We have a couple of warm days right now, but winter has arrived and we will get cold again.  The continued cold has dropped our water temperatures and fishing success has declined from the abundance during the warm winter that prevailed until early January.  The cold weather looks to be here to stay for a while except for some occasional warming trends. 

The odd weather we saw during 2015 is continuing.  Hurricane Alex formed off the African Coast, but isn't expected to cross the Atlantic.  Closer to home a low pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico will strengthen and pass offshore of the Carolinas during the weekend.  It isn't expected to strengthen enough to be named, but will affect our weather on Sunday according to how close or far offshore it passes as it runs up the Atlantic Coast. 

Dig out a good coat.  After this Friday and Saturday, the forecast doesn't show daytime highs exceeding 50 until next Friday and there are several mornings with lows forecast in the mid 20s.

There weren't a lot of reports from this week.  Many of the fishermen who help me with information were in Raleigh at either the Big Rock Sports Show or the Bass and Saltwater Expo.  There was a lot of fishing talk at both and most manufacturers and dealers I spoke with were pretty happy with the business. 

I did not receive any offshore reports this week.  I had a couple of, "I got to the sea buoy and turned around because it wasn't going to be any fun," reports, but that is all.  The combination of cold and wind was too much for most folks and they were wise to own up to that and not push the envelope.  The ocean can be harsh during the warmer months, but is usually absolutely unforgiving during the winter.

There should be a few wahoo and blackfin tuna cruising the temperature breaks at the edge of the Gulf Stream.  Offshore bottom fish have been biting and there is no reason for that to slow.  The bottom fish action begins with black sea bass at the first artificial reefs and reaches its best productivity at around 110 to 125 feet deep.  There should also be some king mackerel holding over wrecks in these same general depths.   

The best ocean reports this week came from the Cape Lookout Jetty and the surf.  The fishing wasn't off the hook good, but there was some action with specks, grays, black drum, red drum and even some black sea bass at the offshore end.  I'm surprised no one caught a tautog as several fishermen said they used pieces of shrimp to have natural bait in the water and caught the full mixture of fish.  The water temperature has dropped into the mid and lower 50s and smelling good may make the difference between getting a sniff or a bite.

There have been a few fish in the surf and they were right up in the surf.  Many are in the first slough off the beach, especially from the rising half tide to the falling half tide.  One fisherman said he caught several trout that hit just as he was about to lift the bait from the water for his next cast   

The cold weather seems to have more trout biting, but they are still mostly small trout.  There are some nice ones, but they aren't the norm.  Most limits are being filled with three 14 1/2 inch specks and one 18 incher. 

As already noted, scent is important to help convince trout to bite.  Some fishermen are using scented baits and some are adding scent.  Either way appears to help.

The other thing that helps (with specks, reds and black drum too) is to fish slowly.  Sometimes you have to convince fish to bite and this not only includes moving the lure slowly and having it smell good, but keeping it in front of the fish until it can't stand it any longer. 

There are some small schools of red drum cruising the backwaters.  There may be some out in the open marsh, but they are often in the deeper holes of the smaller creeks.  I haven't heard of any large schools of reds except a couple of times in the ocean off Bear and Browns Island between Bogue and New River Inlets. 

Much like trout, the reds want a bait that looks and smells good.  Pieces of shrimp or cut mullet will often convince red and black drum to bite.  So do scented soft plastics and lures with scent added.  If fishing with scented baits, sometimes stopping the bait and letting it sit for a few second can help.  If a redfish has noticed it, he may watch it while it is stopped and then strike as soon as it moves again.

I heard of a few more flounder caught last week, but the water has continued to cool and the flounder bite should be over for the winter.  I'm not saying you won't occasionally have a flounder grab a bait, but it should be pretty rare until the water begins to warm again in the spring. 

With the water temps dropping, the striper bite is improving in the coastal rivers.  Stripers have been in the Neuse, Pamlico, Roanoke and Cape Fear Rivers. and many of the creeks that join them.   Stripers like many of the same soft plastics as puppy drum and speckled trout.  They may be working the shallows along the bank or in deeper water, like along bridge pilings and bulkheads.

2016 Fishing and Boat Shows Begin
Boat and fishing shows, along with outdoor and hunting shows are a big part of the winter months and they began last weekend with the Raleigh Bass and Saltwater Expo at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. This show was the busiest it has been in years and many boaters, fishermen, and boat and tackle retailers hope it is a sign of good things to come.  There won't be a show every weekend, but with the abundance of boat and fishing shows, plus seminars and such, there will be something of this nature most weekends for the next several months. 

This can be a good way to pass a Saturday, especially a rainy or cold Saturday and you might even learn something.  There are numerous fishing schools and many of the fishing, hunting and outdoor shows offer seminars and demonstrations.  There is a list of many events at the end of this report.

Pechmann Center Offers Basic and Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinics
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville will offer Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics on January 16 and 30 and an Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic on February 13.  The Basic Clinics, which are designed for anglers with little to no fly-fishing experience, will begin at 9:00 A.M. and run through 3:00 P.M.  The clinics will provide instruction on the Joan Wulff method of fly-casting, as well as instruction on fly-fishing equipment and knot tying.  There will be an on-the-water segment of the course where participants will learn how to land a fish using a fly-rod. 

The Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic, which also features the Joan Wulff method of fly-casting, will also run from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.  This clinic will take participants beyond the basics and introduce them to using the line-hand, false casting, casting on all planes and shooting line.  Participants will also learn how to develop power application and cast accurately.

Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics are suitable for participants 13 years and older; however, students 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.  Each clinic is limited to 40 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Participants are urged to register in advance and the clinics are popular and fill early.  There is a registration fee of $5, payable on the day of the event. 

Participants in the Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic must have completed a Basic Fly-Fishing Clinic or Discovery Course offered in 2015, or the Basic Fly-fishing clinic in 2016.  The Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic is suitable for participants 13 years and older; however, students 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.  This clinic is limited to the first 30 people. There is a registration fee of $5, payable on the day of the event.  For more information on either clinic, visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.

Cape Lookout Flyfishers to Host Fly Tying Clinic
The Cape Lookout Flyfishers will host a free fly tying clinic on January 23 from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.  The clinic will be at the Morehead City Recreation Center at 1600 Fisher Street.  There will be numerous fly-tyers to demonstrate fly tying and techniques and hands-on  participation is encouraged, especially for new tyers.  For more information visit www.capelookoutflyfishers.com or call Lee Dixon at 252-241-1868.

Unexploded Ordnance Found in New River at Camp Lejeune
The Marine Corps has identified an area that contains unexploded ordnance and poses a serious safety risk in the waters adjacent to the K-2 Range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.  This area begins at Mill Creek in Stones Bay and continues up the western bank of the New River by Hines, Hickory and Gray Points to Rhodes Point.  The range supports infantry weapons training that includes mortars, field artillery, and infantry rocket training.

During routine activities to clear unexploded ordnance from the range, unexploded ordnance was discovered along the beach and below the high water line.  An aerial survey using ground penetrating radar was performed and identified more than 7,000 anomalies.  Not all of the anomalies were ordnance and also included debris, old crab pots, and propellers.  An underwater survey determined many of the anomalies to be historical unexploded ordnance.  Present day activities at the range do not result in ordnance in the river.

After reviewing the findings of the investigation, the Marine Corps determined the risk to public health as serious.  For their safety and welfare, the Marine Corps is strongly advising the public to avoid access within Whitehurst Creek given its location within the impact area of the range, and to avoid all bottom-disturbing activity within the designated area within the New River.  More information and a map of the area is available at http://www.k2rangeproject.com.

Cape Lookout Off-Road Vehicle Plan Under Review
The National Park Service released a proposed rule that will establish a permit system for the use of off-road vehicles at Cape Lookout National Seashore.  The proposed rule was posted in the National Register on December 18 and a 60-day public comment period is underway on a proposed rule.  The public comment period is open through February 16.

The proposed rule would require that ORV users complete a short educational program and purchase a permit at a fee to be determined by the superintendent.  Permits have not been previously required.  Fishermen and others who use ORVs at Cape Lookout were critical of the proposal during the first public hearings after a draft of the proposed rule was released last year.  The plans for a permit system have not been dropped, but the National Park System said a number of changes were made to reflect public input during the planning process.  A permit will allow driving ORVs along designated routes during designated times.

The initial plan was to cap the number of permits issued each year at around 3,000, but the new proposal raises that number to 5,500 permits initially issued.  ORV use will be monitored for the first five years and then be based on a five-year average rather than a three-year average as was initially proposed. Any year during which there is a significant ORV closure of 14 or more days will not be counted in the average.  The new rule would also change seven miles of existing pedestrian-only areas from all year closures to seasonal closures from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The rule would create a designated route for ORVs in front of the Long Point and Great Island cabin camps and there would be an additional four ramps on North Core Banks and five ramps on South Core Banks to allow for crossing between the beach route and the back route.  Restrictions on night driving were lessened from the draft plan.  Under the new plan, beach ORV routes would be closed from 9:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. during sea turtle nesting season, which is May 1 to September 14.  Driving on the back of the island routes will be allowed from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. and around the clock in the Great Island and Long Point Cabin Camps.

Comments may be submitted through the federal eRulemaking Portal at Http://www.regulations.gov.  Enter the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE24 when commenting on the proposed rule.  Comments or copies of electronic comments may also be mailed to the Cape Lookout Park Superintendent at: Superintendent - Cape Lookout National Seashore - 131 Charles St. - Harkers Island, NC 28531.

DMF to Hold Public Meeting on Dare County Artificial Reefs
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ (DMF) Artificial Reef Program will hold a public meeting on February 8 at 6:00 P.M. in Room 168 of the Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo.  The meeting is to inform the public of enhancement plans for four artificial reefs near Oregon Inlet and to answer questions on the proposed project.  DMF is working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to receive the demolition materials from the Bonner Bridge replacement project.  Bridge demolition is expected to begin in the fall of 2018 and the materials will be distributed to artificial reefs AR-130, AR-140, AR-145 and AR-160.  

For more information, contact Jason Peters with the DMF Artificial Reef Program at 252-808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.

MFC Seeking Advisors
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists to serve on the Northern Regional Advisory Committee.  The committee advises the commission on various fisheries issue referred to it by the MFC and recommends management strategies.  The committee may also bring issues pertaining to the region or subject matter to the commission's attention.

Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process.  Applicants may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years.  Advisers are reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.  Adviser terms are three years and are appointed by the Marine Fisheries Commission chairman

Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at Division of Marine Fisheries' offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by Jan. 22 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557, Attention: Nancy Fish.

SAFMC Seeking Advisors
Fishermen and others interested in participating in federal fisheries management are encouraged to apply for open seats on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's advisory panels.  Advisory panel members provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans.  The Council has eleven advisory panels composed of individuals who are engaged in the harvest of managed species, or are knowledgeable and interested in the conservation and management of the fishery or managed species.  Members include recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, chefs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.

Advisory panel members are appointed by the Council and serve for a three-year period.  Members may serve for three consecutive terms before reaching their term limit.  Advisory panel members generally meet no more than once or twice each year and are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings.  Applications are now being solicited for positions on the Golden Crab Advisory Panel, Habitat Advisory Panel, Information & Education Advisory Panel, Mackerel Advisory Panel, Law Enforcement Advisory Panel, Shrimp Advisory Panel, Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel, and SEDAR Advisory Panel.  Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.

Persons interested in serving as a member on the SAFMC advisory panels should contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the Council office at 843/571-4366 (Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10).  Application forms are available from the Council office and may also be downloaded from the Advisory Panel page of the Council's website at www.safmc.net.  Applications should be mailed to Kim Iverson, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405 or submitted via email to the above address. 

Advisory panel members will be selected during the Council's March 7-11, 2016 meeting in Jekyll Island, Georgia.  Advisory panel applications must be received by February 10, 2016 for consideration by the Council during the March meeting.

Wildlife Resources Commission Holds Public Meetings
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will conduct nine public hearings in January on proposed changes to the state’s wildlife management, game lands and inland fishing regulations for the 2016-17 seasons.  There are numerous changes up for discussion, with several of the ones receiving the most tackle and gun shop discussion being (1) allowing the sale of raw (untanned) deer hides from an animal that has been legally harvested or was killed by a motor vehicle; changing the definition of a bear cub from any bear weighing less than 50 pounds to one weighing less than 75 pounds; and opening permit seasons for hunting alligators and elk.

Information on all of the proposed changes to the state’s wildlife management, game lands and inland fishing regulations, plus hearing dates, times and locations can be found online at the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.  The public hearings begin on January 5 and continue at areas across the state through January 21.  The closest meeting to Morehead City will be in New Bern on January 20.  Sportsmen who cannot attend one of the meetings can  submit comments about the proposed 2016-2017 fishing, hunting and other wildlife resource management regulations through Jan. 25, 2016.  Comments may be e-mailed to regulations@ncwildlife.org or mailed to: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission - Proposed Regulations Comments - 1701 Mail Service Center - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1701.

 The Wildlife Resource Commission will meet on Feb. 11, 2016 to discuss the proposals, the comments and to vote on adopting or rejecting the proposals.  Approved proposals will take effect Aug. 1, 2016.

Fisheries Meetings
January 21:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Steering Committee, 1:00 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Anne Deaton at 910-796-7311 or Anne.deaton@ncdenr.gov or Jimmy Johnson at 252-948-3952 or Jimmy.Johnson@ncdenr.gov

January 25:  NC Division of Marine Fisheries  Shrimp Bycatch Reduction Industry Work Group meeting, 10:00 A.M., New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, New Bern, Contact Kevin Brown at 252-808-8089 or Kevin.H.Brown@ncdenr.gov.

February 17-19:  Marine Fisheries Commission Business Meeting, Blockade Runner, Wrightsville Beach, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
January 15 and 16:  Striperfest, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.cfrw.us.

January 16:  Cape Fear Riverwatch Striperfest Invitational Striper Tournament, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.cfrw.us.

January 16 and 30:  Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning

January 20:  N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Public Meeting, 7:00 P.M., Craven Community College, New Bern, www.ncwildlife.org.

January 23:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers Fly Tying Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.   

January 30:  N.C. Fishing Pier Society Dogfish Tournament, Johnnie Mercer's Fishing Pier, Wrightsville Beach, www.ncfps.com.

January 30:  Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com.

February 5 and 6:  The Flyfishing Show, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.flyfishingshow.com/winston-salem

February 5 to 7:  Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow

February 6:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 7:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 11 to 14:  Mid-Atlantic Boat Show, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, www.ncboatshows.com

February 13:  Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning

February 20 and 21:  International Custom Rod Building Exposition, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.icrbe.com.    

February 20:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Crystal Coast Convention Center, Morehead City, www.fishermanspost.com.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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