It has been cold enough since last weekend that I am sure there was frost in many pumpkin patches. The good news is the forecast is for warming temperatures into and through this weekend. The bad news is the wind is supposed to howl, with small craft advisories for most of the N.C. coast.
This run of cold nights and cool days has caused the water temperature to drop also. Dr. Bogue said it was 62 degrees in the Emerald Isle surf on Thursday morning. Ocean temps are still reaching the high sixties to seventy about 20 to 30 miles offshore, so there should be some kings when the wind allows making the trip.
The Coast Guard reported they have removed the buoys from New Topsail and Lockwood Folly Inlets. At the end of September I had warned this might happen and the buoys were removed last week. Many of us were hoping the dredging would begin in time to prevent this, but that didn't happen.
A Coast Guard spokesman said they were planning to replace the buoys as soon as the dredging was completed and they received a copy of the final survey from the Corps of Engineers. I know it is inconvenient for many of you, but while the buoys are gone I would advise using other inlets that are marked to go to and from the ocean. Not only is it safer, but some marine insurance policies have exemptions for damages caused in unmarked inlets. When filing a claim is not a good time to find this out.
Now for some good news (at least I think). I have not yet received a reply from the Corps of Engineers to verify where it going when leaves there, but I was at Camp Lejeune on Wednesday and saw one of the Corps of Engineers dredges working in the channel to New River Inlet. Because of the significance of New River Inlet to the military, it is funded differently than the other shallow inlets, but hopefully the dredge will be headed to New Topsail or Lockwood Folly Inlet when it leaves and the much needed dredging of the shallow N.C. inlets is about to begin.
Puppy drum have been the most popular fish this week and have been caught everywhere from the backwater flats to the surf from Cape Hatteras to Sunset Beach. They were hitting lures, soft plastics, cut bait and live bait. They just seem to be a bit more hardy than most of the other species and aren't seriously affected by cooling water until it dips into the fifties.
There were also some surprising reports of speckled trout. I have expressed concern with speckled trout this fall as they are still trying to recover from two very cold winters and haven't been around in good numbers. While they wouldn't tell me where, several good trout fishermen said this cold snap turned the trout on in a few places. They said they saw a lot of 11 to 13 inch fish, which are the young of the year, but they also managed to find a couple of 18 to 20 inchers to invite home for dinner.
While the trout weren't their usually picky selves and were hitting a variety of lures, many of the fishermen said their bait of choice was three inch Berkley Gulp Shrimp. The white family (white, pearl and glow) and new penny were the colors mentioned most often.
They said the trout were also hitting small suspending baits like the MirrOlure MR 17 and MR 14. Because the trout were small and they were releasing so many, they quit using the MirrOlures so they wouldn't have to remove treble hooks before releasing them. They said they may have missed a few strikes with the single hooks of the soft baits, but it wasn't bad.
Their tip for working the lures was to fish them slow. The MirrOlure was drifted with the current, occasionally twitching the rod to make it dart. The soft baits were also drifted with the current, but giving an occasional jig with an emphasis on popping them up off the bottom without moving forward too far.
Several fishermen have said it is obvious flounder are moving towards the inlets in preparation for spending the winter offshore in the ocean. They are being caught at creek mouths where lots of bait is moving and along the edges of channels. Many fishermen prefer live mullet minnows, small pogies and mud minnows for flounder, but they will also hit lures and soft plastics.
While the water is cooling they are more aggressive and will chase baits a little more. With the artificials, you can set the hook as soon as you feel the strike, but with live baits you have to give the flounder time to turn the bait to head first so he can swallow it.
The pier fishing reports this week were mixed. It seems that sometimes the fish bit well and sometimes not. One of the most noticeable things was mid to upper slot puppy drum were being caught. These fish are fighters and landing one from a pier can be a challenge. Other fish being caught from the piers include bluefish, flounder, sea mullet, sheepshead and speckled trout.
Capt. Dave Dietzler said there are some nice schools of false albacore (little tunny) scattered along the beach and out to the Trawler Buoy off Cape Lookout. Unless they are within casting distance from the beach, they may be out of range with this weekend's wind forecast. This water temperature is about right for them so they should still be around after the winds calm and the ocean settles back out. Small lures and flies retrieved quickly usually produce well when fat alberts are around.
While there weren't many fishermen chasing kings this week, most agree this latest cold snap and cooling water should push them offshore a little. The keys for late fall kings seems to be water of 67 degrees or warmer and a food source. As the water continues to cool, the kings will concentrate around rocks holding baitfish as they are moving offshore.
There are still good numbers of wahoo and blackfin tuna along the temperature breaks at the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. Our recent weather hasn't been the best for making the trip unless you were in a large boat. The reports have been that both are holding on the warm side of any temperature break that is 69 degrees or warmer. Lots of 25 to 45 pounders are being caught around and some big boys are waiting to stretch your string also. There have also been a couple of reports or sailfish mixed with the wahoo and tuna. The only consistent reports of yellowfin tuna have been north of Hatteras and off Oregon Inlet.
Offshore bottom fishing is an excellent addition to any offshore fishing trip and an excellent way to add a few more fish for the table. Fishermen looking to do some offshore bottom bouncing should be aware that beeliner (vermilion snapper) season closed at 12:01 A.M. on Nov. 1, Black Sea Bass season closed on Oct. 17 and several other seasons are closed indefinitely. The species that remain open are gag, red and black groupers, pinkys (red porgy), grunts, porgies and triggerfish.
The Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) meeting in Atlantic Beach began Wednesday evening and continues through today (Friday). One of the major points of this meeting is to discuss the recommendations of the advisory committees and make a decision on a Fishery Management Plan for speckled trout. There were times for public comment Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and many fishermen spoke their minds. Next week I hope to have the decision and the plan to implement it. For more information visit the MFC website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/home.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) has scheduled a series of public meetings regarding the stock assessment for black sea bass and Amendments 18A and 20A to the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan. One of those meetings is scheduled for Nov. 14 in North Myrtle Beach and the final will be the first part of the SAFMC meeting scheduled for December 5 to 9 in Raleigh. The information and comments gathered at the public meetings will also be presented to the SAFMC at this meeting.
SAFMC is also soliciting comments regarding Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) and Accountability Measures (AMs) for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia. Amendment 18A addresses this and was published in the federal register on Oct. 24. Comments may be sent by mail, fax or e-mail, but must be received by Nov. 21. Information on the rule and how to send comments is available at the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
There is a lot of tournament news this week, even though a lot of it is postponements and cancellations caused by the windy weather of last weekend. With the windy forecast and small craft advisories for most of the N.C. coast again this weekend, there will probably be more postponements and cancellations forthcoming. When the weather is questionable, it is always wise to call ahead and verify a tournament is happening before making a long drive.
No one is happy when tournaments have to be postponed or cancelled. Many times fishermen have taken time off work and already traveled and cannot return on the new date. This weighs heavily with them and tournament organizers alike. On the side of the organizer, most tournaments are to raise money for a charity or civic cause, so postponements and cancellations lower the proceeds that can be donated. However, there must be a priority placed on safety and the tournaments do a good job of it.
Some of the biggest news this week is the IFA Redfish Tour Championship in Chalmette, La. Fishermen from around the country have competed in regional divisions during the year for the right to fish in this tournament and many have already been in Louisiana for a few days trying to learn the local waters. Several N.C. fishing teams are competing and I wish them the best.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began Oct. 22 and will continue through Dec. 3 in Emerald Isle. The leading trout at this time is a 1.8 pounder that was 17.75 inches long and was caught by Don Goff. All trout must be caught on foot on Bogue Banks. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
Clay Knudsen, who was the first fisherman to pass the three pound mark in the 2011 Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Challenge, is still leading the tournament with a 3.19 pound trout, but fellow competitors have until Dec. 31 to best it. Knudsen's trout was also closest to the October Wild Card Weight of 3.12 pounds and he picked up a new trout fishing outfit for that. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
A small handful of tournaments were scheduled for this past weekend, but were interrupted by the winds that forced a small craft advisory to be posted. The Battle on the Neuse, formerly named the Neuse River Backwater Open, was one of the weather casualties over the windy weekend. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29 in New Bern, but has been postponed until Saturday, Nov. 19. This tournament benefits Tryon Palace and features, speckled trout, flounder, red drum and striper. For more information visit www.sportsmanstoystore.com.
The World of Outlaws/Carolina Kingfish Classic that was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29 at New River Marina in Sneads Ferry has been postponed to a later date that has not yet been determined. For more information visit www.carolinakingfish.com.
The Holden Beach Festival by The Sea had planned to hold a three phase fishing tournament as part of the festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, but Small Craft Advisories forced the tournaments to be postponed until this Saturday, Nov. 5. The plans are for a king mackerel tournament, a pier, land surf, bank or ICW tournament and a kid's tournament. For more information visit www.hbmerch.com.
The Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament began Thursday, Nov. 3 and will continue through Saturday at Buxton. This tournament features team competition Thursday and Friday and individual competition on Saturday. For more information visit www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.
The fall version of Martini's Hook-A-Hoo wahoo tournament will begin November 4 and continue through November 13. Weigh-ins will be located at Wrightsville Beach Marina in Wrightsville Beach and South Harbor Village Marina in Oak Island. Fishermen will pick one of the nine days to fish and all proceeds will be donated to the Shriner Hospitals of the Carolinas. For more information visit www.hookahoorodeo.com.
The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament will be held from Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach on Saturday, Nov. 5. This tournament collects live flounder to be used in the hatcheries at UNCW, NCSU and South Brunswick High School. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to Fish For Tomorrow and the hatchery programs. For more information visit www.fishfortomorrow.org.
The Oaktoberfest Flounder Tournament will be held from Wildlife Bait and Tackle on Saturday, Nov. 5, with the weigh-in on the Oak Island Soccer Field beginning at 3:00 P.M. This will be a flounder tournament with a guaranteed purse and will also pay three places for the largest speckled trout. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com.
The Ed Sewell Speckled Trout Tournament will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. This tournament is based on the aggregate weight of up to five speckled trout. For more information call 910-459-2258.
The Post 9983 Inshore Classic that was scheduled from Oct. 15 will be held at Soundside Park in Surf City on Saturday, Nov. 5. This tournament features flounder and speckled trout. For more information visit www.topsailislandfishingclub.com.