Good fishing from creeks to Big Rock

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The wind was still a bit blustery last Saturday, but the ladies in the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament headed out and gave their best effort and caught some billfish and game-fish.


The wind fell out on Sun-day, and a lot of folks spread all over for a day of fishing. For most, it was a day of catch-ing too. There are fishing op-portunities from the back of the creeks to the Gulf Stream, and a lot of them were explored over the weekend, with some giving it a go again on Monday before the wind breezed up a little.


The early weekend forecast has the wind down to less than 15 knots today and falling to under 10 for Saturday through Monday. It’s always good to have good forecasts, but when they are done a ways out, we hope the actual weather is even a little better than the forecast. The chance of scattered thun-derstorms grows to 40 percent for the weekend, but those storms are mainly in the after-noon, and it’s possible to be in before they begin and let the rain pre-soak the boat before washing it.


It’s still raining a lot upstate, and there is a lot of rainwater runoff coming down the riv-ers. This tends to dirty up the sounds and ocean near the in-lets from the effluent carried by the water headed down-stream. It’s hard to believe how much dirty water can come down the Newport River and Intracoastal Waterway from the Neuse River, but it does.


Finding a spot out of the main channel helps with cleaner water and usually has better fishing. Fishermen headed to the ocean will usu-ally find cleaner water near-shore by crossing Cape Look-out Shoals and heading up the east beach of Cape Lookout.




I had a kayak fishing display at Brunswick WaterFest at the Battleship North Carolina Park in Wilmington last Saturday and saw some interesting things.


One of the most enjoyable was the Wilmington fire boat ramping up its pumps and spraying water through all their water cannons at once. It was an impressive sight, and the mist from all the water in the air was cooling. The kids (of all ages) really enjoyed it!


At WaterFest, I was posi-tioned next to Tom Charles who is the Natural Resources specialist and park ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engi-neers at the three locks and dams on the Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Fayetteville. I had a great time talking to him about all the locks and their facilities and especially about the rock arch rapids fish ladder that is in place at Lock and Dam Num-ber 1.


Charles said several of the fish species had adapted to the rock arch rapids and were us-ing them well, but stripers were still lagging behind the target numbers. He said shad and catfish used it regularly and headed upstream or down-stream as they liked. One of the biologists monitoring the fish using the rock arch rapids told me earlier there was one flat-head catfish they recorded go-ing back and forth over it sev-eral times in a day.


Charles’ funniest story was of an alligator that had used it several times during the past week. I guess you don’t really expect to look out and see an alligator moving up and down the rapids and across the dam. I sure hadn’t thought of it until he mentioned it and said the gator appeared to like it as it had stayed in the area for a few days. I guess even alligators occasionally like riding a water slide.




I received a few comments about my venting on some of the fishing related sections of the Senate Budget Bill (SB 744) last week.


This bill passed the Senate and crossed to the House. The first House rewrite of the bill was offered on Tuesday and removed most of the fisheries things I objected to, yet left the basic idea of funding the com-mercial observer program with increased license fees and tak-ing the interest from several funds and diverting it to the General Fund. Now it will be up to the House members to stand strong as they debate and negotiate to a final budget bill.


I would suggest checking this bill out for yourself. I had a lot of issues with the Senate version and don’t like every-thing in the House version but feel it is a lot better. The bill, with its full history, can be found at It is one of the hot topics and is on the home page when the web-site opens. The section stating the intent to take interest from several funds is in the first few pages, and the section on fish-ing begins on page 134 in the House version and on page 136 in the Senate version.


Let your legislators know how you feel about this and all bills. The listings and contact information for all N.C. legis-lators can be found at Sen. Norman Sanderson’s contacts are 919-733-5706 or, and Rep. Pat McElraft’s contacts are 919-733-6275 or



Offshore fishing is good when the weather allows get-ting there – just ask the 120 boats fishing in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.


The long run offshore is more than twice as comfortable in a 50-footer than a 25-footer, but the fish don’t know what size boat you’re in and bite all baits presented well. Dolphin are here in good numbers and with some big fish too. Dol-phin are also breaking away from the Gulf Stream and fol-lowing baitfish inshore. There are almost daily reports of dol-phin being caught by king mackerel fishermen in places like AR 300, the Atlas Tanker and 90 Foot Drop.


As I am finishing this, I am listening to updates from the fourth day of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on my computer. Lines went in at 9 a.m., and marlin were hooked and released almost immedi-ately. It appears the fishing is real good, and 96 of 120 boats are fishing. Two blue marlin were weighed Thursday, and there are two more days of fishing. I wonder if anyone will catch a blue marlin larger than the 754.3-pounder the Inspira-tion caught on the first day.


Check it all out at



Offshore bottom fishing is really good too.


Grouper are acting like they didn’t feed during the closed season in the spring and ha-ven’t quite satisfied their appe-tites yet. In addition to grouper, offshore bottom fishermen are catching beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, por-gys, amberjacks and occasion-ally an African pompano.


While fishing the bottom offshore, it is a good idea to drift a light line or two behind the boat. Many of the fish be-ing caught are regurgitating as they come up, and it creates a chum line that attracts king mackerel, dolphin and more. Just hook a small live bait or a frozen cigar minnow on a king mackerel rig and let it drift back in the current. A small balloon will hold one line near the surface, and another can be fished bare or with a light egg sinker to get it to sink a little deeper.




King mackerel numbers might be increasing a little.


For whatever reason, they haven’t come to the beach like they did along the southern end of the state a few weeks ago and are still holding around structure in 60 to 100 feet of water. A roving school or two may show anywhere, but the consistent places to find kings with the warming water is that 60 feet and deeper area. Several of the favorite spots include Jerry’s Reef, Tri-ple Nickel, Northwest Places, AR 300, The P Buoy, 1700 Rock, Atlas Tanker and 4 Mile Rock off Drum Inlet.


Most fishermen prefer to use live menhaden to troll for kings, but some also do well trolling frozen cigar minnows.



Closer in, fishermen trolling from just off the beach out to the closest artificial reefs are catching lots of Spanish macks and bluefish.


Spanish and blues are also on the rips and color changes around the inlets and from the hook, around the jetty to the point at Cape Lookout. Bottom fishermen on AR 315 and AR 320 are catching a few floun-der, lots of mostly undersize black sea bass and some scat-tered gray trout.


The action has slowed dra-matically, but fishermen are still catching a few cobia along the beaches and at Cape Look-out. The area right off the red No. 4 buoy at the point of the hook has been a popular cobia spot for several weeks. There will be a small crowd of boats there during the week and a bunch on the weekends.



The kings haven’t put in an appearance, but fishermen at the end of Bogue Inlet Pier have hooked a few tarpon and other fish this week.


Tarpon are tough characters anywhere, especially from a pier, and they have only landed one. There has also been a run of Hatteras bluefish and some large Spanish macks, plus a cobia or two, caught there this week. Typically, there isn’t as much pier end action at Oceanana Pier, and it has been mostly Spanish and bluefish action there.


Smaller Spanish and blue-fish are being caught by fish-ermen casting Got-Cha plugs and Clarkspoons with Clark Casters between the pier ends and about midway of the piers. Bottom fishermen working around the pier pilings and from the surf to about halfway out the piers are catching a mixed bag that includes floun-der, sea mullet, gray trout, black drum, pompano and more.




In spite of all the rain and runoff from it muddying the waters, puppy drum and floun-der fishing is pretty good.


The creeks and marshes off the Intracoastal Waterway, Newport River, Core Creek, Adams Creek and the lower Neuse River are producing well. In the upper tidal zones, falling tides are sweeping bait out of the smaller creeks and into the larger creeks and channels, and it is the prime time to fish. Closer to the in-lets, the rising tide pushes some cleaner water back in with every change, and it often stimulates the fish to feed.


I’m not real familiar with the area, but several fishermen have mentioned the creeks that cut through and into the east end of Shackleford Banks had been holding a lot of lower-slot pups, a few larger pups, good numbers of flounder and even a few trout, both specks and grays. There are a lot of bars and shallow spots in there, and the current runs strongly except close to the tide change, so it can be tricky getting around. I understand the fishing can be real good, but this is a spot that you need to be careful moving around or you may be staying there until the tide rises again.


There are also a few more reports coming in for flounder, pups and specks from Middle Marsh and North River Marsh. These are also places you need to know your way or move very slowly. There are numer-ous sand and mud flats and a whole lot of oyster rocks just waiting to grab your boat. Some places are too shallow to cross for an hour or more on each side of low tide, so pay attention and don’t get trapped somewhere you can’t get out of until the tide rises.


Speckled trout season re-opens on Sunday. They should readily respond to soft plastics and hard baits. There have been reports of some nice size trout whacking topwaters in the marshes just mentioned, the Haystacks and some of the cuts in the Newport River and Core Creek. If you aren’t catching them on lures, a squirming live shrimp suspended under a float should work just fine. If trout won’t hit a live shrimp sus-pended under a float, they aren’t where you are fishing.


Kayak fishing seminar


Several of you readers who have missed other kayak fish-ing schools and seminars I have spoken at this spring asked me to let you know if there would be another one.


There will be another one, and it is less than an hour’s drive from Morehead City. On Tuesday, I will be doing a kayak fishing seminar for the Craven County Recreation and Parks Department. It will be in the meeting room of the Cra-ven County Administration Building in downtown New Bern.
This will be a classroom ses-sion only that begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs to approximately 9:30. The seminar will cover safety, rigging and inshore saltwater fishing for puppy drum, flounder, stripers, speck-led trout and more, with an introduction to launching through the surf to fish in the nearshore ocean for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, king mack-erel, cobia and more.


Participants will receive a goody bag of fishing product samples, and there will be door prizes.


For more information or to register for the seminar, visit or call 252-636-6606


Free vessel safety check


Members of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas are offering free Vessel Safety Checks (VSC).


Inspectors will examine boats to ensure that required safety equipment is present and functioning. Inspectors will also check for basic mechanical issues, make sure registration and documentation are current and offer information and op-tions for correcting any condi-tions found.


There is no fee and no legal obligations. VSC checks can be performed on any vessels from kayaks to offshore sportfisher-men.


For more information on VSC, visit


This is a simple, easy proc-ess. Last week at the Bruns-wick WaterFest in Wilmington, the local Coast Guard Auxil-iary unit also had a booth pro-moting Vessel Safety Check, and I had them check my kayak. I thought I was really prepared, and I was except for one thing. Now, I have my contact information in a zip lock bag and taped to the inside of my kayak under one of the hatches.


I hope this is never needed, but now if my kayak is found floating and I’m not aboard, rescuers and searchers will know who they are looking for.


Tournament tidbits


Wow, what an opening day for the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament!


Three blues came to the scale, and two were larger than the winners for the past three years, while one is the third largest ever in the tournament. Then on Wednesday, another blue was brought in that had gotten tail-wrapped and died during the fight. It wasn’t long enough to be legal, but the crew knew it didn’t quite make the tournament minimum length and were hoping it would qualify by weight. Un-fortunately it didn’t.


Thursday began with several hookups that were mostly re-leases, but the Chainlink and Ava D boated fish and headed to the scale. The Chainlink was in third place at 412 pounds for a few hours before being bumped off the board by the Ava D with a 491-pounder. There were also an abundance of released billfish.


At my deadline, the leader-board for the Big Rock showed Inspiration, with Capt. Casey Wagner and angler Bruce Brown, in first with a 754.3-pounder. Eye Catcher, with Capt. Burrows Smith and an-gler Randy Kelley, is in second with a 606.9-pounder, and a newcomer, the Ava D, with Capt. Jerry Jackson and angler Gray Hardison, is third at 491.4 pounds.


Updates are being posted at and on the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament Facebook page. There are two fishing days left, and there have been last day surprises several times in past Big Rock tournaments.



On another note, the Chasin’ Tails Cobia Challenge began on April 19 and ends this Sun-day.


There is still time, but the cobia action has slowed.


Edward Minshew holds the lead with an 80-pounder. Will someone find a fish to beat him by Sunday?


Great white shark watch


We’ve got a new shark on the block, and his name is Fritz.


Fritz isn’t a great white but is a male tiger shark that was tagged off South Carolina in early May and came our way. Several other tiger sharks that were tagged recently have stayed off the Hilton Head area of lower South Carolina. Fritz has spent most of the last week about 30 miles south of Cape Lookout and inshore of the Continental Shelf.


Lydia returned to the surface last week for a few days and has gone back under not ping-ing a location for a week. She was north of the Bahamas and east of Cape Canaveral, off-shore of the Continental Shelf when she last pinged.


Genie and April are still to our north. Genie hasn’t pinged a location since May 25, and she had moved inshore to just off the beach on Virginia’s eastern shore near Onancock at that time. April keeps slowly working her way to the north, and this week is a little inshore of the Continental Shelf east of Long Island, N.Y.


Mary Lee has gone under-water too and hasn’t pinged a location since May 18. She had been just offshore of the Conti-nental Shelf east of Brunswick, Ga., for about a month prior to that but has a large tail and could be on the move to any-where.


You can follow the travels of April, Fritz, Genie, Katharine, Lydia and Mary Lee, plus numerous other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting and opening the shark tracker.


Pending legislation and regulations


Speckled trout season will reopen at 12:01 a.m. Sunday across all of North Carolina.


The season has been closed since early February due to a freeze stun and kill event. The limit when the season reopens will be four trout with a mini-mum length of 14 inches. The proclamation stating this was distributed earlier in the week and is posted on the N.C. Divi-sion of Marine Fisheries web-site at under the “Proclamations” tab.



At the request of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Com-mission (ASMFC) the Atlantic Coast states of Maryland through Georgia have sched-uled public hearings on the Spot & Atlantic Croaker Draft Addendum to the Spot and Atlantic Croaker Fishery Man-agement Plans.


The meetings are seeking public input regarding using a “traffic light approach” to as-sess stock condition and initi-ate management response.


The North Carolina meeting will be at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central Dis-trict Office in Morehead City on Tuesday at 6 p.m.


Fishermen and other inter-ested groups are encouraged to provide input on the draft ad-dendum, either by attending the public hearing or providing written comment. The draft addendum is available on the commission website on the Public Input page at Public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 2 and should be forwarded to Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Fish-ery Management Plan Coordi-nator, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, Va. 22201. Fax (703-842-0741) or e-mail ( should be sent with the subject line Croaker/Spot Draft Addendum.



NOAA Fisheries has an-nounced new regulations for the dolphin and wahoo fishery of the Atlantic.


The final rule for Amend-ment 5 to the Fishery Man-agement Plan for the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery of the At-lantic was published in the Federal Register on June 9, 2014 (79 FR 32878). The new regulations, which will increase the annual catch limits for dol-phin and wahoo, will become effective on July 9.


The annual commercial catch limit for dolphin will increase by 91,477 pounds (whole weight), from 1,065,524 pounds to 1,157,001. The annual com-mercial catch limit for wahoo will increase by 6,395 pounds (whole weight) from 64,147 pounds to 70,542.


The annual recreational catch limit for dolphin will increase by 657,153 pounds (whole weight) from 13,530,692 pounds to 14,187,845. The annual recrea-tional catch limit for wahoo will increase by 296,780 pounds (whole weight) from 1,427,638 pounds to 1,724,418.


The revisions incorporate updates to the recreational data for these species, as per the Marine Recreational Informa-tion Program, as well as revi-sions to commercial and for-hire landings. Accountability measures for dolphin and wa-hoo will include a payback provision when the total annual catch limit is exceeded and if the stock is overfished. Dol-phin Wahoo Amendment 5 allows for modifications to catch limits in an efficient manner based on new informa-tion about the population.


More information, including a list of frequently asked ques-tions, on the new regulations for dolphin and wahoo can be found at



NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on Amend-ment 8 to the Fishery Man-agement Plan for Coral, Coral Reefs, and Live/Hardbottom Habitats of the South Atlantic Region (Coral Amendment 8).


The Notice of Availability for Coral Amendment 8 was published in the Federal Regis-ter on May 20 (79 FR 28880), and the comment period ends on July 21.


If approved, the amendment would extend protections for deepwater coral ecosystems by expanding the boundaries of the Oculina Bank Habitat Area of Particular Concern, and the Stetson-Miami Terrace and Cape Lookout Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.


Within Habitat Areas of Par-ticular Concern, the use of bot-tom longline, bottom trawl, dredge, pot or trap is prohib-ited. If aboard a fishing vessel, use of anchor, anchor and chain, and grapple and chain is prohibited. Mid-water trawls are also prohibited in Stetson-Miami Terrace and Cape Lookout Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.


Coral Amendment 8 pro-poses a transit provision through Oculina Bank Habitat Area for Particular Concern for fishing vessels with rock shrimp onboard. When transit-ing through the area, vessels would be required to have gear appropriately stowed and main-tain a minimum speed. Vessel speed would be determined by a vessel monitoring system registering a ping (signal) at a rate of one ping per five min-utes.


Copies of Coral Amendment 8 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Web site at



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