Iíve about had it with this weather. I donít care for cold, wet or windy and weíve had too much of all three. Iím hoping at that point it begins to warm, dry out and slow down the fan some. Next Thursday, March 20, is the beginning of spring and Iím so ready for it and for the weather to stabilize.
This week I fished on Tuesday and watched several different school and pods of puppy drum in clear water in the shallow marsh. They were barely moving and at times sat absolutely still on the bottom for minutes at a time. If you moved towards them they would spook, but not too badly and the school would re-form in about the same location in 30 minutes or so.
We caught a half dozen or so of these fish and missed that many more. They were hitting weakly and not grabbing enough bait to get the hook solidly. Several we caught barely fought. They would roll, shake and raise their heads out of the water once or twice, then run the length of the line that was out before allowing themselves to be reeled to the net.
I also didnít see any of the schools of several hundred fish that have been reported. Iím not saying fishermen arenít seeing them, just reporting that we didnít on Tuesday. We saw single fish, pods of three to six fish and schools of up to maybe 30 fish. Still, it was lots of fun to stalk and catch them.
In addition to the inshore creeks and bays, there has been a little puppy drum and speckled trout action along the beaches. Some of the best reports have come from the uninhabited islands. This begins at Portsmouth Island and continues through Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Browns Island, Lea-Hutaff Island, Masonboro Island and the east Beach stretch from Fort Fisher to Bald Head. Fishermen have been riding down the beaches on calm days and looking into the surf to see fish. On windier days, they are riding to the back sides of the islands in their boats and hiking across the dunes to fish.
In some of these places where there is structure, like the jetties at Cape Lookout and Masonboro Island, there are black drum and dogfish sharks too. Black drum and dogfish prefer natural bait to lures and both have good noses. They will find a chunk of fresh (frozen) mullet or a big piece of shrimp.
Puppy drum, black drum and a few specks are being caught inside the inlets too. The coastal marshes and creeks off the coastal rivers have been the best spots recently. Scented lures will help attract the fish and donít be afraid to use fresh cut bait. Red and black drum have the best sense of smell of all the inshore fish and will locate a bait that smells good and isnít moving.
Even on the days the sun has us peeling clothing, the water is still cool. I like to fish the morning as much as anyone, but right now youíll typically fare better by letting the sun shine on the water for a few hours and get the fish feeling good.
Stripers continue to bite in the coastal rivers up to roughly Highway 17. There are also stripers in many of the creeks that empty into them. The stripers are hitting a variety of soft plastics and several hard lures. Structure is important for locating stripers and that structure can be as simple as a stump field along the bottom of the river. A good fishfinder and being able to read it will help locate them.
The shad run is well under way in many coastal rivers. Most of the shad are hickories, but there are a few larger American shad in the mix too. Shad darts and small spoons are the preferred lures for shad.
The only serious offshore reports I received this week were for bluefin tuna and they were located from Cape Hatteras to the north. They didnít bite every day, but when they bit the action was good. Several boats reported multiple hookups and one commercial boat landed a pair over 73 inches. Many of the recreational bluefins also exceeded 73 inches and were released rather than keep their single trophy fish for the year.
In a nutshell, commercial boats need fish of longer than 72 inches to keep them, while recreational boats are only allowed one fish of that size per year and would prefer to catch bluefins a little smaller they can keep. Be sure to have the proper permits and check the latest bluefin regulations before keeping one.
There had been good wahoo reports for the past two weeks, but the offshore reports this week were rather slim. Most fishermen believe there are wahoo and blackfin tuna on the temperature breaks at the edge of the Gulf Stream, but itís a long trip to take in marginal sea conditions.
For the previous two weeks there were also enough reports of dolphin to catch your attention. It is way too early for dolphin to be this far north, but once fish get in the Gulf Stream and begin feeding, they sometimes get swept farther north that they would usually be. The best reports that included dolphin had been from boats fishing from the Swansboro hole down towards the Steeples.
While the offshore conditions have mostly been bumpy, fishermen have been catching good numbers of black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys when they make the trip. There have been grunts, porgys and black sea bass a little shallower, but it takes getting to 100 feet plus for the beeliners.
In the past several weeks there has been litigation proposed on several fishery fronts. Late last week the NC Fisheries Association and the Carteret County Fishermenís Association sent a letter to several groups including NOAA Fisheries, North Carolina Marine Fisheries and North Carolina Inland Fisheries indicating the groups would be filing suit file suit against the agencies for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act in regards to fishing regulations pertaining to the incidental take of sea turtles and unfairly regulating commercial fishermen while recreational fishermen and pleasure boaters are not regulated.
The week prior, several national conservation groups served a similar 60 day notice of intent to sue to the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing excess capture and killing of sea turtles in shrimp trawls in federal waters. The common denominators in both litigation packages were sea turtles and nets.
North Carolina has an Incidental Take Permit for a limited number of sea turtles to be caught in gill nets, but nothing is currently in place to cover turtles caught in shrimp trawls. Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act in all U.S. waters.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on Amendment 20A to the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region. If approved, this amendment would modify the management plan to include changes to the coastal migratory pelagics permit requirements and restrictions, including changes to the sales provisions and income requirements.
For the Atlantic region, the amendment would add a prohibition on the sale of king and Spanish mackerel caught under the bag limit unless the fish are caught as part of a state-permitted tournament and the proceeds from the sale are donated to charity. The amendment would also remove the income qualification requirement for king and Spanish mackerel commercial permits from the management plan.
OAA Fisheries must receive comments on this amendment no later than May 2, 2014. Electronic copies of the amendment are available at the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_sa/cmp/2014/am20a/index.html or the e-Rule Making Portal at www.regulation.gov.
Comments on this document, must be identified as "NOAA-NMFS-2013-0168", and may be submitted by:
ē Electronic Submission via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0168. Once there, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Additional Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect or Adobe PDF documents up to 10MB may be attached.
ē Mail written comments to Susan Gerhart, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
One more MFC Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled during March. There is always the chance a meeting may be postponed or cancelled and more scheduled. Before driving for a meeting, it would be wise to check the Public Meetings section of the MFC website at www.ncdmf.net.
The Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board will meet March 19 at 10:00 A.M. at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheriesí Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.
The Snapper Grouper Committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) will be holding Port Meetings in North Carolina next week (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 Tís Cafť 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.
The Cape Fear Wildlife Expo will be held at the Wilmington Convention Center in Wilmington on March 14 to 16. There will be outdoor and wildlife booths and exhibits, boats, tackle and accessory booths, seminars and more. I will be there giving kayak fishing seminars on Saturday. For more information visit www.capefearwildlifeexpo.com.
The Spring Madness Special Events will be happening at the Marine Corps Exchange at Camp Lejeune beginning on March 20 and running through the following weekend. I will be in the fishing department on March 21 giving a couple of fishing seminars. This is for active duty and any retired military in the area. If you have base access, come on out and letís talk fishing and you can check out the specials at the MCX