We've got a little bit of mixed up weather headed our way for this weekend and the wind is forecast to blow for most of it. Saturday and Sunday may even hold some much-needed rain. The day that is shaping up best right now is Monday. It is forecast to be a little cooler, but with lighter winds. Perhaps some of you with President's Day off will be able to take advantage of it.
While getting offshore is very dependent on having light winds that aren't cooperating regularly, the fishing isn't bad. There are some red drum, speckled trout and black drum in the surf, especially around the inlets. Unfortunately, fishermen aren't the only ones targeting them. During the winter, porpoises turn to trout and reds as part of their diet and often work as a team to ambush them in ocean sloughs and other places they can trap them using the shore or a bulkhead.
Fishermen got offshore last Friday and again a couple of days earlier this week and caught fish. There were several good catches and one group jigged a boatload of blackfin tuna. Wahoo and blackfins have been the staple for trolling along the Gulf Stream breaks all winter and that hasn't changed. They might not be found easily every trip, but they are out there.
A little closer in, say in 100 to 125 feet of water, fishermen have been catching an assortment of ocean bottom fish and some king mackerel. The key has been finding a rock or wreck that is holding bait. Kings are hitting spoons, sea witches rigged with strips, swimming plugs and frozen cigar minnows. The bottom fish are biting just about anything that has an attractive scent and makes it to the bottom.
Several bottom fish seasons are closed. The bottom fish that can be kept include porgies, grunts and triggerfish. Check the regulations section at www.ncdmf.net, to verify which species can be kept and the current limits. A few amberjack and cobia are also holding around the bottom fish and occasionally try to pick one from your line on the way up. Both can be pleasant surprises.
In inside waters the fishing has ranged from barely OK to pretty good at times. The primary targets are puppy drum and speckled trout and when found they usually bite fairly well. For the past few weeks the talk has been of undersize to barely legal trout. That changed this week when Frank Plisko weighed a 6.5 pounder at Chasin' Tails Outdoors. He said he caught it on a MirrOlure MR 17 in the MGBG color.
Several fishermen recommend scented soft plastics, such as the Gulp shrimp for winter trout. Others like MirrOlures with the MR 17 suspending and MR 18 diving series being very popular. Matt Lamb at Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic beach suggested the new Yo-Zuri 3DS Prism Finish Minnows as another option.
With the cold snap last week, the water has cooled a little and is only in the low fifties in both the surf and sound. Dr. Bogus also said he has seen some porpoises well back up creeks in the Emerald Isle and Cape Carteret areas and suspects they are feeding on trout and drum, which is one reason why the fishing could be slow.
Puppy drum are in the surf at several places and spread to the backs of many coastal creeks. They will hit MirrOlures and other hard baits, but are much easier to handle when caught on soft plastics or other lures with a single hook. Several reports noted schools of pups in the surf and inlets from Bogue Inlet to New River Inlet, with more schools From New Topsail to Rich Inlet. These sections of beach are not inhabited except for about a mile on Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune. Other uninhabited beaches should be holding pups also.
Some black drum are also mixed with the pups and specks, but they rarely hit hard baits. While some black drum are being caught on soft plastics, especially the scented ones or those with scent added, many fishermen say the way to target black drum is with pieces of shrimp. Red drum will also hit the pieces of shrimp and occasionally so will trout.
While the big ocean stripers haven't made an appearance off the Outer Banks yet this year, smaller stripers are being caught in many coastal N.C. rivers. There is a little debate on which river is best, but the striper action has been good in the Neuse River around New Bern, the Tar/Pamlico River around Washington, the Roanoke River around Plymouth and the Cape Fear River around Wilmington. These stripers are also occasionally joined by a few red drum or speckled trout.
A variety of soft plastics, Rattle Traps and Bomber Long A diving lures have been catching the stripers well. Some fishermen have also been successful while flyfishing.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) is soliciting comments on Individual Fish Quotas (IFQs), new regulations on king and Spanish mackerel and cobia, limiting commercial effort for black sea bass, eliminating the 240' foot and out bottom fishing closure and changing the wreckfish ACL. For more information on these issues and how to file a comment electronically, by fax or by mail, visit the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) issued a press release calling for a ban on all inshore gill netting in N.C.
In that press release, the CFRG stated "With the legislature continuing in its meek course paralyzed into inaction by the loud noise of commercial fisheries interests, CFRG plans to act. We have retired our effort toward compromise and are rededicated to the cause to eliminate all gill nets from the waters of North Carolina as a conservation measure to protect our marine fisheries and the other aquatic life in our sounds and estuaries.
"CFRG is developing plans to unite with all other fish and wildlife conservation organizations and agencies, private, state, and federal, to rid our waters of this destructive gear that has taken and continues to take a terrible toll on our marine resources."
This comes shortly after the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) added Atlantic Sturgeon to the fish species protected by the Endangered Species Act. At a recent meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee to Study Marine Fisheries, Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, announced the listing to the legislators and told them he did not yet have directives from the federal agency, but he anticipated the listing would have a significant effect on N.C. fisheries, especially the gill net and trawl fisheries.
There are small breeding populations of Atlantic Sturgeon in many North Carolina rivers. These populations have been documented through studies of the past several years. It remains to be seen exactly how adding Atlantic sturgeon to fish protected by the ESA listing will affect fishing, both commercial and recreational, but many fishermen expect net restrictions will be even more severe than those imposed to protect endangered and threatened sea turtles.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will meet Wednesday through Friday, Feb. 22-24, at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. The meeting is open to the public with a public comment session slated for 6:00 P.M. on Feb. 22 and the start of the business session at 9:00 A.M. on Feb. 23.
The MFC is slated to consider recommendations from a Committee to Define a Commercial Fisherman, select its preferred management actions for Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, and to hear an update on the National Marine Fisheries Service decision to list Atlantic sturgeon as an endangered species and the possible impacts that could have to North Carolina fishermen. While not currently on the schedule, it is expected the agenda will be modified to hear discussion of the coastal gill net ban proposed by CFRG.
The briefing book for this meeting can be found on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-agendas-briefingbooks-presentations. For more information, contact Marine Fisheries Commission Liaison Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
Last week I had a just a little teaser about some upcoming big information from the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA). The big news from the NCKFA is about their Angler of the Year competition. This is a new event for NCKFA members (membership is free) and will span the eight months from April to November and includes four saltwater species and four freshwater species.
There will be a featured species each month, with prizes for the top three catches. Then at the end of eight months, points will be compiled for each participant's top four months and a NCKFA Angler of the Year will be awarded. The prize for the Angler of the Year will be a Hobie Pro Angler kayak courtesy of Hobie Kayaks and Great Outdoor Provision Company.
NCKFA founder Mark Patterson said the rules and tournament details were already on the NCKFA website on the OnLine Tournaments page. This tournament is in addition to the Battle in the Boro, Midnight Madness, Summertime Smallmouth Slam, Oak Island Fall Classic and Specks and Spots tournaments the organization already hosts. Patterson suggested checking www.nckfa.com for the latest information.
Several shows and events are scheduled across the region this weekend. On Saturday, Feb. 18, the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department will host a saltwater fishing school at the River Park North Nature Center. This will be an all-day event focusing on inshore and nearshore fishing, with a session on throwing cast nets at the end of the day. Captains Jimmy Price and Jerry Dilsaver are the featured speakers. For more information or to register, call River Park North at 252-329-4560.
If you have a case of cabin fever, perhaps a trip to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, S.C. would be the cure. The Expo begins on Friday, Feb. 17 and continues through Sunday. For more information visit www.sewe.com.
Two events will begin before next weekend. For fishermen and boaters, the Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo will begin Friday, Feb. 24 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro and continue through the weekend. This show combines boats, fishing gear and fishing seminars. For more information and a seminar schedule, visit www.ncboatshows.com.
Also on February 24-26, the Western Carolina Quality Deer Management Program Deer and Habitat Management Expo will be held at the Hickory Metro Convention Center in Hickory. For more information visit www.growingbucks.com.
Anyone who heads to Greensboro for the Boat and Fishing Expo may also like to visit the International Custom Rod Building Exposition a few miles away at the Showplace Center in High Point. The Rod Building Expo will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26. For more information visit www.icrbe.com.