Can anyone remember a summer that stayed this hot for this long? The TV weather folks are saying we should see some cooler air by Friday and I'm looking forward to it. Ordinarily I would consider temperatures in the high eighties hot, but after the past month they seem almost cool. If the mornings make the low seventies as forecast, it will be almost frigid.
I don't remember a summer this dry either. We've seen scattered rain, but no real rain over a large area for a while. It seems like when there is rain, it is a nasty thunderstorm and this week it was Tuesday and from Jacksonville down through Camp Lejeune to Swansboro. There had to be some serious wind too as many tree branches were broken and the puddles were large and deep on Camp Lejeune Wednesday morning. The ground was soaking it up really fast and most of the puddles had dried by Wednesday afternoon. More rain chances are coming over the weekend and maybe this will be without the storms.
I hate to admit it, but our drought has been so bad that last week I was hoping Tropical Storm Emily would hold together and pass just far enough offshore we got lots of rain but no strong winds. As you know that didn't happen. The National Hurricane Center has upgraded their prediction of storms for the year and it includes the prediction of more named storms than originally thought. I am concerned we will have an unwanted visitor sometime during the fall.
The fishing report sounds a lot like a skipping record. There are occasional outstanding catches, but overall it has been pretty flat. Thankfully there are some flounder and puppy drum biting inshore and nearshore, with some dolphin and an occasional sailfish, in the ocean. It has improved a little in the past few weeks and will get better still.
The 2011 ICAST show has wrapped up and the awards have been announced. ICAST is an acronym for International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades and the ICAST show is the world's largest sportfishing trade show and is produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). The ICAST show is the first look at new fishing tackle and related products for the 2012 year. The 2011 ICAST show was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada with 6,900 representatives from the sportfishing industry on hand. ICAST 2012 will be held in Orlando, Florida July 11 to 13, 2012.
The most important segment of the ICAST show is the New Product Showcase. The New Product Showcase does just that and showcases innovative products that compete for "Best of Show" new product awards. For 2011 Berkley Nanofil fishing line by Pure Fishing, Inc. was voted by buyers and outdoor journalists as the most innovative product in the ICAST 2011 New Product Showcase and garnered the award as Best of Show, while also winning in Line category. The winners were:
* ICAST 2011 Overall Best of Show - Pure Fishing, Inc., Berkley Nanofil
* Best of Show -- Apparel - Frabill, Inc., Frabill Suit
* Best of Show -- Boat - Hobie Cat, Hobie Mirage Revolution 11
* Best of Show - Boating Accessory - JL Marine Systems, Inc., 10 Ft Power-Pole Blade Edition
* Best of Show -- Combo - Daiwa Corporation, Daiwa D-Shock DSH-4Bi Combo
* Best of Show -- Electronics - Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Humminbird 1158c DI Combo
* Best of Show - Eyewear -- Costa, Costa Women's Collection
* Best of Show - Fishing Accessory - G. Pucci & Sons, Inc., P-Line Sparrowhawk
* Best of Show - Fly Fishing Accessory -- VestPac, DriftPac
* Best of Show - Fly Fishing Reel - Temple Fork Outfitters, BVK Fly Reel
* Best of Show - Fly Fishing Rod - G. Loomis, Inc., Pro4x
* Best of Show - Freshwater Reel - Pure Fishing, Inc., Abu Garcia Revo MGX
* Best of Show - Freshwater Rod - G. Loomis, Inc., GL2
*Best of Show -- Giftware - 3D Picture Store, Inc., 3D "Exploring Smallmouth" Picture
* Best of Show - Kids' Tackle - Pure Fishing, Inc., Casting Game & Sound Fishing Kit
* Best of Show -- Line - Pure Fishing, Inc., Berkley Nanofil
*Best of Show - Hard Lure - Pure Fishing, Inc., Sebile D&S Crank
* Best of Show - Soft Lure - Koppers Fishing & Tackle Corporation, LIVE TARGET Hollow Body Mouse
* Best of Show - Saltwater Reel - Daiwa Corporation, Saltiga SATG5000H
* Best of Show - Saltwater Rod - Shimano American Corporation, Terez Rail Rod
*Best of Show - Tackle Management - Plano Molding Company, 4674 Hydro-Flo Tackle Bag
* Best of Show - Terminal Tackle -- VMC, Spinshot
While they have seen some up and down weeks, flounder have been one of the most consistently caught fish through the summer. They are bottom dwellers and neither the drought, nor the occasional heavy local rainfall affects them much. Flounder are opportunistic feeders that eat what the current moves by them or fish or shrimp that are unlucky enough to swim within striking range. Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasin' Tails Outdoors said flounder were biting well along the wall at the State Ports wharfs in Morehead City, Capt. Mike Taylor of Taylor Made Charters in Swansboro said the ocean flounder were biting well and Capt. Jimmy Price of Wildlife Bait & Tackle in Southport said the flounder bite was slowly picking up inshore and in the ocean.
Flounder are also adaptable and may be caught anywhere from a foot or so of water in the inshore creeks to around the artificial reefs and on nearshore livebottom areas in the ocean. Flounder also respond well to artificial baits as well as live baits. Mullet minnows, mud minnows and peanut pogies are favorite live baits for flounder and have been catching them for years.
In the past handful of years, fishermen have found flounder will hit a variety of artificial baits too. For several years I have heard about the ocean flounder catches Capt. Jeff Cronk and other Swansboro charter captains have recorded on the nearshore livebottoms and artificial reefs out of Bogue Inlet. He even had pictures to document the catches, but nothing beats experiencing it yourself. This Tuesday I was invited to go with Capt. Cronk (www.NCcharterfishing.com) and the weather cooperated.
The fish cooperated too! It was quite the experience and I would heartily recommend it. I don't have an exact number, but we caught 25 or more flounder. None were huge, but more than half were keepers. We kept our two limits of six fish each and surely could have filled more limits if there had been more fishermen on the boat. I don't know exactly where we were, but the water depth ranged from the mid 40s to the mid 50s and it was a natural bottom, not an artificial reef.
Best of all this is not difficult fishing and anyone can do it. We were simply vertical jigging bucktails about six inches to a foot off the bottom. The bucktails were sweetened with four inch Berkley Gulp shrimp and pogies and the flounder didn't care which.
This wasn't a weak pickup either. The flounder hit with a solid thump and you could set the hook as quickly as you could react. They were hooked in the mouth, so the hooks removed easily and the ones we released were none the worse for entertaining us. We kept some in the livewell and they were good and healthy later back at the dock. I've reported this fishing several times already this summer and after experiencing it can verify that it works -- and works well too.
Red drum fishing has seen some good spikes in the past week or so and we are headed back to a full moon high tide later this week. The full moon is on Saturday, with the high tides scheduled for between 5:00 P.M. and dark from mid week on. This is the time to spot and stalk puppy drum that are feeding in the flooded grass. All it takes is seeing one with its back or tail out of the water while feeding and you will be hooked.
If you have never chased drum in the grass on a full moon tide, the first requirement is patience. You may have to wait a long time to see one. Another primary requirement is good vision. You are looking for a wake as the fish moves or a thumb-size tip of a tail sticking up as the fish turns up to root a fiddler crab out of its hole. A shallow draft boat helps, but sometimes it is easier to get out and wade.
Sure, it's fun to cast lures or bait to a spot and catch fish, but there is something special about spotting a drum that is feeding on the flat and then moving to intercept it and get close enough to cast to it without spooking it. I would rather catch one fish like this than several just casting and waiting.
For those that are casting lures and baits at red drum, topwaters have been producing early on calm mornings and that is an exciting strike. I have had good luck with spinnerbaits once the sun came up or on windy days and even catch a few flounder with them too. Live shrimp and minnows also get drum to bite during the heat of the day -- sometimes better than anything else.
Trout fishing is still really spotty. A few places are producing more than others and the keys seem to be cooler water and more food. This loosely translates to points or creek mouths with lighter colored bottoms to help keep the water a little cooler and a bunch of bait moving with the tides to make it easy to feed.
Many successful trout fishermen are using live shrimp floated across a likely spot under a popping cork. The worst thing here is that every bait thief around wants those live shrimp too. Mullet minnows and small pogies last a little longer, but aren't quite as preferred by the trout either.
The person I have watched do the best with artificials is throwing a white, three inch Berkley Gulp shrimp on a 1/8 ounce red jig head. He fishes it very slowly and lightly twitches his wrist to pop the shrimp up off the bottom every few feet.
Capt. George Beckwith of Down East Guide Service said there were some tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River, but they could be particularly aggravating and not bite for unknown reasons. He said the big drum were arriving in the sound in good numbers and that was usually much better fishing.
Pier fishermen caught some fish along last week, but no big surprises were reported. Fishermen on the piers are catching a few flounder, Spanish mackerel in the early mornings and late afternoons, plus some sheepshead and pompano. There are also some bluefish, whiting, black drum and a few red drum and speckled trout being caught.
Another king mackerel was caught from Kure Beach pier over the weekend. Pier king anglers are hoping the cooler weather this week will get the kings going and chasing bait along all the beaches.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are the primary catches of fishermen trolling close to the beach. Some days the Spanish get really leader shy or size specific and don't bite well. When this happens, downsizing your leader and lure can help. I have used 12 and 15 pound leader with 000 size Nungesser spoons and speck rigs. You lose more fish with this light leader and small hooks, but at least you get them to bite.
Speaking of downsizing to catch Spanish macks in the heat, Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters in Harkers Island said there have been some very small dolphin holding off the Cape Lookout Jetty and out towards the Dead Tree Hole for a week or so. He said these were small dolphin, maybe just a little larger than a hand, but they would hit small spoons and speck rig jigs that he was using for the Spanish macks. That would be a pleasant surprise when trolling for Spanish.
Occasionally a king mackerel has been caught at one of the nearshore artificial reefs or on a tide line around one of the inlets, but with the water this warm, most of them have moved offshore to deeper and cooler water. A few are being caught at these spots early in the day, but many are in even deeper water. A few dolphin are also feeding with the kings.
Live baits, especially smaller live baits, usually entice kings better when the water is this warm. These smaller baits usually give better hookup ratios with dolphin too. Many fishermen like to add a colorful duster to help attract fish and that isn't a bad idea. My suggestion is to pin the duster just far enough up the rig it doesn't interfere with the bait's ability to breathe and swim.
A couple of sailfish have been caught almost every week this summer and fishermen in the Cape Fear Sailfish Classic this weekend from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle are hoping to find a bunch. Several weeks ago fishermen caught 29 in two days on the east side of Frying Pan Shoals and inshore of Frying Pan Tower. The forecast is for the weather to cooperate and hopefully fishermen will find them as well or better this weekend.
Offshore bottom fishing continues to be good. I have seen a lot of large scamp grouper this year and they always had someone with a smiling face holding them. A scamp of 15 pounds or more is a big fish. The points on its fins and tail give it a really unique appearance.
Gag and scamp grouper may be a little shallower, but red grouper are being caught better from about 100 feet deep on out. Red grouper are generally aggressive and usually slam a bait. Scamps and gags can bite so easily a beginner may not even feel them. Circle hooks may help beginners catch them, but many old-timers still find it difficult not to jerk when feeling a strike.
Beeliners, black sea bass, grunts and porgies are also biting well. Filling limits comes pretty easy on many days. A few hog snapper and triggerfish are also being caught. Remember that non stainless steel circle hooks are required for bottom fishing with bait beyond three miles offshore and that dehookers are also required for bottom fishing in federal waters.
The comment period for the issue of allowing LightSquared, a broadband wireless company to operate on a frequency that is known to interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, ended on July 30. While I hope there were enough responses to bring attention to and prevent this action, I was concerned when reviewing the letters sent by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Richard Burr had signed the Senate letter, but Kay Hagan had not. Mike McIntyre's signature was also missing from the House letter. These letters are available for review at the website of the Coalition to Save Our GPS at www.saveourgps.com. My recommendation would also be to contact our federal congressmen and let them know how this will contact us negatively. Their contact information is available at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
BoatUS, which is the largest recreational boaters group in the U.S, was also on top of the issue and should keep us posted. You can review information from BoatUS at www.BoatUS.com/gov. According to BoatUS, reply comments to issues raised in these original comments can be filed until August 15. Simply go to the electronic comment filing system section of the FCC website at www.fcc.gov and open proceeding topic number 11-109.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) had a one day meeting Tuesday, August 9, in Charleston. While we are conditioned to expect no good to come from these meetings, there was a little bit of silver lining in this cloud. The decision was made to move forward with Annual Catch Limits (ACL) and Accountability Measures (AM) on several more snapper-grouper fishery species and pelagics, including dolphin, cobia, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. Another provision here was to prohibit bag limit sales of dolphin. Dolphin will receive a minimum length of 20 inches in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, but not in N.C.
The good news is the SAFMC voted to allow the office of the Secretary of Commerce to review of the deepwater bottom-fishing closure for all ocean waters from 240 feet deep out to 200 miles. This closure was enacted last year to protect speckled hind and Warsaw grouper and fishermen had said all along it was too restrictive for protecting only two species. Perhaps we will see this ban lifted. It is especially important in N.C. where it closed the deepwater tilefish fishery, which fishermen said occurred on totally different bottom strata. For more information see the press release on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
The SAFMC will conduct a series of four public hearings from North Carolina to Florida regarding measures proposed in Amendment 24 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan for red grouper. The public hearings will be held August 22-25, 2011 from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM. Council staff will present an overview of the amendment and will be available for informal discussions and to answer questions. Members of the public will have an opportunity to go on record at any time during the meeting hours to record their comments regarding Snapper Grouper Amendment 24 for consideration by the Council.
A copy of the Public Hearing document for Amendment 24 will be available from the Council's website at www.safmc.net beginning August 12, 2011 or by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or toll free 866/SAFMC-10. Written comments will also be accepted and should be sent to Bob Mahood, Executive Director, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405, or via email to SGAmend24PHcomment@safmc.net. Written comments will be accepted from August 12, 2011 until 5:00 PM on September 1, 2011.
The meeting regarding Snapper Grouper Amendment 24 in our area will be Monday, Aug. 22, at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside in Wilmington and Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the Hilton Garden Inn in N. Charleston. Both meetings are scheduled for 5:00 P.M. through 7:00 P.M. Check the SAFMC website (www.safmc.net) for an agenda and more information.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) meeting originally scheduled for August 10 to 12 in Raleigh has been postponed and rescheduled. The meeting will still be in Raleigh, but the new dates are August 30 through September 1. I haven't received notices yet, but I believe this rescheduling will also require the rescheduling of several MFC Advisory Committee meetings that were scheduled for later this month. The Advisory Committee meetings were scheduled to discuss items to be voted on at the MFC meetings, so they serve no purpose occurring prior to the MFC meeting.
Two items of particular concern to be discussed will be the possibility of developing a commercial hook and line fishery for striped bass and ways to meet the legal requirements of the speckled trout fishery management plan ending overfishing within two years and having the stock rebuilt within 10 years. These requirements are included in Session Law 2010-13 that was passed last summer and the version of the speckled trout fishery management plan that was tentatively approved last year does not meet these requirements.
The meeting begins with public comment sessions at 6:00 P.M. on August 30 and at 9:15 A.M. on August 31. For more details or an agenda visit the Commission website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home.
The Top Dog Mighty Mite Pinfish Derby was held on Saturday, August 6, with the weigh-in at Wildlife Bait and Tackle. Capt. Jimmy Price said the hot weather and threat of rain hampered the attendance, but the fishermen who participated had a good time. Eleven year old Joel Parnell won the youth division with a 0.24 pound pinfish. Willard Atkinson topped the adult division with a 0.22 pound croaker. Proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the Top Dog Children's Christmas Fund. For more information visit www.topdoginc.org.
This is shaping up to be another busy weekend for fishing tournaments. The Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament will be held from Casper's Marina in Swansboro on Saturday, August 13. This is the second tournament in SKA Division 2. For more information visit www.obokmt.us.
Billfish week at Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo begins with the Alice Kelly Ladies Only Memorial Billfish Tournament on Sunday, August 14. Then, after a day of rest, the Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament will begin on Tuesday and fish through Friday, August 16 to 19. This is the final tournament in the 2011 Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
The Mike Martin Memorial Pier Tournament will be held at Surf City Ocean Pier on Saturday and Sunday, August 13 and 14. This is a multi-species event for pier fishermen and includes a kids division. For more information visit www.surfcityoceanpier.com.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department Kids Fishing Derby will be held Saturday, August 13, at Oak Island Pier. This is free tournament includes multiple ways to win. The Oak Island Open Kids tournament originally scheduled for August 6 has been included in this tournament. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com or call 910-278-5518.
The Cape Fear Sailfish Classic will be held Thursday through Sunday, August 11 to 14 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. This is an all-release tournament for sailfish, with a weight category for dolphin. There will be a circle hook rigging seminar at the captains meeting on Thursday night. For more information visit www.oifc.com.