One of the most important things I have to say this week is not really fishing related, but is very important and I'm going to say it first. Today, Friday, 11-11-11, is Veterans Day. Please take the time to let all veterans know you appreciate their dedication and sacrifices so we can enjoy the rights and freedoms we have in the USA. Going fishing is one of those freedoms. Thank you veterans!
With the forecast for the wind to blow today (Friday) and with how many days it has blown to the point fishing was somewhere between uncomfortable and unsafe, it is difficult to believe the forecast for Saturday is so nice. Understand that is the wind forecast that is so nice, because the overnight low is supposed to be in the thirties and only warming into the sixties during the day. The good news is the temperatures should warm over the rest of the weekend and into next week.
For those of you who like to closely monitor the marine forecast, let me suggest the ReefCast and WindCast sections from the Frying Pan Tower website (www.fryingpantower.com). I also monitor the NOAA Marine Forecast, but believe that ReefCast is correct more often when they disagree.
Puppy drum are my favorite inshore fish, but like many other fishermen I find something special about catching speckled trout. There is an inherent satisfaction catching trout, especially if done on lures rather than live or natural baits. Several of my trout fishing mentors once told me that speckled trout caught on live baits didn't count. I nodded approval to them, but like many fishermen can't yet tell the difference in taste between a speck caught on a live shrimp and one caught on a plastic shrimp.
Our trout have suffered from the cold of the past two winters and have also been classified as overfished by biologists at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. As odd as it may seem, trout fishing has consistently improved in the past few weeks. This is in direct contrast to what fishery biologists were expecting and predicting.
It is time for a fishery management plan for N.C. speckled trout and it has been a center of controversy for more than a year. In 2010 a state law (SL 2010-13) was passed requiring that when a species is classified as overfished, management regulations to end the overfishing within two years and rebuild the stocks within 10 years must be implemented and these management regulations must have at least a 50 per cent chance of success.
At the same time this law was being passed a Fishery Management Plan for speckled trout was being formed that did not meet the requirements of the law. The Marine Fisheries Commission requested an exemption to this law, but did not receive it, so the Fishery Management Plan must be re-done to comply and measure must be put into place to end the overfishing. It seems cut and dry doesn't it? Not really so……
The Marine Fisheries Commission met last week at Fort Macon and decided the law meant they had two years from now to implement stricter regulations to end overfishing and begin rebuilding the stocks. There is a new stock assessment being processed and they hope it will show things in a better light. They approved some regulations to be implemented in two years if the new assessment isn't good enough to avoid it and also some stopgap measures to reduce the pressure a little now.
In a proclamation and press release sent Thursday afternoon, Nov. 10, Effective Nov. 14, the recreational speckled trout limit will reduce to four fish with a minimum size of 14 inches. The commercial limit will reduce to 75 fish per day and all netting will be prohibited in Joint Waters on weekends.
Puppy drum are biting too. The cooling water has them really active. The full moon was Thursday night and they should be pushing into the grass to feed on sandfiddlers and such. They may or may not be tailing, but you should be able to spot them from their wakes. Weedless spoons, with a little scent added, or soft plastics rigged weedless are good baits for this.
Flounder catches are slowing some, but there are still flounder being caught. I have found that once the water gets cooler, I usually catch more flounder with the scented bio baits than with live baits. The flounder seem to be more aggressive with the plastic baits and I don't have to wait to set the hook.
While the limit is only a single fish and there isn't much of a directed effort, there are some gray trout being caught all along the coast. Along the outer banks they are in the inlets and channels, at Cape Lookout they are just off the beach in the ocean and inside in the Morehead City Turning Basin and off Carolina Beach and Bald head they are in about 35 feet of water out in the ocean. The limit is only a single fish, with a minimum length of 12 inches, so don't keep too many.
Pier fishermen are catching a mixture of fish, but not big numbers of any particular species. Some speckled trout and puppy drum have shown in pier catches and in the surf along the beaches. Other fish being caught from the piers and in the surf include flounder, black drum, gray trout, bluefish, sheepshead and sea mullet.
With the rapidly cooling water, king mackerel have moved off the beach. The wind has been strong enough that most fishermen haven't been chasing them. While the forecast looks pretty good for the weekend, there might not be a lot of pressure as many king fishermen have headed to Biloxi, Miss., for the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship. Expectations are there may be some kings as close as 60 to 80 feet of water, but the best opportunities are at rocks, wrecks and reefs in approximately 100 feet of water.
The fishing for false albacore (little tunny) has been rather hit or miss. When you find them they usually respond well to small shiny lures retrieved pretty fast, but they are moving around and aren't always found. Saturday is shaping up to be a good day to be able to cover some water and find them.
The same winds that have hampered the king mackerel fishermen have also kept all but the largest offshore boats at the dock. Expectations are there are still wahoo and blackfin tuna along the edges of the temperature breaks on the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream. The run of windy weather has affected the offshore fishing to the point that an extra week was added to the Hook-A-Hoo Rodeo that began last Friday at Wrightsville Beach and Southport. More details are below.
Offshore bottom fishing has also fallen victim to the winds. Normally this is a favorite in the fall and both offshore and king fishermen add a few more fish to their catch. The rough conditions should bother these bottom dwellers, so they should be there and hungry when the winds finally calm. If you head out bottom fishing or do some as an addition to a day of offshore or king fishing, 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 Coastal Recreational Fishing License Advisory Committee will meet November 17 at 11:00 A.M. at the DMF Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Randy Gregory at Randy.Gregory@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-268-2632. Information may also be found at 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 Monday, 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 their December 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.
I received some devastating news Monday morning as many teams of North Carolina fishermen were traveling to Biloxi, Miss for the SKA National Championship. The truck carrying Calvin Holcomb, Robert Lawson and Jack Wood collided with a tanker near Augusta, Ga. Lawson and Wood were killed and Holcomb is in serious condition. Many fishermen will remember Jack Wood as a two- time SKA National Champion and a two-time winner of the U.S. Open. Both will be badly missed.
After that, the cancellation and postponement of a few tournaments seems rather minor. There was a surf fishing tournament and a couple of inshore tournaments that were held, but it was not a weekend to put small boats in open water, especially the ocean. When the forecast includes small craft advisories and gale warning they must be heeded and any error must be made on the side of safety.
The Oaktoberfest Flounder Tournament was held from Wildlife Bait and Tackle on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a 4:00 P.M. weigh-in on the Oak Island Soccer Field during the Oaktoberfest celebration. Because this tournament was held in conjunction with the Oaktoberfest Celebration and there was protected water to fish in, the decision was made to go forward with it.
Eight boats registered to compete for the guaranteed purse and four weighed fish. The winner was John Ballantine, who caught a 2.36 pound flounder and pocketed $500. Ballantine also won the prize for catching the most fish and earned another $200. None of the boats caught more than a single flounder, but the tiebreaker was the total weight and once again Ballantine had the heaviest fish. Jim Jones was second at 1.44 pounds and Gene Gray was third with a 1.28 pound flounder.
The most humorous story came from Brian Garner, who caught the largest speckled trout. It weighed 1.94 pounds. The story is that Garner didn't have a motor for his boat, but wanted to fish so much he had arranged to borrow a trolling motor and was going to fish near the ramp and hope for the best. Unfortunately, something got confused in his request for the motor and when he went to pick it up, the owner wasn't there and he couldn't.
Rather than accept defeat, Garner launched his boat and paddled to a place he could reach and fished there. Because he couldn't go far in the windy conditions, he had to exercise patience and was rewarded by catching the largest trout. My hat is off to him for having the perseverance and drive to paddle in that strong wind on Saturday. As the old-timers say, "The wind was blowing so hard there were whitecaps in my toilet." For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com.
The Ed Sewell Speckled Trout Tournament was held Saturday, Nov. 5, from Casper's Marina in Swansboro. Proceeds from the tournament are dispersed through the Swansboro area churches to families with a member fighting cancer. This tournament is based on the aggregate weight of up to five speckled trout.
In spite of a forecast that included small craft advisories, the tournament drew 15 boats and all but two weighed fish. Tournament participants included 12 junior anglers and one lady angler.
Robbie Hall and Tommy Jones have been on a tear in trout tournaments for the past several weeks and that continued in this tournament. This time they added Kristin Hall, who won Top Lady Angler honors with a 4.59 pound trout. Their five-fish aggregate weight was 25.87 pounds. They also had the largest flounder of the tournament at 1.70 pounds.
John Gainey and R.D. Benedict teamed up to finish second with 16.93 pounds. Jim Davis, Todd Matthews and Stukie Payne fished together and had a good day. They finished in third place with 14.98 pounds of trout. To this they added the heaviest trout not included in an aggregate at 3.80 pounds and the largest red drum of the tournament at 2.52 pounds.
The Top Junior Angler for the tournament was Tyler Parkin with a 2.84 pound speck. Second place went to Seth Parkin, whose trout weighed 2.76 pounds. Evan Sewell caught a 2.58 pound trout and finished third. Parker Benedict finished fourth with a trout that weighed 2.56 pounds. Kaley Sewell's trout weighed 2.41 pounds and was good for fifth place. For more information call 910-459-2258.
The northeast winds played havoc with the fishing during the 54th Annual Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Surf Fishing Tournament at Buxton last week. Not many scoring fish had been caught and the points were low until Gary Creasy, Hardy, Va., of the Roanoke Surf Fishing Club hooked a 46 inch red drum during the final session. The Roanoke Surf Fishing Club used that fish and a small bluefish to surge from last to first place and claim the win with 90 points. Needless to say, they were also the high point team for that session.
The SCABS (Surf Casters and Bull Shooters) of Virginia Beach, Va. had 64 points to finish second. Only one point back with 63 points were the South Jersey Surf Casters, of Clementon, N.J., who also won the third session with 56 points. The top ladies team was the Show Stoppers, of Nags Head, with 16 points.
The Rising Tides and Kinky Leaders won sessions one and two respectively. Creasey's big red drum was the largest of them by a male and none of the ladies landed a drum. Annah Petty of the ladies champion Show Stoppers caught a 14 inch bluefish to pace the ladies in the species, while Mark Nelson of the Ridge Anglers caught a 16 1/2 inch blue to top the men. Chuck Simpson landed a 17 inch speckled trout to win the honors for the largest "other fish" for the men while Susan McLanahan led the ladies in this division with a 15 inch sea mullet.
The Bob Bernard Individual Tournament was held on Saturday to end the tournament. Russ Cauff, Jr. and Brent Douglass were the only fishermen to catch fish during this tournament and tied for the win with identical 12 ounce sea mullet.
The IFA Redfish Tour Championship was held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, in Chalmette, La. Fishermen from the East and Gulf Coasts competed in regional divisions during the year for the right to fish in this tournament and 101 teams came with the intention of winning. The win went to Fred Myers and Bruce Lindheim, of the Gulf Coast Division, who weighed four healthy redfish that totaled 34.27 pounds. The top finishers from the Atlantic Division (N.C., S.C. and Ga.) were Matt and Ray Lamb of Team Chasin' Tails from Atlantic Beach. The father and son team was exactly one pound behind the winners and finished in tenth place. Congratulations to all.
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 3.68 pounder that was 21.5 inches long and was caught by Gary Mohorn. All trout must be caught on foot on Bogue Banks. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.
Frank Plisko has bumped the ante in the 2011 Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Challenge by weighing a 3.71 pounder this week. Fellow competitors have until Dec. 31 to best it and may register until Dec. 26. There is a special Wild Card Weight each month and for November that is 3.41 pounds. The monthly wild card winners receive a new trout fishing outfit for that. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The fall version of Martini's Hook-A-Hoo wahoo tournament began Nov. 4. This tournament was originally scheduled to continue through Nov. 13, but has been extended to Nov. 19 and registration remains open. 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 sixteen days to fish and all proceeds will be donated to the Shriner Hospitals of the Carolinas. For more information visit www.hookahoorodeo.com.
The Post 9983 Inshore Classic that was rescheduled from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5 at Soundside Park in Surf City has been cancelled for the year. For more information visit www.topsailislandfishingclub.com.
The Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament was scheduled for Nov. 5, but has been postponed until Saturday, Nov. 12 at Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach. 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 Holden Beach Festival by The Sea fishing tournaments that were postponed on Oct. 29, were also a no-go on Nov. 5. Unfortunately that weekend saw even stronger winds and the event was cancelled for the year, with plans to try for a similar tournament in the spring. The plans included a king mackerel tournament, a pier, land surf, bank or ICW tournament and a kid's tournament. For more information visit www.hbmerch.com.
Tournaments scheduled for this weekend include the Tackle Box King Mackerel Tournament will be held Nov. 12 from the Tackle Box Tavern in Morehead City. For more information call 252-225-1003.
The Veteran's Day Specks and Spots Kayak Fishing Tournament will be held from the Federal Point Ramp at Fort Fisher on Saturday, Nov. 12. This tournament, which is presented by the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association to benefit the Camp Lejeune Wounded Warriors Fishing Club, is based on the combined length of each fisherman's longest speckled trout and red drum. Registration will begin at 7:00 A.M., with fishing following from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. and awards following. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The SKA National Championship and conclusion of the 2011 Yamaha SKA Pro Tour will be held in Biloxi, Miss. on Nov. 11 and 12. Fishermen from multiple divisions along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have competed regionally during the year for the right to fish in this tournament. Many Tar Heel fishermen made the drive to Biloxi to compete. For more information visit www.fishska.com.
The IFA Kayak Tour Championship will be held Nov. 11 and 12 in Chalmette, La. Fishermen from multiple divisions along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have competed regionally during the year for the right to fish in this tournament. Several Carolina kayak fishermen made the trek to compete. For more information visit www.ifakayakfishingtour.com.