I hope you enjoyed the preview of spring we enjoyed for the past week.  It sure was nice, but winter has returned and the temperatures for at least the next week will be below normal.  There is even a chance for a dusting of snow.  The groundhog didn't see his shadow and is predicting an early spring, but I'm concerned he may be caught up in all the political hysteria sweeping the country right now and he may be politicking and just saying what we want to hear.  Let's hope the remaining winter isn't as harsh as the nasty cold snap we endured during January. 

I thought the warm weather last week might get some inshore fish fired up, but it didn't happen - at least not to the levels I was hoping.  There were some good fishing reports, but most were offshore.  Unfortunately, the wind forecast for the coming week only includes a small weather window on Saturday.  Let's hope the cold of this coming week doesn't cool the water significantly.

I was looking for lots of good reports of speckled trout catches last week, but they just didn't happen.  A few fishermen caught them well, but it wasn't widespread.  Unfortunately, there were  a lot of areas that have a history of producing during winter weather breaks that didn't.   

Last week I suggested using shrimp shapes as your go-to soft plastics for trout and that continues to hold true.  Shrimp naturally move slower than minnows and shrimp lures can be fished slowly to entice cold fish to bite.  Using scented baits or adding a scent like Pro-Cure helps too.    

I was reminded that hard lures may not produce as many trout, but often entice larger ones.  Different fishermen prefer different lures, but I like the suspending MirrOdine series from MirrOlure.  The MR 17 size is typically the most productive, but there is a larger MR 27 and a smaller MR 14.  These lures sink a foot or two, depending on the salinity of the water, and stabilize.  They then drift with the current and can be twitched occasionally to get fish's attention.

There is also a Heavy-Dine (MR 18) that is the same size as the MR 17, but is heavy and sinks.  This works well in deeper water, but I believe it sinks too quickly for using in shallow water.  I prefer to add a Storm Suspend Dot/Suspend Strip or two to get the MirrOdine to fish a little deeper.  Don't forget to add some scent to these lures too.  Pro-Cure is a gel and sticks to hard lures well. 

Red drum fishing has been generally slow this winter.  When a school is found, they can be a lot of fun for a while.  Unfortunately, the schools aren't as plentiful and aren't in many of the places they usually are.  My go-to for pups is checking in the back of creeks where the water is usually a degree or two warmer than in the open marsh or around the creek mouths.

Stripers are biting in most of the coastal rivers.  Stripers like the colder water better and typically are feeding more aggressively.  They like vertical structure and some of the most obvious vertical structures are bridges, train trestles and larger docks.  Stripers will hit live baits, cut bait and a variety of soft and hard plastics. 

Surf fishing has been slow.  A few more surf fishermen gave it a shot during the nice weather last weekend and this week, but the catches didn't really improve.  There are some scattered drum, specks, blowfish, sea mullet and such being caught, but nothing has been consistent. 

Some fishermen took advantage of the warm weather and calm seas last weekend and early this week to head offshore and were rewarded.  Offshore bottom fishing is wide open, with black sea bass leading the catch.  There are also grunts, porgeys, beeliners, snappers and grunts.  They offer a lot of pullage and make for good meals.

Several fishermen ran to approximately 100 to 125 feet deep and caught kings on the rocks and wrecks.  The key was finding one that was holding bait and the deal was on.  They were reporting the surface temperature as 64 to 68 degrees.  Most winter kings are small, but there were several nice ones caught too.

Fishermen that ran to the Gulf Stream found some wahoo and blackfin tuna.  Both were holding on the warm side of temperature breaks and rips.  Several charter boats from Hatteras headed out with jigging trips for blackfin tuna and did well.  Several groups caught 20 plus.  This is pretty good fishing for the end of January and first of February.

Weekend Boat and Fishing Shows
The Flyfishing Show (www.flyfishingshow.com/winston-salem) is in Winston-Salem and the Convention Center Boat Show (www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow) is in Raleigh this weekend.  I'm not much of a fly fisherman, but I'm told this is a really good show for those who are.  I was told by a couple of boat company owners and reps that there would be several new models on the floor at the Convention Center Boat Show, so I'm planning on spending a few hours there at some point looking at shiny new fiberglass.  With the temperatures dropping this weekend, one (or both) of these should be a good outing for fishermen.   

Pechmann Center Offers Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville will offer an Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic on February 13 from 9:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M.  The clinics features the Joan Wulff method of fly-casting and follows three basic fly-fishing clinics offered during January.  The intermediate clinic will take participants beyond the basics and introduce them to using the line-hand, false casting, casting on all planes and shooting line.  Participants will also learn how to develop power application and cast accurately.

Participants in the Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic must have completed a Basic Fly-Fishing Clinic or Discovery Course offered in 2015, or the Basic Fly-fishing clinic in 2016.  The clinic is limited to 30 people and there is a registration fee of $5, payable on the day of the event.  For more information on the fly-fishing clinic or other programs offered at the Pechmann Center, visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.

Cape Lookout Fly Fishers to Host Fly Casting Clinic
The Cape Lookout Fly Fishers will host a free fly casting clinic on February 27 at the Morehead City Recreation Center.  The Clinic, which begins at 10:00 A.M., is open to the public and no experience is required.  There will be loaner rods and multiple instructors.  For more information visit www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.

WRC and NWTF to Offer Free Turkey Hunting Seminars
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the National Wild Turkey Federation have scheduled 24 free turkey hunting seminars across North Carolina during March and April.  The seminars will be held at 12 locations, with an introductory seminar on one night, followed by and Advanced seminar the next night.  The seminars will run from 6:30 to 9:30 P.M. and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis to all ages.  Participants 16 years and younger will need parental permission to register.

The introductory seminars are designed for novice turkey hunters or those who have never hunted turkey and topics will include biology, hunting methods, calls and decoys, firearms and ammo selection, camouflage clothing, and turkey cleaning and cooking techniques.  The advanced seminars are for experienced turkey hunters and will focus on advanced biology, more complex hunting tactics, calls and decoys. Advanced seminars will include tips and strategies for dealing with stubborn, hard-to-hunt gobblers and will include cleaning and cooking techniques.

A list of seminar dates and locations is available on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org.  Pre-registration for the turkey hunting seminars is required and participants must register online at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/SkillsBasedSeminars.aspx.  For additional information contact Walter “Deet” James, WRC Hunting Heritage Biologist at 919-707-0059, 984-202-1387, or hunting.heritage@ncwildlife.org.

Cape Lookout Off-Road Vehicle Plan Under Review
The National Park Service released a proposed rule that will establish a permit system for the use of off-road vehicles at Cape Lookout National Seashore.  The proposed rule was posted in the National Register on December 18 and a 60-day public comment period is underway on a proposed rule.  The public comment period is open through February 16.

The proposed rule would require that ORV users complete a short educational program and purchase a permit at a fee to be determined by the superintendent.  Permits have not been previously required.  Fishermen and others who use ORVs at Cape Lookout were critical of the proposal during the first public hearings after a draft of the proposed rule was released last year.  The plans for a permit system have not been dropped, but the National Park System said a number of changes were made to reflect public input during the planning process.  A permit will allow driving ORVs along designated routes during designated times.

The initial plan was to cap the number of permits issued each year at around 3,000, but the new proposal raises that number to 5,500 permits initially issued.  ORV use will be monitored for the first five years and then be based on a five-year average rather than a three-year average as was initially proposed. Any year during which there is a significant ORV closure of 14 or more days will not be counted in the average.  The new rule would also change seven miles of existing pedestrian-only areas from all year closures to seasonal closures from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The rule would create a designated route for ORVs in front of the Long Point and Great Island cabin camps and there would be an additional four ramps on North Core Banks and five ramps on South Core Banks to allow for crossing between the beach route and the back route.  Restrictions on night driving were lessened from the draft plan.  Under the new plan, beach ORV routes would be closed from 9:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. during sea turtle nesting season, which is May 1 to September 14.  Driving on the back of the island routes will be allowed from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. and around the clock in the Great Island and Long Point Cabin Camps.

Comments may be submitted through the federal eRulemaking Portal at Http://www.regulations.gov.  Enter the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE24 when commenting on the proposed rule.  Comments or copies of electronic comments may also be mailed to the Cape Lookout Park Superintendent at: Superintendent - Cape Lookout National Seashore - 131 Charles St. - Harkers Island, NC 28531.

DMF to Hold Public Meeting on Dare County Artificial Reefs
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ (DMF) Artificial Reef Program will hold a public meeting on February 8 at 6:00 P.M. in Room 168 of the Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo.  The meeting is to inform the public of enhancement plans for four artificial reefs near Oregon Inlet and to answer questions on the proposed project.  DMF is working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to receive the demolition materials from the Bonner Bridge replacement project.  Bridge demolition is expected to begin in the fall of 2018 and the materials will be distributed to artificial reefs AR-130, AR-140, AR-145 and AR-160.  

For more information, contact Jason Peters with the DMF Artificial Reef Program at 252-808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.

SAFMC Solicits Public Input on Electronic Reporting Requirements and Other Fisheries Issues
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting public input through a series of public hearings on proposed measures that could affect federally permitted charter vessels along the Atlantic coast.  For-hire vessels (charter and headboats) operating more than three miles offshore in federal waters must have specific federal permits to legally target dolphin and wahoo, Coastal Migratory Pelagics (mackerel and cobia), and snapper grouper species.  The SAFMC is considering alternatives that would require electronic reporting for charter vessels with those federal permits, ranging from weekly reporting to daily reporting, through development of the Atlantic Generic Charterboat/Headboat Reporting Amendment.  The SAFMC is also soliciting comments on Coastal Migratory Pelagic Amendment 26, which includes several proposed management actions for Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic migratory group king mackerel. Additional information about these actions and public comment opportunities is available at http://safmc.net/meetings/public-hearing-and-scoping-meeting-schedule.

On Tuesday, February 9, at 5:00 PM, SAFMC staff will provide a brief presentation on the Generic Charter/For-Hire Reporting Amendment during the Mid-Atlantic Council's February 2016 meeting in New Bern, North Carolina.  However the public hearing webinar to gather input on these proposed measures will be held the previous day, February 8, at 6:00 p.m.  Those wishing to participate in the webinar may register by visiting https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/294541944674559490.

From January 25 to February 3, public hearing will be held throughout the South Atlantic Region.  The closest meeting will be on January 28 from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries central District Office in Morehead City.  The date, time, and location for other meeting may be found at http://safmc.net/meetings/public-hearing-and-scoping-meeting-schedule#Meeting Schedule.    

Written comments for the amendments will be accepted until 5:00 P.M. on February 10.  Comments may be via:
• E-mail to; mike.collins@safmc.net (Please reference the name of the amendment you are submitting comments about in the subject line of your e-mail);
• Fax to; 843-769-4520; or
• Mail to; Gregg Waugh - Executive Director SAFMC - 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201 - N. Charleston, SC  29405.

SAFMC Seeking Advisors
Fishermen and others interested in participating in federal fisheries management are encouraged to apply for open seats on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's advisory panels.  Advisory panel members provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans.  The Council has eleven 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, chefs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.

Advisory panel members are appointed by the Council and serve for a three-year period.  Members may serve for three consecutive terms before reaching their term limit.  Advisory panel 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 positions on the Golden Crab Advisory Panel, Habitat Advisory Panel, Information & Education Advisory Panel, Mackerel Advisory Panel, Law Enforcement Advisory Panel, Shrimp Advisory Panel, Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel, and SEDAR Advisory Panel.  Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.

Persons interested in serving as a member on the SAFMC advisory panels should contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the Council office at 843/571-4366 (Toll Free 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.  

Advisory panel applications must be received by February 10.  Advisory panel members will be selected during the Council's March 7-11, 2016 meeting in Jekyll Island, Georgia. 

NOAA Fisheries Proposes Expansion to Monitor Marine Sanctuary
After several years of scientific and archaeological assessment, NOAA is proposing to expand Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off North Carolina's Outer Banks to include additional maritime heritage resources. The proposed expansion would protect a nationally significant collection of shipwrecks that currently have little or no legal protection, including one of America's only World War II battlefields.  This expansion could have significant impacts on fishermen off the Outer Banks.  For more details and maps see http://monitor.noaa.gov/management/expansion.html.  

Four public meetings will be held from February 9 to 17 across N.C. (Raleigh, Feb. 9; Beaufort, Feb. 10; Hatteras, Feb. 11; and Nags Head, Feb. 17), plus one in Washington, D.C. On Feb. 16 to support the expansion.  The meetings all will run from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M.  More information is available on the website.

Fisheries Meetings
February 8: Marine Fisheries Artificial Reef Program Public Meeting, 6:00 P.M., Dare County Administrative Building, Manteo, Contact Jason Peters at 252-808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.

February 17-19:  Marine Fisheries Commission Business Meeting, Blockade Runner, Wrightsville Beach, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
February 5 and 6:  The Flyfishing Show, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.flyfishingshow.com/winston-salem

February 5 to 7:  Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow

February 6:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 7:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 11 to 14:  Mid-Atlantic Boat Show, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, www.ncboatshows.com

February 13:  Dogfish Pier Fishing Tournament, Carolina Beach Fishing Pier-Northern Extension, Carolina Beach, 910-458-5518.

February 13:  Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning

February 20:  Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Crystal Coast Convention Center, Morehead City, www.fishermanspost.com.

February 20 and 21:  International Custom Rod Building Exposition, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.icrbe.com.    

February 26 to 28:  Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, www.ncboatshows.com.

February 27:  Cape Lookout Fly Fishers Casting Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.   

February 27:  Team Mack Attack Dogfish Tournament, Seaview Fishing Pier, North Topsail Beach, www.seaviewfishingpier.com.

March 4 to 6:  Dixie Deer Classic, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, www.dixiedeerclassic.com.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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