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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 62-degrees to a low of 50-degrees with an average of 54.7-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a high of 64-degrees but a low of 42-degrees with an average of 50.7-degrees (red squares).  Temperatures in December were near normal. Slope was negative showing a decrease was about 0.21-degrees/day.  For the year, the average temperature for 2016 was 66.4 around normal but cooler than 2016. Other plots are actual data for 2004 through 2016 with the average plot (black curve) for data from 1996-2016, and plot of each year’s data from 1995.

 

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Actual data for 2004 through 2016 with the average plot (black curve). See Below.

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Plot of each year’s data from 1995-2016 (See Below)

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 69-degrees to a low of 57-degrees with an average of 61.7-degrees (blue diamonds) about 10 degrees colder than last month. Bogue Sound had a high of 66-degrees but a low of 47-degrees with an average of 57.5-degrees (red squares), nearly 12 degrees colder than October.  Temperatures in November were near or slightly above normal. Slope was negative showing a decrease was about 0.32-degrees/day. Since mid-November, my surf temperatures have been taken along the beach just west of the pier in the Western access in Emerald Isle since the pier is closed due to major renovations. I have a bottle I can cast from the beach to collect the water.

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 78-degrees to a low of 66-degrees with an average of 71.8-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound also had a high of 78-degrees but a low of 61-degrees with an average of 69.3-degrees (red squares).  Temperatures in October were near or slightly above normal. Slope was negative showing a decrease was about 0.34-degrees/day.

 

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The lore and names behind the Rocks of the Crystal Coast, By Dr. Bogus and Capt. Lee Manning

There’s an old adage good fishing and structure go hand-in-hand. Food and shelter beget little fish, which beget bigger fish and so on to the biggest of fish. This goes for freshwater, saltwater, inshore, offshore and any shore you want to mention. North Carolina, appropriately known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, is awash in structure with wrecks, reefs and rocks that dot our coast from north to south. The central Crystal Coast region of the Old North State is particularly notable due to the proximity of natural near shore rocks and reefs readily accessible to the weekend small boater. Near shore rocks like Lost Rock, Christmas Rock and Honeymoon Rock are local fish havens and popular and productive fishing locations, but did you ever wonder how they got their names? I certainly have!

To demystify this lore of the sea, I consulted Capt. Lee Manning; a former schoolteacher turned charter captain over 30 (now more like over 40) years ago. Capt. Manning currently operates the Nancy Lee Fishing Center in Swansboro and his experience not only holds the key to finding fish, but a long resident of the area, he has absorbed much of the local lore of the rocks and reefs as well.

Highlighting the accessibility of these fishing structures, Manning said, “Well, we’re fortunate, out of Bogue Inlet that we have a lot of rocks that are close to our inlet, probably more than most areas around here. We have probably six or seven that are within four, five, or six-miles of the inlet and most of them are rocky bottom and most of them have coral on them.”

When asked how close is close, Manning said “The closest rocks are probably Station Rock and Keypost within just two or three-miles from the Bogue Inlet. Super fishing, all kinds of fish like flounder, sea bass and a little bit of everything and of course in the spring and fall we have the king mackerel that come in along with other fish along the shoreline too.”

As fisherman, we’re always interested in what the bottom really looks like. In response, Manning said that “I’m not a diver, so I have my own imagination. I imagine what it looks like. Over the years, we catch pieces and it looks like rock. Some of it looks like shell rock, like it’s cemented together, when you pull it up, some is coral. Most all the ledges drop of five, six maybe seven-feet, at different points of the rock areas.”

So how did some of these rocks get their names? “First of all, Station Rock,” said Manning, “got its name years ago before we had the Lorans and GPSs and all the sophisticated equipment. You would use the Swansboro Coast Guard Station; it had a tower on it, a lookout tower. You lined the tower up with the Swansboro water tower and you go straight out. With your “paper machine” which we had then, you would mark the bottom, plus you could use the line up with Bogue Pier and one of the houses on the beach (there was not so many houses on the beach back at that time), and you could find Station Rock real easy. So it was named because of the station lookout on the Coast Guard Station.” Sure makes sense.

Speaking of making sense, how about 45-Minute Rock?  “Forty five-Minute Rock”, said Manning, “ of course back years ago most of the boats that went out, with the speeds they ran, it took about 45-minutes to get there. They timed it and they would check the bottom with either wax or pitch from pine tree resin on a drop line and check the bottom and find it where it was shelly or bring up little pieces of rock on it, and of course they would start fishing in that area.”

Not all the names of the rocks are agreed upon by all. For example, “the Honey Hole and Sponge Rock,” said Manning, “are really the same rock.” “Over the years, it’s kind of changed. We always called it the Honey Hole. It’s the first section you get to when you go past 45-Minute Rock in a southerly direction. The divers started diving on it and found lots of sponge around the area and they started calling it Sponge Rock, and now the Honey Hole seems like it’s moved a little to the next set of rocks, and people started calling that the Honey Hole. But, Honey Hole and Sponge Rock were the same rock in the beginning,” said Manning.

“Farther out is the South East Bottoms, but it is the same thing,” said Manning, “it’s generally the first set of rocks to the southeast after you leave 45-Minute Rock.” When asked about the area, Manning responded, “Southeast Bottoms is a big area, a real big area with a lot of rocks, just to the east, southeast of Charlie (“C”) Buoy.” When asked about the fishing the bottoms, Manning smiled and said, “In the summertime you have all kinds of fish there. You have sailfish, dolphin (mahi-mahi), there’s even been wahoo caught out there. There is some of everything caught out in that area. It’s really a super good area and a super good king mackerel area too.” And it’s less than ten-miles out of Bogue Inlet, just set a southeasterly course.

With the rock locations well known, most people make the mistake to fish right on top of them, but as Manning was quick to point out, “Most of the rocks, if you go around them and fish them a lot, you’ll find little outcroppings all around the area in any direction and over the years, as I fish more, I fish were the ledges play out and the bottoms play out and the fish seem to congregate there more than the main part of the rocks. Maybe it’s because everybody fishes on the main part of the rock and the fish have moved out around the edges.”

Since it’s presumed that the rock locations were well know, how did Lost Rock get its name? “Well,” said Manning, “Lost Rock, is a rock that the biggest part of the rock runs perpendicular to the shore and was always very, very hard to find. You could be real close to it but ride right by it, and it was located in such a place that it was hard to look at the shoreline and find line-ups. We would fish on it once or twice a year when we would happen to stumble across it. And of course, once we got the Lorans and GPSs we finally got numbers on it, it wasn’t lost anymore. But we called it Lost Rock, because we couldn’t ever find it.”

One of the best close-in fishing rocks is Keypost, which is found directly out from the end of Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle. Describing the Keypost manning said, “It is really a long rock. They call it Inner Keypost, Outer Keypost, there’s a middle part of it too, and it’s a real long rock that probably runs a mile, mile and a half, maybe two miles offshore. We caught flounder on all the Keypost Rocks this past summer, sometimes as many as 30 flounder a day fishing there, and the biggest one was over 7-pounds.”

But to unearth the name, you’ll have to go all the way back to World War II (WWII) when our coast was threatened by German U-boats. “Back there in WWII,” said Manning, “the people that were watching the shoreline walked down the beach, and there was a post down there with a key in it and a lock box and they had to go down when they walked the beach, they had to unlock it and had to initial the card that was in there and lock it back up to verify that they had made the trip down the beach. That was the “keypost” and out from there was the Keypost Rock!”

Some of the rocks have a bit of a personal touch in the name. “Right down the beach, past the Keypost is Tom Smith’s Rock,” said Manning. “Tom Smith was a shrimper years ago and he stayed tangled up in the rocks all the time with his net, so they called it Tom Smith’s Rock.” Definitely a local joke.

“There are some other rocks, said Manning, “like East Rock, which is just the direction we have to go out of Bogue Inlet to get to it.”

With Valentine’s Day recently passed, with all the romance, there is one name that comes up, Honeymoon Rock. Yes it’s what you might guess,” said Manning, “Honeymoon Rock came from…well, one of our captains, many years ago got married and that’s where he spent his honeymoon. He took the boat out with his new wife, anchored up…and that was Honeymoon Rock.” One wonders if there is a Divorce Rock too!

As we can see, some of the rocks are named by direction, location, landmarks and even tongue and cheek after “notable” fisherman, others from use. That includes Christmas Rock, but it may not be what you might think. “Christmas Rock,” said Manning, “you have to go back years ago. The boys out of Sneads Ferry, when it would start getting to Christmastime, they needed money for Christmas, they went out with their fish pots and catch some sea bass and sell them. There caught lots of sea bass out there, and they always called it Christmas Rock.” And now it’s on the charts and we all know it as Christmas Rock.

Another set of rocks just out of Bear Inlet is the Bear Inlet Rocks. No mystery what they were named for, but there are actually two sets of rocks. “There inshore Bear Inlet Rock, and there’s the offshore Bear Inlet Rock,” Manning pointed out, “and both of those rock areas are very, very good. Inshore Bear Inlet has a lot more rough bottom and there is one place with pretty steep ledges. The offshore Bear Inlet Rock has a really good ledge that runs right through the middle of it and is easy to find. Both areas are really good fishing.”

There are not only rocks out there that hold and sustain our local fishery, but the marked and maintained artificial reefs and the numerous wrecks too. However, Manning mainly sticks to fishing the rocks. Why? Manning was emphatic and noted that, “I very seldom fish the wrecks unless I’m trolling because so many people know where the wrecks are and they troll on them. Usually the wrecks hold barracuda and so you catch lots of half-a-fish! “Mainly the divers like to go there and recreational folks go there,” he said. “There are so other many placers that I can go, but if I’m going by there I’ll troll across it,” said Manning.

Now that we have demystified some of the history and lore of some of your favorite nearshore fishing rocks of the Crystal Coast, and with spring fast approaching, can a great season of fishing be far behind? After the trials and tribulations of last season, I certainly hope that 2004 is a good one. Then there is the BIG ROCK! You’ve heard of it, it’s a ROCK and it’s very BIG, enough said.

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GPS of Rocks:

45-Minute Rock: N 34 33.06      W 77 03.31

Bear Inlet Rock: N 34 35.14      W 77 08.71

Christmas Rock:  N 34 23.54     W 77 09.52

East Rock (Bogue): N 34 35.33      W 76 56.75

Honey Hole/Sponge Rock: N 34 26.30      W 77 01.30

Honeymoon Rock: N 34 27.65      W 77 08.78

Keypost Rock: KP1: N 34 38.18 W77 01.90, KP2:  N 34 37.75   W 77 01.76

Lost Rock: N 34 32.00      W 77 06.06

Southeast Bottoms: SEB1: N 34 29.42   W 77 01.62, SEB2: N 34 30.10   W76 59.74, SEB3: N 34 29.18   W76 58.34

Station Rock: N 34 35.27 W 77 04.11

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 78-degrees to a high of 82-degrees with an average of 79.6-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 74-degrees and a high of 82-degrees with an average of 79.0-degrees (red squares).  Flat-flat-flat plot of the temps in surf and sound showed little variation and a flat horizontal slope of around 0 (zero).

 

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for August 2016

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 79-degrees to a high of 85-degrees with an average of 82.2-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 81-degrees and a high of 88-degrees with an average of 83.9-degrees (red squares). August mostly stayed in the low 80s in the surf at the beginning and end with a spike to the mid 80s mid month. First mullet blow was on 8/30/16, right on time. Anchovies made their appearance on 8/23/16.

 

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Fishy teeth up close and personal

FLOUNDER, Lower jaw to the right. Notice killing fangs on the lover jaw!

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Flounder bitten finger mullet. Check out the fang marks!

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SPANISH MACKEREL

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SPECKLED TROUTBig Teeth Trout

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Trout bite marks on Styrofoam cork

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SHEEPSHEAD

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Mouth of a 36.8-pound king mackerel caught by Roger Brown 9/27/16 from Bogue Pier.

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Fish that mouth came from.

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 80-degrees to a high of 84-degrees with an average of 81.3-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 80-degrees and a high of 87-degrees with an average of 83.7-degrees (red squares). July’s surf temperatures were essentially FLAT with 22 days either 80 or 81-degrees. A bit amazing with as hot as it has been. We had a couple of 84-degree days and those really were noticeable to the feet, maybe the teeth too al dente! Remember first mullet blow is usually before the end of August.

 

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Crabs for Dinner Anyone?? Baits that can’t be ignored! By Dr. Bogus

Dear Dr. Bogus;

Last week on Saturday morning, I was watching a fishing show on ESPN. These guys were in Florida catching red drum. They were using whole blue claw crabs for bait. This got me to thinking. I reel in a crab or two every day, surf casting with fresh baits, plus there are a million mole crabs running around the beach too. Would they may good bait?  Look forward to your thoughts. Thanks, Mike.

Dear Mike;

Red drum are oligoniverous (there’s that “Bogus” word again) fish, they will eat almost anything, including old reef tires and yes, even those contentious crustaceans. Have you ever looked into their gullet and seen the their food crushing apparatus?  Pretty impressive, and not a place for ones fingers or other bodily parts to frequent. In fact crabs are good bait for a number of fish. Blue crabs, calico, green and of course the fiddlers three; stone crabs, horseshoe, spider and ghosts macabre as they could be. However, with all these to choose from, we will focus on the major fish baits from the petite to the portly. Lets take a culinary look at crabs as bait. So what’s for dinner?

 

Mole Crabs (Emerita talpoida):

Although neither flea, nor related to the backyard subterranean ground mole, the sand flea or mole crab as it is also known is a wonderful bait. They are found along with the colorful coquina clams in the ocean surf swash, apparently coping well with their Sisyphus like unending cycle of back and forth, up and down on the rise and fall of each wave. Their characteristic V’s in the retreating waves give them away. Mole crabs are readily gathered along the surf on the retreating wave either by hand, net, or commercial gathering devices, who’s sole purpose in life is catching the critters. They are without doubt best bait as recent softies followed by egg laden, (you’ll see a cluster of 20,000 itsy-bitsy teeny‑weenie day-glo orange eggs on the underneath side) but hardies work just fine–thank you. Pompano, sea mullet, croakers, red drum, black drum, sheepshead, stripers and so on are known to suck them up, especially those irresistible softies. Last July, while fishing the surf, right behind the breakers, we did a job on hungry 2‑3 pound black drum, and a near citation sea mullet. Great sport on light tackle, and terrific for dinner. For targeting bigger species, people often place several on a hook at a time. This was a favorite of some of the jetty jumper sharpies. They would cluster a whole family of mole crabs onto a hook and drift them weightless along the rocks. Some big rocks/stripers were taken this way.

One of the eternal Q’s is how do I find the delectable soft shell mole crabs?  Here is one method passed on to me, give it a try.  “An elderly woman told me the secret behind finding the molting sand fleas. Here goes: as a wave recedes from the sand, it leaves behind a glassy “sheen” which in turn recedes to the ocean or maybe it sinks into the sand. As it recedes/sinks into the sand, look along the shiny edge (the ocean side) and try to find a round, “dry” area about the size of a quarter…an area that dries out just before the edge of the sheen recedes around it. Dig where that “spot” was and you will find a molted sand flea. The best time to catch softies and amaze your friends and relatives is low tide. You can put the fleas into an open pail with sand in a cool location and most will stay alive overnight…great bait for early morning surf fishing! The pompano go “nuts” over the molted fleas!” This probably works, but most of us just dig away in the swash and hope for the best.

 

Fiddler Crabs (Uca pugnax):

Just from their name in either the everyday English or ancient Latin, you can tell that the fiddlers are the baits with pugnacious personality! The fiddlers are found along with the mud snails and amongst the muddy edges of the Spartina grasses in the intertidal marshes of our sounds. They hide deep in their burrows on the rising tides and return upward to the marsh’s mud flats on the receding tides. Seemingly playing a fiddle in the wind, waving their menacing oversized claw rhythmically back and forth they return to the surface in full of anticipation of food and the specter of such periodic rituals of combat and courtship.  Gathering fiddlers can be a challenge compared to the mole crabs. Trying to beat them to their burrows is great exercise but not an effective approach in fiddler gathering.  One method that is effective requires some set-up, patience, a coffee can and a couple pieces of lumber.  As the tide recedes, approach the mud flats where you suspect fiddlers.  You will see dime sized burrow holes in the mud indicative of their past or future presence.  If you were stealthy you would also see the fiddlers themselves but retreating to their holes in the muck, ready to return to the subterranean world if threatened.  In one area dig a hole deep enough to place the coffee entirely down into it.  Next place the boards in a “V” terminating with the coffee can at the vertex. Now the patience, retreat from the muddy marsh and watch at a distance.  You will see the crabs emerge again from their lairs.  When they are safely out and some distance from their burrows eating or in ritual mating behavior, return quickly now in a non-stealthy manner hopefully sending the crabs scattering away from you and to be funneled into the coffee can. Voila, fiddlers in a can.

 

Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus):

Blue crabs, a.k.a. beautiful swimmers are the perfect food for you, perfect food for me and indeed, perfect food many fish too.  We all know the great table fare blue crabs make blue hard crabs, peelers and softies are ALL power baits for fish. Who?? Tarpon, cobia (a.k.a. crab eaters), drums  red and black, striped bass, as well as trouts, speckled and gray. I learned the art of gathering blue crabs as a youth in a northland, long ago and far away, i.e. Connecticut. We were traditional chicken neckers. Chicken neck on a string, a net and feet covered in muck that was the biosphere of the brackish creek known as the Saugetuck River.  Sometimes we got lucky and netted peelers (pre softies) and on rare occasions we would get doublers a male with a receptive soft shell female suitable for mating. Alternatively, there are more elegant ways to catch the blues, including placing fermenting fish fragments or your favorite chicken appendage into a wire basket or crab pot purported to be at least somewhat resistant to corrosion. Next, cast the device out from a bank, boat or pier and wait for some tens of minutes in the sultry Carolina sun for the appropriate crabs to be overcome from hunger and lured by the specter of an easy meal to wander hopelessly into the trap.  Finally, of course there is the local $eafood dealer.  Depending on your fishy target, the blues can be used live and whole, in halves or bite sized bits and pieces. A plentiful alternative and close relative to the blue crab is the unregulated calico crab, which can be used as a substitute.

 

Rigging Crabs For Dinner:

The past few weeks I talked about crabs for bait, moles, fiddlers and blues, now is the fun part, catching the fishy foes for which they are intended. When rigging mole crabs or fiddlers I hook them from the topside coming through the bottom of the shell, which hooks and which rigs depend on the target. I use No. 2 or No. 4 long-shank hooks for mealy mouthed sea mullet and pompano on a standard hi-lo rig or a Carolina rig with a single # 2 or # 4 wide gap (Kahle) hook on a 2 ft. leader and an egg sinker if I know the juvenile drums (red or black) are around. This also gives a nice natural presentation for pompano and sea mullet. Remember, most of the time these fish are hugging the shore, at the bottom of the swash, just behind the backwash of the out-going wave, waiting for the mole crabs and other easy meals to wash down to them. So fish right there, in close to the beach, right behind the wash. Don’t overcast your target fish!

Sheepshead are another problem, they are a special case fish.  Strong competitors that live on hard and treacherous structures such as rocks and barnacled bridge and dock pilings, once hooked, they fight like crazy, so one needs to ante up the gear for success.  Strong sharp hooks, 20-40 lb. test line, an aluminum baseball bat for a fishing rod and a reel with a 20:1 gear ratio seems to be the standard fare for the serious.

Trout, both specks and grays are targeted with peelers and softies of the blue crab variety.  No fear, the ubiquitous Carolina rig is appropriate here too.  Bite size peeler bits are easiest to rig because they are firmer. Chunks of the softies are killer baits too but you just have to get more creative in tying and rigging them to the hook. Sewing thread, rubber bands and Crazy Glue are often used to hold them firmly on the hook. For me, it’s hard to use the delectable soft shell blue crab for anything other than human table fare. Remember is you use blue crabs for bait the mush be LEGAL size!

For the BIGGEST of crab loving game fish (here it is Mike), tarpon, cobia, citation red drum and trophy stripers, blue crabs are what’s for dinner.  Whole, hard or peeler, or halved crabs with the carapace (shell) and apron shucked away and legs removed can be used.  Conventional 8/0 hooks or equivalent circle hooks (10/0-13/0) on a fish-finder rig is what’s recommend by the experts. Whole crabs can be hooked through the shell, whereas the halved dismembered crabs are hooked in-and-out the now vacant leg openings. If it’s old drum you are after, remember to use an approved Upton Lupton circle hook rig with the barb mashed down.

So, when on the beach, surf, sound or creek; offshore, inshore or near and what to use for bait is too fuzzy or unclear, think crabs. It’s what’s for dinner!

 

Internet info:

http://www.assateague.com/mole‑cr.html

http://flmainstreet.com/Jensen_Beach/FOSMMFEB.HTML

http://www.soundwaters.org/discover/fiddler_crabs.htm

http://bluecrab.richmond.edu/

http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/marinebio/softshore.html

http://www.unc‑link.unctv.org/services/innovations/livecam/reference/reference.htm

Also check this excellent Pulitzer winning book, Beautiful Swimmers By William W. Warner

 

Human Baits: Rummy Softies an Original Recipe By Dr. Bogus (06 Jul 99)

 

6-softshell crabs properly cleaned

 

1-hot pepper (to taste)

 

2-eggs

 

fresh or dried tarragon

 

1C-milk

 

salt & freshly ground pepper

 

2C-flour

 

sugar (just a pinch)

 

2-red onion sliced

 

juice of one lime

 

2-each red & green pepper chopped

 

1/3C-Jamaican rum

 

Preparation:

Sauté onions, all peppers in olive oil/butter, add lime juice, and rum and pinch of sugar and boil down to a glaze.

Beat eggs and milk, soak crabs and dredge in flour until dry.  Cook in butter/olive oil until crispy but moist.

Treat crispy crabs to the tasty glaze and serve immediately while hot and crispy


 

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for June 2016

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 73-degrees to a high of 81-degrees with an average of 76.2-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 75-degrees and a high of 85-degrees with an average of 79.1-degrees (red squares). The rate of increase (slope of the line) was about 0.21 degrees/day. Last year, as you remember the sharks, we hit 80 before the end of May and the average surf was 80.9 for June 2015, the sound 83.1. In 2016 we got into the 80, the last few days of June. June was very normal for 2016.

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