After the way the weathermen danced around the cold/no cold forecast for last weekend and then missed entirely with the forecast for a light dusting of snow in Carteret County and along the Outer Banks, I'm almost afraid to accept their forecast of mostly sunny weather with highs in the fifties for this weekend. I sure hope they are right because we need a good weekend with warmer weather. Highs in the sixties would be better and who knows -- they missed one way last weekend and might miss the other way this weekend.
The wind forecast is unsettled too. They have the days starting with winds in the 10 to 15 knot range, but hedge their bets with possible increases during the afternoon. The forecast has the wind dropping some on Sunday and Monday, but with rain coming on Monday.
The trawl season for stripers opened again this week, but with a few changes. There still isn't a provision to prevent a boat with a 2,000 pound limit from pulling through a school containing hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish, but at least now the limit is based on poundage, rather than the 50 largest fish. Also, the overcatch can now be transferred to other boats licensed in the fishery. There will still be some overcatch and culling, but it should be less. While not as good as it could be, at least this is an improvement.
Several fishermen said they found schools of puppy drum in the surf during the past week. Many were along the beaches of uninhabited islands or stretches of beach from Hatteras Island to Fort Fisher. The drum are moving slow, but will usually feed. Their fight is mostly pretty lethargic and several fishermen reported catching lower slot fish that did not pull drag. This is being blamed on water temperatures, which were being reported as 41 to 44 degrees everywhere along the coast on Thursday morning. The drum would hit cut bait and soft plastics that were moved very slowly.
There are also red drum in inside waters in many places, but they are moving even slower as the inside waters are cooler.
Stripers are biting well off Oregon Inlet and in several sounds and rivers. Jigs with curltail grubs have been a popular lure and chartreuse has been a preferred color. Fishermen are reminded that striper season is closed in federal waters (beyond three miles offshore). In the Albemarle Sound, Pamlico Tar River, Neuse River and Trent River, stripers have been biting well. The bite is a little slow, but stripers in the Cape Fear River have begun biting again too.
I talked with Capt. Gary Dubiel last week and he said the stripers in the New Bern area had moved up the rivers a ways. He also said the refurbishing work was progressing well on AR 392 in the Neuse River just below the Highway 17 Bridge.
The same snow that blanketed Carteret County also clipped Hatteras and Ocracoke. Only a couple of boats ventured out and the fishing was slow. They caught a few blackfin tuna and a 220 pound bluefin tuna. Farther south, several fishermen combined offshore trolling with a little bottom fishing after the snow and wind passed. Their main bottom catch was black sea bass and triggerfish. Wahoo were the trolling catch and Chasin' Tails outdoors weighed one at 51 pounds.
NOAA Fisheries has not yet released their summary of last week's Atlantic Coast Bluefin Tuna Listening Sessions. The mood in New Bern was against adding bluefin tuna to the Endangered Species List. It will be interesting to see the summary of these meeting provided by NOAA Fisheries. The Final Status Review Report is also being compiled. For more information, please contact Kim Damon-Randall of NOAA Fisheries at Kimberly.Damon-Randall@noaa.gov or 978-282-8485, Ext 6535.
The public hearings and scoping meetings regarding fisheries management measures proposed for several federally managed species, including those within the snapper grouper management complex, dolphin (fish), wahoo, golden crab, and octocorals within the South Atlantic region began Monday in New Bern. These meeting are being held by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), but no council members were introduced as being present in New Bern. Another meeting was held Wednesday in Charleston, S.C. and both were well attended. Policies influenced by these meetings will impact both commercial and recreational fishermen who fish in federal waters between 3 and 200 miles offshore from the North Carolina/Virginia state line southward to the Florida Keys.
The public hearings were held on three amendments and informal public scoping comments were taken on four other amendments currently under consideration. The hearings were in different rooms and participants had to move through all the rooms to offer opinions on all the actions. Several fishermen attending the hearings said they felt being separated was an intended move by the SAFMC to lessen the negative responses.
The three existing amendments included:
* Annual Catch Limits (pounds or number of fish) of Amendment 17B will be set for species in the snapper grouper management complex as well as dolphin, wahoo, and golden crab.
* Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 9 includes commercial trip limit options for greater amberjack, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, and gag grouper.
* Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 includes actions relative to the management of octocorals and non-regulatory actions that update existing Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) information. Also, modifications to the management of Special Management Zones in South Carolina, sea turtle release gear requirements for the commercial snapper grouper fishery, designation of new EFH areas and EFH-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern are being considered.
The four amendments under consideration by the SAFMC are:
* A Comprehensive Catch Shares Amendment (Amendment 21) is being considered to look at options for catch share programs for species currently under management through quotas (except snowy grouper), effort and participation reduction, and endorsement actions.
* Snapper Grouper Amendment 22 explores options for long-term management of red snapper as the stock begins to rebuild.
* Amendment 24 addresses the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing and rebuild the red grouper stock.
* Golden Crab Amendment 5 contains plans to implement a catch share program for the commercial golden crab fishery.
Public testimony of these meetings was video-streamed live via a link from the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net and others are to be done as they occur. The SAFMC is also accepting written and email comments until 5:00 p.m. on February 14, 2011. Copies of the public hearing and scoping documents, with details on how to submit written comments, will be posted on the Council's web site at www.safmc.net and will be available by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or 866/SAFMC-10.
Amendment 17B was posted to the federal register on December 31 and will be effective January 31, 2011. Electronic copies of the final rule may be obtained from the e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.
Last weekend's Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo in Richmond, Va. was well attended and many folks were from North Carolina. North Carolina was very well represented by fishermen giving saltwater fishing seminars and saltwater fishermen in booths. This weekend there are three fishing events and a fourth will be held before next week's report.
The N.C. Flyfishing Show is moving from Charlotte to the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh and will be held Friday and Saturday, January 29 and 30. In addition to the displays and sales booths, the Flyfishing Show will feature seminars and destination theatres. There will be demonstrations and a special "Ladies Only" casting session with Capt. Sarah Gardner of Nags Head. Session size is limited and some have registration fees. For more information on the sessions and fees, call 866-481-2393. For more information on the show, visit www.flyfishingshow.com.
The Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series for N.C. will be at Odell Williamson Auditorium, which is on the Campus of Brunswick Community College in Supply on Saturday, January 29. This series mixes fishermen with national reputations and local experts for a six hour seminar. Capt. Ray Massengill will be one of the speakers with ties to the Crystal Coast, with Captains Rob Ferris, David Kesler, Dennis Barbour and Jimmy Price, plus Mike Marsh representing the Cape Fear Coast. For more information visit www.nationalseminarseries.com.
The Sixth Annual North Carolina Fishing Pier Society -- Johnnie Mercer's Pier Dogfish Tournament will be held January 29, from 1:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Johnnie Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach. All proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the North Carolina Public Access Foundation to help keep access to water throughout N.C. open to everyone. For more information on the Dogfish Tournament, visit the NCFPS website at www.ncfps.com or the NC PAF website at www.ncpaf.com.
The Fayetteville Area Anglers Network will be hosting a kayak fishing seminar on Wednesday, February 2 at the Pechmann Outdoor Education Center at Lake Rim in Fayetteville. The seminar will begin at 6:30 P.M. and the featured speaker is Capt. Jerry Dilsaver. For more information visit www.fayettevilleanglers.com.