With N.C. House Bill 483 looming, there has been discussion on the impact of the use of “mullet” for bait since “striped mullet” is one of the targeted fish in the “Let Them Spawn” bill.”
First of all, striped mullet, Mugil cephalus, are not related to sea mullet, aka kingfish, which are in the sciaenid/drum/croaker family. And although they are related to finger mullet (white mullet), technically Mugi curema, finger mullet are not small juvenile striped mullet.
Striped mullet, popularly known as hardhead, Popeye or jumping mullet and the ones celebrated annual at the Swansboro Mullet Festival, have black backs, flat heads and can be seen jumping frequently as they cruise the backwaters much of the year or in the surf after a “mullet blow” in the fall. They also grow much bigger than the white mullet, often over 10 pounds, and are prized for their roe and targeted by the stopnet fishery uniquely along Bogue Banks in October and November. The finger/white mullet are a small fish, have an olive back, no stripes, but also take part in our annual mullet blow events as they go offshore to spawn.
So why do they jump? Speculation abounds – to escape predators, for removing parasites, to coordinate spawning or aid in respiration. There is some evidence they gasp air in low oxygen environments, up to a five-minute supply, to aid in respiration. Who knows?
Recently, someone surmised they caught an Atlantic bonito. This was in the current 80-degree ocean waters.
I’m sure at this time, all those fish have long gone farther north following 65-degree waters. The misidentification is common, whereas the false albacore, or albies, have no real teeth, few scales, wavy-wormy lines all above lateral line, dark spots between pectoral (thoracic) and ventral (abdominal) fins, the bonito indeed have teeth, scales and distinct diagonal lines that go below lateral line. They also taste better.
This time of year, we also find another fish in the mix, the bullet mackerel which has markings like false albacore but is more tubular in shape, where the albies look like a football with a tail and are usually smaller.
Now the conundrum of sheepshead versus juvenile black drum: Both have prominent vertical black stripes, but as with all of our drum family, have two sets of dorsal fins, one short in the front and a longer dorsal fin toward the tail, and are spineless. They also have barbels on their chinny-chin-chin. The sheepshead, with its awesome set of sheep-like teeth, have a single dorsal fin loaded with sharp spines as they are related to Sparidae family, home to the very spiny pinfish, among others.
Finally, I hear often the claim of porpoises in our nearshore and inshore waters. The family of cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoises. Along our beaches and sounds, we have bottlenose dolphins (BNDs), not porpoises. The BNDs, known to terrorize our populations of gray trout, snack heavily on red drum.
So, what’s the difference between a bottlenose dolphin and a porpoise? Dolphins tend to have prominent, elongated “beaks” and cone-shaped teeth, while porpoises have smaller mouths and spade-shaped teeth. The dolphin’s hooked or curved dorsal fin (the one in the middle of the fish’s back) also differs from the porpoise’s triangular dorsal fin.
Remember “Flipper?” Did you know that orcas, despite their killer whale moniker, is actually a dolphin! And remember, all dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins.
From surf to inside
So how is the fishing? Personally, bad for me.
I fished the surf and Bogue Inlet from the beach, I’ve worked local creeks along Highways 24 and 58 up to Haywood Landing without success. I’ve thrown metal, plastic (hard and soft) and occasionally even a Gulp! on a Bucktail without success.
The surf is slim pickings as far as bait. Some little shads, being terrorized by the terns and killifish (tiger minnows), are along the beach, but there is no indication of other baits. Particularly missing are menhaden and silversides. The creeks and White Oak River at Haywood Landing had plenty of peanut pogies, mullets, pinfish and mud minnows, but again, no predators.
I have heard of drum and trout in our backwaters, but nobody is releasing GPS locations! There are good catches of specks on top-water baits and some drum early in the day in the New and Neuse rivers.
More specifically, I have heard of good-sized specks taken on artificials caught in the feeder creeks off of Core Creek. These are areas often targeted on high water for tailing red drum. They usually hold shrimp, but the shrimp are currently a bit hard to find. I actually heard of a speck or two taken from the Atlantic Beach surf!
Staying inside, the flounder bite has been as good as it has been in several years, and the giggers are loading up. Some of the photos and videos show the flounder literally stacking up along the flats. Hook-and-line fishermen are also doing OK with mullet or other live baits. I’ve even gotten a couple of keepers from the surf this spring.
Near the beach, the mackerel bite is still going OK to good with Spanish to 5 pounds and kings to 25 pounds in the 2- to 10-mile range out of Bogue and Beaufort inlets. Last week with the dead calm, there were plenty of boats streaming out the inlets, many so small they probably hadn’t seen the inlets and beyond for several years.
At Cape Lookout, think Spanish and medium-size blues, not teen choppers, but 6- to 7-pounders. There are also some small false albies, not bonito or bullet mackerel.
The big ones
If you want the big ones, like the 70-pound king mackerel recently weighed in at Chasin’ Tails, check ut the east side, specifically AR 285 where 30s, 40s and 50s have also been reeled in.
Reef donkeys are also out there on structure on both east and west of the shoals and includes Northwest Places, Big 10/Little 10 and the Hutton, not surprisingly.
What are some other biggies? The tarpon are here! We see them passing the piers in pods early in the morning, and some have been landed in the Neuse/Pamlico area as we often see in the summer. The Oriental Tarpon Tourney is not far behind. There are also a few cobia, mostly taken on bottom rigs as bycatch.
Piers and offshore
How about pier fishing?
Oceanana Pier reports flounder and blues.
At Bogue Inlet Pier, there are scattered mullet, croakers, spots very small flounder, few Spanish or blues and a keeper pompano or two. There were no silversides to be found to hold the predators. There were pods of tarpon passing about 200 feet out.
Seaview Pier reports blues and Spanish, red and black drum, sea mullet and specks. People who are crabbing the pier are getting some nice blue claws for dinner.
Surf City Pier reports a triple tail fish. We see them from time to time. There was also some king mackerel action, Spanish to 5 pounds, spots and sea mullet.
Jolly Roger Pier reports slow fishing this past week with a few blues, and at night, some spots and croakers.
Offshore, the mahi action is still hot with the best spot being 40 miles out where there is a great weed line and gaffer bulls. A lesser weed line is about 20 miles out, but the fish are smaller.
There are also reports of some small fish nearshore at Jerry’s Reef, Christmas Rock and AR 345, along with kings, Spanish and flounder on the bottom.
If you are into keeping up with turtle nesting here on Emerald Isle, we are up to 21 and counting.
It looks like a bumper-crop year, maybe like 2016?
Finally, get ready for the closure of the flounder harvest which will likely come on or about Aug. 23. Regulations are to restore the decimated southern flounder stocks, but all flounder harvest, including summer and Gulf, our ocean-going flounder, will be shut down too. See http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=29540849&name=DLFE-140729.pdf.
And it’s probably time to get acquainted with the “Let Them Spawn” bill (HB 483) as well.
2) “Ask Dr. Bogus” is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.