Several Unusual Catches and One State Record Highlight August Tar Heel Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver
It’s often been said that when the water warms up off the Carolina Capes, there is no telling what you might catch. I’ve got no argument as there have been years I’ve seen bonefish, permit, and more. As warm as the ocean water has been this year, I have been expecting to hear of more warmer water fish than have been reported. Of course, the next big or unusual catch could easily come immediately after I press the send key to post this. I’ve already had to revise it once to add a new catch.
Nearshore Miniature SailfishIt really isn’t a huge surprise to hear of a few sailfish caught within sight of land each year. Once the ocean water warms to near the same as the Gulf Stream and bait starts heading inshore, the hungry fish follow them. I have caught sailfish at 4 Mile Rock off Drum Inlet, 45 Minute Rock off Bogue Inlet, the 90s off Ocean Isle Beach and McGlammery Reef off Oak Island. The 90s is the farthest of these offshore and you can easily see the buildings at Ocean Isle from it. No one is really surprised hearing about these catches.
What about little sailfish caught from the piers and boat fishermen just off the beach? That gets your attention doesn’t it? It sure gets mine.
I vaguely remember hearing of a small sailfish caught from a pier 10 or more years ago. I think this was at one of the Topsail Island piers, but I couldn’t find a story about it or any records. This August I have been able to verify four.
Josh Tolson of Manteo caught and released the first small sailfish from Jeanette’s Pier in Nags Head on August 9. The next day, Hampton Sylvia of Kill Devil Hills caught and released two from Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills. Then, the action slowed until August 22, when one was caught and released from Rodanthe Pier in Rodanthe, by Russell Warren of Avon. Most have been caught on Got-Cha or similar plugs while jigging for Spanish mackerel.
This would be quite the catch on any pier in the old north state, but these are especially noteworthy for being caught off piers north of Cape Hatteras. The N.C. Coast from the Virginia state line to Cape Hatteras typically has the coolest water of anywhere on the N.C. Coast. This is where the Labrador Current runs down the coast on its way to crash into the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras. However, this water is anything but cold this year and has been holding around 80 degrees for a while.
Yet another miniature sailfish was caught by the charter boat Fish Hook off Little River Inlet at the N.C./S.C. state line. Mate Jesse Overman set a spread for Spanish mackerel a little outside the inlet when this little fellow hit a pink flash Clarkspoon. Overman said the charter was thrilled to see the little sailfish and release it back overboard. It and Warren’s fish were a few inches larger than the others, but all would qualify as miniature sailfish.
I remember hearing reports of small sailfish hitting Clarkspoons while trolling for Spanish before, but it is rare. There was a run of sorts at Ocracoke one year in the late 80s or early 90s. Of course, you need to realize that a run of these little fish is a half dozen or more in the same general area, so this is well on its way to becoming a run…
I’ll never forget the first of these I ever heard of. I can’t say I saw them as they were caught or released, but I saw the replicas. These were caught by Capt. Virgil Barnes on the charter boat Riptide out of Southport in the early 1970s. He had a Spanish charter at Frying Pan Shoals and they caught a double, with the larger one about 18 inches and the other a couple of inches shorter. Capt. Barnes was so taken with the little sailfish he had replica mounts made and hung them in his living room. I was friends with his sons and always stopped and admired those little fellows whenever I visited.
Avon Pier Dolphin
This was earlier in the summer, but bears mentioning here. On June 15, young Austin Smith caught a 34 inch dolphin from Avon Pier while participating in a youth angler fishing tournament. It was a surprise, but not as much as the small sailfish farther north. Avon Pier continued with the dolphin when more were caught on July 11 and 12. These were again nice, but not huge, dolphin. Several were caught this time and fishermen said the action fired up when some really blue water moved in and surrounded the pier for a few hours each day.
Surf City Mutton Snapper
Surf City Pier has a bit of a reputation for anglers catching fish generally thought to be of more southern waters. Last year they had a permit or two and I believe one year they had a bonefish, so there is a bit of a history there.
The latest unusual catch from Surf City Pier is a 17 inch Mutton Snapper caught by Harry Sholar on August 12. The pretty snapper weighed 2.63 pounds. Not only was this an unusual fish, but it is one that tastes really good and was large enough to be legal. One of the pier crew said Sholar said it was tasty.
9 Year Old Breaks State and World Scamp Records
There has only been one state record approved during August, but it was a good one. Nine year old Teddy Wingfield of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee caught a 32 pound scamp grouper on June 2. While a state record is quite an accomplishment, young Wingfield’s scamp also outweighed the word record, so he also applied for the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) All Tackle and Junior Angler World Records. The state record has been approved and the world records are expected to be approved at any time.
Wingfield, his dad and two of his brothers were fishing with Capt. Daniel Brisson on the Sunrise II, about 50 miles off Cape Lookout when the big scamp hit. He was fishing a Barefoot Jig sweetened with a piece of squid.
“It hit and I set the hook and began reeling,” young Wingfield said. “I knew I had to get it off the bottom quick to keep if from breaking off. We had lost several fish earlier and this felt like a big one. I moved it off the bottom a little and it began running. It was pulling hard and I gave it all I had to keep it coming up. My dad said it took me about 20 minutes to get it up, but it seemed like a lot longer. ”
“Teddy did a real good job with this fish,” said his dad, Joseph Wingfield. “He’s been fishing since he was small and we’ve been coming to Atlantic Beach and fishing with Captain Daniel (Brisson) on the Sunrise II for a few years, so he’s caught some nice fish. At one point during the fight, he got a little worried he might lose the fish and asked me for help, but I told him he was doing fine and just to stick with it and he would get it in.”
Joseph Wingfield said Capt. Brisson recognized it as a possible state record as soon as he saw it. He said he and Teddy got excited too when Capt. Brisson told them it was the largest scamp he had ever seen. Things got serious when they tried to weigh it and Brisson’s scale broke. They discussed heading in early to weigh the fish before it could lose weight but decided to stay a while longer because the fish were biting and Teddy and his brothers were having a lot of fun.
Wingfield’s scamp weighed 32 pounds even on the certified scales at the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach. A quick check showed the current state record was a 27 pound, 1 ounce fish caught by Toby Grantham off Atlantic Beach in 2012, so Wingfield and his dad filled out the application for a state record.
After completing the state record application, they checked and Wingfield’s fish was also more than 2 pounds heavier than the current world record of 29 pounds, 10 ounces. Teddy Wingfield also applied for the IGFA All Tackle and Junior Angler World Records. Young Wingfield said the word record application process is longer and they had to send the rig and a line sample with it.
Wingfield’s scamp was 43 inches long and 28 inches in girth. He was using a Penn Carnage jigging rod and a Canyon spinning reel loaded with 60 pound test line.