We've had some of those summer thunderstorms the past week and with the heat and humidity both hovering above 90, we'll probably have some more. That is important to our fishing for several reasons. Surely no one will debate we need the rain, but the issues or plusses come with the means of delivering it.
Two good things that come with the rain from those summer thunder boomers are water for our lawns and gardens, which raises the local water table, and brings some cooler water flowing down the rivers. The local water table is low. While maybe not as low as at the peak of the drought two years ago, many ponds and lakes are noticeably down from normal levels. There hasn't been rain to fill them and bring the water table back to a more normal level. The ponds and lakes benefit from downpour rains associated with the strong cells in the summer thunderstorms, but slower more soaking rains are better for lawns, gardens and the water table.
Erosion is the negative with the hard rains as they rush into the creeks and river and offer a little cooling for the water there. The rainwater moving down the rivers also helps push baitfish back toward the coastal bays and even into the ocean. Last weekend I was fishing near Wilmington and caught shrimp in my cast net within sight of the State Port. Those shrimp, a bunch of peanut pogies, finger mullets and more need to be flushed downriver. With lots of bait, and a little cooler water, the fish should become active and bite really well--and some aren't doing too badly already.
Speaking of hot water and ways to cool it, the water in the rivers is hot and in the smaller creeks and area marshes, it is even hotter. It is beyond warm and it is affecting the fishing. Take a trip up one of the tidal creeks behind Bald Head Island and you will see the water temperature rise as you get farther back in the creek. Do this at low tide and the temperature difference can be several degrees. The mud, which is exposed to the sun while the tide is out, warms up and then transfers that heat to the water.
The rising tide brings a little cooler water into these creeks and marsh areas and the fish become more active and feed some. When the weather and water are this hot, the rising tide through the first hour or so of the falling tide is the best time to fish in these areas. If the rising tide is in the early morning the fish could bite really well for a couple of hours.
The New Moon was Tuesday night, but the high tides began over the weekend and were still above normal Thursday. The lows were lower than usual too. I fished Tuesday morning and wasn't sure we would make it out of one creek. I saw almost a foot more sandbar than I can remember in its mouth.
Several kayak fishermen slipped up on some of the flooded marsh areas and reported the pups were tailing there. They caught (and released) several and eased just off the flat to catch a few flounder for dinner. They said several of the drum were overslot fish that were in feeding on sandfiddlers. A drum that size is a treat to catch anytime, but in a kayak it's the summertime equivalent of the sleigh ride across the river and through the woods to grandmother's house.
While there are some bright spots and some excellent catches, fishing just isn't great right now. The heat and weather are affecting the fish and the bait and we are in the summer doldrums. It seems to be affecting just about everything, even offshore, except bottomfish.
I didn't take a picture to prove this, but I made a not-too-far offshore bottom fishing / king trip with my friend, Justin "Brings Big Wind" Conrad, and several of his friends from Greensboro. We caught some really nice black sea bass in addition to some grunts and a few kings. The big bass were up on top of the reefs and rocks in the shallowest water at each spot. We were using a variety of baits from squid to fresh cut bait, to live and dead peanut pogies to a synthetic bait called Fishbites Fish'n Chunks. From early on it was obvious the Fishbites were catching more fish. At the day's end, we all agreed they caught the largest fish too. Check them and the other Fishbites synthetic baits out at www.fishbites.com. We were impressed!
Depending on who you talk to, king mackerel fishing is fair or slow. Those fishermen who find a small school of kings have some action, but they just aren't at many of their usual summer haunts. There aren't even as many dolphin trying to steal king mackerel baits as just a few weeks ago.
The big surprise for king fishermen continues to be sailfish! Sailfish have followed bait pods inshore in the warm water and occasionally mistake a live pogy being slow-trolled for a king as being intended for them. It's a pleasant surprise when this happens and is a great experience for the lucky fisherman.
This summer I've heard several folks say things like, "Thank God for Spanish mackerel." They have been the most consistent fishing in the nearshore ocean all summer and have turned many slow and marginal trips into good ones. However, sometimes in this heat even Spanish don't respond well to the usual methods of trolling size 0 or 00 Clarkspoons behind planers or trolling sinkers.
When the Spanish get lockjaw from the heat, a great tactic is to go smaller with your lures. Nungesser makes a size 000 spoon and 1/8 and 1/4 ounce speck rigs will usually catch too. A rig using a 000 Nungesser spoon and one of the jigs from a speck rig is called a "No Alibi Rig" and it usually lives up to its name. For best results, it should be trolled way behind the boat or cast to feeding fish with the motor turned off.
One of the better types of fishing in this heat is for spadefish. Spades tend to gather over natural structure and artificial reefs from just off the beach out to 20 miles or so. They don't react to trolling or regular fishing methods, but will usually bite a small piece of jellyball jellyfish.
Successful spadefish fishermen locate a reef that is holding spadefish and then lure them closer to the surface by suspending several jellyfish a few feet below the surface. When the spadefish rise to feed on the jellyfish, they also find small pieces floating around with hooks hidden inside them. When one hits a jellyball piece with a hook in it, the deal is on. Spadefish are very strong fighters and give quite a tussle. The good news is they taste very mild and are excellent as the special guest at dinner.
Speckled trout fishing is still slow, but there have been a few spikes in the last week or so and some fishermen are being guardedly optimistic. The best times for specks continue to be primarily right at first light and last light. A live shrimp suspended a foot or so under a popping cork is a great way to catch them, but pinfish, small sharks and just about everything else likes live shrimp too. You'll probably have to go through a lot of frogs before you catch a prince. Scented plastics, bio baits and topwater lures will also entice trout, but nothing works quite as well as that struggling shrimp.
The two inshore fish that handle the heat best are puppy drum and flounder. Drum tend to stay shallower for the most part. As long as the water is deep enough, they will work the edges of grass in the creeks and marsh. They sometimes feed along these edges from about two hours into a rising tide until about halfway through the falling tide. Once the tide gets low enough they can't patrol the grass edges, they move into the shallow channels and generally hold around creek mouths and oyster rocks. Drum will usually hit a variety of lures and live or fresh natural baits.
Flounder might slow a little in the summer heat, but they often just move a little deeper in the water column. Flounder may be found anywhere in the water column from even shallower than drum to the edges of the ship channel. Their presence in the Turning Basin and along the edge of the inlet channels supports this.
The key ingredient to locating feeding flounder is finding moving water to sweep baitfish by them. I recently heard flounder move about a lot during slack tides, but I don't remember ever catching one then. Don't expect to limit out on flounder, but you should catch a few keepers on a targeted trip. One of the August hot spots is around the nearshore artificial reefs. AR 315, AR 320, AR 420 and AR 425 have been pretty good all summer. Other artificial reefs should be good too, but I didn't get reports from them.
A big king and a snagglepuss were end of pier trophies at Bogue Inlet Pier this week. Ben Rivers, Newport, caught a 36 pound king mackerel and Ricky Fleming and Susie Avery, Selma, double-teamed a 16 pound barracuda. With the 85 degree water temperature, catching the barracuda wasn't a real surprise, while the king was. Generally the pier action moved closer to the beach and pompano, flounder, red drum, black drum, sea mullet, sheepshead and specks were caught in small numbers from the piers.
During the spring the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council approved Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. This amendment will stop all fishing for red snapper along the Atlantic Coast and close approximately 5,000 square miles of ocean bottom off Georgia and Florida to any and all bottom fishing. NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the amendment before forwarding it to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and is accepting public comment. Electronic copies of Amendment 17A may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Service web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov, the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov docket number NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
Written comments on Amendment 17A must be received no later than September 27, 2010, in order to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. They should be sent to: NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505--Attn; Kate Michie.
Electronic submissions must be sent to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov using the following docket ID in the search box: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. This is public record and may be posted along with any personal information included with the submission.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would like for hunters to provide input on regular waterfowl hunting seasons through an on-line comment system on the Commission's website. Regular waterfowl seasons begin in late September and include various seasons for ducks, Canada geese, snow geese, brant and tundra swans. The Commission's website also provides the federal frameworks from which seasons may be selected, a direct link to a map of North Carolina's Canada goose hunt zones, and a link to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2010 Status of Waterfowl video. Through this Monday, August 16, comments on proposed dates for the seasons may be registered by going to www.ncwildlife.org and clicking on "Regular Waterfowl Season Comments."
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in Wilmington was still going strong as I was writing this. Hopefully, I'll have some (good?) news from it next week. For more information on the MFC and future meetings visit www.ncdmf.net.
Several federal fisheries meetings are scheduled for August in Charleston and Savannah. These include:
* August 16-17 -- SAFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) Meeting;
* August 18 -- SAFMC Golden Crab Advisory Panel Meeting;
* August 13th and 24th - SEDAR 24: Stock Assessment for Red Snapper -- Ongoing Workshops and Public Comment Period.
For more information visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
The Alice Kelly Ladies only Memorial Billfish Tournament was held Sunday, August 8, from Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo. The ocean was a little bumpy, but the good fishing made up for it. The ladies on the True Grit and the Skirt Chaser both recorded five billfish releases. The ladies on the True Grit released their fifth fish five minutes before the Skirt Chaser and won the tournament on a time-based tiebreaker.
Skirt Chaser may have finished in second place, but they recorded a Grand Slam, by releasing a blue marlin, white marlin and a sailfish on the same trip. They had two additional sailfish. The ladies on the Caroline finished third and the Rigged Up won the Dolphin Jackpot. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
The inaugural Wrightsville Beach Wild King Classic was held from Sea Path Marina in Wrightsville Beach on August 7 and 8, with 55 boats participating. The tournament used a fish one day--either Saturday or Sunday--format and the majority of the fish were caught on Saturday.
The top two places were closely contested. The Neverenuff claimed the win with a 33.20 pound king, but was followed only a half pound behind by the Southern Sportfishing at 32.7 pounds. The Reel Motivator finished in third with a 23.90 pound king.
Takin' Chances scored the Top 23 and Under Boat honors with a 17.30 pound king. Brody Brown fished with his dad Robby on the Miss LA and caught a 15.15 pound king to win the Top Junior Angler award. Cathy Timpy won Top Lady Angler honors and Harold Hegler was the Top Senior Angler. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Long Bay Lady Angler King Mackerel Tournament was held Saturday, August 7, from South Harbor Village Marina in Oak Island. The ladies said the weather was pretty good, but fishing was tough. Amanda Smart, Joanne Minnet and Linda McBride took a bit of a ride, but found a 21.78 pound king to score the win. They were fishing with Capt. Buck Smith on the Second Time Around and fished east of Frying Pan Shoals at the Cucumber.
Virginia Herring and Debbie Chew were fishing on the Sea Striper when that old Mal-de-Mer began trying to spoil Chew's day. She refused to give in and toughed it out and that was a good thing. Herring and Chew were rewarded with the second place king that weighed 13.94 pounds. For more information visit www.okifishingclub.ning.com.
The Top Dog Pinfish Tournament, sponsored by Wildlife Bait and Tackle and Oak Island Pier, was held Saturday, August 7, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport. This tournament began several years ago as the Mighty Might tournament and has morphed into a pinfish tournament for all ages. As do the other Top Dog Tournaments, the proceeds will benefit Brunswick County children at Christmas. This one raised just more than $900 with the entries, raffles and auctions.
Six kids and 16 adults participated in the chase for pinzilla, but he was hiding and only his smaller cousins were to be found. Tim Stansbury caught a very healthy 0.42 pound pinfish to claim the win. An adult may have won, but kids claimed the next two places with seven year old Bryson Morgan placing second with a 0.32 pound pin and nine year old Lily Dodgens finishing third at 0.30 pounds.
Bud Birmelin caught the smallest pinfish at 0.02 pounds and had the Awards Dinner crowd belly-laughing with a story of how hard it fought and how long it took to land. For more information visit www.topdoginc.weebly.com or www.oakislandpier.com.
The Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament is the final tournament in the 2010 Governor's Cup Billfish Series and it began Tuesday, August 10, from Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo. The tournament will continue through Friday. At my deadline, which was before Thursday Weigh-in was completed, two boats were tied for first place with 490 points. The Uno Mas, with Capt. Glynn Loftin, reached that point first and would win if nothing changes, but with two days of fishing not included in the tally, this will most likely change. The Stefanie Ann, with Capt. Michael Birch, was the other boat with 490 points at the end of fishing on Wednesday. For more information visit www.fishpiratescove.com.
With the Pirate' Cove Billfish Tournament already underway and ending Friday, only two tournaments are on tap for this weekend. The Onslow Bay Open King Mackerel Tournament will be held August 13 through 15 from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. This is the second of five SKA Division 1 tournaments. For more information visit www.obokmt.us.
The first Cape Fear Sailfish Classic will be held August 12 through 15 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. This will be a release tournament for sailfish with a weigh category for dolphin. The fishing days will be Friday and Saturday. Fishermen interested in this tournament should note a federal Highly Migratory Species Permit is required for each boat and all live or natural baits are required to be rigged on circle hooks. For more information visit www.oifc.com.