While we are actually warming up, the first of this weekend looks to be a little cooler, windy and rainy. The front is pushing through and by Sunday we should see some winds with a little south in them and a push of warming, sunny weather. It probably won't be as warm as Wednesday, but that was just a little freakish.
I'm almost glad the wind was howling Wednesday. I was driving to Fayetteville for a seminar and the windshield thermometer peaked at 74 degrees between Riegelwood and Elizabethtown at about 2:30. I was already a little ticked about having to travel when the sun was out and it was warm and had the winds been calm, I would have probably developed an attitude.
On my trip, I went by Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River. I wanted some pictures of the work going on there and when I stopped in the construction trailer to ask permission, the foreman that was there told me the rock work in the first phase is completed. He said they were currently just working on the launching ramp and cleaning up and would be through. He said another company would come in after the spring spawning run and build the rock weir to allow fish to migrate above the dam to spawn.
While they dropped a degree with the cooler weather and cloud cover on Thursday, the water temps had been rising through Wednesday. Just a few weeks ago, the water had dropped to 40 or 41 along the beaches, with a couple of reports of high 39s. Last week it had warmed to 44 degrees and Tuesday and Wednesday, it had reached 47. This is much closer to normal for this time of year and many fish have responded to it.
The biggest news in ocean waters came Friday when the NOAA Fisheries Service send a Fishery Advisory notice that the recreational sea bass catch had reached its allocation and the season would be closing on Feb. 12 and remain closed until June 1. This is not good news for anyone and removes one more species from what charter and head boat operators can catch.
I spoke with one fisherman who said he was trying to book a bottom fishing trip for the men in a spring wedding and had several captains tell him they could go for a boat ride, but with all the closures he couldn't say much about what they could catch and keep. Red snapper season is closed indefinitely, vermilion snapper (beeliner) season is closed until April 1, grouper season is closed until May 1and with the closure of black sea bass, the only bottom fish that can be caught and kept are grunts, porgys and triggerfish.
Several fishermen have reported scattered schools of drum along Shackleford Banks and from Bardens Inlet out to Cape Lookout, especially along the jetties. They say these fish are milling about and feeding and if you find a school or are ready when they pass on the jetty, you will catch them.
Capt. Jeff Cronk said it is totally different down in the Swansboro area. Cronk said the fish that usually go to the beaches went out in the late fall, but have come back in. He said they haven't found reds in the surf for several weeks, but are doing well with them in inside waters. Somehow, that doesn't seem like a bad thing.
Stripers continue to bite well off Oregon Inlet, in Albemarle Sound and in the Tar/Pamlico, Neuse/Trent and Cape Fear/Northeast Cape Fear Rivers. The ocean stripers are hitting heavy jigs with trailers or large curltail grubs and trollers are using mojo and umbrella rigs with multiple baits. The river stripers are hitting diving swimbaits and soft plastic grubs on jig heads or fished weedless on worm hooks.
The fishermen at Hatteras had a good weekend with bluefin tuna. Many were hooked and some were landed. Most were recreational fish. The commercial season for bluefin closed Monday and will reopen on June 1. This year it snuck in and out without making much noise, especially after how good the early season had been in the northeast.
Several fishermen reported the black sea bass had been biting well on every day the weather allowed getting to them. They said they were finding large bass within 10 miles of the beach and really questioned the need to close the season, but would be going every day they could make it until February 12. They said once they got beyond about 20 miles there was also an abundance of large grunts.
The public hearings and scoping meetings regarding fisheries management measures, including Annual Catch Limits, 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 have ended, but 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 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan became effective January 31, 2011. Among other things, this amendment closes bottom fishing in waters 240 feet and deep out to 200 miles offshore. While designed to protect Warsaw grouper and speckled hind, it effectively eliminated fishing for all bottom species in these waters. 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.
There is a growing movement to have another fishermen's rally like the one held in Washington last February. This one is to be at the National Marine Fisheries Southeast Regional Office in St. Petersburg, Fla. on February 25. The purpose of this rally is to protest using flawed and outdated data for fishery stock assessment and management decisions and closing the seasons on healthy fish stocks.
The Sixth Annual North Carolina Fishing Pier Society -- Johnnie Mercer's Pier Dogfish Tournament was held January 29 at Johnnie Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach. All proceeds from the tournament were donated to the North Carolina Public Access Foundation to help keep access to water throughout N.C. open to everyone.
While 136 fishermen traveled more than 22,000 miles from six states to compete in the first pier tournament of the year, the dogfish just didn't cooperate and none were caught. The prizes were awarded by raffle to Yerby Ray, Newton, first; David Howell, Charlotte, second; Mike Krites, Greensboro, third. The grand prize was a plugging rod donated from Linden Custom Rods and that was won by Nicole Keys of Rockingham. 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 Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show is this weekend, February 4 to 6, in downtown Raleigh. In addition to lots of new boats with shiny fiberglass, there will also be accessory and fishing booths. For more information visit www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow2011.
To give folks a little time to plan, here is an advance notice of a couple of fishing schools coming up next weekend. Captain Jimmy Price and I will be hosting a fishing school for the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department on Saturday, Feb. 12. For more information call the recreation department at 910-278-4747 or visit www.captjerry.com. Also on Feb. 12, Fisherman's Post magazine will hold a fishing school at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.