October 28th, 2010

by Capt. Paul Rose

The first small cold front that dips water temps a few degrees is the start of some of the best fishing. Fish will begin moving from deeper area into creeks, following the forage. Bait will be balled up and bass are going to be found near the bait. Look for diving birds and monitor your electronics.

Crowds and pressure should be lighter with recreational boaters thinning out, particularly on weekdays, plus many anglers are enjoying the start of the hunting season.

It has been a long hot and humid summer but the winds of change are here and the fish know it is time to eat. Cool fronts, rainfall and light conditions will all affect the bite. Here are a few tips from the guys on the water everyday.

Kerr Lake

Guide Mike Peters (336-599-3259) prefers the lower end of the lake around Grassy, Cousquilla or Nutbrush Creeks. Access to these areas is easy from the Northbend Ramp allowing for more time fishing and less time running.

Focus on the main structure of wood and rock plus many of the lakes docks. Not all docks are equal so be aware of traits one dock has over another whether depth, wood, old or new. Fish will respond well to irritating, noisy Rattletraps, a staple for fall fishing.

Fish do stage up on bait balls of shad slashing at offerings outside the main group. As the quick reaction bite slows, drop Ringo weightless worms or Senko Rattails in blue pumpkin. You can leave the hook exposed for good hook-up ratios while fishing these lures more jerk bait style. Expect plenty of 3-5 pound fish.

Lake Gaston

Lynn Harvell at Topwater Guide Service (434-374-8914) has largemouth, in any number of creeks, hitting tandem bladed spinnerbaits. Fish are averaging 3-to-5 pounds.

“The most bites are coming of an erratic retrieve pattern.” The lake borders NC/VA and is one of the truly outstanding lakes in the country. It is over 20,000 acres of “high quality” water, 34 miles long, and approximately one and one half miles wide at the lower end of the lake.

Stripers ranging from 8-to-10 pounds will migrate up river behind the Kerr Dam. Live baits work best using 25-pound line with a 1-ounce slip sinker above a swivel.

Attach 30-inch leaders to hooks in sizes 5/0-7/0 for shad or shiners. White bucktails are a good artificial choice. Twenty inches is a keeper with 4 as a limit.

Belews Lake

Guide Joel Richardson (336-803-2195) has family farmland flooded beneath this very deep and clear impoundment. It is only fitting to have won plenty of tournaments on top of granddad’s homestead with weights of 16-to-18 pounds on 5 fish.

“Start with topwaters early using Zara spooks with a walk the dog retrieve. This allows for a little more natural action in the clear water. Cover plenty of water, fishing fast and moving from place to place early to get the most bites.

Later in the day focus on the lakes’ abundant lay downs in coves and pockets using floating worms in bubblegum or white on green 12-pound mono. If it is a bright Indian summer day, fish the deeper ends of the same lay downs in water that is 20-feet with Shakey head worms or Carolina-rigged baits. Finesse worms are an excellent choice.”

Mayo Lake

Roxboro trading Post at 336-322-4100 has excellent reports coming with specific patterns working well. Start with a searching lure midway in creeks with depths of 12-to-15 feet.

Rattletraps or Rapala DT’s are good examples and seem to work best in mustard or shad colors. As you find fish, slow down using Texas- rigged soft plastics. Try www.Handpouredbassbaits.com 7-inch and 9-inch Ribbontail and the Lunker varieties.

The Post says, “You can rig them weightless and just let them fall into the zone fish are feeding.” With Mayo being very fertile, plenty of big shad and crayfish live here so these bigger baits are effective. Mayo is also a very clear lake so fluorocarbon will keep lines invisible and enable longer casts. Keep in mind plenty of big fish are also here with the tournament record of 35.03 for 6 fish still standing.

Hyco Lake

Successful anglers need to remember, Hyco has 3 distinct water types: Clear (the big water near the power plant), stained (water under the bridges going south of the plant on North Hyco Creek and South Hyco Creek), and near the ends of these creeks the water is dirty.

Fish points with Texas or Carolina rigs. Early AM and near dark use deep running cranks off of steep banks (20-30 feet of water). Water is clearing so natural looking bait is best.

Stained water, which is found in areas with a lot of coves, should be fished early and later in the day. Darker colored lures are best, especially when Texas rigged. Top water is good too. Mid-day you should fish the docks. Weightless plastics skipped up under the boats work well.

Also deep water points Carolina rigged work well mid-day.

Dirty water is best fished early in the morning as this water is shallow. Large dark colored lures fished close to cover, slow, with rattles and scents are great. “Spike It” on tails helps, too. You want to be Texas rigged.

Top water at these times can be great. Cooling water temps should have fishing moving shallow and staying shallow longer as deep-water summer trends begin reversing.

Lake Jordan

www.JoelRichardson.com has the bite at Jordan dependent on the movement of shad. If shad move up, fish the back half of shallow creek channels and around points.

Topwaters will work early and on low light or cloudy days. Black buzzbaits and Pop-R’s in smaller 1/4oz sizes are productive. The lake is full of really big rocks so if you’re out on a windy day, pattern this exact structure with spinnerbaits. Be sure to fish any stained water, which is usually from fresh run-off and well oxygenated which is attractive to baitfish.

If the shad decide to stay deep longer this year the bite is still going to very good, as long as you recognize the deep pattern. Remember if the shad stay deep so do the bass. The focus for the deep bite then will be similar to a traditional summer pattern, with deep offshore structure holding the fish. Deeper crankbaits and jigs will get the call. Joel recommends “the Haw River side of the lake” this time of year regardless of which pattern is working.

Shearon Harris

Guide Rich Szczerbala (919-418-2912) has both great numbers and great big fish hitting at this impoundment, arguably one of the best lakes in the Southeast for huge largemouths.

Fish are moving into creeks, like Whiteoak and Little Whiteoak, concentrating on vegetation edges and points. Start at the front of creeks, working back mid-way using Rattletraps and crankbaits. Focus on the bends of the creeks where baitfish tend to hold. Once the first couple of cold snaps hit, fish will take suspending jerk baits. “Crank it down 2-3 ft and just let it sit.”

Flipping Creature baits, Brushbaits and black and blue jigs at hydrilla mats and weed edges on 20lb fluoro can also be a great pattern, starting around the last two weeks of Sept. Five and six pound fish are not uncommon.

Falls Lake

Tarheel Guide Service at twiceprop@msn.com recommends the upper end of Falls, say from Ledgerock and points north. Early in the day, hit shallow flat points with blue Rattletraps. “Pay close attention to any points that have creeks close by or those with any wood.”

As you move up the lake you will encounter a series of bridges. Hit all the rip-rapped areas, again a Rattle trap is all you will probably need. The I-85 Bridge has a very good creek channel that fishes very well this time of year. “Crank it with a DT-10 Rapala then use Senko bait either Texas rigged or wacky style” Expect plenty of numbers of fish with a few good ones mixed in.

Second Annual Nautical Flea Market Announced by SCMA

October 25th, 2010

The South Carolina Marine Association (SCMA) announces its 2nd Annual Nautical Flea Market to be held
Saturday, October 23rd from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sportsman’s Island on Daniel Island. The event will be co-hosted by Sea Ray – Scout of Charleston in its parking area. Look for the Big Yellow Building off Clements Ferry Road!

Although we’re told the recession is over, anyone who makes their living on the water or enjoys water-related activities knows that boating has not yet reached recovery mode. SCMA hopes that a good old-fashion flea market will benefit both the sportsmen looking for less expensive equipment as well as marine businesses looking to reduce inventory.

Garage, dock box, boat lockers or storage area overflowing? Surely someone else needs what you can no longer use! Trade your unused or no longer used boating and fishing gear for some cash! Seller space will be assigned on arrival Saturday morning. All types of boating, diving, fishing and sailing gear is welcome but please, no boats larger than dinghies!

Looking for a spare anchor, bimini or propeller? Someone could be unloading just what you need! Plus, the holidays are right around the corner. You might stumble across the perfect gift for your favorite sailor or fisherman at a fraction of the price in a retail store.

Vendor spaces range from $10 to $50. To register and for more information, go online to www.scmarine.org under Events, call 843-889-9067 or email SCMarineAssn@gmail.com. Proceeds from the sales of vendor spaces will be used to fund SCMA programs.

The South Carolina Marine Association is a trade organization representing the interests of the boaters and boating businesses in South Carolina. The SCMA address is P.O.Box12187, Charleston, SC 29412. SCMA’s mission is “To promote the growth of recreational boating in South Carolina and a better boating experience in order to enhance the success of marine related activities in our state through an emphasis on the boating lifestyle, awareness and professionalism through economic, environmental, legislative and educational efforts.”

Oyster Reef Stimulus Project Begins

October 18th, 2010

Quarry workers, truckers, welders, barge operators, tug boat captains and heavy machine operators–these aren’t the kinds of jobs that usually come to mind when thinking about environmental projects. But they make up the backbone of an oyster-habitat restoration project that began this week in coastal North Carolina.

The N.C. Coastal Federation is partnering with local contractors, scientists from N.C. State University and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, North Carolina Sea Grant and the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to build and monitor approximately 47 acres of oyster reefs in Pamlico Sound.

“We’ve been busy preparing the barges and equipment for this project ever since we got the green light,” says Simon Rich, co-owner of Edenton- and Charleston, S.C.-based Steven’s Towing Co., the barge company responsible for ferrying limestone marl to the sanctuary sites. “We’ve been able to re-hire several of our guys, so we’re really happy about that. The first of the rock hit the water on Monday, and we’ll be working full steam ahead from now on, weather permitting.”

A $5 million federal economic stimulus grant is paying for the work. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) gave the grant to the federation. The agency’s stimulus money is being used to restore coastal habitats across the county. NOAA considered more than 800 projects for funding. The federation’s proposal was one of 50 selected, and the only one in North Carolina.

“The partners are excited for the chance to move North Carolina oyster restoration efforts forward, along with all the economic and environmental benefits that they bring,” explained Todd Miller, the federation’s executive director.

“This project reminds us that our economy and environment are intertwined,” said NOAA’s acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Jim Balsiger. “The Recovery Act is making it possible to hire local people to help restore an important part of North Carolina’s coastline that will strengthen the community’s environment and economy for the long term.”

During the two-year project, a small mountain of limestone marl, 54,500 tons, will be moved from a quarry in New Bern to a loading site in Belhaven and then barged offshore to build the oyster sanctuaries. In another component of the project, the grant will pay commercial fishermen to place 40,000 bushels of oyster shells in the water to give juvenile oysters, called ‘spat,’ more places to settle. The shell plantings, which are scheduled to begin in the spring, will take place at multiple sites up and down the coast and will create two acres of reef.

The sanctuary reefs will be mounds built in designated areas at Crab Hole, off of Stumpy Point in Dare County, and Clam Shoal, off of Hatteras Island, also in Dare. DMF has several test mounds already built at both locations. The reef mounds will be at least seven feet below the surface, but well off the bottom. This design allows the mounds to be high enough in the water that currents and circulation will encourage oyster spat settlement. The young oysters that attach to the rocks also will have plenty of light and food. Oyster fishing will be prohibited on the sanctuaries, but hook and line fishing will be permitted.

Similar mounds built at Ocracoke in 2005 have been very successful, noted Stopher Slade, DMF’s oyster sanctuary biologist. “We’ve had such good oyster recruitment that you can’t tell anymore where the individual pieces of marl are,” he says. “When biologists want to estimate how many oysters have settled on the reef, we’ve got to use a crow bar to dislodge a piece of marl. We’re hopeful that this project will prove to be just as successful.”

To help determine the project’s success, scientists from N. C. State University, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and North Carolina Sea Grant have designed a monitoring plan. They’ve already been in the water to assess pre-building conditions and will continue to monitor the sanctuary and cultch-planting sites as the project continues.

This work is part of an overall strategic plan to restore oyster habitat in coastal North Carolina. Historic maps, drawn by Francis Winslow from the 1880s, indicate that the Pamlico Sound was filled with oyster reefs. By some accounts more than 20,000 acres of oyster covered the bottom of the sound. The sanctuary locations were selected based on this historic data, reports and input from commercial fishermen and computer models that predict restoration success.

Though the project partners will deliver the materials and create the oyster sanctuaries, once the mounds are built, nature will continue the work, allowing the currents and oysters to carry on. Oysters on the reefs will multiply, cleaning the water and providing homes for the fish and other marine creatures. The reefs will continue to provide area residents’ with livelihoods that depend on the fishing, recreation and tourism.