Hey folks, it looks like there may be some improvement in our weather over the weekend and into next week. I sure do hope so. I believe we have just about seen it all with the coastal snow from last weekend. I hope you had fun in it while it lasted, but I'm also very glad it didn't last long.
I was in Raleigh at the Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show when it began Friday night and drove home after the show closed on Saturday night. The roads were really in pretty good shape by then too. There were only a few slick spots where the sun and traffic hadn't reached on some of the smaller roads with lots of tree cover.
Typically there is a week or so of nice spring-like weather during February. There still could be, but it will have to hurry up and get on the ball to continue that trend this year. We've still got almost ten days and an improving forecast, so let's hope for the best. Once we get back to warm, then we can start working on getting rid of the wind.
There weren't many fishing reports this week. There is a little puppy drum and striper action, but that is about it for the middle and southern part of the state. While I think there were some caught, I didn't receive a trout report. With this cold, finding a sunny day is really important and an early to mid afternoon low tide helps a lot too. The water is at its warmest at low tide and having a few hours of sunshine on it may account for a degree or two of warming, which often is enough to make the fish feel like feeding.
There have been good striper reports from most of the rivers that flow from the Piedmont to the coast, but now the runoff from the snow and rain is threatening to slow or stop that bite. The reports are coming from the Neuse, Tar/Pamlico, Cape Fear and Albemarle Rivers. Stripers are managed by the different rivers and the regulations are subject to change on short notice, it would be wise to visit www.ncdmf.net before a striper trip and check the latest regulations for where you plan to fish.
There were some reports of big ocean stripers from north of Oregon Inlet this week. Unfortunately many of them were holding outside of three miles and couldn't be caught. There are reports of commercial and recreational boats that were boarded by the Coast Guard in the EEZ (3 to 200 miles offshore), where stripers are illegal. There were several tickets written.
The best striper report of the week came from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, where John McDaniel of Kill Devil Hills weighed a 64 pound striper Monday afternoon. That is large enough to become the new state record if certified by the Division of Marine Fisheries. McDaniel was fishing with Capt. Charles Hayward and mate Graham Alexander on the Rigged-Up. Congratulations!
The current N.C. striper record is a 62 pound fish that was caught by David Hiebert in 2005. Hiebert was also fishing from Oregon Inlet.
There were also some tuna reports from the Outer Banks. It seems some 150 to 250 pound bluefins are being caught by boats from Oregon Inlet. Those boats are also catching a few scattered yellowfin tuna. If we get that typical run of good February weather, perhaps this bite will spread down the coast as well.
As I am writing this week's column, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is meeting in New Bern to discuss issues related to a proposed May 15 to December 15 closure for large mesh gill nets. The closure would affect most inshore waters south of Oregon Inlet.
The Division of Marine Fisheries has proposed the closure to address a notification from the National Marine Fisheries Service of unauthorized takes of threatened and endangered sea turtles that have been observed in the large mesh gill net fishery in state waters. The letter outlining these proposals can be viewed at http://www.ncdmf.net/Gill Net Closure/DMF to RoyCrabtree-Turtles.pdf.
The word along the central to northern N.C. Coast is that Representative Walter Jones will be introducing a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives requesting nothing be done about the turtle and gillnet interactions until a sturdy can be done. This is even with the turtles already being included in the Endangered Species Act. The copy of the draft that was sent to me did not have a number assigned yet.
Representative Jones represents District 3, which includes the N.C. Coast from Currituck County to Onslow County and inland to Pitt, Wayne, Wilson and Nash Counties. His office maintains an on-line contact form so constituents can tell him how they feel on issues. That form may be found at http://jones.house.gov/contact_form_email.cfm. This is an issue where everyone should let him know how they feel.
There are several other political items I have to bring to your attention and ask you to make your voices heard. NOAA is proposing that all the N.C. National Seashores become a Marine Protected Area (MPA). This would include all the federal land from the Virginia state line to the western end of Shackleford Banks at Beaufort Inlet. The bottom line here is no one but the feds think this is a good idea.
The concerns are this would then allow them to arbitrarily close all these areas (Oregon Inlet, Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke, Portsmouth Island, Core Banks, Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks) to all forms of fishing, hunting, beach driving, camping, hiking or any other human use. This is not good and no amount of spin-doctoring or double-talk can make it seem good. The Carteret County Commissioners have already adopted a resolution opposing this and forwarded it to NOAA.
We need to do our part now also. E-mail comments are being accepted through February 22 at firstname.lastname@example.org. I regret the short notice, but I have been on the road quite a bit lately and just found out about this.
This will be my last reminder for the "United We Fish" fishermen's march on Washington, D.C., that is scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 24. The cause and promotion for this march has been enjoined by numerous commercial and recreational fishing organizations. Several of them with local ties including the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA, www.fishska.com), Frying Pan Tower Dot Com (www.fryingpantower.com), the Recreational Fishing Association (RFA, www.joinrfa.com), NC Waterman Dot Com (www.ncwaterman.com) and the North Carolina Fisheries Association (www.ncfish.org). RFA director Jim Donofrio has heralded this as an event that will unite recreational and commercial fishermen in a common cause.
Several of these organizations have chartered busses and some are full or nearly full. There are other busses and caravans in the works and information is available at the sites above.
A boat show and a fishing school are on tap for this weekend. The Power and Sail Boat Show will be at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh Friday through Sunday. For more information visit www.ncboatshows.com.
For fishing enthusiasts looking to improve their catching, Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be at River Park North in Greenville this Saturday, Feb. 20, for the second of three Sea Striker and Star Rods Saltwater Fishing Schools we are hosting across North Carolina during February. These schools are all day events featuring the inshore species of specks, reds, flounder sheepshead and gray trout, plus Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, offshore bottom fishing and throwing cast nets.
In addition to this Saturday, February 20, at River Park North in Greenville, we will also hold a similar event next Saturday, February 27, at Libby Hill Seafood Restaurant in Greensboro. Seats are available at both locations.
The schools will begin at 9:00 A.M. and last until approximately 4:00 P.M. There is a registration fee of $50 in advance or $60 at the door. Call me at 910-279-6760 for more details or to purchase tickets.