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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for February 2021

Surf at Bogue Pier had a Low of 49°, high of 55° with an average of 51.6° +/- 1.5° curve was nearly flat with a small positive slope and again above normal for the month, typical for February. Bogue Sound had a low of 41° and a high of 59° and an average of 49.0° +/-4.0. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Shorebird Nesting Area/Program at the Point in Emerald Isle (WTKF 107.1 FM, Radio Interview of Ed Phillips, 1/18/21) by Dr.Bogus, Ed Phillips and Mike McHugh

Dr. Bogus: My many days wandering down at the EI Point fishing I bumped into somebody named Ed Phillips riding his bike up and down the street, crossing over the dunes. He’s part of the shorebird nesting program. Good morning Ed. Give people a brief history of your background, then we’ll talk about the bird nesting program which has its ups and downs in Emerald Isle.

Ed Phillips: I retired from the Navy active duty for 28, then I worked for the Federals and moved down here full time in 2016. I’ve been an avid birder since the last 10-years. I’ve been a birder for 40-years.

Dr. Bogus: You can see my hat, it’s a Chilean Ornithological Society hat from my daughter who lives in Chile.

Ed Phillips: So anyway, once I retired, I had a lot more time and I go down to the point. I was in northern Virginia, northern Delaware and there’s not a lot of shore birds. So I’d been really working the point trying to sort them out and one day I was down there a lady came up and said: “do you see any least terns?” And I said I think there is a few over there. Well it turns out that they had a program to put up some enclosures to protect the nesting birds and I just kind of volunteered for that.

Dr. Bogus: There are a lot of protected bird nesting areas on the Outer Banks and Ocracoke and down here. The one at Emerald Isle is interesting because after Bertha and Fran…there was no point and I remember for years the birds were nesting the roof of the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center.

Ed Phillips: They still do to somewhat, and that’s kind of universal, that’s not unique here to this area. We see them nesting every summer up on the Food Lion.

Dr. Bogus: They got the stones up there; it’s probably a nice safe nesting area too.

Ed Phillips: Well yes and no. It’s safe from most predators; they also nest up on the Best Buy right here in Morehead. What would happen is that they nest up there because it’s very similar to their habitat on the beach, there’s a lot of gravel and all that, but there no shade, whenever a thunderstorm comes through it typically destroys the nest with any high winds. So we’ve had very little success.

Dr. Bogus: One of the things that happened 2005, we remember the big event in Emerald Isle when they moved the Inlet. And people think what happened after that was that they pumped a lot of sand on the beach, which they didn’t! That whole point just accreted naturally, almost all of it is just natural accretion there, and it rebuilt the point. Now that point is back to probably what is was before that…I measured one day about 1/3rd of a mile between the ramp and the inlet, and not only is there sand there but there is vegetation, nice dunes.

Ed Phillips: Nice dunes good vegetation.

Dr. Bogus: So the shore bird nesting program, describe that, is it a local program or something with Marine Fisheries or how does this work?

Ed Phillips: It’s actually set up and coordinated by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. They are the ones that have the over-all authority for putting up the enclosure and monitoring the birds. What they did was in 2004 they entered into an agreement with the town of Emerald Isle. So we’ve got, we’re looking at the engineering plans here, when they do migrate this channel a little further west towards the center, we know there’s going to be some accretion and we know that this point is going to build. And there’s birds that had been nesting on a couple of islands out there…

Dr. Bogus: One we used to call Bird Island.

Ed Phillips: Right and those islands were basically removed inundated when they did the dredging. The birds they’re smart and they relocated and started populating the point. Coincidental, what happened, it was kind of funny, there was a grade school girl who happened to be walking along the point and she noticed the nesting birds, she told a guy who told a guy who was running a conservation program out of a church up in New Bern. So he kinda got set up the “Shorebird Stewards” in 2015, so that’s how that came about.

Dr. Bogus: There is a lot of area, a lot of sand at the point now, and there is a fairly big area that is cordoned off for the bird nesting, how is that selected and do you know how much of the area is for bird nesting?

Ed Phillips: Right, I do. The agreement with the town of Emerald Isle, who has been extremely supportive as has the Emerald Isle police and actually the residents and the visitors. When we interact with them they have no clue what we are doing, but once we point out the little nesting birds and why they are doing what they are doing…I’ve talked to probably 100 people and they are all, without exception interested, excited and grateful. So what we do is, the agreement they entered into with the town is from the dune grass-line down to the high tide line, they can fence no more than 70%. They have to leave 30% available for public access at a minimum. They can get greater than 30%, that’s good. What they look at generally is the habitat, where do you think these birds will nest? The way they nest is…

Dr. Bogus: It’s hardly a nest!

Ed Phillips: If you took your heel and just tapped it on the soft sand, that’s their nest! And they lay 1 or 2 or 3-eggs in there and they sit on the eggs for 3-weeks, the chicks hatch and after about 3-weeks they fledge to the point where they can fly and fend for themselves. But they need about a 30-yard buffer.


Dr. Bogus: Actually they, there are two things about it, first the birds can’t read so they don’t know where the designated nesting area is, they’re illiterate, but also it’s set up in such a way you can still go own to the Coastguard Channel, there is a pathway there. And there is a pathway straight down to the inlet and there is plenty of room in front of it on the beach side for people who are swimming, beaching or fishing or whatever.


Ed Phillips: Right, and with the winter storms and everything and the movement of the sand, movement of the dunes and all that, they alter the enclosure every year. And it’s really two enclosures. If you come off that walkway that you come down, to the left of that is the largest enclosure, several acres that goes towards the ocean proper, and then to the right going up to that little sound area over where there is much more dunes (Dr. B: “towards the CG Channel”), that’s a separate area and we have different birds in that area.

Mike McHugh: Before we go to a break, I have a question. You mentioned earlier about predators for the birds. What are some of the common predators that you find on Emerald Isle?

Ed Phillips: The ones we are most concerned about actually are human beings, with the dogs not being on a leash, that’s the most, we don’t see very many feral cats, probably a raccoon or two occasionally it’s been reported a coyote. Some of the other predators are airborne, some of these large gulls.

Mike McHugh: Do the eggs get attacked the ghost crabs, they do that with turtle nests.

Ed Phillips: Yes, yes, that’s one I forgot, that’s a good one a big ghost crab. As a matter of fact these illiterate birds, I watched them last year and what they do…they are colonial nesters, safety in numbers much like ants and if they have a threat they lift off and go after the threat.

Dr. Bogus: They are very aggressive.

Ed Phillips: Yes they are, but we watched 3 or 4 of them, and they make themselves look bigger by raising their wings, they chased a ghost crab, and it was a good sized crab …they chased him right to the edge of the fence and then they sopped and went back to their business. Who says they can’t read!

Dr. Bogus: We’re not inundated by snow geese right now not like up in Delaware, you mentioned the…there are a number of different birds that nest in that area, the prime one is probably the least tern, those little bitty guys.

Ed Phillips: The least tern are amazing little birds, the smallest tern that we have in North America, they are very white, they have a bright yellow bill and they have a white forehead, it’s quite distinctive. And the way Pete Dunn puts it is they are always moving. Even their flight is fast, when they dip down to the water and get a fish they come up immediately and we have a lot of those. Last year I counted a 118…


Dr. Bogus: How do you do that? How do you count the birds?

Ed Phillips: I approach the area from the walkway and I have a little notebook and I make a rough sketch and then I walk 10, 20-yards and set up a scope and I start counting the ones that look to me are in a nesting posture and I just make tick marks and I go all the way around.  Yah I’m going to double count some, I’m going to miss some and all that so…as most data after a while it averages out. So last year was very successful, I know that you noticed last year the enclosure was huge. It went much closer to the surf line than we normally do.

Dr. Bogus: There was still plenty of room, but it was noticeably closer to the surf line.

Ed Phillips: I think because of that and I think because of COVID and the lack of people at the beach, we had a really, really successful year. I counter 118 nesting pairs and I don’t know how many chicks, and then they all left pretty early like mid-July they were pretty much gone. Which means they had been successful.

Mike McHugh: Where do they go Ed?

Ed Phillips: South America, the northern coast, a little bit along Mexico and the Caribbean.

Mike McHugh: So what is their northern limit, if they are here nesting?

Ed Phillips: They go as far north as Maine.

Mike McHugh: So up and down along the Atlantic Coast…down to South America.

Ed Phillips: But they are fascinating little birds, they are colonial breeders, they are excellent parents, they lay 1 to 3-eggs, they take turns sitting on the eggs. When it gets hot, which it does pretty quickly here, they will actually fly out on the water, come back wet and sprinkle some water on the eggs to keep them from boiling. That’s another issue with the dogs, and with the people approaching the fence line too closely…the birds will lift off to go after you to scare you away. If you are there too long, like I’m sensitive to that when I’m with my scope, if I’m standing there too long, it doesn’t take but about 10, 12, 15-minutes for those eggs to actually cook and they are done! But they are aggressive and they are fun.

Mike McHugh: Do the adults mate for life?

Ed Phillips: Yes sir they do.

Mike McHugh: What is the life span typically for a tern in the wild?

Ed Phillips: I think the oldest they measured was 26 years, but that is probably an anomaly, I’d say in the 20-year range.

Mike McHugh: Boy they have some miles on their wings if they have lived over 2-decades and they are doing that back and forth down the coast, that’s amazing!

Dr. Bogus: There are a couple other kinds of birds nesting there.

Ed Phillips: The other species, the ones you’re going to see the most if you are a beach goer or fisherman down there is you ‘re going to see the least terns, they are beautiful, they are white and you‘ll see them out there when you are casting in the surf. They will fly out and they will hover right near you dive, get a fish and go back. Those are the least terns; we have several hundred of those there every year. Up on the other side the other enclosure the one that is closer to the Coast Guard Channel, There is a couple birds called the willet and we had 2-pairs of those nesting, which was kind of interesting. I did see a nesting of clapper rails. I’ve never seen this…

Dr. Bogus: Boy that’s unusual.

Ed Phillips: It really is. I was just standing there and I happened to look up and I saw 2-adults and two chicks! So that was a red letter day, and then the other one that we had was probably more important was a Wilson’s plover.


Dr. Bogus: Them I’ve seen there too.

Ed Phillips: That’s very similar to the killdeer that most of you have seen run around fields and in your yard, it’s a plover.


Dr. Bogus: They act similar too when they lie on the ground.


Ed Phillips: And their behavior is to get you away from their nest instead of bombing you like the least terns. They just run away and hope you‘re going to follow them. So those are the 4.

Mike McHugh: The clapper rails where are they more common.

Dr. Bogus: Oh they are common here you just don’t see them.


Ed Phillips: When you go out fishing in the inland waterway or out in the marsh you hear them ALL the time. Let me give a plug for the Shorebird Stewards. We are a volunteer group, we’re looking for people to join us, we have a Facebook page it’s called Beach Bird Stewards of Emerald Isle ( Come on down there and go for a walk!

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Average Weekly Surf Temps in Emerald Isle 1995-2021

  • 2021 NCDMF Recreational regulations (, Fishing License since Jan-2007 (, 1-888-HUNTFISH, 1-888-248-6834), trout 4/day, 14-in.
  • Water temperatures…who!
    1. Winter (low, in 40s Dec, Jan, Feb) March (50s) April (60s, magic temp. 65°), May (70s)
    2. Fish and temperature croaker (45°), sea mullet/trouts/blowfish (48°), bluefish (50°), B&R drum (52°), spot/flounder (56°), sheepshead (58°), Atlantic bonito/false albacore (60-62°), Spanish/king Mackerel (65-68°)
  • Piers/surf
    1. Just opening (List of remaining piers) Blanket licenses for piers, but check for 2021.
    2. Oceanana, Bogue Inlet, Sheraton/Double Tree-no fishing (Seaview, Surf City, Jolly Roger)
    3. March/April, Sea mullet, blowfish, skates, sharks (dogfish), black drum, blues, false albys, gray trout, bluefish late March, early April (1 to 2 lbs. and skinny Hatteras blues-April), blackfin tuna!
    4. Can’t get fresh shrimp, fish strips, squid (Fishbites-shrimp/bloodworms, Gulp!).
      1. Did you freeze finger mullet last fall, parboil your sand fleas?
    5. May Day, Spanish on the piers and nearshore, start CL Jetty and go west along beach (Gotcha, Clark Spoons, Speck Rigs)
  • Sound
    1. Lots of tiny minnows around now along with peanut bunker and mullet (big and small)
    2. Creeks-puppy drum (also shoals at inlets), CL shoals!
    3. Speckled trout (should be showing/returning from ocean, and grays too)
    4. Flounder that wintered over, but many early flounder on nearshore reefs, wrecks and rocks (315, 320, 330… etc) Flounder regs for 2020, Closed, will open TBD???, ??-in. ?/day.
    5. Early run of hungry (less fussy) sheepshead (April/May) (10-in. FL , 10/day)
    6. Grubs (float), live mud or mullet minnows or pinfish, MirrOlures, top water
  • Rivers
    1. Hickory Shad (March/April), Stripers (April/May) anadromous spawners. Roanoke, Neuse, Tar and Creeks. (Check for current regs).
  • Inshore
    1. False albacore Atlantic bonito (into mid-May, sea mullet, blues, gray trout
    2. Artificial reefs (AR 315, 320, 340, 342)-sea bass, black drum (14-25 in.10/day), gray trout
    3. CL Jetty, Beaufort inlet, Dead Tree Hole (GPS = 34 39.24, 76 38.06)
    4. Many early season flounder on nearshore reefs, wrecks and rocks (315, 320, 330… etc)
    5. Cobia 2010 excellent but 2012/13 good, poor 2018, 2019, 2020.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for January 2021

Surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 57°, low of 50° with an average of 52.8° +/- 1.7° curve was very flat with only a small range and a very small negative slope, but again above normal for the month. We are early into February and still haven’t dropped below 50° in the surf as yet. Sound had a high of 60° and a low of 42° and an average of 49.8°. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.


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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for December 2020
Surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 63°, low of 53° with an average of 57.3°, 10 degrees colder than November°, steadily dropping through the month but again above normal for the month. Sound had a high of 61° and a low of 45° and an average of 51.4°. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for November 2020
Surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 72°, low of 64° with an average of 67.5°, and again above normal for the month. Sound had a high of 72° and a low of 52° and an average of 63.1°. November’s surf and sound showed wild roller coaster swings. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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 “Well…Excuses Me!” by Dr. Bogus


Did you ever have a bad day, a bad week, a year or awful decade of fishing? Of course you have. So how did you deal with the ignominy of it all, the embarrassment of coming home empty handed? Explaining away your failure to your spouse or friends or neighbors. Did you lament to the fishing gods?  Hurl well-chosen pertinent curses at a poor blameless fish? Well if this happens this season, and it will, I have alternatives for you, insults and excuses for the most ardent angler to allay any blame on the obvious. It’s time to point a fickle finger at the real or perceived culprit. Well, to paraphrase Steve Martin, “Excuses Me”!

Topping the list are the myriad of natural and unnatural forces beyond your control. This includes some of the big weather hitters, a spring or late season Nor’easter or worse a hurricane stirring up the seas dirtying the water and blowing the fish to kingdom come. Remember the March 1993 “Storm of the Century” and the evil twin hurricane sisters Bertha and Fran, or the bad boys Dennis and Floyd? Of lesser weather events we have the troublesome east wind, as in “east is least and west is best”? Have you ever had a good fishing day on an east wind?

Even if you don’t have to deal with officially named or unnamed mega storms, we know that any rain event causes runoff, turning the water into something resembling cappuccino and diluting the salinity to eye-popping osmotic lows. And yes we can handle excuses for all possibilities and extremes, since we the recent drought has pushed the salt-line way up the creeks and rivers as well. Neither of those extremes can be good for fishing.

On Bogue Banks we have way less piers that we used to, not only Bertha and Fran and their evil “H-word” cousins but the sweeping hand of the development wrecking ball as well has reduced our once numerous fishing piers to a paltry two piers these days. But which side of the pier is the best to fish on, the east or west?  Yes east or west, remember our island is a south-facing beach. So to get your seasonal orientation right, try to remember this Bogue Banks pier-fishing ditty, “In the spring and summer east is least and west is best, but in the fall and winter west is least and east is the beast”. If your seasonal geography is wrong, you will miss the migrating throngs of spots and sea mullet and pompano and the like.

On the other hand there are those pesky calm days when the water is flat and glassy, green and clean, gin clear as it were, you know you’ll never fool a speckled trout under those conditions. Then there are the days where the surf looks cloudy, a milky white right along the surf line, that’s finely powdered calcium carbonate, the stuff of shells suspended in the water. Is there any self-respecting fish that wants to pump that stuff through their gills? I think not!

When we talk about weather, one of the most important factors that influences fish behavior is the water temperature. That’s why I dip the pointy end of my thermometer in the surf and sound on a daily basis. But like in the case of Goldilocks, it always seems to be too hot or too cold, never juuuuust right. And of course a no-no is any rapid temperature change, heating up too fast in the summer or falling like a brick to frigid depths overnight. And then there are those all to frequent cold-water winter trout kills. Troutsicles!

If I haven’t helped you yet, here are a few more excuses that may tickle your fancy and defend your anglerhood.




Of course extra stuff in the water is never good either. For example, red tide bad, very bad. Weeds, such as sargassum imported from the Gulf Stream, beach grass imported from recently washed away beach dunes, snot weed, turd weed, eelgrass, sea oats, all bad. Docks and beach walkways floating in the surf…bad. Too many boats, SeaDoos, surfers or bathers…bad too. Florence really took its toll.

We’ve all been there, fishing the creeks, White Oak River, or the surf, stop-netters, gill-netters, pound nets and shrimp trawls…not a good sign, too much competition.

Speaking of stuff in the water, how about critters. We know the havoc that can be caused by too many hungry pinfish, spiny dogfish, stingrays and the ever-present clearnose skates in the surf or around the pier. You can’t even get your bait to the bottom to give a self-respecting mullet, spot or drum a chance to find your hook. And on top of that, you spend half your time taking these bait pilfering critters off your hook, risking life and limb.

Then there are top predators like flipper, the bottlenose dolphin, fun to watch but eating everything in sight and chasing everything they don’t eat hightailing it into the deep blue yonder. Ditto for gator Hatteras blues, barracudas and sharks. Even if you catch something, you may have to share your catch with one of these critters of the deep, and they don’t say please. Jellyfish? I’m not sure, but in a pinch I’d use it as an excuse with conviction and without a wink, a blink, a sigh or a smirk.

Then there are some natural conditions that we might not have gotten quite right. When did you ever get the tide just right? What is the right tide? High tide, low tide, slack tide, moving or not, so many choices, so many ways to go wrong. Then there are days the tide or wind is so strong you can’t hold bottom, and it’s not your fault. Sometimes the bite is early like at 0-dark-thirty, but you’re not an early riser. Sometimes the bite is great at night, but this day, to your dismay, you watched the sunrise, when the moonlight angling would have filled your cooler with sea mullet or spot. So what about the moon? Full moon or no moon, half moon or crescent, moon above your head, or moon below your feet. I guess you’ll just have to check those famous Knight’s Solunar Tables. Do they really work? And do fish check the signs of the zodiac too? How about Pisces?

Of course you’ll need bait to catch fish. A rule of thumb with natural baits is that fresh is better but live is best. Maybe today you had the wrong bait, or some refrozen old and mushy and stinky bait, or shrimp that was sitting in the sun on the pier railing too long and now resembles shrimp jerky. Remember if you won’t eat the shrimp you’re using for bait, the fish may stick up their noses at it too. Always buy “people” shrimp at the shrimp stand. Unless you need the excuse…“my bait was bad,” or “I had the wrong bait,” and both are as believable as any.

Bait not only includes the bait you use, whether natural or artificial, but the bait available to the targeted fish swimming around in the water. However, NO bait in the water is never a good sign, making “matching the hatch” a moot point.

If you are having a bad year, not just a bad day or two, you’ll need to invoke more global excuses, try blaming beach nourishment, inlet relocation, or it’s a bad year for …(fill in the blank) or maybe global warming. That’s really in vogue these days. If you are having a bad decade, just throw up your hands and exclaim, “bad luck, always happens to ME.” Excuses, excuses, so maybe you just should have been there yesterday!

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Black curve is the average data from 1996 to 2020. Colorful squares are 2020 data to the present. X-axis is week of the year, Y-axis Water temperature at Bogue Pier. Lone vertical bar near the top of the graph is 4th of July.  Pretty warm temps for the 2020 year so far.


November surf (blue diamonds) and sound (red squares) water temps fr Emerald Isle.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for October 2020
Surf at Bogue Pier had a Low of 71°, high of 75° only a slight 4° difference, with an average of 73.3°, and again above normal for the month. Sound had a Low of 65° and a high of 76° and an average of 71.3°. October’s surf and sound were mild and basically flat throughout the month, during a month we often see a noticeable drop-off. By the end of October we had a season total 27 named storms now well into the Greek Alphabet and more forming into November. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.