Welcome to winter.  The cold that began last week and added black ice and freezing rain a couple of times since has removed any doubt of the season.  Thankfully, even though the temps plummeted into the teens late last week there havenít been significant fish stuns or kills. 

Several fishermen said the trout bite has slowed significantly since the severe cold of last week and puppy drum fishing has slowed also.  The general consensus is that red drum are hardier and weather cold snaps like this better.

The ocean water temperature dropped too and while it hasnít turned the bluefin fishing on significantly, fishermen are catching the largest group of bluefins ever recorded in N.C. and especially around Cape Lookout.  Last week I reported on the 785 and 767 pounds bluefins caught by Jason Davis and his crew.  They were the talk of the Bass and Saltwater Expo in Raleigh last weekend and rightfully so.

This week those fish have been topped.  The big fish of this week was the first grander brought into Morehead City.  On Tuesday, Herbie Sheades, Jonathan Anderson and crew landed a 116 inch bluefin that pulled the scales to 1005 pounds.  They were fishing on Sheadesí boat Fishbucket.

This fish was 200 pounds heavier than Corey Schultzís state record (805 pounds) caught off Oregon Inlet in 2011, but will not be recognized as the new record because it was caught commercially and sold.   

Brian Wilkerson and Buck Reece landed a 115 inch bluefin on Saturday that cored at 726 pounds.  I donít have a whole weight for it, but it was huge and would have easily topped the existing state record too had it not also been a commercially caught fish.  The Fishbucket bluefin cored at 827 pounds and weighed 1005 whole so it isnít a stretch to believe Wilkerson and Reeceís bluefin was in the 900 pound range whole.

There are some huge bluefin around Cape Lookout Shoals right now.  As of January 1, the regulations changed to allow an Angling Category boat to retain one trophy bluefin of 73 inches or greater for the year.  While it would be a lot of sashimi to split between the crew and friends, right now is an excellent opportunity for someone to break Corey Schultzís state bluefin record.  That fish would have to be caught recreationally and not sold.  

Weather continues to be an issue and it hasnít been especially nice for fishing this week.  Between wind, rain, damp high humidity and cold, there have been a lot of reasons not to fish.  On the inshore side, a few fishermen have braved the cold and ventured out.  They said the fishing was not as good as before the cold snap, but they found some scattered red drum and speckled trout and were pleasantly surprised.

There were specks and reds in the surf in places.  One of them was around and along the Cape Lookout Jetty and another was at the Fort Macon Jetty.  I would think there would be some at the Masonboro Inlet Jetties also, but havenít received a report from there.  Red drum also like the shoals at the capes and the surf off those few places without houses because they are dark at night. 

Specks and reds have also been well up in the backwaters of many coastal creeks.  The water is typically a degree or two warmer near the backs of the creeks and that is a significant difference right now.  Baitfish have also moved to the backs of creeks to try to be warmer and they attract larger fish.

 Drum have been hitting hard and soft lures, especially those with scent or with scent added.  Bottom rigs baited with pieces of cut mullet and bait shrimp have also been catching drum, including black drum.  Trout are more particular and most have held out for scented lures and soft baits.

Several fishermen said the key to catching fish right now is to fish very slowly.  Several even said to pause occasionally and allow the scent to spread.  The fish are cold and barely moving and you have to keep a bait in front of them and tempt them to get strikes.  Often when the first fish strikes, it will excite others in the area and they will bite also.


I didnít receive any reports from offshore this week and blame that on the weather and bluefin tuna just off the beach at Cape Lookout.  King mackerel and assorted bottom fish should be holding on and over structure in approximately 100 to 125 feet of water.  There may be bottom fish on the structure any time the water temp passes 60, but kings like it a few degrees warmer, say a minimum of 65 to 67 degrees.  There typically are also some wahoo and blackfin tuna along the first warm temperature break at the edge of the Gulf Stream.

I had a special Saturday earlier this month and want to pass it on.  Everyone who knows me knows Iím not a fly flinger, but I keep trying to master the buggy whip rod.  During January and February, the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville hosts flyfishing clinics for beginners.  The Pechmann Center is operated by the N.C. Wildlife Commission and only charge for material costs.  The fee for the beginning flyfishing clinic is $5 to cover the cost of tippets, leaders and flies.  Participants receive instruction during the morning and then are allowed to test their new knowledge in stocked ponds during the afternoon.

I have attended before and always learned a little, but it seemed that I was destined to continue using my spinning outfits.  My wife is the flyfisher in our family and I had accepted my place as taking pictures and helping carry her gear.  That may have changedÖ

The Pechmann Center changed their teaching format this year to the Joan Wulff method and it works much better for me.  I attended the January 3 session and was casting 40 feet pretty consistently after lunch.  Of course, my assigned instructor, Jeanette Gallaher, holds a flyfishing word record for mutton snapper and would have another if IGFA had recognized sharks for women anglers when she caught hers, so itís pretty clear she knows what she is doing.  She had a lot of patience and taught me well.  Many other volunteer instructors were also helpful.    

I caught some fish too!  I missed a mountain slam and didnít catch a brown trout, but I caught and released several rainbows and brook trout.

The Pechmann Center will offer three more level 1 sessions beginning this Saturday, January 17, then again on January 31 and February 14.  Dates have not yet been established, but they will also offer level 2 and 3 sessions after these.  For more information you can visit the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the ďLearningĒ tab.  The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page with information.  The phone number is 910-868-5003.

Fishermen in the Morehead City area are invited to a fly tying clinic this Saturday, January 17, at the Morehead City Recreation Center in Morehead City.  The fly tying clinic will be hosted by the Cape Lookout Flyfishers.  For more information visit www.capelookoutflyfishers.com

NOAA Weather Buoy 41036 to be Removed
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a notice that at some time this month the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) will no longer support weather buoy 41036, which is located at 34.12.25 N and 076.56.56 W or about 40 miles east of Wilmington in Onslow Bay.  The buoy, which was still broadcasting on January 14, is not part of the NOAA/ NWS federal backbone system even though it has a NDBC number and a link from their website.  

Buoy 41036 was deployed by the Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program, with maintenance funding by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which ceased 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.  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. 

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, 2014. 

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 hasnít been a run of ocean stripers off Cape Lookout in a while, but it does happen occasionally.  The primary ocean fishery for stripers in N.C. is off the northern Outer Banks, specifically Cape Hatteras to the Virginia state line.  If you fish for stripers, you know the regulations vary in different zones in waters inside the inlets, but for years the regulations for ocean stripers allowed two per person with a minimum size of 28 inches.  Beginning January 1, those regulations changed to allow keeping only a single ocean striper. 

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 Fisheries is conducting a voluntary survey of individuals who have harvested river herring (alewives and blueback herring) commercially, recreationally, or for personal use at any point in time over the past 20 years. The goal of this survey is to gather first-hand observations to help understand alewife and blueback population trends and help the efforts to restore these fish populations along the U.S. east coast.  Commercial, recreational, and personal use harvesters have detailed knowledge of the fish in their local areas, such as changes in fish run timing, distribution, and individual fish size and species composition and NOAA seeks to document some of this local knowledge in order to better understand river herring and their habitat.

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 (dan.kircheis@noaa.gov) or Julia Beaty (julia.beaty@maine.edu).  Information is also available at www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/stories/2014/surveykickoffonRiverHerringinaugust.html.

Tagged Great White Shark in Pamlico Sound
Those great white sharks tagged by Ocearch are at it again.  Last week one of the sharks they have named Katherine made a foray into Pamlico Sound.  Katherine is a mature female and is quite widely traveled.  Early last week she was offshore of the Continental Shelf, east of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay and headed south.  She turned inshore and entered Pamlico Sound through Oregon Inlet and swam inland to the mouth of the Pamlico River off Pamlico Point.  She then turned and exited the sound through Hatteras Inlet and continued south.  Her most recent ping was in Onslow Bay about halfway between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. 

Katherineís foray into Pamlico Sound has the Ocearch researchers buzzing and is very interesting to a lot of fishermen.  You can follow the travels of Katharine and other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.

Pending Legislation/Regulations
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is requesting public input on proposed management measures affecting the fishery management plans for snapper grouper, and coastal migratory pelagics (king mackerel).  The public is encouraged to provide written comment and participate in upcoming public hearings scheduled between January 13 and February 4, 2015.  The public can also join Council staff for an informational Q&A webinar to learn about the amendment prior to attending the public hearing.

The following amendments to fishery management plans are being considered:

* Public Hearings:  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.

* Scoping:  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 mike.collins@safmc.net.

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
Electronic copies of Amendment 32 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2014/am32/index.html, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.  More information for Amendment 32 can be found online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2014/am32/index.html.

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.

Fishery Meetings
February 2:  Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.  A copy of the agenda is available under the Public Meetings Tab at www.ncdmf.net.

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.

Tournaments, Seminars, 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 16 to 18:  Richmond Fishing Expo, Meadow Event Park at the Virginia. State Fairgrounds, Doswell, VA, www.ncboatshows.com

January 17:  Fly Tying Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.  

January 17 and 31 and February 14:  Flycasting Clinics, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.com/learning.

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.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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