I thought fishing was slow last week, but the wind and cold of this week made it even slower.  Now the early forecast looks even worse for the week ahead.  After a nice, but very windy, day Saturday, the forecast shows a whole lot of very cold and even a chance of some snow during the middle of the week.  I sure do regret calling this a mild winter last month.  I must have pissed Old Man Winter off and he is trying to show what a PIA he can be.

Even with the near bluefin perfect weather (20 knots plus of wind and rain is good too) I didn't receive a bluefin report this week.  I had one bluefin fisherman send me a message this week saying they have left as abruptly as they arrived and that appears to be what has happened.

All the wind this week hasn't allowed much fishing in the ocean.  Some folks would call it ideal weather for bluefins, but it has been rather bouncy for heading offshore to chase offshore bottom dwellers, king mackerel or to the Gulf Stream.  The fishing has been good for these fish in the past couple of weeks and there really aren't any reasons to think they have moved or quit biting.  When the weather calms enough to allow fishermen back out to them, the expectations are to find them in many of the same areas, hungry and ready to bite.

There were a few reports of fish caught in the surf this week.  The surf temperature has been flirting with 50 on several days and a few fish were biting.  Most of the reports were from near inlets and were for drum.  This was mostly red drum, but some black drum are being caught also.  Black drum are usually more prevalent around structure, like the jetties at Fort Macon at Beaufort Inlet, Masonboro Inlet and Little River Inlet. 

The weather hasn't really been any better for inshore fishermen, but they can usually find some protected water and don't need as large of a weather window.   There have been several reports of really good inshore fishing, but it hasn't been the most consistent.  When the water is this cold and fronts are rolling through, there is a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability. 

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 is always the possibility some black drum are mixed in and feeding with them.  Stripers are farther up the rivers where the water is brackish to fresh.

Trout, pups and stripers will all hit live baits.  The only live bait consistently available during these cold months is mud minnows and they can be fished on the bottom or suspended under a cork.  Black drum prefer pieces of natural bait to lures.  Three of the most productive are crab, mullet and shrimp.  These have some oils that filter downcurrent and help bring hungry fish in.  Red drum will also readily eat any of these and stripers prefer crabs and mullet, but will eat shrimp too.   Trout usually aren't much for dead natural baits, but will occasionally pick up a shrimp, especially during the winter.  

All will hit soft plastics, especially scented ones or soft plastics coated with a scent product.  Pro-Cure Scent Gel is used and recommended by many guides.  Specks, pups and stripers will also often hit suspending and diving hard lures.  MirrOlures in the 17MR, 27 MR, 52M and TT series are long-time favorites.  The 17 and 27 MRs suspend about a foot deep and the 52M and TT series will dive deeper.

Specks and reds will be in the marshes and well back in creeks off the rivers and Intracoastal Waterway.  One of the hotspots for puppy drum has been the marshes around Bogue Inlet and the surf off Bear and Browns Islands.  Several fishermen have mentioned schools numbering well into the hundreds.  Trout occasionally mix with and follow the pups onto the shallow flats, but are often in the deeper channels beside them.  Black drum may be mixed with either - or both.

NOAA Weather Buoy 41036 is Permanently OffLine
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.  Its last transmission was on January 14, but there isn't a notice that it has been removed. 

Information and Comment Requests/Pending Legislation and Regulations
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
Feb. 18 to 20:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. - Public Comments, Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. Public Comments followed by the  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.  There will also be an option to listen to the meeting on-line by connecting to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/listen-online and following  the directions.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
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 21 and 22:  International Custom Rod Building Exposition, M.C. Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.icrbe.com.   

February 27 to March 1:  Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo, Greensboro Coliseum Exhibition Hall, Greensboro, www.ncboatshows.com.

February 27 to March 1:  Dixie Deer Classic, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, www.dixiedeerclassic.org.

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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