This week some bluefin tuna finally showed up off the Outer Banks. A big question is will they stay there or work farther down the coast to Cape Lookout and Cape Fear? Maybe by this time next week we’ll know they did.
The commercial season is open until March 31 or when the quota is filled, whichever comes first. Currently, boats permitted commercially can keep two bluefin per day that are greater than 73 inches in length. Boats permitted recreationally can keep one bluefin tuna per day that is a minimum of 27 inches long and less than 73 inches long. Tuna are measured by curved fork length (CFL).
When the winds slowed over the weekend and earlier in the week, more fishermen went offshore and many were rewarded. There were several good wahoo catches and a few blackfin tuna also. There was a rumor that one boat even found a pod of dolphin under a tree floating north in a rip, but I couldn’t confirm it. That has happened during the winter before, so it is probably a legitimate report.
Other fishermen stopped at the edge of the break and caught bottom fish. The word is there were lots of black sea bass and it was possible to keep a limit of larger ones if you were willing to release some that were barely legal. Other bottom catches included beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.
Inside the inlets, the action has been with puppy drum, black drum and stripers. A few speckled trout are also being caught, but with the season closed, they have to be released, so not many, if any, fishermen are targeting them.
Puppy drum are feeding along the beaches in the surf in places. I don’t mean to say you won’t catch some along the populated beaches, but they really prefer beaches that are dark at night and many times the schools seek out beaches without houses and lights.
I feel certain there are schools of red drum scattered along the beach from about Ocracoke Inlet to the south. There have been a few reports of pups along the Cape Lookout beach by the jetty, along Shackleford Banks, at Bear Island, Lea Island, Masonboro Island, the east Beach of Bald Head Island and Bird Island.
Inside the inlets, there have been red and black drum in the marshes and creeks. With the water temperatures moving up and down like they have been, there are times the drum tend to get finicky. One of the ways to help convince them to bite is to use scented baits or put some scent on a non-scented bait. When they swim over window shopping and it smells good, that often convinces them to take a bite.
Stripers have been biting well farther up the coastal rivers and fishermen have been trailering inland to chase them. The striper bite has been good in the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, the Neuse and Trent Rivers at New Bern, The Tar-Pamlico River at Washington and the Roanoke River below Plymouth.
Be aware that stripers have different size and number limits in different bodies of water and they may be in water where a fresh water license is required. There is a link to the striper regulations, with maps of the management areas on the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
Two tagged great white sharks are off N.C. this week. Both are offshore of the Continental Shelf so casual fishermen aren’t likely to stumble on either, but they do have tails and have shown they can cover ground when the urge strikes. Mary Lee is well offshore of the Big Rock and April is offshore of Oregon Inlet. I think April may have followed a school of bluefin tuna back to N.C.
Genie hasn’t pinged in almost a month and was last recorded just inside of the continental shelf off Brunswick, Ga. Katharine was off southern Georgia last week, but has moved back to off Fernandina Beach in northern Florida. Katharine really likes the shallow water and was just off the beach Wednesday when she pinged last.
Lydia, who was tagged a year ago off Mayport, Florida, continues to enjoy the colder water of the North Atlantic and likes to be in the open ocean. She is hundreds of miles east of Newfoundland. You can follow the travels of April, Genie, Katharine, Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
Several MFC Advisory Committees are scheduled to meet during March. The listings below are confirmed and more may be added.
The Strategic Habitat Area Advisory Committee for region three will meet at 10:00 A.M. March 4 at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. The committee is scheduled to review analysis results and select strategic habitat areas for priority fisheries from Ocracoke Inlet south to New River. For more information, contact Christine Jensen at 252-808-8056 or Christine.Jensen@ncdenr.gov or Anne Deaton at 910-796-7315 or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.
The Finfish Advisory Committee will meet March 11 at 6:00 P.M. at the Craven County Cooperative Extension in New Bern. For more information contact Jason Rock or Casey Knight at 252-948-3875 or 252-948-3871 or Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.
The Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board will meet March 19 at 10:00 A.M. at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.
The South Atlantic Marine Fishery Commission will meet March 3 to 7 at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in Savannah Georgia. Public input sessions will be held March 5 and 6 at 5:30 P.M. For more information, including an agenda, visit www.safmc.net and click on the “Meetings” tab in the left margin.
The Snapper Grouper Committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) will be holding Port Meetings in North Carolina the week of March 17 to 21 as part of the SAFMC Visioning Project. The SAFMC Visioning Project is the latest project to develop long-term management for the Snapper Grouper fishery off the South Atlantic states.
The N.C. Port Meetings schedule includes a 10:00 A.M. meeting at Cape Fear Restaurant in Southport and a 1:30 P.M. meeting at the Wing and Fish Company in Shallotte on March 17; 1:00 P.M. at T’s Café in Sneads Ferry on March 18; 11:00 A.M. at Sanitary Fish Market in Morehead City and 6:00 P.M. at the Raleigh Country Club in Raleigh on March 19; and a 10:00 A.M. meeting at the Wanchese Community Center in Wanchese and a 3:00 P.M. meeting at the Hatteras Community Center in Hatteras on March 20. To RSVP or for more information on the Visioning Project and Port Meetings, visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
A couple of outdoor and boat shows and a fishing seminar are on tap over the next two weeks. Before going into that list, let me remind everyone that Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 9. It will be dark when we get up, but there will be an extra hour of daylight in the afternoons. This may be just enough to begin sneaking in a quick fishing trip before dark.
The Dixie Deer Classic will be held February 28 through March 2 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. This is the top show in the state for deer hunters and it will have many exhibits and booths selling hunting equipment. There will also be a 3-D archery shoot and a competition for deer, with scoring taking place on site and mounts on display. Several regional and national experts will present seminars on various aspects of deer hunting. For more information visit www.wakecountywildlifeclub.com.
The Eastern NC Boat Show will be held March 7 to 9 at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville. The show will have boats, tackle and lifestyle and accessory booths. For more information visit www.greenvilleconventioncenter.com.
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville will host a crappie fishing seminar on March 13. Capt. Freddie Sinclair of Sinclair’s Guide Service will be the speaker. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the Learning tab.