This nasty cold weather that began last weekend hasn't let up yet.  There have been several nights in the lower twenties this week and tonight (Thursday) is forecast to be in the low teens.  The high for Friday isn't supposed to make it out of the twenties and then bring another very cold night, but some good news comes on Saturday as the forecast says we will warm into the fifties, followed by a seasonably warm night and temperatures into the sixties on Sunday.  Welcome to eastern North Carolina.

Fish stuns and kills are a major concern with this cold weather.  There were some scattered stuns and kills last weekend, but the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries reports that none were major and they only observed dozens of fish, mostly speckled trout, in a few locations. 

Several guides saw hundreds of fish, mostly trout, floating in some of the creeks off the Neuse River on Sunday.  They said they went back on Monday and didn't find many new fish and that most of the fish from Sunday had blown into the grass and growth along the banks or begun to sink.  Their concern was that if DMF biologists, Marine Patrol and Wildlife Officers didn't begin checking until Monday, they missed the most significant evidence of the kill.

Dr. Louis Daniel, DMF director, and Michael Loeffler, DMF lead biologist for speckled trout, said the emergency protocols for speckled trout have been instituted and Marine Patrol officers and DMF biologists will be monitoring for fish stuns and kills Friday and over the weekend.  The Fishery Management Plan for Spotted Sea Trout (speckled trout) requires the fishery to be closed if significant kills are observed in three or more counties.  Many fishery managers are concerned that is likely with the cold temperatures that are forecast for the end of this week through Saturday mid-day.  If the season is to be closed, the DMF director will do it by proclamation and the season will close 48 hours after the proclamation is published. 

Sorry, but there just isn't much fishing to report this week.  I have reports of a few red drum, speckled trout and stripers, but the weather has been cold, windy and rainy and that isn't a good combination for receiving good fishing reports.  Even if the fish are biting, not many fishermen are going, so there aren't many reports.

The most consistent reports have been on stripers.  They have been in most of the coastal rivers just below where U.S. 17 crosses them.  Stripers have been hitting hard lures, soft plastics and chunks of bait.  Several fishermen said I should point out that the striper regulations are different in coastal waters, where the minimum size is 18 inches and fishermen can keep 2 fish, and joint and inland waters, where the limit is also 2 fish with a minimum size of 18 inches, but there is also a prohibited slot from 22 to 27 inches.  There is no possession of stripers allowed in the Cape Fear River or any of its tributaries.  For more information visit the regulations page at www.ncdmf.net.  

There are also red drum and speckled trout biting in some areas.  Pups and specks are biting better closer to the coast in water with higher salinity.  This water tends to be warmer and the higher salinity resists freezing.  It is almost cold enough they won't chase live baits, but not quite.  Mud minnows are the only option here and pups will also bite chunks of cut bait and crabs.  Both species are usually in deeper water early in the day and pups will often move shallower later in the day.

I heard of a few pups and black drum being caught in the surf, but those are the only ocean reports I have this week.  I've speculated for a few weeks on what should be offshore in the ocean, but won't this week as I hope the winter weather breaks after this cold clears out and I can give an actual report.

NOAA Fisheries Announces Recreational Saltwater Fishing Policy
Some of the biggest news of the week came right I had posted this last week when NOAA Fisheries announced they had formulated a new national policy that recognizes the value of - and gives a voice to - America's 11 million saltwater recreational anglers.

In the announcement, NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eileen Sobeck said that recreational fishing is an important national pastime that supports 381,000 jobs and generates in $58 billion in annual sales impacts, according to a NOAA 2012 report.  The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)  reports recreational boating is a $36.8 billion industry and creates more than 338,526 marine industry jobs, supporting 34,833 businesses.

The NOAA Recreational Saltwater Fishing Policy, which was developed with input from recreational fishing and boating communities, conservation organizations and managers across the nation, reflects anglers’ voices on a number of existing and emerging concerns, including public access, resource stewardship, regulatory education, science innovation and better lines of communication between state and federal rule makers with the community.

“With many of the nation’s fish populations recovering strongly, fuel prices dropping and the economy rebounding, we anticipate 2015 will be a busy and exciting year for recreational fishermen,” Sobeck said.  “With this policy in place, the stage is set for NOAA and the recreational fishing community to work more closely than ever before to address the priorities of anglers while working to ensure these resources are sustainable for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats, were instrumental in calling for this national policy through their non-governmental Morris-Deal Commission report, A Vision for Managing America's Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.

The NOAA Recreational Saltwater Fishing Policy’s goals include:
* Supporting and maintaining sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including marine and estuarine habitats;
* Promoting saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural and economic benefit of the nation; and,
* Enabling enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.

An implementation plan is to be released within 60 days, with regional implementation plans to follow in the coming months.  To view the NOAA Recreational Saltwater Fishing Policy, visit http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational/policy/index.html.

Community Effort to Re-establish NOAA Weather Buoy 41036
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 was 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 was disestablished during January.  A meeting was scheduled for the CMAST Building in Morehead City on February 17 for those interested in replacing this buoy and restoring it to service, but it was cancelled due to the wet freezing weather.  A new date has not been set yet, but I will have it here as soon as I receive it. 

Fishery Issues/Pending Legislation and Regulations
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.

March 2 to 6:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council , King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island, Ga., www.safmc.net.

March 2 to 25:  Cultch Plan Meetings, 6:00 P.M., For more information contact Garry Wright at 252-808-8058 or Garry.Wright@ncdenr.gov.
March 2: Ocracoke Working Waterman's Exhibit, Community Square Dock, Ocracoke;
March 3; N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central Division Office, Morehead City;
March 4: Hyde County Government Center, Swan Quarter;
March 5: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Manteo Field Office, Manteo;
March 12: Pamlico County Courthouse, Bayboro;
March 23: North Topsail beach Town Hall, North Topsail Beach;
March 24: N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Wilmington Regional Office, Wilmington;
March 25: Varnamtown Town Hall, Supply.

March 9:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office, Washington, Contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.

March 18:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board, 10:00 A.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
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

March 7:  Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, Palace Theater, Myrtle Beach, www.nationalseminarseries.com.

March 14:  Fisherman's Post Greenville Fishing School, Overton's, Greenville, www.fishermanspost.com

March 21:  Get Hooked Fishing School, N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, http://reservations.ncaquariums.com.


Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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