There isnít much spectacular happening in our fishing this week.  It isnít bad, in fact itís pretty good for mid January, but after a grander bluefin hitting the docks in Morehead City and a radio tagged great white shark taking a tour of Pamlico Sound last week, it seems kind of lackluster.  This week, there is just some good news that fish are here and biting

The past week has been pretty mild for mid January.  Hopefully you have gotten out and enjoyed the sunny mild afternoons.  I havenít been fishing, but one afternoon I had some outside work to do and I was comfortable in shirtsleeves.  It sure would be nice if the winter continues to be mild and doesnít spring any surprises on us.

There is a winter storm forecast to pass inland of us this weekend and weíll see some rain Friday and Saturday, with gusty winds also on Saturday.  The early forecast shows Sunday and early next week being nice, but then has a cool down from mid week into the weekend and more wind for next weekend.

Bluefins lead the report again this week even though there wasnít another 1000 pounder caught this week.  There were several caught that exceeded 800 pounds.  Bluefin continue to range from just off Beaufort Inlet to Cape Lookout Shoals and out to the end and around the shoals. 

Many fishermen are taking other gear with them and if they donít have a bluefin aboard by mid to late morning, they are heading to some good bottom and catching a fish box full of bottom fish.  The beeliners, black sea bass, grunts, porgies and triggerfish are biting well.  Grouper season is closed until May 1, so they are being released.

Last week I mentioned that because Herbie Sheades and Jonathan Andersonís 1005 pound bluefin was caught commercially it couldnít be considered for a new state record.  If there is someone who would like to break Corey Schultz bluefin tuna state record of 805 pounds, this would be the time to do it. 

Beginning on January 1, anglers fishing under Angling Category (recreational) permits or Charter/Headboat permits fishing recreationally can keep one bluefin of 73 inches or longer per year.  There are some huge bluefin around Cape Lookout right now and it is a prime time to pursue the record.  The record would be nice, but think of all the sashimi they would have to split between the crew and friends! 

This was another week that I didnít receive a report from anyone trolling offshore.  Usually there are some wahoo and blackfin tuna on the first temperature break that rises to 70 degrees or above, but havenít had a report. 

Drum, both red and black are the main inshore/nearshore fish right now.  Fishermen are catching red drum in the marshes, creeks, flats and surf, plus some black drum around structure, like the jetties at Cape Lookout, Fort Macon and Masonboro Inlet.  Red drum will hit hard and soft lures, but the key is moving them slowly.  They will also eat pieces of shrimp and cut bait.  Black drum will occasionally hit lures, but prefer shrimp and cut bait.

There are a few tautog on many of the same structures holding black drum, plus some of the nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs.  The wall at the Morehead City State Port is also a good place to catch togs.  Tautog arenít pretty, but they taste really good.  Tautog are occasionally caught on soft plastics or baits intended for black drum and black sea bass, but they really like clams.

Last week fishermen were thinking the cold snap had slowed the speckled trout action, but it appears to have rebounded some this week.  It isnít as good as it was up until the first of January, but there are speckled trout biting and some of them are nice fish.  There are speckled trout in the surf and around the jetties at Cape Lookout, Fort Macon, Masonboro Inlet and also in the inside creeks.  The water is in the forties, so the trout arenít moving fast and fishing slowly is a big key to catching them.

Warm sunny days are the best time to catch specks and red drum and the second warm sunny day is better and the third even better still.  The sunlight warms the water and they become active and feed.  However, they are still cold and not moving quickly so fishing slowly is a must.  Using a scented bait or adding scent helps trigger bites.

There are also stripers in most of the coastal rivers.  They will hit many of the same lures as trout and drum, especially the scented soft baits.  In some places the stripers have been holding deep and (very) slowly trolled deep diving hard baits will usually draw strikes. 

Speaking of stripers; Saturday I fished the Cape Fear Riverwatch Invitational Striper Tournament with Capt. Stu Caulder of Gold Leader Fishing in Wilmington and Gary Hurley, publisher of Fishermanís Post Magazine.  Gary and I have been paired on the media boat for a half dozen years or so, but beginning last year we were assigned to Capt. Caulder.  They better watch out too because weíre staying really close to the winners and are going to top the field eventually. 

The Cape Fear Riverwatch Striper Tournament is a fund raising event to help with the restoration of stripers in the Cape Fear River.  A hundred years ago the Cape Fear was one of the top five striper rivers in the country.  Then, three locks and dams were built to facilitate barge shipping inland from the State Port at Wilmington to Fayetteville and none had fish ladders to allow the stripers access upstream to their traditional spawning grounds.  The striper population tumbled downward until about 10 years ago and now there are efforts to bring them back.  The tournament funds a major part of those efforts.

The good news is the number of stripers in increasing and so are the average sizes of the fish being caught.  There is a moratorium on stripers in the entire Cape Fear River System, so all must be released.  They are tagged, weighed and measured during the tournament.

The water in the Cape Fear River was cold and muddy for the tournament, so fishermen moved into the Northeast Cape Fear River, which was much cleaner but still cold, and only had to deal with the cold water.  We found some scattered stripers holding along the channel edges at about 15 feet and managed to get three of four strikes to the boat.  Two were caught trolling large lipped diving plugs and one fell for a MirrOlure Lilí John. 

Every boat recorded at least one striper release and several caught more than one.  We continued to be one fish and about an inch and a half short in several ways and added another chapter to our legacy of nice, but not quite.  Maybe next yearÖ

Congratulations to the winners!  Jim Lister fished with Capt. Jeff Wolfe and topped the Largest Striper and Senior Angler Categories with a 29.25 inch fish.  The Top Aggregate (2 fish) was 53.5 inches and was landed by Nathan Edwards and Adam Meyer while fishing with Capt. Seth Vernon.  Kevin Bloom and Dak Millis landed four stripers while fishing with Capt, Jamie Rushing to collect the trophy for Most Stripers.   

If youíre looking for something really interesting to do this Saturday, the Johnnie Mercerís Pier Annual Dogfish Tournament, sponsored by the N.C. Fishing Pier Society is always a lot of fun.  The tournament starts at mid day and extends into the evening and there are always more than 100 participants.  Johnnie Mercerís Pier is in Wrightsville Beach and more details can be found at www.ncfps.com

NOAA Weather Buoy 41036 is Off Line
In early December the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a notice that at some time during January 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.  According to the NDBC website link (www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=41036) Buoy 41036 has been disestablished Ė whatever that means.  It is not transmitting, but there is not a notice that it has been removed. 

The Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program website (www.carolinasrcoos.org) shows this buoy as Station ILM3 and still lists it as broadcasting, but the last record was on January 14.  Buoy ILM3/41036 was deployed by CORMP and was never part of the NOAA/ NWS federal backbone system even though it was given a NDBC number and a link from their website. 

Information and Comment Requests/Pending Legislation and Regulations
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

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 persons 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 requesting comments on the Southeast Region Electronic Monitoring/Electronic Reporting Regional Implementation Plan.  The goal of the plan is to provide an operational strategy for implementing and expanding the use of electronic monitoring (e.g., video cameras, vessel monitoring systems) and electronic reporting (e.g., electronic logbooks) for federally managed fisheries in the Southeast Region.  NOAA Fisheries has already received initial input from the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils.

The primary objectives of the plan are to:

(1) Define regional objectives for the use of EM/ER;

(2) establish a framework for EM/ER development and implementation;

(3) identify challenges impeding the use of EM/ER in the region and potential solutions for overcoming those challenges;

(4) develop a prioritized list of fisheries suitable for EM and/or ER;

(5) identify and quantify (where possible) costs and infrastructure needed for expansion of EM/ER use; and,

(6) develop a process for reviewing progress made toward plan implementation.

Electronic copies of the EM/ER plan are available through the NOAA Fisheries Web site at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/documents/pdfs/em_er_implementation_plan_southeast.pdf.

Comments may be submitted through February 9, 2015 by electronic submission via e-mail to nmfs.sero.EMERplan@noaa.gov or by mail to Andrew Strelcheck, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.  Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, 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

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.

Fisheries 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 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 30 to February 1:  Down East Sportsmanís Expo, Greenville Convention Center, Greenville, www.downeastexpos.com.

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

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

February 5 to 8:  Mid Atlantic Boat Show, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, www.ncboatshows.com.

February 5 to 8:  Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow.

February 7 and 8:  Fishermanís Post Wilmington Fishing Schools, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 21:  Fishermanís Post Morehead City Fishing School, Crystal Coast Convention Center, Morehead City, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 27 to March 1:  Dixie Deer Classic, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, www.dixiedeerclassic.org

February 27 to March 1:  Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo, Greensboro Coliseum Exhibition Hall, Greensboro, www.ncboatshows.com.

February 28:  Fly Casting Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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