It’s Thanksgiving week again, and it’s time to remember that Thanksgiving is for giving thanks, visiting with family and going fishing. We should all give thanks for where we live, the fine folks that live around us and that we have enough to get by.
After enjoying a big meal with family and friends, why don’t we head out for a few hours of fishing instead of a nap on the couch while pretending to watch football. There are fish around that can be reached from the piers, beach, public docks and street ends. You might even catch some to invite home for dinner once you’re tired of turkey leftovers. Seriously folks, we are all blessed to live in a great area, with great friends and many resources. I hope each and every one of you have many reasons to be thankful.
There is a little Scales & Tales business to get out of the way before continuing. This will be the last weekly installment of Scales & Tales for 2022. We are switching to our winter schedule, which is once monthly, on the last Wednesday of the month, until the week before Easter in 2023. We’re not gone, just slowing down for a few months. We’ll be back once more in 2022, in the December 28 paper to update and summarize the year, plus offer some options for winter fishing. Since that will be after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas now. We’ll “talk” again before the new year starts.
Here’s a head’s up for folks that will be buying Christmas gifts for your favorite fishermen. There are some suggestions in an article in the holiday edition of COAST Magazine, which is included in this week’s State Port Pilot. There are suggestions you might expect and even a couple that aren’t in the normal vein of thinking about Christmas gifts for fishermen. Check it out and maybe there is something in the list that would be just right for your favorite fisherman.
The date for the 2023 Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School hadn’t been confirmed in time to meet the deadline for the COAST Magazine fisherman’s gift suggestions, so it wasn’t included there. That’s finalized now and the Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School will be held March 4, 2023. There is a new location for the popular school this year, with a larger capacity, hoping to have a spot for all that are interested. The 2023 Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School will be held in the multi-purpose room at Ocean View United Methodist Church. Regular and gift certificate registrations will be available beginning Black Friday and more details will be below.
We’ve almost made it to the end of the 2022 Hurricane Season without a direct hit of a major storm. We received a pretty serious glancing blow from Hurricane Ian, but overall it has been a good year and tropical weather has stayed away. Hurricane season ends next Thursday, November 30, and the current forecast doesn’t look favorable for tropical cyclone formation. However, it isn’t quite over yet, so you might want to occasionally check the National Hurricane Center website and Mike’s Weather Page. The National Hurricane Center will sign off for the year on December 1, but Mike’s Weather Page will stay active and track winter storms. I hope we don’t need to use it, but keep that in mind…
Our water temps took a nose dive this week. They had warmed back up into the 70s a couple of weeks ago and were still holding upper-60s and low-70s last weekend, but mid-60s is warm now. I’ve checked the Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program (CORMP) website and it’s cold enough there, but several fishermen said they found low-60s and even a few 50-degree readings early in the morning over this weekend. Slow down your retrieve, fish don’t respond quickly when the water is this cool.
The early weather forecast for this week shows the temperatures returning to more seasonable levels, both for the daytime highs and the overnight lows. Forties and 60s aren’t bad when they’re in the right places. Unfortunately, there is a pretty good chance of rain in the picture early, but that gives way to a sunny weekend, with decreasing winds. Take advantage of this. Fishermen may get out of Black Friday and weekend shopping, but you’ll probably have to take turkey sandwiches for lunch.
Fishermen are getting ready and serious about next Thursday, December 1. That is when bluefin tuna season opens in the Carolinas. There are rumblings that some of these giants have been spotted, but the locations are being kept as secret as a favorite trout hole. Will they make a visit to southeastern N.C. or will they stay farther north? It’s a big question and the answers are even larger. We’ll begin to find out in about a week.
I’m impressed that more of you are paying attention, especially to my mentions of the free seawater thermal information offered by Rutgers University. I was in one of the local tackle shops and was questioned about it again this week. This really can help locate fish. A single day’s information can help, but checking the maps for several days before you head offshore should help you home in on the conditions you’re seeking. The maps show pockets of warmer water, chlorophyl content and any upwellings created by underwater structure. Check out the satellite imagery page on the Rutger's University site for more information.
The Marine Fisheries Commission met last week and voted to accept Amendment 2 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan and maintain the net moratorium above the Neuse River and Pamlico River ferry crossings until the next stock status review. They recognized that stripers and other species had responded well and that full allocations of the species were being caught without using nets in these waters.
The commission also approved Supplement A to the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1, with a commercial and recreational closed season of November 7 through December 3 to achieve an approximate 20% reduction in harvest. They also approved the goals and objectives for Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2. These will go out for public comment and approval is expected at the Commission’s February meeting.
In other business, the Commission received a presentation on results of the benchmark Spotted Seatrout Stock Assessment for North Carolina and Virginia. This assessment contains data through 2019 and estimates the stock is not overfished but is experiencing overfishing. The Division of Marine Fisheries plans to hold scoping meetings in early 2023 before drafting the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1.
For more information on these and other actions during the meeting, visit the Marine Fisheries news section of the DENR website.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will meet December 5-9 at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort Wrightsville Beach. The meeting will be open to the public and available via webinar each day in real time. Fishermen interested in attending either in person or by webinar should register as soon as possible at the Council’s website. The site also provides a form for public comments.
The council will hold meetings of its Snapper-Grouper Committee, Mackerel-Cobia Committee, Outreach and Communications Committee and the full council throughout the meeting week. Meeting materials, including the week-long meeting agenda, committee agendas and overviews, documents, and presentations are available from the council’s website.
A hybrid public comment session will be held Wednesday, December 7, beginning at 4 p.m., allowing for in-person and remote (via webinar) verbal public comment. Details are available from the website. An online public comment form is available and comments posted for both Council members and the public to view via the website.
Even though we have switched to monthly rather than weekly for the winter, we want your pictures. When you catch those big fish, email pictures of them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It’s a great way to share your good catches with friends and family.
This is the last time this page will be weekly until the spring, but we’ll be here the last Wednesday of the month through the winter. Regardless of the time of year, Scales and Tales always welcomes pictures and fishing reports from readers. If you had a great fishing trip and or have a picture of a fish that makes you smile, send the picture and some details on the trip. We look forward to highlighting outstanding reader catches.
The Fishing Report
The weather finally cooperated over the weekend and fishermen were able to reach their favorite inshore, nearshore and offshore spots. They caught fish too!
Let’s start at the edge of the ocean where surf and pier fishermen enjoyed several days of catching. The most prominent fish in the catch was sea mullet and there were enough several days that Ocean Crest Pier reported them. Folks aren’t filling coolers, but fishing has been pretty good. There were also croakers, black drum, bluefish, red drum, gray trout and speckled trout caught by the land based anglers. Unless the water temps continue dropping, this should continue for a while.
There are still plenty of gray trout, some black drum, bluefish and a few trophy red drum holding around the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks. The shame with gray trout is that they sometimes become a nuisance, but the limit is a single fish. All red drum longer than 27 inches must be released and the lion’s share of them around the ocean structure are 30 inches plus. Red drum longer than 40 inches are eligible for a live release trophy citation. The information on this and an on-line citation form is available on the NCDMF's website.
Fishermen caught lots of king mackerel, but they have followed the bait offshore. There are a few kings around the structure and live bottoms in the 20-25 mile range, but the numbers increase as you move offshore. The general area from the South Forty out to around Frying Pan Tower has been a hotspot. The kings like slow-trolled live baits, but were also hitting slow-trolled dead baits pretty well. Several fishermen said they also caught kings on spoons and sea witches with strips or ballyhoo. One lure/dead bait combination mentioned often is the Mack-A-Hoo by Big Nic Fishing.
Offshore bottom fishing begins to get good at the same depths as kings are found. There are some black sea bass and a few gag grouper closer in, but most fishermen will have better success running to at least 80-100 feet of water. The fishing gets better again once beyond about 120 feet. Bottom fish have been responding well to chunks of bait and jigs. The variety of the catch includes black sea bass, grunts, porgies, triggerfish, snapper, grouper and more. Shallow water grouper season closes January 1, so if you want some for the freezer, it’s time to go get them.
No one sent any pictures, but a few reports and dock gossip said the wahoo and blackfin tuna were biting at the edge of the Gulf Stream and over structure at the edge of the Continental Shelf. The wahoo are large, with most exceeding the 40 pound minimum for an outstanding catch citation. These have to be weighed at area weigh stations for their outstanding catch citations. The blackfins ranged from fat footballs to around 30 pounds. There were also a few dolphin caught, but they are a bonus, not regular catches, from now until the spring.
The action inside the inlets is primarily red drum, speckled trout and black drum. There are still some flounder around, like the one estimated at 10 pounds caught during the Brunswick County Fishing Club Speck-Tacular tournament on Saturday, but they must be released. There are also striper being caught up the river around Wilmington, but striper season in the Cape Fear has been closed for two decades and this is catch-and-release fishing only. It’s still fun.
Trout and the two drum are providing the bulk of the inshore action. Red drum are often found in shallower water and it’s thought they seek sunlight and mud bottoms to help stay warm. Red drum like live shrimp or minnows, pieces of shrimp and cut bait and will hit a variety of lures. Single hook lures, like soft plastics are easier to remove, but they will whack hard lures with treble hooks also.
Speckled trout generally prefer water at least four feet deep, but will move shallower to feed, especially early and late in the day when the sun is at a low angle. They like live baits and lures, but only occasionally pick up pieces of shrimp or cut bait. Sometimes they will hit whole dead shrimp, especially when it is suspended above the bottom under a float.
Black drum may often be found with trout, but will sometimes move shallow to feed with red drum. The prefer bait, both live and pieces of shrimp and cut bait, but occasionally hit lures. Black drum may also have deeper holes in the marshes and creeks where they hold close.
Shrimp is a common denominator with all the inshore fish except flounder – and flounder will eat shrimp at times. Live shrimp are typically the best baits, but we’re about to get cool enough they will be difficult to find. Area tackle shops will keep them as long as they can get them, but even they can’t always get them. One substitute, which comes from the Gulf Coast States, is fishing whole (heads-on) dead shrimp suspended under a popping cork. However, sometimes it’s difficult to get heads-on shrimp during the winter.
The substitute that can be found in most tackle shops is soft plastic shrimp rigged backwards on their hooks, with the intent being to fish them suspended under corks. Several lure companies call these jerk shrimp and make them this way. They are worth finding. You can also make your own. Whichever you do, add some shrimp scent and you’re ready to go catching…
A regular soft plastic shrimp will drop head first when worked under a cork because the weight in near the head. A jerk shrimp or a self-rigged version, has the weight in the center of the shrimp, with the eye of the reversed hook above it, and it sinks level, then hangs level under the cork until you jerk it again. Shrimp rigged with the hook eye at their head hang vertical under a cork and that isn’t natural.
I won’t say you won’t catch trout, drum and stripers using regular soft plastic shrimp under corks – you will, but your catch will increase with one that hangs and moves naturally. Several that are easy to do this with by just reversing the hook are D.O.A. shrimp and 4 inch Vudu Shrimp. Salty Bay Baits makes a pencil jig head that has the weight around the hook shaft, between the eye and the bend and these can be inserted in many soft plastic shrimp to make them sink and hang level.
There have been some spots around, but no strong runs have been reported. Spot fishing has been better in the Intracoastal Waterway, but there haven’t been a lot of them anywhere. There is hope this cold snap will bring a large group by, but we just don’t know. Commercial fishermen are catching some in the ICW for local fish markets and the restaurants that serve them, but even their catch isn’t strong.
If you’re landlocked, this might be something to try Thanksgiving afternoon after dinner. A double drop bottom rig and pieces of shrimp, bloodworms or Fishbites synthetic bloodworms are all you need. There are several community fishing piers along the ICW in Oak Island and the listing of these can be found at the Parks and Facilities page of the Recreation Department section of the Town of Oak Island website at.
Scales and Tales will switch to once a month for the winter, but we’ll be here the last Wednesday of the month and return to weekly around Easter. Even when it’s cold out, we like to fill the page with pictures from readers. Send those pictures of you smiling wide and holding your latest catch to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Include a few details of your catch and we’ll gladly share them with all our readers.
NOTE: Size and number regulations for all coastal species may be found on the Division of Marine Fisheries Hot Topics page. This page also has links to DMF news releases and fishery proclamations. There are provisions on each of these pages to register to receive e-mail notification of fishery management issues and changes.
Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School
The 13th edition of the Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School will be held on March 4, 2023, in the multi-purpose room at Ocean View United Methodist Church in Oak Island. Fishermen wanting to improve their skills and add more fish to their coolers during 2023 should plan to attend this popular event presented by the Oak Island Friends of Parks Foundation.
Captains Butch Foster and Jerry Dilsaver will be the featured speakers at the all-day fishing school that will feature sessions on the inshore species of speckled trout, red drum, black drum and flounder, plus sessions for ocean fishermen on surf fishing, catching offshore bottom fish, big red drum, and flounder on the artificial reefs, and Spanish mackerel and king mackerel in the nearshore ocean waters. There will also be a hands-on session on throwing cast nets, both small and large. The sessions will be informal with questions welcomed.
The day should prove to be entertaining as well as informative as Captains Foster and Dilsaver intertwine fishing tales and coastal humor into their presentations. There will be boatloads of useful knowledge too. Captain Foster is one of the most successful charter captains on the Tar Heel Coast and has decades of experience, while Captain Dilsaver is a Southern Kingfish Association National Champion and U.S. Anglers Association Angler of the Year. Even better, the captains genuinely enjoy helping others improve their fishing knowledge and skills.
Aspiring fishermen should make plans to attend the school. The captains will share tips, techniques, and tactics with the participants. This will be the 13th Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School and prior to the pandemic and last year they filled in advance. This is a larger facility, but participation numbers are still limited, so it is advised to register early. The Oak Island Recreation Friends of Parks Foundation is thrilled to offer the school and promise it will be entertaining and chock full of tips on how to make fishing more productive, more fun, and easier.
The school will be held at Ocean View United Methodist Church, 8400 E Oak Island Drive. The day will begin sharply at 9 a.m. and will conclude at approximately 4:30 p.m. In addition to the sessions, each participant will receive a goodie bag with lots of samples and there will be door prize drawings. Lunch is included.
Registration for the school is $75 in advance or $85 at the door – if seats are still available. The school has filled in advance in the past and it would be wise to register as early as possible. Gift certificates are available for those wanting to give a day of fishing instruction as a gift.
For more information contact Capt. Dilsaver at 910-279-6760 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information and a downloadable registration form is also available on-line at www.captjerry.com. Participants may also register in-person at the Oak Island Recreation Center.
World record Vermilion Snapper
A potential world record vermillion snapper, locally called beeliner, was caught in mid-October out of Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, Florida. Jacob Felts was the lucky angler who landed this 9.26 pound snapper on a boat owned and operated by Capt. Brian Stone.
The current IGFA world record vermillion snapper weighed 7-pounds and 3-ounces and was caught in 1987 off of Mobile, Alabama by John Doss. If this fish qualifies, it will surpass the previous record by nearly two pounds. If Doss’ record has stood since 1987, this one should last a while too.
Pechmann Fishing Education Center
There have been a few changes during the past year for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Education Centers. N.C. Wildlife Resources entered an agreement with Currituck County for the county to staff and offer programming at the Outer Banks Outdoor Education Center in Currituck County, and they decided not to rebuild the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education Center near Brevard after it was flooded and sustained serious damaged during 2021.
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville is the sole remaining WRC education center and they have stepped up their already busy program schedule and will offer many entertaining and educational fishing and outdoor programs to help sportsmen and ladies learn to enjoy their time outdoors. Some programs will be in-person and others will be virtual. This is a two-hour drive, but well worth investing the time for the in-person workshops. You can participate in the virtual programs from your desk or kitchen table.
The Pechmann Fishing Education Center, located at 7489 Raeford Road in Fayetteville, is ideally suited for fishing programs as it is located at the site of a former hatchery. They have several stocked ponds, several outdoor shelters and a lot of open space for other outdoor programming.
The Pechmann Center is now scheduling and coordination programs for the wildlife resources educators located in the Brevard area. These programs will be held at various facilities in the mountains. The schedule for all Wildlife Resources Commission educational programs is posted at www.ncwildlife.org.
The currently scheduled events include:
• DIY Fishing - Fishing Lanyard Making Class -Pechmann - December 2;
• Beginning Fly-tying Workshop - Pechmann - December 5;
• Intermediate Fly-Tying Workshop - Pechmann - December 15;
• Basic Fly-Fishing Workshop - Pechmann - December 17;
• On-the-Water Fly-Fishing Experience - The Little River in Dupont State Forest - November 29;
More information is available at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website, and at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center Facebook page.
The Brunswick County Fishing Club held its annual Speck-Tacular Speckled Trout tournament Saturday from their clubhouse in Sunset Harbor. The tournament was based on a four-trout aggregate weight and also recognized the single heaviest trout. Trout fishing has been good, but none of the tournament fishermen found a wall hanger. However, they did catch plenty of nice trout.
The Yo Freeze, with Capt. Luke Horn and crew, had a great day and caught both the heaviest aggregate and the heaviest trout. Their aggregate was 10.29 pounds and their large fish was 2.84 pounds. Mark Patterson (Sea Breeze) and crew finished in second place with 9.13 pounds and Joshua Nall led the Nall family, on Triple J, to third place with 8.04 pounds.
The Rona Open King Mackerel Tournament is an event that began as a way for fishermen to compete during the COVID 19 Pandemic. This was the third year and the tournament was held from the Mullet Bar on the Old Southport Yacht Basin on Saturday, November 19. The tournament format was “Winner-Take-All” for the heaviest king mackerel and there was also a Tournament Within a Tournament for the heaviest aggregate weight of two king mackerel.
Except for being a little cool at the start, the weather cooperated and the 20-boat field caught a lot of king mackerel. When the wakes had finally settled, the On Point/Miss LA topped the tournament and the TWT. Their large king weighed 43 pounds and they added a 40-pounder to scale the heaviest aggregate also.