Iíd rather do without this cold snap, but at least it isnít forecast to last very long. Hopefully there arenít any fish kills or stuns. This will surely confuse the fish at the least. With some luck it wonít affect them too badly.
Wednesday night was the coldest of the year and the temperature isnít forecast to rise but to barely above freezing today before dropping back below it Thursday night. Some warming is forecast for Friday and Saturday, with the return to seasonable temps on Sunday. Hopefully the fish move from it and there arenít any stuns or kills.
A father and son, with a few friends, got their new year started with a bang. On New Years Day, Jason and Hunter Davis, with Ray Watkins and Pete OíDonnell landed a massive 785 pound bluefin tuna. That wasnít enough for them and on January 2 they returned and followed up with a 767 pound bluefin. Thatís a lot of sashimi!
The big tuna was 20 pounds shy of the N.C. state record (805 pounds caught by Corey Schultz in 2011 off Oregon Inlet), but would not have been allowed anyway as it was a commercial catch and was sold. However, this was a record of sorts, even if unofficial, as it was the first time a boat has brought 1552 pounds of bluefin tuna through Beaufort Inlet on successive days. Congratulations
Davis said they were fishing just out of Beaufort Inlet and towards Cape Lookout in approximately 50 feet of water. There have been a fair number of bluefin tuna hooked in these shallow waters over the past two weeks. Last week I had a report of one boat breaking off two in the same days. It seems the tuna in the shallower water are wilder and run longer, while fighting longer and harder. There were more catches this week, with Sunday having the most captures so far. However there have been a lot more pulled hooks and break-offs too.
Expectations are this weekís cold snap might just kick the bluefin action back into high gear. That would be nice and with the size of some of the brutes being caught now, it would be wise to strap in both the angler and the rod and reel.
Red drum fishing has been improving and trout fishing remains excellent. Just about everyone I have spoken with has concerns that this weekís cold snap might negatively affect the specks. There isnít much we can do except keep our fingers crossed and wait and see.
There are still some large and citation size specks being caught and more not quite to barely legal ones have put in appearances in the past few weeks. The Chasiní Tails Outdoors Speckled Trout Challenge in Atlantic Beach ended on January 4. There were some nice trout weighed in through the final day and a couple of places shifted in the final week. All of the top ten fish surpassed the minimum citation size of 5 pounds and there were several citation specks that didnít quite make the top ten. Congratulations to Doug McMullan, who won with a 7.79 pound speck.
Specks are being caught from the backs of creeks to the surf. The jetties at Cape Lookout and Fort Macon have been hotspots. The specks in the surf and along the jetties are joined by some red drum and black drum and an occasional surprise, like a tautog.
The red drum bite has slowly improved over the last couple of weeks. Puppy drum frequent many of the same general locations as the specks, except they typically will move up onto the shallow flats in the marshes and creeks to warm up and feed. Specks usually prefer deeper water, but larger specks will sometimes follow pups into the shallows and eat the crabs, shrimp and minnows they root up.
Red drum have been schooling in the marshes and surf. Some of these schools number well into the hundreds and a few are even larger. If you can find one and approach to within casting range without spooking them, you can often catch drum until you are too tired to wind another in.
Live shrimp have been the preferred live bait for specks and pups, but they wonít be available again until late spring. Live minnows are next best and mud minnows should be available at most tackle shops. There will be some peanut menhaden up the rivers and creeks and they sometimes do well, but as the water cools, fish sometimes wonít expend the energy to chase them down. Cut bait works well for red and black drum, but isnít a favorite of specks.
In the cold water, scent is more important than ever. It is often what seals the deal and gets fish to bite. Many fishermen prefer scented soft baits, like Berkley Gulps and others add a scent like Pro-Cure to their soft and hard baits. Many fishermen also downsize their baits in the cold and drop from 4 to 3 inch soft plastics and smaller hard baits.
I didnít receive any offshore reports this week. Wahoo and blackfin tuna usually cruise the first hard temperature break at the Gulf Stream eddies and I would expect there are some there. Sometimes there are some cooler temp breaks a few miles inshore, but after making this long trip, go the last few miles and find a break where the warm side is above 70 degrees.
A few regulations for offshore bottom fish changed on New Years Day. Grouper season closed for its annual four month spawning break and will reopen on May 1. Beeliner, porgy and triggerfish seasons reopened on January 1. Cold weather seems to fire up the offshore bottom fish and they are usually hungry when you find them.
I only received one king mackerel report this week, but it was pretty good. The kings are holding over structure with bait in areas where the surface temperature is 67 and warmer. This typically requires running offshore to 100-115 feet deep. The really good news is the kings are hungry and feeding and arenít picky. Kings have been biting slow trolled frozen baits, spoons and sea witches rigged with strips. They will also often hit small live baits and frozen baits drifted back in the current while bottom fishing.
NOAA Weather Buoy 41036 to be
Buoy 41036 is one of the buoys deployed by the Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program and its maintenance was funded by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. There was talk of shutting this buoy down when UNCW ceased funding this buoy in 2013. The buoy was threatened with immediate removal at that time, but was left in place as NOAA did not have the funding to remove it. A news release from NOAA said they have not been able to secure another sponsor.
Current concerns are that the buoy is at risk of breaking free from its mooring and
becoming a hazard to navigation. It is still broadcasting current weather information. Many boaters and fishermen in Onslow Bay said the current conditions broadcast from 41036 are their go/no go information on a daily basis and not having it will create a safety hazard by requiring boaters to go through the shallow inlets in Onslow Bay to know the current sea conditions. This will affect all boaters and fishermen who use Onslow Bay and it extends from Carolina Beach to Harkers Island.
A link to Buoy 41036 on the NDBC website is http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=41036. There is a link on the buoyís page to the removal notice from the NWS that was issued on December 2.
The call for removing the buoy seems to be all about funding for its maintenance. There are numerous groups talking among themselves about resolving the funding issue. This is very last minute, but the NWS budget is stressed to the point I donít believe they are chomping at the bit to send a buoy tender to remove this buoy. They have been running several months behind in servicing buoys that are funded. Perhaps several of the groups looking for funding to keep Buoy 41036 on station could get together and adopt the buoy or find a way to cover the maintenance costs.
Striper Regulations Change
There will be annual catch allocation reductions in the Ocean, Albemarle Sound and Roanoke River Fisheries. The daily limits will not change in internal waters. These changes are necessary for N.C. to comply with the recently approved Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissionís Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. It is always wise to check the striper regulations at the Division of Marine Fisheries website (www.ncdmf.net) before each trip as the regulations can change and the season end with a 48 hour proclamation notice.
NOAA Fisheries is Seeking
Information on River Herring
NOAA intends to use the information obtained from this survey to cross-reference scientifically collected data to better understand trends and changes in river herring populations coast-wide. This information can help NOAA identify opportunities for additional research and restoration. The survey is ongoing through the end of January. To learn more about the survey or to participate, please contact Dan Kircheis (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Julia Beaty (email@example.com). Information is also available at www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/stories/2014/surveykickoffonRiverHerringinaugust.html.
The following amendments to fishery management plans are being considered:
Snapper Grouper Amendment 35 - This amendment would remove black snapper, dog snapper, mahogany snapper, and schoolmaster from the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Unit. Additionally, the amendment makes modifications to the current commercial longline endorsements for golden tilefish. The changes to the endorsements are being proposed to reflect the Councils intent regarding which gear-specific quota (longline or hook-and-line) endorsement holders may fish under.
Coastal Migratory Pelagics Amendment 26 - This amendment addresses measures for king mackerel, including options to revise Annual Catch Limits and the stock boundary for king mackerel, allow the sale of king mackerel bycatch in the shark gillnet fishery, and establish a sub-quota specific to the new mixing zone. The amendment summary document, draft amendment, and presentations will be available on the Council's Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page.
The closest public hearing will be January 27, from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at the Kimball Lodge at Hobcaw Barony, 22 Hobcaw Road, in Georgetown, S.C. This hearing is for Snapper Grouper Amendment 35 only.
A scoping meeting will be held via webinar at 6:00 P.M. on February 4 for Coastal Migratory Pelagics Amendment 26. Participants will need to visit the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council website at www.safmc.net to register.
Interested person who cannot attend one of the meetings may submit their written comments by Mail, fax or e-mail until February 4 for Snapper Grouper Amendment 35 and February 11 for Coastal Migratory Pelagics Amendment 26. Submit comments by mail or fax to ATTN: Robert Mahood, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; 843-769-4520 (fax) or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on which of the deterrence provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act the public would like NMFS to evaluate and consider for approval. The comment period ends on January 15, 2015.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) allows for private citizens to employ measures to deter marine mammals from damaging fishing gear and catch, damaging personal or public property, or endangering personal safety, as long as these measures do not result in death or serious injury of marine mammals. The MMPA also directs the Secretary of Commerce, through NOAA Fisheries, to develop national guidelines on safely deterring marine mammals under NOAA Fisheries' jurisdiction (e.g., whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions).
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0146, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments may also be submitted by mail to NOAA Fisheries Service
Southeast Regional Office - Protected Resources Division - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on Amendment 32 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The comment period ends on February 17, 2015.
Amendment 32 would implement management measures to end overfishing of blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic. A population assessment completed in 2013 determined that blueline tilefish is undergoing overfishing. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) and NOAA Fisheries are required by law to prepare and implement a plan amendment and regulations to end overfishing by December 6, 2015.
Actions in Amendment 32 consider:
* Implementation of blueline tilefish annual catch limits and accountability measures for the commercial and recreational sectors. Accountability measures are management controls to prevent annual catch limits from being exceeded and to correct overages of the catch limits if they do occur.
* Implementation of a commercial trip limit of 100 pounds gutted weight for blueline tilefish.
* Implementation of a recreational vessel limit of one per vessel per day for the months of May through August each year. Recreational harvest of blueline tilefish would be prohibited September through April each year.
* Removal of blueline tilefish from the deep-water complex.
* Recalculation of the commercial and recreational annual catch limits for the deep-water complex.
* Revisions to the accountability measures for the commercial and recreational sectors for the deep-water complex.
Request for Comments
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to: www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0145, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments may also be submitted by mail to NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - c/o Rick DeVictor - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
February 3 to 5: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Winter Meeting, The Westin Alexandria, Alexandria, VA. For more information and an agenda visit www.asmfc.org.
February 10 to 12: Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting, Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone University, Raleigh. For more information and an agenda visit www.mafmc.org.
Feb. 18 to 20: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. - Public Meeting, Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. - Business Meeting, Feb. 20 at 8:30 a.m. - Business Meeting, Hilton Wilmington Riverside Hotel, Wilmington, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda will be available under the Public Meeting Tab at www.ncdmf.net.
Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
January 16 and 17: StriperFest, Informational weekend and striper tournament, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.capefearriverwatch.org.
January 17: Fly Tying Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
January 24: Johnnie Mercerís Pier Annual Dogfish Tournament, Johnnie Mercerís Pier, Wrightsville Beach, www.ncfps.com.
January 24: Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, Embassy Suites, Cary, www.nationalseminarseries.com.
January 27: South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Public Hearing, Snapper Grouper Amendment 35, 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., The Kimball Lodge at Hobcaw Barony, Georgetown, S.C. This hearing is for Snapper Grouper Amendment 35 only.
January 31: Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department 2015 Saltwater Fishing School, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, www.oakislandnc.com/Departments/Parks-Recreation.aspx.