It got off to a good start and I like this week so far. Of course it's early in the week and I'm jumping around to get things ready for the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament, which involved doing this a couple of days earlier than usual. It's the first time in a few weeks we woke up Monday morning and don't have a hurricane or two staring us down. There is Tropical Storm Lisa way over just off Africa, but it already appears to be working out toward open ocean.
I'm real glad to see Hurricane Igor pass. I hate that it hit Bermuda, but it had been in every weather report for over two weeks and was affecting my moods. During that time it had grown big, mean and ugly and just refused to turn off or go away. Even this far away, we received some big swells from it. While that made most of the smaller inlets dangerous, it was another treat for the surfers. While there were waves just about everywhere, the Beaufort Inlet Point at Shackleford Banks was cranking on the outside bar Saturday afternoon.
As the swell from Hurricane Igor recedes, it is difficult not to reflect on the hurricane season this year. There have been 12 named storms and a couple have been category three and higher storms. This is just mid September and hurricane season runs through the end of November. Hopefully the production of these storms will slow, but the water really hasn't cooled yet. As we saw with Igor, there is heat and energy in the ocean to build a storm if one passes through with conditions favorable to grow. Let's keep our fingers crossed a storm doesn't find us.
While I didn't hear of a king mackerel from one of the piers, pier fishing was surprisingly good over the past week, especially considering the swell was pounding the surf zone. A run of nice puppy drum has been in the surf and they have been keeping the pier and surf fishermen hopping, especially along the far southern coast. There have been good reports of upper slot to oversize pups this week from many piers along the N.C central and southern coast.
There have also been a good number of nice, but not huge, flounder caught by pier anglers. Many of them have also been closer to the shore end of the pier than the ocean end. Mullet minnows have been running the beach for a week or so and the fish have finally zeroed in on them. There are several other predator fish, like Spanish mackerel and bluefish, that are also feeding on the moving mullets.
There is good news too on one of the favorite fish of fall. The numbers and size aren't over the top yet, but many pier anglers are catching spots. There are enough that a dedicated fisherman can put a real dent in filling a cooler. These are nice, but not huge spots, but they are certainly large enough to introduce to some corn meal and hot grease. The larger spots and those cooler filling days shouldn't be too far away and could start at any time.
While the kings haven't moved back to the beach yet and haven't been caught in huge numbers offshore, that should begin as soon as the water cools six to eight degrees. There was a little cooling last week and the air temps have definitely become much more easily bearable. One of the problems with kings has been a general lack of bait and without food they would only pass through, rather than stay.
There has been lots of bait well up the rivers along the entire coast. Several old-times said a good soaking rain should push some of it back down the river and sound where is would be closer to the ocean. That would be a good thing too!
King mackerel fishermen have been working deeper water for a couple of weeks and have been encountering some nice wahoo. Of course, any wahoo is a nice one if I get a few steaks for dinner. In their search for kings in offshore waters, the live baiters found some wahoo and the larger boats have been venturing back and trolling for them with more appropriate equipment. This fishing should continue to improve for a month or so and there are already some days the boats are catching five and six, plus a scattering of dolphin and an occasional blackfin tuna.
Some false albacore were caught along much of the N.C. coast this week. This is early for them, but no one is complaining. The hot spot was off Shackleford Banks, between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout and there were also schools around Cape Fear. Take it from personal experience the Fat Alberts are fans of the new MirrOlure MirrOdine Minis. The MR 14 lures work for them and catch pups, specks and more in the shallows inside the inlets. These are suspending lures just a little smaller than the MR 17 series. Check them out at your favorite tackle shop.
The Fall Equinox full moon tides are this week. The full moon is Thursday night and the tides should be the highest of the fall. It will approach seven feet in many areas and there won't be much marsh grass visible anywhere. As if it were just what the doctor ordered, there are several days the high tide is either just before dark or just after daylight.
This should be a great time to chase puppy drum in the marsh or bag a limit of marsh hens for dinner. If you would like to try either of these, but feel you don't have the right boat or equipment, there are many excellent guides in the area who can supply all that and know where to go. It is possible to do both at the same time and is a part of coastal living all outdoorsmen should experience.
While the flounder fishing has been good, there haven't been a lot of reports of huge flounder. That might be about to change. The details will be later in the tournament reports, but a double digit flounder won the N.C. Flatfish Championship held Saturday at Carolina Beach and several local fishermen did well.
I flounder fished a little over the weekend myself. I really don't go flounder fishing, but catch enough to keep me happy while drum fishing. I just don't have the patience for it and it cost me a big flounder on Saturday. I was fishing around Harkers Island and Beaufort with Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Fishing Charters.
Capt. Noah caught some corncob size mullet minnows to use for bait and it's a struggle for me to wait long enough to set the hook after feeling the initial pickup, especially with those large baits. However, it takes even a big flounder a little time to turn a bait that size to where he can swallow it. It has to go down head first or the fins will pop up and catch in the flounder's throat. I had one on in the mouth of a small creek that bent the rod over and kicked up a huge boil with its tail. Unfortunately, after a few seconds it opened its mouth and gave me back my bait that had been crushed and scaled. Patience is a virtue I am sometimes a little short on.
The flounder are in the creeks, but should soon begin moving toward the inlets. They were on the nearshore artificial reefs before this swell arrived and should begin biting there again as soon as the ocean calms out. That should have happened by the time this makes it to the newsstands.
Puppy drum are also biting well in inside waters. We caught several while flounder fishing and the fishermen in the redfish tournament that was going on had some pretty fish. One of the great things about puppy drum is that they usually aren't picky about what they eat. They are like hungry dogs and if it looks or smells like food it gets eaten.
Live shrimp and minnows are always excellent baits, but pups will also hit a wide variety of lures and pieces of shrimp or chunks of cut bait. Look for pups along edges, like banks, shoals, oyster rocks and at the mouths of smaller creeks waiting to attack any shrimp or minnows that get swept out with the falling tide.
I was fishing in the New River one day last week with the Camp Lejeune Wounded Warriors Fishing Club and got to watch a couple of small puppy drum harass a school of pinfish as I was standing in the water less than 10 feet away. The pinfish were nibbling on growth around a piece of rubble in about one to two feet of clear water when the small drum arrived. The drum were about eight and 10 inches and really weren't big enough to catch and eat the small pinfish, but they sure tried.
The little drum would stalk the pinfish and then make a charge with the neon blue edge in their tails really lit up. They reminded me of kittens playing with a bug. I watched them for about 20 minutes and I don't think they ever caught one, but it sure wasn't from a lack of effort. I wish I could have filmed it for all to see. There was just enough ripple on the water my still pictures weren't clear.
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. This is fun fishing, but it is big water and most folks will be better served going with a guide--at least for a few times. There are numerous good guides available at www.pamlicoguide.com. 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.
Speaking of hunting, Quality Deer Management Association will be offering a Wildlife Habitat and Deer Management Conference on October 9 at Willow Oaks Plantation near Eden in Rockingham County. There will be speakers from QDMA, Clemson, University of Tennessee, NCSU, NCWRC, and agencies and organizations in the industry. Deer managers (pubic and private sector) from across the southeast are expected to attend.
The focus of the conference will be on white-tailed deer management strategy in the Southeast. Habitat management sessions will discuss management practices that benefit all wildlife. A couple of new NC white-tail research projects and NC's new deer proposal assessment worksheet are also expected to be discussed.
Lunch, social and evening BBQ will be provided. The registration fee is $30. Participants are requested to register in advance online at www.regonline.com/QDMAConference or call (919) 552-9449 for more details.
This will be the last time I mention the public comment period regarding the red snapper fishing closure and bottom closure in Amendment 17A to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. The deadline is September 27, so if you want to comment and haven't, get busy and get it done. 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.
All comments on Amendment 17A must be received no later than September 27, 2010, in order to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. Written comments 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.
I am on the Marine Fisheries Commission Southeast Advisory Committee and we met in Wilmington last week to review and discuss the draft plan of Amendment 1 to the Southern Flounder Fisheries Management Plan. I was surprised at how few fishermen, recreational and commercial, were there and how few spoke during the public comment period. A copy of the Fishery Management Plan and the draft for the amendment can be found at www.ncdmf.net. The plan was reviewed favorably by the committee. A recommendation to include gigs as commercial equipment was added by the committee.
More N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees are meeting through the end of September to discuss the amendment to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. Upcoming meetings include:
* 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) met in Charleston last week. Several highlights from the agenda included discussions on Snapper Grouper Amendment 18 to extend the management range to the north, new regulations for tilefish and efforts to reduce bycatch in the black sea bass pot fishery. The Mackerel Committee also worked to their Amendment 18 to examine total annual catch, trip limits and bag limits. The Scientific and Statistical Committee was also to report on a control rule for acceptable biological catch and values for unassessed stocks. The report has not yet been filed. For more information visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
There were to be three tournaments over the weekend, but the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament that was to be held Friday and Saturday (Sept. 17 and 18) in Atlantic Beach was postponed until this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 24 and 25). Daily schedules will remain the same. Registration and Awards will be at the former Outer Banks Outfitters Building in Atlantic Station 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 was held Sept. 18 (Saturday) from Town Creek Marina in Beaufort and attracted 34 teams. While the east wind began building and blew harder later in the day, the fishermen persevered and some nice catches were weighed.
As this was the final tournament in the 2010 series, the Series Champion was also crowned at the end of the tournament. They made it easy too. Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor of Swansboro and Team Crystal Coast Graphics raised their already good fishing a notch at just the right time to win the tournament, the White Swan Red Hot Bite (largest fish) Award and claim the Series Championship. Cronk and Taylor had redfish that weighed 7.19 and 6.29 pounds for a total of 13.48 pounds.
Team Trueline, with Capt Rick Patterson and John Hislop, also caught a nice pair of reds to finish in second with 12.31 pounds. Tea, Fishwipt, with Matt Sinsel and John Blumling, was right behind at 12.25 pounds to finish third. Gayle Mace of team Beavertail was the Top Lady Angler with a redfish that weighed 5.99 pounds. Kyle Tobin, of Team Reel Truth was the Top Junior Angler with a 3.25 pound red. The Onslow Grading and Paving team of David Brown and Capt. Ricky Kellum caught the drum with the most spots and it only had three.
Kyle Tobin and Gayle Mace also collected the 2010 Series honors for Top Junior Angler and Top Lady Angler respectively. The Top Rookie Team for the series was Team Pestaway with Capt. Chris Sewell and Ray Melvin. For more information visit www.redfishaction.com.
The North Carolina Flatfish Championship was 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.
Fred Davis of Carolina Beach was the big winner. His largest flounder weighed 10.10 pounds and his next largest was 3.4 pounds for an aggregate weight of 13.50 pounds. Davis won the tournament (2 fish aggregate) plus the Aggregate TWT and the big Fish TWT, the High Roller TWT, the Bell-Hart prize and the Got-Em-On prize.
Al Fulford of Holden Beach was second with a 6.64 pound large flounder and an 11.75 pound aggregate. Fulford also won the Sea Tow prize for the largest flounder caught by a Sea Tow member.
Ralph Freeman had a 10.58 pound aggregate to finish in third place, while Nick Rogers caught the third largest flounder at 6.11 pounds.
Chase Davis was the Top Junior Angler with a 3.84 pound flounder and Bethany and Leah Davis were co Top Lay Anglers with the 10.10 pound flatfish. Ralph Freeman was the Top Senior Angler with an 8.41 pounder. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The rescheduled Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament will be held this Friday and Saturday (Sept.24 and 25) in Atlantic Beach. Proceeds from this tournament will be used to purchase equipment and fund training for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department. For more information visit www.bluewaterpromo.com.
The Fourth Annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament will begin Saturday (Sept. 25) in Emerald Isle and will run through October 9. The tournament is run by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department and weigh in will be at Bogue Inlet Pier. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.com.
Tournament five of Capt. Jimmy Price's Top Dog Flounder tournaments will be held Saturday (Sept. 25) from Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Oak Island. Proceeds from this tournament will be used to help bring Christmas to underprivileged kids in Brunswick County. For more information visit www.topdoginc.org.