The crowds have reduced some now, so I can talk about my plan to escape the crowds and heat of the Fourth of July holiday and week that followed. I got a preview of some new reels, an advance look and demo of a revolutionary rod guide, caught some fish that aren't available locally and escaped a little of the heat. Donna and I headed to Michigan to visit with Russ Riley at WaveSpin Reels and fish with him and several of his friends and pro-staff fishermen.
To our surprise, it was almost as hot and humid as it was here. Several folks told us one of Michigan's best claims is that anywhere in the state you are never more than six miles from water and we saw too many lakes and rivers to dispute it. Thankfully the fishing was good and the company was excellent and it helped us get through weather almost as hot and humid as we had hoped to escape.
WaveSpin Reels (http://www.wavespinreel.com) are a unique concept in spinning reels that are designed to reduce tangles, especially with braided lines. The front lip of the spool is ridged and looks a little like waves around the edge. This traps odd loops that form in fishing line while not paying attention and prevents tangles while casting. I have been fishing with WaveSpin Reels for several years and really like them. They have won several awards for this design, which is patented by Doug Hannon, the Bass Professor. Wednesday they introduced a pair of new inexpensive Zero Tangle Reels (ZTR Series) at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) tackle show in Las Vegas and I wanted to see the new reels before the show.
Hannon also has a patent pending for a new Microwave Guide System for spinning rods and Castaway Rods has exclusive rights to it. The Microwave Guide System eliminates the oscillation and guide slap of line while casting a spinning outfit and adds distance to the cast. The first guide is a double guide and then the line goes as straight as with a baitcasting reel. This was also introduced at ICAST on Wednesday and will be available in the fall. More information is available at www.castawayrods.com and a video has been posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRutbNP-1h8. The Microwave Guide System is touted to add up to 15 yards to your cast and that is a big bonus to all fishermen, but especially those of us who fish from a kayak.
After checking out the new products, WaveSpin Reels VP Russ Riley and some of his friends showed me around several lakes in Central Michigan, where we caught bass and northern pike on the current WaveSpin 3000 and DHxL reels. I liked the simplicity and inexpensive price of the new reels, but there weren't enough available yet to take some and go fishing, so we used the current models. As expected, the reels performed flawlessly, even for some inexperienced casters in our group.
Russ has N.C. connections as his wife is a Charlotte girl who attended ECU and spent family vacations at the beach. He promised to come fish with me on their next trip to visit her family. Maybe he'll bring some ZTR Reels and Castaway Rods with the Microwave Guide System and I can test them with pups and trout pulling back?
After fishing in central Michigan, we headed to Ludington, a port city on Lake Michigan, to salmon fish with Capt. Glen Buehner and his wife Deb on the Raptor (www.raptorcharters.com). Capt. Glen's toll-free line has a classic number. I'm sure 1-888-FRY-FISH sticks in fishermen's minds. What charter captain wouldn't like to have it?
Lake Michigan is large and gets rough. We almost didn't get to go, but waited out a passing front and headed out behind it. I was amazed at how quickly Lake Michigan gets deep. At less than two miles offshore, it was more than 200 feet deep. The lake was still pretty stirred up by the storm, but Capt. Glen kept working and finally found a patch of fishy water and we caught some king salmon.
Capt. Glen set a spread that would make a tuna or live bait king fisherman dizzy. I counted 14 lines and he didn't clear them to land fish. You worked the fish between the lines and into the net. There were four downriggers, four more lead core and copper lines on side-planer boards and six lines on Dipsy-Diver planers at various depths. This was all possible as we were fishing water 150 to 240 feet deep and the lines were staggered at different depths. It was amazing to watch him set and check the lines and then to work fish through them.
After a day spent visiting the Michigan Upper Peninsula and watching ships go through the locks at Sault Ste Marie, we settled in Traverse City for a couple of days. Our purpose was to fish for salmon, lake trout, walleyes and smallmouth bass with Capt. Chris Noffsinger of Northern Adventures Fishing (www.northernadventuresfishing.com). The National Cherry Festival was in full swing while we were there, so we were able to check it out and get our fix with crowds at a July festival.
For our salmon and lake trout trip, we headed over to Frankfort on Lake Michigan. The lake was still stirred up, but we found some cooler water and caught a few king salmon and some lake trout. The spread of lines to fish the different depths still amazed me, but the crew worked them well. Lake trout have a slot size and several were too large and had to be released. That's a shame as I've already eaten some and they tasted good--really good!
That afternoon we waited until the day cooled at about 6:00 and headed out after walleye in a local lake. The sun didn't set until about 10:00, so we had plenty of time. The walleye didn't want to respond to trolling, so we found a point with a drop and a little current and switched to fishing live leaches under floats, much like fishing live shrimp for specks.
I had never caught walleye before and was expecting fish far more ferocious than they were. They look very rugged and have imposing teeth, but took the baits far easier and more cautiously than speckled trout and didn't fight much. The good news is they liked the leaches and we caught 15 or so in the last hour of daylight.
Our final morning was set for smallmouth bass in the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay and it was worth the wait. Capt. Chris said smallmouths were his specialty and he was right. We only fished about three hours and caught 15 to 20. Several of them approached and exceeded four pounds, which is a big smallmouth. The water was extremely clear and we saw several absolute chubs, but they had seen the boat and we couldn't get them interested enough to bite.
The smallmouths were everything I expected the walleye to be. They were aggressive and fought all the way to the boat. We were using the DHxL WaveSpin reels with 8 pound line, so several made the drag squeal quite well. These were my first smallmouths, but after the way they fought, I'm sure I'll find a reason to try them again.
While I certainly wanted to escape our July 4 week crowds and heat, this trip was to see some of the new tackle before it was released this week at ICAST and I liked what I saw. The ZTR Reels and Microwave Guide Rods look good and I can't wait to try them on some specks and reds. If you ever find yourself in Michigan and would like to go fishing, give Capt. Glen or Capt. Chris a call. They can put you on the fish and make you get excited. Maybe you can test some of their new tackle too?
There are several WaveSpin dealers in N.C. and there may be more. Blackbarry Marine in Southport and Bevell's EZ Bait & Tackle in Goldsboro have them in stock.
Upon returning home, I found fishing for some species is almost as hot as the weather. There are some tarpon milling up and down the beaches and sometimes they grab a bait that has a hook in it. Most tarpon encounters end after a couple of jumps with a pulled hook, but occasionally one is hooked well enough to be landed. Another was landed this week at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle and also at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. Many pier fishermen caught king mackerel and lots of big Spanish macks. In addition, pier fishermen are catching, flounder, sea mullet, red drum, black drum, trout and pompano.
I had several folks tell me there have been wandering schools of tarpon working the sloughs around Shark Island at Cape Lookout Shoals and the first few sloughs off the Beach at Frying Pan Shoals. The water east of both sets of shoals is cleaner and the big fish are easier to see there, but they use the sloughs to channel and catch food and that has been where they are feeding. It shouldn't be long before someone catches a really big one.
Fishermen at the nearshore artificial reefs are catching flounder on the bottom, spadefish in the water column above the reefs, plus Spanish and king macks trolling around the reefs. The reefs that are a little deeper, don't have flounder and only have an occasional Spanish, but add amberjacks, a few dolphin and some assorted bottom fish.
We've had some pretty serious thunderstorms in the past few days, but in general our upstate rainfall is down and there isn't an abundance of rainwater runoff pushing out the inlets, which allows cleaner ocean water to push closer inshore. There were reports of a few dolphin being caught by king fishermen within sight of the beach and more at those rocks and reefs from 10 to 20 miles offshore. A few sailfish have been hooked, but not many landed (and released) in these areas too.
Father and son Gerald and Mark Turner had a banner day in the Gulf Stream off Southport last Friday. They were on the family boat, Jaw Breaker, and were catching dolphin when the sailfish showed up. They caught (and released) four and said many sailfish were free-jumping in the water around them. Wow!
Several Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled during the next two weeks. Those meeting include:
* July 20, 4:00 P.M., Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, NCDMF Central District Office, Morehead City, N.C.
* July 29, 5:00 P.M., MFC Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, Chowan County Agricultural Ext. Center, Edenton, N.C.
For more information on any of these meetings visit www.ncdmf.net or call the MFC Office at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8023.
The date for the Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 5.5 event at Oak Island has been set for Saturday September 11, 2010. This year thee event will be headquartered at Bill Smith Park. Fishermen and boats to carry military participants and volunteers to prepare and serve food are needed. For more information visit www.militaryappreciationday.org.
The Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce has announced the Cape Fear Flounder Classic Will be held July 30 and 31. This is a guaranteed purse tournament following in the footsteps of the US Open King Mackerel Tournament. For more details visit www.southport-oakisland.com.
Last week I didn't have the results for the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament that was held July 1 to 4, from Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach. This was the fourth of seven N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Conservation Series Tournament for 2010 and the final results in the billfish category were decided on a time-based tiebreaker for four boats that all recorded a single sailfish release and scored 100 points. The Maggie was first, Barbara B second, and Stream Machine third. No tuna or wahoo were landed and the Carolina Time claimed first and second in the Dolphin Category with fish weighing 39.5 and 22.1 pounds. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
The Hatteras Grand Slam was held Thursday through Saturday, July 8-10, at Village Marina in Hatteras. This is an offshore multi-species tournament for billfish and gamefish. Qualifier won the Billfish Category with 800 release points. Brother's Pride followed in second and Boss Lady in third with 600 points each. Chainlink caught a 67 pound tuna to win the Tuna Division. Release won the Dolphin Category with a 42.5 pound bull and Shadow caught a 26.5 pound wahoo to top the Wahoo Division. For more information visit www.hatterasgrandslam.com.
The East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament was held July 10-12 from the Carolina Beach Boat Docks in Carolina Beach. In this tournament, participants could choose to fish either Saturday or Sunday. Corey Durako and the crew of the On My Way caught a huge 56.60 pound king off Southport on Sunday to win the tournament. Don Scott and the Libra were just a few hundred yards away and caught a very respectable 40.45 pound king, but had to settle for second place. The White Lightning, with Capt. Tim Hudson was third with a 34.90 pound king. The top small boat in the tournament was the Hail Yeah with Brian Aycock who caught a 33.60 pound king to top the boats 23 feet or under. For more information visit www.gotemonliveclassic.com.
The second of three tournaments in the Redfish Action Challenge Cup was held July 10 from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. This was a 2 person team tournament for redfish. The team of Tommy Parkins and Lee Waters took the big bucks by topping the 42 boat field and also winning the White Swan "Red Hot Bite of the Day" Award for the heaviest single redfish. Parkins/Waters had 13.79 pounds on their pair of reds, with the largest weighing 6.91 pounds.
The Gotta Fly team of Lee Parsons and Alex Mercer were second with 13.13 pounds that included the third largest redfish at 6.68 pounds. The Onslow Grading and Paving team of John Parks and David Brown were third with 12.90 pounds. Gail Mace of Team Beavertail was the Top Lady Angler with a 5.63 pound red and the Pestaway Team of Chris Sewell and Ray Melvin won the Most Spots Category with a redfish that had 16 spots. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.
Several tournaments are on tap for this week and weekend. The Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament begins Friday and will fish again Saturday, with the weigh-ins at the Beaufort Town Docks in Beaufort. This is the fifth of seven tournaments in the 2010 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Series. For more information visit www.bartabillfish.com.
The Carolina Boat Builders Tournament will also begin Thursday from Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. This is a "Bragging Rights" tournament for boats custom built in the Carolinas. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.