Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday August 25, 08 -- Busy weekend and assorted stuff

Monday, August 25, 2008: Waves: 2-3 feet out of the south; significant S-N current near the beach,. Water clarity: Shabby with south winds but likely clearing very quickly after cold front and wind switch to the north.

I have reports from all over the place –and all over the place when it comes to hookup rates. I have some folks offering tales of near-crazed fluking.

A Wawa-shopping angler gave me a bit of hell since he’s having one of his better fluking seasons while I’m fostering the bitterness of lousy keeper ratios. He offered me the technique he uses to get better fluking then swore me to secrecy. As I chatted with him, I didn’t want to bring up the fact that my sensitivity toward fluking is based primarily on the way the season ends when we of a local ilk finally free up time to fish for fluke. He was a solid summerite, getting to take his boat out this coming weekend since “the season is over.”

In reality, I have been all but yodeling the praises of a fluke fishery that seems to be rebounding in leaps and bounds. However, I can’t overlook the majority of reports indicating take-homes rates are so bad that it’s becoming half-funny to some shorted sots, who go 0 for 50 – ands counting. I truthfully have call and emails from folks who excitedly explain how few keepers they had. Hell, it’s become something of a game: “Who’s got the worst ratio?”

The stripers are moving into their assigned summer slots; better late than never – or not, if your fishing time is draining with the season. Barnegat Inlet (mainly north side) is thick with sub-keeper bass, best taken by live-lining bunker, herring or spot.

The bluefishing was back to the old hit-or-miss thing. Not that major burst of blues – some to 5 pounds – weren’t showing but it sure seemed that the folks who didn’t want them had too many and those actually targeting these Jersey piranhas were having a helluva time tracking them down. That even came across in some North End radio chatter where one angler said he was looking all over for blues and another responded “Come out here. I have more than I need.”

Kingfishing is spotty. A few folks are taking a half dozen in the surf but generally speaking it’s a pick with a couple/few fish to take home after some significant surfcasting time spent.

I hung out for a short time at the inlet fishing walkway on the banks of Barnegat Inlet – west of Andy’s at the Dock road end. The many entry-level anglers there had a wide selection of hookups – many kept in small suffocation buckets right there on the boards. Porgies, blowfish, bergalls, snappers and far-too-small black seabass were the main pick of the pack. Law-breaking aside, this is easily the finest family fishing area on all of LBI. It is a big area, right next to deep water and very easy to fish. Problems include a near-impossible hoist of larger fish up over the railings. Obviously, a dip net would work perfectly but most of the folks there are not even remotely thinking that big – or that far ahead. I saw a 5-pound bluefish blast the crap out of a squid gob hanging from a small hook on 10-pound test. I will surely be giving that walkway a few cats as fall kicks in. There are huge bass and blues that cruise through there with regularity.

It with a stunned sadness that I recently learned about the passing of my fishing and Holgate buddy, John Hagaman. He was yet another way-too-young loss. Brutal. In autumns past, he and I threw net together. A dedicated fisherman and outdoorsman, no one I know kept his family in the fishing/Holgate game like John. Seldom if ever was he seen buggying about without family (and friends) along. John was known for the black tear tattoos near his eyes. He is instantly sadly-missed.

Headed out fluking yesterday morning. On the way out fished the outgoing tide on the inside on the north jetty and had 4 blues and 1 short bass. Headed up the beach to about 2 miles off of the coast guard station. No drift so I started power drifting and still had not a touch. A lot of boats but nada. I did have one large 6’ shark circle my boat. I then headed from there to the tires and again, nada but did have one large mola mola come over to my boat almost like it was wanting to play. Figured I might as well go back to the jetty and fish the start of the incoming. Before the switch I tried fluking along the last 100’ of the rocks on the inside and had 12” on every drop. Through plastics again and more blues. Walt P.

Dad, Te, Cindy, and I went fishing again on the boat today. We headed out for the LE Reef. We did quite a few drifts in the area with a smaller fleet than last week. Again, we caught some sea robin, a sea bass, a smooth dogfish, and a few fluke. We only managed one keeper this time. We headed further offshore to try some deeper water (65 ft) and Cindy managed to catch two strange critters. The first looked like a ling to my Dad. I've never seen one in person, but it sure looks like the images I Googled. Pretty cool looking in fact. I suppose you can confirm that ID? The second was what we believe to be a sundial. Again, a pretty cool looking critter. We managed one schoolie-sized bluefish on the troll heading to the inlet. Again, a nice day with the family on the water... can't beat that! Nick H
(Correct on the sundial. The other I've always callled white hake [http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/og/hake/]. Thanks for the reports. –

Jay - finally had a week to fish the boat hard. Covered alot of areas south island. Picky days, but caught weakfish,kingfish ,and quite a few fluke. In the right winds and tides ,there are still fluke in the bay, but as we all know....mostly small.Most of the fluke are moving near the inlet. Did manage a few keepers towards the end on the week ...outgoing afternoon tide....also managed a 4 1/2 lb. fluke and a few good sized seabass..all in the bay.
Beachwise ,all I've seen are small fluke and spots.
BIG QUESTION....what happened to the crabs?. Went to a long time productive spot west of the middle grounds, and after moving and crabbing hard for 2-3 hrs....only came up with 1 crab. Un-heard of! We were also throwing traps at night behind ship bottom with no measurable results. Had another report of a boat crabber who tried earlier in the week, who also got skunked . Isn't this august? The greenheads are biting....where are the crabs?
On another note we seine netted some minnows and spearing behind ship bottom. BOY, are there a lot of mini stripers. Numbers were off the charts. The future looks good here for our bass. Geo. H.

(Thanks, Geo. By the by, those “mini stripers” are most likely what we locally call hardhead minnows [sometimes ignobly called shithead minnow] and are technically striped mummichog, Fundulus majalis. You’ll notice the stripes on these bruiser minnies often run north and south. These are the males. Female hardheads have two or three sloppily arranged east-to- west lines, unlike the striper’s many well-proportioned lines. The big thing about hardheads is the huge size they can acquire – by minnow standards. I have taken them up to five inches and chunky as all get-out. These are the only minnows that can be caught in a meant-for-mullet cast net. Fallacy: These large minnies are no good for fishing. Try telling that to fluke (or bass or blues) when you have a large hardhead baited up. J-mann)


If you’re a beach buggy type, please read this AP story: [The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.] - August 25, 2008 - CAPE HATTERAS, N.C., Turtles are crawling ashore and laying eggs on this windy elbow of sand in record numbers.

The number of sea turtle nests is up all along the state's coast this year, but the increase at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is roughly twice the overall state increase. A rare green turtle laid the 111th nest on Thursday.

That's good news for threatened loggerheads and other sea turtles. But as eggs near hatching, it means another flurry of beach closings and a new round of frustration as the popular fall fishing season gets under way.

'It's a balancing act between people and turtles,' said Michelle Baker Bogardus, sea turtle biologist with the U.S. Park Service. 'We have an obligation as a park to allow people on the beach. With 111 nests, we're facing a tough fall season.'

The seashore covers 67 miles of sandy beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, providing some of the best fishing on the coast.

A legal settlement - agreed to by the park service, environmental groups and local interests - requires that stretches of the seashore be off-limits to recreation during bird and turtle nesting seasons to protect threatened and declining species.

This time of year, the focus shifts from birds, which have mostly flown, to turtles, which will hatch through October. As of this week, about 80 of the 111 nests had yet to hatch.

The agreement banned nighttime beach driving in off-road vehicles from May 1 until mid-September. To accommodate fall fishing, fishermen will be allowed to drive on the beach at night by permit from Sept. 16 through Nov. 15.

But turtles typically crawl ashore at night to lay eggs, and hatchlings emerge at night. To guard against disturbance, closed areas around turtle nests that are near hatching will be expanded from dune to ocean starting in mid-September, temporarily cutting off some sections of beach.

Larry Hardham, a local angler who has spent hundreds of hours as a volunteer patrolling for turtle nests at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, said he loves turtles but is frustrated by the additional fall closures.

'There are a lot of people who feel this is not about science,' Hardham said. 'This is about getting ORVs off the beaches.'

Hardham said many of the most popular fishing spots are a mile or two down the beach. Reaching them with fishing gear, ice and chairs is impractical without driving.

Park Service workers enclose nests that are near the hatch date with horseshoe-shaped plastic fencing open on the ocean. Hardham said the fencing should be sufficient without expanding the closed areas.

'I just don't see the need for the full beach closures in areas where there is space to walk or drive behind them,' Hardham said.

He said the lights of oceanfront houses are more distracting to hatchlings than the headlights of the occasional off-road vehicle. Yet there is no effort to curb house lights.

'The occasional ORV passing behind a nest is not going to have the disorienting effect that lights burning in a house all night will have,' Hardham said.

Turtle nesting goes up and down year to year. Statewide, 821 loggerhead nests have been laid in 2008, about 14 percent above the average of 715 nests, said Matthew Godfrey, sea turtle biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources.

Environmentalists say the increases at Cape Hatteras are exactly what park service biologists predicted would occur if nighttime driving was banned and there were fewer disturbances.

Derb Carter, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center's Carolinas office, which filed the lawsuit resulting in the settlement, said it was encouraging to see the record number of nests. He said environmentalists were trying to assess how much was attributable to the closures.

'It's encouraging and appears the measures in the consent decree are contributing to more successful nesting and breeding on the seashore,' Carter said.

Bogardus, the sea turtle biologist, said no turtle biologists think it's a good idea to allow nighttime beach driving near turtle nests. But Bogardus said it's premature to say that the closures have contributed to a rebound in nesting.

'I think it's been a wonderful year for turtles,' Bogardus said. 'I think it's premature to say what caused what.'

John Couch, president of the Outer Banks Preservation Association, which advocates for open beach access for vehicles and pedestrians, worried that the turtle closures could stretch into November. Couch said when beaches are closed, sportsmen go elsewhere to fish.

'It's a rotating, economic catastrophe,' Couch said.

Carolyn McCormick, managing director of Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, said the beach closures had hurt businesses such as tackle shops. McCormick said home rentals, which are booked in advance, were up about 5 percent on Hatteras Island through the first half of the year, but hotel room and campground bookings were down significantly. They're also down elsewhere on the Outer Banks.

'A lot of that has to be attributed to the state of the nation's economy,' McCormick said. 'The closures are having some effect.'

McCormick said some visitors are surprised to learn that people are allowed to drive on parts of the national seashore. Meanwhile, others view beach driving as a right.

'It's about a community having to adapt and adjust,' McCormick said.

Steven Hissey, tackle manager at Teach's Lair Marina and a judge at the Hatteras Village Civic Association fishing tournament, said the tournament, which is scheduled in early September, could have to shorten the beaches where fishing teams compete if turtle nests are still there.

'It's an inconvenience to the anglers,' he said. 'It's just something we have to work around.'

(c) 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service

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