This was another slow week of fishing.  There were some fish caught, but it was generally pretty slow fishing.  There were a couple of bright spots, mainly with red drum schooled in the marshes, but it wasn't widespread.

Weather was a big factor.  While there were a couple of sunny days without wind, there were more that weren't sunny and were windy, even with some rain, and it has been cold this week.   However, this is February and it is winter and the weather is a huge influence on the fishing.  Not only does cold, windy weather affect the fish, but when the air and water are both cold, conditions that were marginally acceptable in warmer weather just aren't. 

We are looking at some sunny weather for the weekend, but the forecast also includes gusty winds.  Maybe you can find some sheltered water to catch pups, specks or stripers.  There is a nice looking weather window shaping up for the middle of next week.  I know long range forecasts can't be relied on, but keep your eye on it and remember that the second day of good weather is usually better for fishing than the first.

This is the first week I haven't received a bluefin report or at least heard a rumor.  Does anyone have any word on these tackle busters?  There seems to be plenty of bait around the shoals and the wind has been blowing about right - as in really hard.  Has the water temperature dropped low enough to move them on?

I also didn't hear anything this week from fishermen headed offshore after kings or going to the Gulf Stream.  However, there were a few small weather windows that some bottom fishers used with good success.  Many had limits of large black sea bass, beeliners and porgys and had added a bunch of triggerfish and grunts.  They were catching lots of grouper and a few red snapper, but those seasons are closed, so they must be released.   Several of the bottom fishermen said they put out light lines for kings and some caught a couple while others didn't.

I didn't hear of fish in the surf this week, but I would expect there were some red drum along the Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Lea-Hutaff Island, Masonboro Island and in the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.  Black drum or tautog are also possibilities while fishing around structure, like the jetties at Cape Lookout, Fort Macon State Park and Masonboro Inlet.

Inshore fishermen are faring a little better than their ocean counterparts.  The fishing isn't hot by any means, but many inshore fishermen are finding a mixture of red drum, speckled trout, black drum and stripers.  Typically the targets in the backwaters off the sounds and Intracoastal Waterway are specks and pups, but there may be some black drum mixed with them. 

Both drum will eat pieces of shrimp, cut bait and crab fished on the bottom or just above the bottom suspended under a cork.  Shrimp and crab have an oil that permeates the water and attracts just about any fish around.  Pieces of mullet and menhaden are good too, but just don't have quite the same attraction as the crustaceans. 

Trout will occasionally pick up a piece of shrimp, but don't seem to care much for cut bait.  They prefer live baits and during the winter, mud minnows are the predominant live bait.  Red drum and trout will also hit soft plastics, especially the scented ones, and hard baits.  If the bait doesn't have scent, I would suggest adding some and Pro-Cure is used and recommended by many guides.

The stripers are a ways up most of the coastal rivers.  I haven't heard of any in the New River, but they are in the Cape Fear, Neuse, Tar-Pamlico and Roanoke.  There are also some specks and pups in some of these areas.  Stripers will eat many of the same baits suggested for drum and hit many of the same lures suggested for drum and trout.

A last bit of advice is to remember all the inshore fish are cold and not moving quickly, so fish any lure slowly to give them plenty of time to see and react to it.

BoatUS Warns of E-15 Gas in NC Stores
On Thursday, January 29, BoatUS (www.BoatUS.com)  sent an E-mail message to all its members and press outlets in N.C. warning that Sheets, an Altoona, Pennsylvania based convenience store chain, had announced they would offer E15 fuel – gas containing up to 15% ethanol – at 60 of their North Carolina locations beginning in early 2015.

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) believes that could be a problem for recreational boaters, motorists and many other users of gasoline-powered equipment and vehicles as there are no marine engines warranted to run on E15 and according to AAA, most automobile manufacturers say any damage due to the use of this higher ethanol blend fuel will void the warranty.

Gasoline with greater than 10% ethanol (E10) is prohibited for use with recreational boat engines, but it’s a common practice among trailer boaters to fill the tow vehicle first, then pull the boat up to the same pump and fill the boat.  A small, inadequate warning label on the pump pointing to the prohibited uses of E15 may contribute to a situation ripe for misfueling.

“This isn’t just about boats,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Program Manager Nicole Palya-Wood. “If you own an older car, truck, or any small engine such as a lawnmower or leaf blower that uses gas, you will need to be very aware -- and take an extra moment to ensure -- you’re not putting higher ethanol E15 in the tank.  At stations that offer multiple fuel selections these corn-based ethanol fuels are often the lowest price, which is an attraction for frugal boaters.  Ironically, owners of small, affordable boats could get hit the hardest when the expensive repair bill comes,” added Wood.

BoatUS has nearly 20,000 members in North Carolina and said they will continue to lobby Congress to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – a law which forces these higher blends and less compatible fuels onto the public.  For more on the Renewable Fuel Standard go to www.BoatUS.com/gov

NOAA Weather Buoy 41036 is Permanently 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.  It is not transmitting, but there isn't a notice that it has been removed. 

Information and Comment Requests/Pending Legislation and Regulations
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.

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.

The final rule implementing the regulations established by Amendment 20B to the management plan for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cobia, was published in the Federal Register on January 27, 2015.  The new rules will become effective on March 1 in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 

The rules will:
* Eliminate the 500-pound trip limit that is effective when 75 percent of the respective quotas are landed for king mackerel in the Florida west coast Northern and Southern Subzones.
* Change the fishing year for king mackerel in the Florida west coast Northern Subzone to October-September beginning October 1, 2015. Currently, the fishing year is July-June.
* Allow transit of commercial vessels with king mackerel through areas closed to king mackerel fishing, if gear is appropriately stowed.
* Create Northern and Southern Zones for Atlantic migratory group king and Spanish mackerel, each with separate quotas. NOAA Fisheries will close each zone when the respective quota is met or expected to be met. The dividing line between the zones is at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.
* Make administrative changes to the framework procedure for modifying management measures.
* Increase annual catch limits and catch targets for cobia.
* Create a Florida East Coast Zone for cobia to adjust for differences between the Councils' jurisdictional areas and the biological distribution of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic stocks. This zone will have its own quota, and NOAA Fisheries will close the zone when the quota is met or expected to be met.

Electronic copies of the amendment, final rule, supporting materials, and frequently asked questions may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_sa/cmp/2014/am20b/index.html.      

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is accepting applications for seven advisory panels. Advisory panels provide information and recommendations to the Council during the development of fishery management plans, amendments, specifications, and management measures. One of the chief responsibilities of advisory panels is to develop annual Fishery Performance Reports, which provide the Council and Scientific and Statistical Committee with information about the factors that influenced fishing effort and catch during the previous year.

 Commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, for-hire operators, dealers, scientists, environmentalists, and other members of the interested public with diverse experience and interest in Mid-Atlantic fisheries make up the advisory panels.  Most advisory panels meet 1 – 2 times per year and members serve for three year terms.  Members are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings. 

The Council is accepting applications for the following advisory panels:
* Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass;
* Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish;
* Surfclam and Ocean Quahog;
* Tilefish;
* Bluefish;
* Ecosystems, Habitat, and Ocean Planning;
* Dogfish (Jointly managed with New England Council). 
All current advisory panel members must reapply in order to be considered for reappointment.

Anyone interested in serving on a MAFMC advisory panel may apply online or download an application at www.mafmc.org/forms/advisory-panel-application.  Applications can also be obtained by calling the Council office at (877) 446-2362 or emailing jsaunders@mafmc.org.  Completed applications must be received by February 27, 2015.

 Completed applications should be submitted using one of the following methods:
* Online using the form at the Council website;
* Mail to: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901;
* Email to jsaunders@mafmc.org;   
* Fax to: (302) 674-5399. 
Please include “ADVISORY PANEL” in the subject of your fax or email.

Fisheries Meetings
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
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 6 and 7: Flyfishing Show, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.flyfishingshow.com.

February 6 to 8:  East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival, Washington Civic Center, Washington, www.ecwaf.com.

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

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

February 20 and 21:  Marabou Madness, Huff Concert Hall, Methodist University (Feb. 20) and John E. Pechmann Education Center (Feb. 21), Fayetteville, Project Healing Waters - Fayetteville, fayettevillePHWFFevents@gmail.com.

February 21:  Fisherman’s 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, Cape Lookout Flyfishers, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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