Let me share a little good news before getting deeper into this report. The state of N.C. suspends the requirement for fishing licenses on July 4 to celebrate the birth of our country. This is for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. All other regulations are still in effect, but the personal recreational license requirements are suspended for the day. Happy Birthday USA--let's go fishing and make our own fireworks. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net (salt water) or www.ncwildlife.org (fresh water).
Wow folks, we've already made it to the middle of the summer. This is July Fourth Weekend and things are really cooking. There are so many tourists cooking on the beaches you can smell that Hawaiian Tropic marinade just by driving by. Even better, the fishing continues to cook at a strong boil. Many fishermen are referring to this year as the best in recent memory.
The weather appears to be staying hot--really hot. Heat caused health issues are a definite possibility--take it from someone who has suffered through a couple. The most important considerations are to keep yourself hydrated and do not over exert. Water is the best liquid for staying hydrated, with sport drinks next and soft drinks or adult beverages at the bottom of the list.
Don't forget the sunscreen either. Sunscreen should be applied liberally and often to exposed skin. For body parts that can be covered, there are many pants and shorts with UPF protective qualities. Some of the high tech materials also help keep you cool.
While there is always a chance of severe thunderstorms (like last Friday afternoon) when the heat and humidity are so high, there doesn't look to be any immediate weather makers working our way. We should be hot, mostly dry and with lighter breezes in the mornings that increase with the heat during the day. The afternoon sea breezes could create enough chop to be uncomfortable at times.
The fishing has been so good this spring and summer we keep waiting for it to slow down. There have been some changes in species and locations, but overall the fishing has been really good. One of the fish that catches everyone's attention at this time of year is dolphin. Most folks enjoy a mahi-mahi fillet and catching them is even better.
This is the time of year when almost anyone with an ocean-worthy boat might catch a few dolphin. The water is hot, baitfish are spread out and the dolphin are feeding. They have voracious appetites and scour the ocean in search of food. They are often in the 10 to 20 mile range and many times their search brings them within sight of land. They aren't choosy either. Hungry dolphin have been known to attack baits and lures intended for just about everything.
More sailfish are being caught too. Like the dolphin they are venturing inshore looking for food. King mackerel fishermen catch a lot of sailfish by accident and probably lose even more than they catch. There have already been a couple of reports of small sailfish hitting Clarkspoons intended for Spanish. In several instances, this has been just outside the breakers along the beach.
King mackerel fishing is good. If you just want to catch some kings for dinner, almost any rock, wreck or reef from about 40 to 70 feet deep should be holding some kings. They have been scattered from along the beaches and out for several weeks, but sometimes they are very scattered closer in. They are catching kings from the piers, especiall in Brunswick County, but it doesn't happen every week and not from every pier.
Not only has the fishing been good, but there has been an abundance of baitfish. With no menhaden reduction fishery in N.C., the menhaden stocks are increasing and it also leads to more fish. Almost everything in the sounds and ocean feeds on menhaden at some time. Several fishermen consider three to five inch menhaden to be the perfect bait for citation summer trout, flounder and upper to over slot puppy drum.
Schools of Spanish mackerel are biting just outside most inlets and along the beaches. They are biting really well right now, but should taper off to only mornings and afternoons if the water gets much warmer. When trolling Clarkspoons or casting Got-Cha jigs doesn't work, downsize your lures to Nungesser 000 size spoons and small jigs and you should start catching them again. Light lining a mullet minnow is a good way to catch larger Spanish.
The nearshore rocks and artificial reefs are holding good numbers of flounder. The rocks don't get as much attention and often produce larger catches, but are harder to find. The buoys on the reefs help even inexperienced fishermen find them. The flounder on the reefs aren't huge, but most folks are more likely to catch a limit there than most other places. Flounder are also being caught in the inlets, the turning basin, along the edges of many channels and around the pilings of the high-rise bridges.
The higher high tides have stayed with us a while since last week's full moon and puppy drum have been foraging in the marsh. It's something special to spot that blue-tipped tail flapping in the shallows as a red drum turns to root a shrimp, minnow, or fiddler crab from the bottom. Then, when you make the right cast and bring your bait by him, you can see him lunge for it. It's an adrenaline pumper for sure!
Speckled trout are also biting pretty well. The trick for specks is to fish early and late in the day when the temperatures are cooler. If you fish during the heat of the day, it is good to fish water that is deeper and usually a little cooler. The fish will be more active in cooler water.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of bottom fish that includes pompano, flounder, black drum, blowfish, bluefish, spots and more. Spanish mackerel usually hit plugs well early and late in the day and live bait fishermen at the ends of the piers are hoping for a king mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle, tarpon or other larger gamefish.
There haven't been many reports yet, but if you plan to head to Pamlico Sound for big drum or tarpon, please remember the circle hook regulations for there went into effect on July 1. The specific regulations and boundaries are available on line at www.ncdmf.net. In general, a circle hook is required between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. on any rig with a hook larger than 4/0. These rigs are also required to have a stationary sinker of a minimum of two ounces within six inches of the hook. This is a requirement to help prevent deep hooking large drum.
I have previously mentioned Amendment 15B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters had been submitted for final review and approval. There is a public comment period until August 3 and all comments are welcome. This amendment contains several actions that would negatively affect both recreational and commercial fishermen. The fishery bulletin on this action and more can be found at www.safmc.net and a copy can be obtained by contacting Kate Michie at 727-824-5305. Comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov until 5:00 P.M. on August 3, 2009.
Speaking of amendments to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery in South Atlantic Waters, the final rule for Amendment 16 was posted on the Federal Register on June 29. It will become effective on July 29.
The primary provisions of Amendment 16 include a January to April total closure on shallow water grouper, a November to March recreational closure on beeliners, reduces the recreational beeliner bag limit from 10 to five fish, reduces the recreational grouper bag limit from five to three fish and the black or gag groupers allowed in that bag from two to one fish, establishes a commercial quota for gag grouper and implements the commercial and recreational use of dehookers. For more information visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
Last week I mentioned upcoming hearings on speckled trout and flounder. The complete list of Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings has been posted at the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net. There will be a round of meetings on speckled trout in early July and another round of meetings on flounder in early August.
The MFC Central Regional Advisory Committee will hold its speckled trout meeting July 2 at 6:00 P.M. at the Craven County Cooperative Extension, 300 Industrial Drive in New Bern. The Central Regional Advisory Committee flounder meeting will be at 6:00 P.M. on August 12 at the DENR Washington Regional Office, 943 Washington Square Mall in Washington.
The Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament was fished June 25 through June 27 from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This was the fourth event in the 2009 Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series. While no blue marlin were brought to the scales, 10 billfish were released on Friday and nine more releases were tallied on Saturday. This included two blue marlin, 11 white marlin and six sailfish.
After taking the lead on the first day with a sailfish and three white marlin releases, The Maggie, with angler Butch Bryant, added two more white marlin releases on Saturday to claim the tournament win. Second Place was decided on a time-based tie breaker between the Russellhatt and Pole Position who each released a blue marlin. Both boats scored on Saturday, but the Russellhatt and angler Kirkley Russell released their fish first.
In the Gamefish Division, the Game On, with angler Victor Roof, weighed the heaviest wahoo at 40.55 pounds. The Eye Catcher, with angler Steve Brogden, caught a 24.30 pound dolphin to claim that species win. No tuna were weighed. For more information call 910-256-6666 or visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
The Swansboro Rescue Squad King Mackerel Tournament was held in Swansboro on June 27. Team Killinsworth, with Capt. James Sharpe from Kenly was the winner with a 25 pound king. The Release, captained by Mike Williams from Clayton, claimed second place with a king that weighed 18 pounds, 4 ounces. A 15 pound, 14 ounce king enables the Open Wide, with Capt. Benson Ybanez of Cedar point to finish third.
Cindy Garb of Jacksonville fished on the Black Magic and caught a 6 pound, 6 ounce king to win the Top Lady Angler Award. The Top Junior Angler Award went to Lane Benton of New Bern, who fished on the Last Minute and caught a 10 pound, 4 ounce king. Ed Radford, of Garner, caught a 12 pound king to claim the Top Senior Angler on the Brown Eyed Girl.
The Emerald Isle Youth Fishing Derby was held at Bogue Inlet Pier on Saturday from 9:00 to 11:00 A.M. The event was free for kids ages 5-12 and featured lots of fun and prizes and was a great success. Each of the 58 children who participated in the fun filled day of fishing received a goody pack stuffed with goodies from local businesses.
The award for the Biggest Fish went to Josh Rush, who caught a 15 inch bluefish. Joe Lewandoski took home 2nd place with a 13 3/4 inch flounder. J.T. Dupree caught a 12 inch flounder to claim third place.
The Jodi Tynch Memorial King Mackerel Tournament was held June 27 in Wrightsville Beach. This tournament was to honor Jodi Tynch, who succumbed to cancer in February of this year, and to raise money in her memory for the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. 29 boats participated in the tournament which raised $4,641.
The tournament was fished in conditions that started out a little bumpy, but improved throughout the day. Mark Clements and the crew of the Lucky Bird caught the winning king, which weighed 42.3 pounds. Kelly Porter and the crew of the Double trouble claimed second place with a king that weighed 24.4 pounds. Third place went to Jamie Milam and the crew of the Prime time, who brought a 23 pounder to the scales.
For the first time in many weeks, there is not a tournament scheduled for this weekend. Perhaps we should all plan to get out and do something special to celebrate the birthday of the United States. I don't know about y'all, but I plan to go fishing.
The next tournament scheduled is the East Coast Got-Em-On King Mackerel Classic in Carolina Beach. This tournament, which is a fund-raising event for the Pleasure Island Fire Departments, will be held July 10-12 from the Carolina Beach Boat Docks in downtown Carolina Beach. This is another tournament featuring a single day of fishing, but allowing participants to pick their preferred day of Saturday or Sunday. For more information, visit www.carolinabeachclassic.com or call 910-297-4981.