Remember the great Al Pacino movie “Dog Day Afternoon”? Well, no reason to rob a bank, but we are officially in the dog days of summer, so what are the dog days?
Webster defines “dog days” as 1) the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere; 2) a period of stagnation or inactivity. Sound familiar? Stagnation and inactivity not only apply to us but often the fish we are targeting too.
With the heat indices 90 to 100 degrees, we are firmly in the “dog days,” but what of the ancient origins? Millennia ago, when “we” looked to the heavens for our inspiration and answers, it was observed that one of the brightest stars in was Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, aka the Big Dog.
This star was so bright that the Romans thought that we even received heat from it. Now in the summer, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. In late July, the dog star is actually in conjunction (lined up) with our sun. It was believed that because of this alignment the heat from the Sirius was added to that of the sun, creating a period of hot, sultry weather.
The Romans sacrificed a dog at the beginning of the dog days to appease the “rage” of Sirius, but thankfully in our wisdom, we have other options at our hand to beat the heat and the summer fishing doldrums without endangering man’s best friend. Think techniques and targets, that is, modify our summer fishing practices and target more available summer species. Sounds like a plan!
First, techniques: Heating of the day forces fish to feed more often early and late, predawn and post sunset and at night, so targeting these low-light times of day will increase your catching success, as will fishing in deeper, cooler water or shady areas like under piers and docks and around bridges.
Now how about targeting midsummer fish species? The first species that comes to mind is the Florida pompano.
We have had a good pompano season already, but these fish stick around through the summer and return south in the fall. These tasty fish are found in the surf and around ocean fishing piers and can be caught on fresh baits like sand fleas and fresh shrimp, as well as on the Fishbites family of baits, and even bare and naked gold hooks jigged from fishing piers.
Less common targets include nearshore spadefish and tripletails. We find these critters during midsummer over the nearshore reefs, wrecks and rock ledges. The spadefish, which look like giant angel fish, often travel in schools by our reefs and around the piers and are mostly caught on chunks of cannonball jellyfish, which can be used as chum to attract the spadefish as well.
Tripletails mostly inhabit waters around oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic, but invariably some big ones are caught her every summer. Baits include small fish and shrimp often fished on a cork. Interestingly, like some other fish, they are often found “hiding” under floating flotsam or jetsam debris. They are also often floating on their sides. I have seen 20-pounders landed from Bogue Inlet Pier, and the state record is over 27 pounds, landed from Ocean Crest Pier in 2009.
If you are fishing the nearshore waters with live bait, Spanish and king mackerel are a great target this time of year. But remember early and late are best and run your lines deeper to get to cooler water.
This year, the king mackerel bite has been excellent with big smokers in the 20- to 50-pound range, the norm.
Summer fishing in the Neuse River is often equated with the trophy old drum fishery.
As we approach August, this fishery has been finally heating up with reports of citation fish being caught. This is a special fishery, and with the hot water that we have, a quick catch and release is important to ensure the survival of our state fish.
Cut mullet and menhaden are traditional baits with Owen Lupton barbless circle hook or similar rigs required. More recently, popping corks are being used in conjunction with soft plastic, artificial baits, or even flies are scaring up the fish.
If you are fishing the Neuse/Pamlico area, this is also the time for targeting tarpon. Several have already been reported. Cut or live fish baits are recommended or whole blue crabs, while peelers crabs are also great baits. Of course, by-catch for both old reds and tarpon include monster rays and sharks.
Then one of the “poor man’s” tarpon, the ladyfish, is a great summer fishery for us light-tackle anglers, both from surf and inside the inlets and docks, especially at night. These fish have bony mouths and are amazing acrobatic leapers.
We’ve talked about the following two species in the last few weeks, so I will only mention them in passing, that is sheepshead and black drum. Both have produced excellent catches this summer so far and are both munchers and crunchers feeding around hard structure.
Finally, the ultimate crunchers, the delightful blue crabs. Right now, there have been excellent catches from our ocean fishing piers and in our back waters. Chicken necks, filet o’ fish remnants, are typical baits on string lines or your favorite crab pot or trap.
Being in the dog days, fishing has been slow particularly from the surf and piers. There are croakers along the beach, along with as many lizardfish as you want. There are also still excellent catches of flounder as we approach the reopening of the season on Aug. 16. I can’t wait to get back to floundering! It will be good from surf, piers and in backwaters.
Finding reliable fishing info gets tough this time of year, but if it’s slot reds you want, there is a decent bite in the Newport River marshes and up Core Creek.
There are still good catches in the Morehead City Port area and in the Neuse and New rivers. Also, Monday will give us a nice, late-day full moon with high tides, perfect for fishing tailing reds in the grass.
Put that on the calendar.
Now for our ocean fishing piers: Fishing has slowed noticeably due to the heat and tepid water.
Oceanana Pier reports Spanish, croakers and blues.
Bogue Inlet Pier reports poor numbers of fish but good variety of the few that are there, including spots, croakers, a gray trout, one 11-pound bluefish a few big Spanish and plenty of lizardfish and blue crabs.
Seaview Pier reports a slow week with some big Spanish, a few blues and no kings.
Surf City Pier also had a slow week. That’s all they reported: “slow!”
Jolly Roger Pier also reports s-l-o-w fishing with no kings last week but a few trout, blues and Spanish early and late in the day. Also a few croakers, black drum and sea mullet at night.
Finally, there were reports of some anglers fishing the restricted Browns Inlet area and picking up and bringing back to Dudley’s Marina in Swansboro some unexploded ordnance, causing Dudley’s and Highway 24 to close down.
This is an active firing range of Camp Lejeune and is restricted and well-marked.
For regulations covering Browns Inlet and the restricted surrounding area, log onto https://www.lejeune.marines.mil/Visitors/Browns-Island-Policy/.
Be kind, be safe, catch fish, enjoy and leave the turtle nests and unexploded ordnance alone.
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.