for a brand that is made in the USA and donates part of their earnings to one of the charitable or service groups that support veterans and the military.
Less than $50
A piranha, predator or assault hand paddle from Backwater Paddle Company (www.backwaterpaddles.com) is an excellent gift for a kayak fisherman. These paddles allow making small adjustments in a drift or attitude of the kayak while fighting a fish without having to try to handle a full size paddle with one hand.
Breathe Like A Fish Technical Fishing Shirts (www.breathelikeafish.com) are ideal sun shirts for fishermen. They are made from wicking technical fabric that is rated 30 UPF. There are shirts with and without side and underarm cooling vents and with or without face and head sun covers. There are even a couple of camo versions that have become popular with hunters.
Frogg Toggs (www.froggtoggs.com) makes a variety of raingear products to serve any need for fishermen. There are lightweight versions and heavier versions and both include several varieties of tops and bottoms. Frogg Toggs pack easily and are with you when the weather changes for the worse.
Up to $100
WaveSpin (www.wavespinreel.com) is a small reel company that manufactures two lines of spinning reels designed to eliminate tangles when fishing with braided line. WaveSpin reels were designed by Doug Hannon, the Bass Professor, and they work amazingly well. There are the Z Series (DHxL, 3000z and 4000z), which are the premium reels, and the ZTR (Zero Tangle Reels) Series reels in 1500 and 3000 size, which have fewer ball bearing and are less expensive. All come with a least a year warranty and a "No tangles guarantee."
Yak Attack (www.yakattack.us) manufactures a line of accessories for kayak fishermen and many of the items cross well to boat fishermen. The VISIcarbon Pro folding light and flag kit is a great way for kayakers to increase their visibility. The Panfish, Panfish Portrait and Dog Bone Camera Mount are cameral mounts that allow mounting a camera on your kayak or boat to take pictures or video of your great catches. There are many more items too.
Regular readers may remember I mentioned the Gander Mountain Academies (https://gandermtnacademy.gandermountain.com) after a visit to the one in Lake Mary, Fla. during the summer. This is a shooting academy that has live fire ranges and virtual ranges, with instruction at both. Lake Mary is on I-4 just east of Orlando and Iíll never go to Disney World, Sea World, Epcot or any of the Orlando area attractions again without planning some time to visit the virtual shooting ranges there. A trip to one of them would be an excellent gift for any outdoorsman.
Fishing schools can straighten the learning curve to catching more fish and there are numerous ones held across N.C. every winter and spring. Capt. Jimmy Price and I will do an all day fishing school for the Oak Island Recreation Department on February 2 and I will be back there with a weekend long ladies-only fishing school at the end of April and an all day kayak fishing school in May. The kayak and ladies-only events include times for on the water sessions.
I will also be doing an evening fishing school session and day-long kayak fishing school, with on-water demos of kayaks for the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department at their River Park North facility, but the dates for these have not been set. Loosely, we are looking at late February for the evening school and April for the kayak fishing school. For information on the fishing and kayak fishing schools visit www.captjerry.com and for the ladies only school visit www.oakislandnc.com/recreation.
Up to $250
Last year Star Rods (www.seastriker.com/starrods) released the first of the Seagis Series of rods and sometime around Christmas they will be releasing the full cork butt series with shorter butts for using in a kayak or other situations where a shorter butt rod is preferred. These rods are super lightweight and feature Fuji K-series tangle free guides and fast action blanks. The split grip models work well on a boat or other situations where fishermen stand and the full cork butts are shorter and work well when seated.
Waterproof digital still and video cameras are a must for fishermen and hunters. One mounted on one of the YakAttack camera mounts is just the thing for pictures on a boat or kayak. Using a waterproof camera allows keeping the cell phone or regular camera dry and working. There are numerous waterproof digital cameras available from the major camera companies and the features fit every desire and budget. Most even have some video capabilities. GoPro (www.gopro.com), considered by many to be the world leader in compact video recording, has recently released their Hero 3 with new features and there are some real deals on Hero 2 versions.
Polarized sunglasses are almost a necessity for fishermen and hunters. The latest thing with fishing sunglasses is to add magnifying readers at the bottom of the lenses to help tired old eyes with tying knots and such. Onoís Trading Company (www.onostradingcompany.com) pioneered this a few years back and now many eyewear companies have added readers also. My Optometrist recently told me that he now can make glasses that combine photogray sensing and polarization and give the best of both worlds. Check with your eye professional for details.
More than $250
This is the realm of specialized gifts and it is important to get them just right. Items in this category include fishing kayaks, offshore rods and reels, marine electronics, a puppy and lots more. Gifts in this category are difficult decisions and I wouldnít recommend purchasing one unless you know exactly what that person wants.
Guided fishing and hunting trips are always good gifts for sportsmen. Most outdoor magazines have a section or classified ads with a listing of guides and lodges. Word of mouth is a great recommendation for a specific trip and there is always the option for an internet search.
Hopefully something mentioned here will be just what you were looking for or stimulate you in the right direction to find the perfect gift for the outdoorsman in your life. If nothing really speaks to you, one of the best options is to find something new and exciting you think your outdoorsman and his buddies will enjoy learning to use. There are many possibilities for a Merry Christmas.
A Fishing Lanyard Workshop, conducted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9-10 A.M. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. Participants will learn to construct lanyards from items that are commonly found at most fishing retailers. Materials, including scissors, line snips and forceps are provided.
Pre-registration is suggested but not required. For more information or to pre-register, contact Tom Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 910-868-5003, ext. 15. For more information on other workshops or the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, visit www.ncwildlife.org and click the "Learning" link.