What happened to fall? Less than two weeks ago I was running around in shorts and a t-shirt and wondering if we were ever going to see fall. This morning I woke up with a light ice in my dog's water bowl and am again wondering if we are going to see fall. The difference is this time I'm cold and it seems like we went straight from summer to winter. Oh, by the way, I don't like it!
I'm wanting some of those crisp mornings and shirtsleeve afternoons, with a light breeze and the fish biting. Hey, who doesn't, but right now it looks like we may have missed out--at least on the weather. The weathermen say we will warm back to more seasonable weather beginning next week and I sure hope so. This transition from wading barefoot while fishing to wearing waders to fish has been too abrupt for me. I prefer to transition through all the seasons.
At the middle of last week the surf temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier, at Emerald Isle, was 72 degrees. This week it had dropped to 67 degrees and surely is a degree or two cooler after last night. Capt. Dave Dietzler said he has seen morning high tides that were only 60 degrees back in the Newport Marshes, but he also said the fish seem to have adapted and are biting.
Let me give some good news about fishing piers. A little while back the NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island was given the old Jennette's Pier at Nags Head. A few months ago, the plans to rebuild it as a concrete structure to be a satellite part of the Aquarium were announced.
Late last week, similar plans were announced for the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Efforts last year by the town of Emerald Isle to buy Bogue Inlet Pier and give it to the Aquarium fell through. Last week's announcement had the town giving the regional beach access site at the former Emerald Isle Pier to the Aquarium and announcing plans for a 1000 foot pier there.
On Monday of this week, the town of Oak Island was informed their offer to buy Yaupon Beach Fishing Pier had been accepted. The pier was being sold as part of a settlement between feuding developers and had first been included in a larger purchase offer by another developer. That purchase fell through and Oak Island had not withdrawn their offer, so the judge handling the proceedings accepted their standing offer for the pier. Maybe things are looking a little better for pier fishermen.
Continuing with the piers, the reports are pretty good all along the coast. The reports include lots of black drum, sea mullet, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano and spots. Wally at the Sheraton Pier, at Atlantic Beach, said the fishing was basically pretty good, but the fish were showing preferences for certain times and not biting all day. He said earlier in the week the bluefish had bitten better early in the day, while the sea mullet had bitten better later in the day.
Puppy drum, speckled trout and even a few late flounder are biting well in the creeks and marshes. Every location has their favorites and many are within just a few miles of the closest inlet. Live mullet minnows and shrimp, fished either on Carolina rigs or under corks, have been lethal on all three species. The cold surge has flipped the feeding switch to full-on and the trout and drum are also hitting a wide variety of hard and soft plastic artificial baits.
While the weather has been rough and making it challenging to get there, the reports of specks from the Cape Lookout jetty are growing. The catches have varied, but there are more larger trout than just a couple of weeks ago.
Those wandering schools of yearling drum are still in the surf. When possible, begin looking near an inlet and you may not have to look very far. The slough right along the beach and just beyond the first bar have been producing for both surf and boat fishermen.
Some large drum are also feeding in these same areas along the beaches. Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke Inlet, Drum Inlet, Cape Lookout and Fort Fisher have all been reporting sporadic good catches. The big drum don't like the shallow water in the daylight, so the better action is usually during the late evening and at night. While they will sometimes hit lures, the most reliable bait for big drum is a big chunk of mullet on a circle hook.
I didn't hear much about gray trout or sea mullet from boaters this week. I don't think this cold spell has sent them packing, but it has been a little rough in some of their preferred spots. When the weather moderates next week, they should still be in the same places they were before the cold snap hit.
Last week the spot run appeared to be picking up, but this week it has been slower. This week there were more small to medium spots in the catch. Several knowledgeable fishermen say the big yellow bellies just haven't gotten here yet. Maybe next week?
This cold snap should end the Spanish mackerel fishing for the year, but it has lasted into November and that is good. This week there were more reports of false albacore. It has taken the water a while to cool, but the Alberts prefer cooler water and are showing up now. Several fishermen have found them a little finicky and asked what lure might be best. I have always found that when the bite slows or they don't appear interested, something small, that I can move really fast, usually gets their interest.
The cold snap has also moved the kings off the beach a little. There were a few still holding close early in the week, but as the water temperature dropped, the bait moved offshore a little to stay warm and the kings followed it. They are still within 10 miles in most locations. Just find 68 degree or warmer water and some structure that is holding bait and you should find some kings. They are hungry too, so they aren't being as particular about what they eat.
From just above the Big Rock to the south, wahoo have been the most consistent offshore catch. The cold snap finally brought the fall yellowfin tunas to Cape Hatteras and farther north. Offshore fishermen continue to see an amazing number of sailfish, especially for the time of year, and some scattered pods of dolphin.
Offshore bottom fishing is really good but sometimes the weather prevents going. I tried one day this week, but was turned around by some stiff offshore winds. When you can get there, the offshore catch begins with sea bass and grunts closest in, then to beeliners, red snapper and grouper farther out.
The Ed Sewell Trout Tournament was held last weekend in Swansboro. John Gainey and R.D. Benedict won the overall with a 10-fish aggregate of 14.42 pounds. Brent Banks, who finished in 3rd place overall, caught the largest trout at 4.4 pounds.
Many Tar Heel fishermen traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi for the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship last weekend and represented the state well. Capt. Joe Winslow and the crew of the Hooligan, Sunset Beach, won the title and brought it back to N.C. for the third year in a row, which just happens to be the age of this tournament trail. Second and third place were also Tar Heel boats, going to Team M&M's/ Wild Ride, Hampstead, and Team Collins, Smithfield, respectively. Congratulations to all.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament (www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd or 252-354-6350) began October 20 at Emerald Isle and continues through December 1. With the change in the weather, the catches should begin improving.
Many more Carolina fishermen will be headed to Biloxi, Mississippi this weekend and early next week for the SKA National Championship, which will be next weekend. I wish them safety on their trip and success in the tournament. The SKA title has been won by Carolina anglers numerous times and this could well be another of those years.