We've had a few chilly days in the past week, but it didn't stay as cold as long as the forecast.  I believe I saw one weather report that said in spite of the early January deep freeze, it was still one of the top 5 warmest Januarys on record.  I'm OK with warm and hope that didn't bother anyone.

That dang groundhog saw his shadow Thursday morning and that's a predictor of another six weeks of winter.  If they are like the last three, I won't have an issue with it, but if they get cold and nasty, it could be tough.

The temperature will drop for Friday and Saturday, but begin warming again Sunday through mid week.  However, the early forecast is for cooler weather again next weekend.  There is wind in the forecast, so be careful in your fishing exploits.  The forecast includes winds of 15-20 knots through Saturday, then laying out some for a few days and increasing to above 20 knots by mid week. 

The water temps cooled over last weekend, but rebounded some this week.  They'll probably cool again this weekend, but in a good sunny area the fish should be active and feeding.  I received one report of red drum hitting topwaters the warm days this week.

You can keep a eye on actual water temps and trends by visiting the Carolinas Offshore Research and Monitoring Program website at www.cormp.org.  There is are several inside and nearshore ocean reporting stations, two weather buoys about 25 miles offshore in Onslow Bay and the NDBC weather buoys south of Cape Hatteras and east of Cape Fear.

The big topic of fishing right now is bluefin tuna.  There have been some big ones caught and the bite extends from east of Cape Lookout to off Southport.  It isn't what I'd call hot, but there are some of the big tunas being caught. 

Last week there was a bunch of internet and tackle shop chatter about when a few brave kayakers would give the bluefins a try.  One was caught by a kayaker off Hatteras about 5 years ago, but it was a mother ship trip and a schoolie bluefin of about 165 pounds.  With the 600 to 900 pounders as close as 30 feet deep off Carolina Beach, there were definitely kayak fishermen thinking and plotting.

I don't think anyone has tried them, but last weekend at the Carolina Outdoor Expo, I put a 70 Wide on a bent-butt rod in one of the rod holders on my kayak, just as a conversation piece.  Needless to say, it generated plenty of conversation.  Crazy was mentioned often.  However, I won't be real surprised when someone tries it.

I've mentioned permits, regulations, and required safety equipment several times and will again.  Bluefin tuna fishing is a special fishery, with special requirements, and many are for safety.  For more information on the permits and regulations visit www.hmspermits.noaa.gov

The Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program has posted information online at www.fishsafe.info and more information is available at www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/cfr-table-search.html.  There is a “NO Fault – NO Penalty” courtesy dockside boat examination available, with an examiner in Atlantic Beach.  For more information or to schedule an examination, call 252-247-4526.

It was windy most of the past week and I didn't receive much for reports from offshore.  The only current reports are some mixed yellowfin and blackfin tuna from Hatteras to the north.  Several of the seawater thermal imaging programs show the water 25-30 miles offshore has cooled into the lower 60s, but there is warmer water a little farther offshore, especially between Cape lookout and Cape Hatteras.  Expectations are there should be some wahoo and blackfin tuna along the first few Gulf Stream temperature breaks from a little north of the Big Rock down to Below the Steeples. 

There should also be some bottom fishing and school kings in the 110 to 125 foot depths.  One of the keys for finding both is surface water temps of at least 65 degrees.  Another plus for locating those school kings is finding pods of bait suspended in the water column.  Bottom fish have been hitting jigs, cut bait, and pieces of squid.  Kings have been hitting, spoons, sea witches rigged with strips, swimming plugs, and frozen baits.

Inside the inlets most water temps are ranging from about 50 to 55.  The lower temps are in open water, like the river channels and Intracoastal Waterway and the water tends to get a little warmer farther up creeks, especially those that get a lot of sunshine.  Many times that degree or two of warmer water can be the difference in fish that feed or fish with lockjaw. 

The three primary fish being caught along the immediate coast are red drum, speckled trout, and black drum.  Fishermen up many of the coastal rivers are also catching stripers and the first shad reports are beginning.

Black drum are generally caught incidental to fishing for pups and specks.  They prefer pieces of shrimp or cut bait, but will also sometimes hit soft baits, especially those with scent or scent added.  Pups will readily hit pieces of shrimp and cut bait, but specks can be picky and hold out for live baits.  Pups, specks, and stripers will all hit soft and hard lures.  Most shad fishermen use small spoons or shad darts, but they will also hit small curltail grubs.

Stripers, specks and pups will all usually be in moving water.  Near the inlets, where the tide is moving quickly, specks and pups will look for structure that breaks the current and makes it easier for them to hold position.  Moving farther from the inlets, the flow slows and this isn't as noticeable, but they all look for moving water to carry baitfish by them.  Stripers often prefer cloudy days, while specks and pups are generally more active on sunny days.     

Cobia Season closed for 2017 in Federal Waters
Citing another year (2016) when recreational cobia catches more than doubled the catch limit established by  NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries on January 25 issued a South Atlantic Fisheries Bulletin that effective January 24 recreational cobia season would be closed in federal waters until January 1, 2018 from  the Florida-Georgia state line northward.

This closure is just in federal waters (3-200 miles offshore).  However, the NC Marine Fisheries Commission and its counterparts in the other states, must adopt state regulations that prevent another overage from cobia caught in state waters (0-3 miles offshore). 

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will see a presentation and are expected to discuss and vote on regulations during their quarterly business meeting scheduled for Wilmington , February 15-16.  The schedule for this meeting has been changed with public comment Wednesday afternoon and evening only.  An agenda and schedule for this meeting should be available soon at the MFC website, www.ncdmf.net, under the Public Meetings header. 

As information becomes available, I'll post it here.

Schedule Change for February MFC Meeting
The schedule for the February 15 and 16 MFC meeting will be different than what has been standard over the past few years.  There will only be one Public Comment Session and it will begin Wednesday (Feb. 15) afternoon and continue into the evening.  The business part of the meeting is scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 16).  An agenda and schedule for this meeting should be available soon at the MFC website, www.ncdmf.net, under the Public Meetings header. 

Beat The Winter Cold at Boat and Fishing Expos and Fishing SchoolsWhen fishing slows during the winter, fishermen can enjoy cruising boat and fishing expos and there are also opportunities to learn a few tips on catching more fish.  There is a list of the upcoming events for the next several weeks at the end of this, but they will continue for several months and a few should be mentioned.

The Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow, will be this weekend, February 3-5 at the Convention Center in downtown Raleigh.  Folks considering a new fishing boat should consider attending as this is the largest display of fishing boats in the state each year. 

The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department (http://oakisland.recdesk.com, 910-278-5518) hosts an inshore/nearshore saltwater fishing school each year that has filled for the past few years.  This year it will be offered twice (Feb. 4 and Feb. 18) in hopes of not turning anyone away.  This school features Capt. Jimmy Price and myself and lasts all day, with lunch included.  Several other similar events will be held at various locations in later February and March.

WRC and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest. 

There will be one Intro to Flyfishing and one Advanced Flyfishing programs, plus rod building, plastic lure making and fly tying programs offered at the Pechmann Center during February.  For more information on the centers and their programs, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.  The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. 

The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head.  The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium is local and others are at Fort Fisher and Manteo.  For more information on the Aquariums and their programs, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select your preferred location.

WRC and NWTF To Host Free Turkey Hunting Seminars
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, will partner with the National Wild Turkey Federation, to offer 14 free turkey hunting seminars across the state in March.  The seminars, which will be held from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M., are open on a first-come, first-serve basis to all ages and skill levels.  Participants 16 years and younger will need parental permission.  Pre-registration is required and participants must register online.

Among the topics that will be covered during the seminars are biology, hunting methods, calls and decoys, firearms and ammo tips, camouflage clothing, and turkey processing and cooking techniques.  A question-and-answer session, along with a brief overview of hunter recruitment, retention, and re-activation initiatives, will conclude each seminar.

Dates and locations are:
March 1: Pitt County Extension Center, Greenville.
March 2: N.C. State University Engineering Building II, Raleigh.
March 7: Pasquotank County Extension Center, Elizabeth City.
March 8: Onslow County Extension Center, Jacksonville.
March 9: Craven County Extension Center, New Bern.
March 14: Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center, Mills River.
March 15: Cumberland County Extension Center, Fayetteville.
March 16: Bass Pro Shops, Concord.
March 21: Brunswick County Extension Center, Bolivia.
March 22: Haywood Community College, Clyde.
March 23: Caldwell County Extension Center, Lenoir.
March 28: Catawba County Extension Center, Newton.
March 29: Forsyth County Extension Center, Winston-Salem.
March 30: Guilford County Extension Center, Greensboro.

“This is the third year the Wildlife Commission and the National Wild Turkey Federation have offered these expanded, statewide seminars prior to the start of the spring gobbler season and they have been very popular with both novice and experienced turkey hunters,” said Walter “Deet” James, the Wildlife Commission’s hunting heritage biologist. "New for 2017, we have combined both introduction and advanced segments into one seminar thereby eliminating redundancy and the need to attend multiple seminars."

For additional information, visit www.ncwildlife.org/learning or contact James at 919-707-0059, 984-202-1387, or hunting.heritage@ncwildlife.org.

WRC To Offer "Ladies-Only" Flyfishing Workshop
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is offering a women-only fly-fishing workshop at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville on March 11, from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.  The workshop, which is part of the Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program, is open to women 18 and older on a first-come, first-serve basis to the first 40 registrants. 

Participants will learn the basics of fly-fishing from experienced instructors. Among the topics covered during the morning session are casting, tying knots, assembling rods and tying flies.  After learning the basics, participants will spend the afternoon fishing in the center’s ponds.

The registration fee is $20 and pre-registration is required by visiting www.ncwildlife.org/BOW.   This covers rods, reels, all equipment and lunch.  Participants should bring sunscreen, insect repellant, comfortable clothing and footwear.  Sign in begins at 8 a.m.

“This workshop is a great way for women to learn how to fly fish in a fun, stress-free environment with instructors who are knowledgeable and patient,” said BB Gillen, BOW coordinator with the Commission.  “The Wildlife Commission offers a variety of BOW programs throughout the year to help women develop hunting, target shooting, fishing, archery, canoeing and other outdoor-related skills.”

More information about upcoming BOW workshops is available by contacting B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638, or bb.gillen@ncwildlife.org, or by visiting www.ncwildlife.org/BOW.  

SAFMC Seeks Applicants for Federal Fishery Advisory Panels
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is currently soliciting applicants for open advisory panel seats.  Working at the grass roots level, advisory panel members provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans.  The Council has twelve 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, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.

Advisory panel members are appointed by the Council and serve for a three-year period, based on the frequency of meetings.  As those appointments expire, members currently serving on the AP may reapply for their positions.  These seats also become open to new applicants.  Members may serve for three consecutive terms before reaching their term limit.  AP 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 the following positions:
* Habitat Advisory Panel - 1 North Carolina Recreational Seat and 1 At-Large Research Seat;
* Information & Education Advisory Panel - 3 open seats;
* Mackerel - Cobia Advisory Panel - 2 Open Seats, 1 NGO Seat, and 1 Florida Seat for the Cobia Sub-panel;
*Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel - 2 North Carolina Open Seats, 4 Florida Open Seats, and 1 Consumer Representative Seat;
* SEDAR Advisory Panel (Pool)* - *Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.

Fishermen interested in serving as a member on the Council's advisory panels, should contact Kim Iverson, SAFMC Public Information Officer, at Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or 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 by February 10.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact area Council representatives to discuss their interest in serving.  Contact information for all Council members is available from the “About Us” section of the Council’s website at www.safmc.net or through the Council office.  Advisory panel members will be selected during the Council’s March 6 -10, 2017 meeting in Jekyll Island, GA.

SAFMC Conducts Webinars and Public Meeting in January and February
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council hosted two webinars during January and began a series of public meetings during January that will continue into February, with three meeting next week in North Carolina.  For amendment materials and other information, see the public hearing and scoping meeting page at http://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/public-hearing-and-scoping-meeting-schedule.   

The SAFMC will also conduct a series of public meetings regarding Snapper Grouper Amendment 43 (red snapper and recreational reporting) and 44 (yellowtail snapper allocation).  Three North Carolina meetings are scheduled and all will begin at 6:00 P.M.
* February 6, Hilton Wilmington Riverside, Wilmington;
* February 7, Hatteras Community Center, Hatteras;
* February 8, Doubletree by Hilton, Atlantic Beach.
For more information on these meetings visit www.safmc.net/safmc-meetings.

Those unable to attend can send written comments by mail or fax to Gregg Waugh, Executive Director, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405; 843-769-4520.

Another Great White Shark Caught Off Hilton Head Island, SC
Miss Carolina is the first Great white shark caught off the Carolinas to be fitted with a satellite tag.  She is not an Ocearch shark, but an Atlantic White Shark Conservancy tagged shark.  Her movements can be monitored through the "Sharktivity" App available through their website at www.atlanticwhiteshark.org and she was off Daytona Beach and headed south on Wednesday.

Capt. Chip Michalove, of Outcast Sport Fishing (www.outcastfishing.com) in Hilton Head, is the fisherman that tagged Miss Carolina and he added his fifth winter 2016/2017 great white caught by rod and reel earlier this week.  If you want to get up close and personal with a great white shark, he seems to be the captain who can make it happen.

Fisheries Meetings
February 15-16:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Business Meeting, Wilmington Hilton Riverside, Wilmington, www.ncdmf.net.   NOTE:  There has been a departure from the standard MFC meeting schedule for this meeting.  Public comments will be taken the afternoon and evening of February 15 only.  The business meeting will be February 16.  A schedule and agenda should be posted at the MFC website (www.ncdmf.net) soon.     

February 22:  Shellfish/Water Column Lease public Hearing, 6:00 P.M., NC Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, www.ncdmf.net.                                                          

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
February 3-5:  The Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, N.C., www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow.   

February 4:  Intro to Flyfishing Seminar, Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.    

February 4:  Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, N.C., http://oakisland.recdesk.com, www.captjerry.com.  

February 9-12:  Mid-Atlantic Boat Show, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, N.C., www.ncboatshows.com.  

February 11- 12:  Fisherman’s Post Fishing Schools, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, N.C., www.fishermanspost.com.  

February 16:  Intro to Kayak Fishing Seminar, Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.         

February 18:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers Fly Casting Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, N.C., www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.    

February 18:  Oak Island Saltwater Fishing School, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, N.C., http://oakisland.recdesk.com, www.captjerry.com.  

February 18:  Advanced Flyfishing Seminar, Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.  

February 18:  Eastern Carolina Winter Trout Series Tournament Two, Casper's Marina, Swansboro, www.facebook.com/Eastern-Carolina-Winter-Trout-Series-388293288189463/?fref=ts.   

February 18:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers Fly Casting Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, N.C., www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.  

February 18-19:  International Custom Rod Building Expo, M.C. Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, N.C., www.icrbe.com.

February 23:  Fly Tying Forum, Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.      

February 24-26:  Central Carolina Boat & Fishing Expo, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C., www.ncboatshows.com.   

February 24-26:  Eastern NC Boat Sale, Greenville Convention Center, Greenville, N.C., www.encboatsale.com.   

February 25:  Team Mack Attack Dogfish Tournament, Seaview Pier, North Topsail Beach, https://www.facebook.com/TeamMackAttack88.    

February 25:  Fisherman’s Post Fishing School, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, N.C., www.fishermanspost.com.    


Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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