Wow! When we flipped the calendar page to September, it seemed to be connected to the tropics off Africa as there has been a steady stream of storms spawned since then. The 2010 Hurricane season had been slow, and with no one complaining, but it has quickly become very active. Thankfully none of these storms have found us in their sights yet.
The storms we have been watching this week are Hurricanes Igor and Julia. Early in the week, there was more possibility they could continue towards the continental U.S., but as we proceed into the week the National Hurricane Center's forecast tracks have turned both of them well offshore and not passing until later in the weekend. That is especially good with Igor as it puffed up and showed some severe strength late last weekend and early this week. We will probably see some big swells, but with the current forecast tracks we shouldn't see any wind or much needed rain. Another storm, Tropical Storm Karl, popped up quickly in the Gulf and has already struck the Yucatan Peninsula and is headed for mainland Mexico.
Our king mackerel fishing is rather inconsistent right now, but should take off as soon as the water cools a little. It will also help if we can get some rain to push all the baitfish out of the rivers and sounds. Salt and brackish water has backed up the sounds and rivers to about Highway 17 and fishermen there are seeing lots of bait that would usually be much farther downriver and close to the inlets. When the water cools a little and this bait moves into the ocean, the fishing should really take off.
I helped on the docks during the weigh-in for the Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic this weekend and it was obvious many of the king mackerel fishermen headed well offshore. While the competitors were pulling the kings they had to weigh for the tournament out of their fish boxes, they were moving some nice dolphin and one boat had a huge wahoo. Several fishermen also said they had sailfish hooked, at least for a jump or two, during the tournament.
Along the same lines, the Kings of the Coast King Mackerel Tournament was held this weekend from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island, but no king catches were recorded. The participants caught lots of Spanish mackerel, but the kings were absent. This has been the case for most of the N.C. coast for about a month. Many of the pier fishermen said they were also waiting for the water to cool a little and thought the kings would come to the beaches as soon as the water cooled a little and there was an abundance of food for them.
In the meantime, pier fishermen are catching lots of Spanish macks and bottom fish. The bottom fish have been mostly flounder, speckled trout, puppy drum and pompano, but spots were caught at several piers over the weekend. We've seen yellow butterflies for several weeks so maybe the spots are about to show up?
While the air temperatures have cooled a handful of degrees, the water hasn't followed suit very quickly. I saw water temperatures up to 84 degrees in several creeks this week and several king mackerel fishermen said the water was still in the low 80s in the ocean too. Hopefully it won't be too long before the water begins to cool. Those mornings when the air temperature is in the 60s sure feel nice.
While the ocean water hasn't cooled, there was a good showing of false albacore over the weekend and through the week. Usually the fat Alberts don't make much of an appearance until the water cools, but they have been scattered from just off the beach to out several miles. The best action has been between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout, but there were some off Wrightsville Beach as well.
I was able to spend a few hours back in several creeks this week while we were having the new moon tides. We saw some puppy drum up in the flooded marsh grass, but had some difficulty getting them to the boat. Some were spooky enough it was difficult to get within casting distance and others were smart enough to zig-zag through the flooded grass and cut us off on the sharp edges. There were more drum in the grass during the evening tide than on the morning tide and they seemed to be easier to catch too.
We've got the Fall Equinox full moon tides coming up next week, with the full moon on the 23rd. These should be the highest tides of the fall and there are several days the high is just before dark and just after daybreak. It should be some of the best drum fishing of the fall. If you have ever wanted to chase tailing and waking drum in flooded marsh, this should be an excellent time. If you don't have the right boat or equipment, there are many excellent guides all along the coast who can supply all that and know where to go.
Those new moon high tides this week also attracted some marsh hen hunters and I bet more will be out on the full moon. I was kayak fishing Saturday and didn't see any hunters but heard shots several times. Marsh hens are the local name for the rails (birds) that live in the marsh grass and there is a season each fall. These are the birds with the loud cackle you hear but rarely see while fishing.
The higher moon tides flood much of the marsh and concentrate the birds in the higher hummocks and give hunters access across the flooded grass to get to them. Some folks say marsh hens are an acquired taste and that may be true, but with my Carteret and Brunswick County roots I came by it genetically. I sure hope to have a big pot stewed down with some pastry before too long.
I didn't hear of any huge flounder this week, but there were some nice ones caught. Flounder were biting from well up the creeks out to the nearshore artificial reefs. In the Morehead City/Atlantic Beach area, the wall at the State Port, around the pilings at the bridges, along the channel edges and around the bars in the inlets are good places to try for flounder. Farther south, bridge pilings and bulkheads are always good places, as is the Southport waterfront.
Structure that is holding baitfish is the key to catching flounder. Live mullet minnows, mud minnows and peanut pogies are the preferred baits and most fishermen anchor in an area they believe will be productive and sit and wait. With the bait starting to move a lot, the flounder get aggressive and can be caught using lures and often those lures used for puppy drum will work just fine.
Puppy drum have been biting well also and along with flounder have been the mainstay of many fishing trips. Fishermen are finding pups from the creeks and bays out to the surf. Puppy drum are usually hungry and aren't very picky about their food. Of course they like live shrimp and minnows, but will also hit a wide variety of lures and pieces of shrimp or chunks of cut bait. They tend to feed along edges, so look along the banks, around shoals and oyster rocks and at the mouths of smaller creeks waiting to attack any shrimp or minnows that flush out with the falling tide.
The big drum bite in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound is going strong. These are big fish, with most exceeding the 40 inch minimum for a release citation. This fishing usually is best from late afternoon until after dark and there is often a spike in the bite right around daybreak. Most of the guides say they are getting a half dozen or more strikes per night. Good catches have been reported in West Bay and from Cedar Island over to the mouth of the Neuse River.
Several hunting seasons (resident Canada geese, dove, marsh hen and archery season for deer) are open. There are some new regulations for the 2010-2011 seasons, such as allowing crossbows and Sunday hunting with archery gear on private lands. All regulations can be found in the new regulations digest, which should be available at license agents or on-line at the Wildlife Resources Commission website, www.ncwildlife.org.
A series of public hearings to receive hunter input on recommended game law changes, deletions and additions for the 2011-2012 seasons have been scheduled across N.C. through September 20. A list of these suggested regulations and the remaining public meetings, plus a link for those wanting to comment, but are unable to attend one of the meetings is available on-line at the Wildlife Resources Commission website, www.ncwildlife.org. The closest meeting to the Crystal Coast is at the Court House in New Bern on Sept. 22 at 7:00 P.M.
The time for public comment regarding the red snapper fishing closure and bottom closure in Amendment 17A to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan is growing short. 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 N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees are meeting this week and through the end of September to discuss the latest version of the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. The Southeast Regional Advisory Committee and the Inland Regional Advisory Committee met earlier in the week. The remaining meetings are:
* Central Regional Advisory Committee, September 20, 6:00 P.M., NCDENR Regional Field Office in Washington;
* Finfish Advisory Committee, September 27, 11:00 A.M., NCDENR Regional Field Office in Washington;
* Sea Turtle Advisory Committee, September 28, 6:00 P.M., DMF Office in Morehead City;
* Northeast Regional Advisory Committee, September 30, Roanoke Island Festival Park Small Auditorium in Manteo.
There will be a public comment period at each of these meetings. For more information on this and other MFC meetings visit www.ncdmf.net or call 1-800-682-2632.
The MFC will also hold a Public Hearing of Proposed New Fishing Rules at the Craven County Cooperative Extension Office in New Bern at 6:00 P.M. on Sept. 30. More information on the public hearing is available at www.ncdmf.net. A list of the proposed rules is available at www.oah.state.nc.us/rules/register.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) is meeting in Charleston this week. I hope to have a report next week. For more information visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
The First Annual Teach's Cove Kayak Fishing Tournament was held Saturday, Sept. 11, in Oriental. The tournament began as a school project for Huston Wallace and grew to 35 participants and was an excellent fundraiser for the Southeast Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department. Overall scoring was based on the combined total weight of a Pamlico Slam (1 redfish, 1 flounder and 1 speckled trout). Only Margaret Johnson of Greenville landed all three species, but her trout was not quite large enough to keep and therefore couldn't be counted. The overall results were decided from the combined weight of a redfish and a flounder.
Capt. Mark Hoff of Oriental paced the field with a redfish that weighed 5.6 pounds and a flounder that weighed 2.52 pounds for 8.12 pounds total. Tommy Johnson of Greenville was a close second with a redfish that weighed 5.26 pounds and a flounder that weighed 2.4 pounds for 7.66 pounds total. Hoff won a Captain's License Course from World Wide Marine and passed it to his son, Chad.
Draughon Cranford caught a huge 7.28 pound, barely in the slot, red drum to win the Red Drum Division. Chris Ellis caught a 2.54 pound flounder to claim the win in the Flounder Division. Many of Wallace's schoolmates turned out to support the tournament and approximately half of the field were junior anglers. Adam Mattheis caught a 1.18 pound flounder to lead the junior anglers. For more information visit http://web.me.com/ebwjrw/tctournament.com/Welcome.html.
The Onslow Bay Saltwater Fishing Club hosted an "Artificial Lures Only" King Mackerel Tournament from Casper's Marina in Swansboro on Sept. 11. A small group of fishermen entered, but unfortunately no kings were landed. Fishermen reported catching amberjacks, false albacore and sharks, but only two reported king hookups and neither of those made it into the fish box for the ride to the scales. For more information visit www.captainstanman.us/forums.
The Brunswick Islands Saltwater Classic includes a king mackerel tournament and a redfish tournament which were held from South Harbor Village Marina in Oak Island on September 11. These tournaments, which were postponed from August 27-28, benefited the N.C. Public Access Foundation (www.ncpaf.com). NCPAF donated last years proceeds to the Town of Oak Island to help pay for Oak Island Pier and to improve the municipal launching ramps. The exact use of this year's proceeds has not yet been decided, but they will be used for keeping access to water open somewhere in N.C.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center Fishing Team won this event in 2009 and returned to successfully defend their title. According to Capt. Brant McMullan, they were approximately 40 miles south of Ocean Isle in 100 feet of water and fishing over some favorite grouper bottom. He said the 43.14 pound king hit a naked pogy and burned the drag so fast and hard they thought it might be a wahoo. It wasn't and they carried more than $12,000 back to Ocean Isle. The OIFC boat is a family affair and Brant's dad, Rube McMullan, won the Top Senior Angler Award and his daughter, Caroline McMullan, won the Top Junior Angler Award.
The Rollin Out, with Capt. Jack Paczosa, finished second with a 35.53 pound king and was the top 23 Feet and Under Class boat in the tournament. The big king also allowed Rollin Out lady angler Jennifer Watson to claim the Top Lady Angler prize.
Team Liquid Fire, with Capt Mark Henderson, finished in third place with a 29.91 pound king.
In the Redfish Tournament only the winners were recognized and they were Capt. Todd Streeter and Darrin Strickland of Team Long Bay Custom Boatworks. They had redfish of 5.35 and 4.04 pounds for a total weight of 9.39 pounds. After being weighed, the redfish were released alive. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The Kings of the Coast Pier King Mackerel Tournament was held Sept. 10 through 12 at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. Unfortunately the kings didn't get the memo on the tournament and none were caught. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are eligible species and the tournament prizes were awarded for the largest catches of them.
Robbie Floyd of Oak Island was the big winner of the tournament. Floyd caught a 3 pound, 4 ounce Spanish mackerel to win the tournament. That Spanish also won the daily largest fish on Saturday and a 3 pound, 2 ounce Spanish he caught on Friday won the daily largest fish award for Friday. Floyd pocketed $660 for the overall, plus $120 for each day for a total of $900.
Tucker Hobbs was second with a 3 pound, 4 ounce Spanish he caught later than Floyd on Saturday and Greg McCann finished third with a 3 pound Spanish. Monty Robinson won the largest fish prize on Sunday with a 1 pound, 15 ounce bluefish. For more information visit www.oceancrestpier.net.
The Bay Creek Classic Flounder Tournament was held Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Wildlife Boat Ramp in Southport. This tournament is a benefit for Southport outdoorsman and favorite son, Brandon Matthews, who suffered paralysis from mid chest down after falling from a tree stand several years ago. Brandon has made more progress than even some of his doctors thought possible. The proceeds from the tournament will help fund a much needed tendon reconnection surgery to regain some use of his fingers.
With a good weather forecast, at least if you ignore the east wind part of it, the tournament drew 48 boats, of which 25 weighed fish. In addition to the fishing, there were numerous raffles and auctions for fishing gear donated by sponsors from across the region.
Stephen Lancaster and Amy Carraway won the tournament with a 7.7 pound flounder. If it had been possible to weigh Carraway's smile, it might even have been heavier. She was beaming from ear to ear all through the awards ceremony--and rightfully so. She had just topped some of the best flounder fishermen in the area at their game.
Ricky Evans was second with a 5.4 pounder and Fred Davis was third at 5.2 pounds. Evans won the largest flounder TWT and Davis won the aggregate weight TWT with five flounder that weighed 18.9 pounds.
Amy Carraway won the Top Lady Angler prize, while Nelson Cobble, Jr. won the Top Junior Angler prize with a 2.2 pound flounder. Jackie Durham caught a 3.0 pound trout to win the Largest Live Speckled Trout prize and Patty Starnes had a whopping 2.5 pound toadfish to win that category. For more information visit www.baycreekclassic.com.
This weekend there was a trio of tournaments on tap. The largest was the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament, which benefits the Atlantic Beach Fire Department. It was originally scheduled for this week, Sept. 17 and 18, but has been postponed one week due to small craft advisories associated with the growing swell being pushed in from Hurricane Igor. It will now be held next week with final registration on Sept. 23 and fishing on Sept. 24 and 25. Registration and Awards will be at the former Outer Banks Outfitters building in Atlantic Station at Atlantic Beach and the daily weigh-ins will be at McCurdy's Restaurant on the Atlantic Beach Causeway. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The third and final 2010 tournament of the Redfish Action Challenge Cup will be held Sept. 18 (Saturday) from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort. In addition to great prizes for this tournament, the Series Champion will also be crowned at the end of the tournament. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.
The North Carolina Flatfish Championship will be held Sept. 18 (Saturday) at Inlet Watch Yacht Club in Carolina Beach. There are several categories and an additional $10 per fish is awarded if the flounder are weighed alive. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver