With a little luck, last weekend was the last of the really bad weather for this winter.  There is a slight temperature drop and some rain in the forecast for this weekend, but it doesn't appear to be too severe.  Spring officially arrives next Friday, March 20, and I'm ready for it.

The water is warming!  Dr. Bogus reported the water temperature in Bogue Sound had reached 60 Wednesday morning and that's the first level to get fish active.  He also reported the surf was still a bit cool at 49 degrees at Emerald Isle.  However, the surf temp has risen from 44 a week ago, so this is a nice increase and it should continue, just at a slower pace than the inside waters.

We're reaching mid-March and the ocean piers that didn't stay open all winter are reopening.  I haven't seen a picture or received a confirmed report, but I've heard bluefish and blowfish discussed several times.  With the water warming rapidly, they could arrive at any time.  It's also approaching time for the spring sea mullet (whiting, Va. mullet) run to begin.

There were a couple of days in the past week with excellent sea conditions - except for the fog - and fishermen that headed offshore were rewarded with excellent catches of bottom fish.  There were nice black sea bass and triggerfish in most fish boxes, plus a good mixture of grunts, porgys and beeliners.  Remember that grouper season is closed until May 1, so don't keep any of them. 

I'm surprised not to hear of some good catches of wahoo, blackfin tuna and king mackerel.  I think it was because the folks who headed offshore were bottom fishing and not trolling.  If the weather stays nice, those reports should begin to increase.

I received a couple of reports of flounder being caught last weekend.  They were in the ocean, but I had to promise not to tell exactly where.  I can say it was east of Cape Lookout Shoals and within sight of land.  That should get anyone interested in the general area.  The hot setup was jigging white bucktails with white Berkley Gulp shrimp or scented soft plastics.  A few flounder and a lot of black sea bass and bluefish also hit Sea Striker Jigfish and Haw River Stingsilvers.

Some of the fishermen who ventured east of Cape Lookout Shoals said they saw schools of false albacore too.  It looks like there are fish nearby and our ocean fishing could pick up really well at any time.

Speaking of ocean fishing, two good things are happening around Cape Hatteras this week.  There has been a run of citation red drum in the surf at Cape Point and the bluefin tuna bite is picking up between Diamond Shoals and Oregon Inlet.  There is thought that the drum bite could be moving south to Ocracoke, Drum and Ophelia Inlets and to Cape Lookout.    

The inshore fishing reports are better this week as the warm weather got more speckled trout stirring and the drum and striper action may have also picked up a little.  In just a week, there are baitfish stirring in a lot of creeks and hungry fish are chasing them.  With the warming water, bait and fish are moving out of the extreme backs of the creeks to places that are easier to reach and fish.  Some of the small creeks that are only tidal flow, with no headwater source, have warmed enough fish have moved all the way to their mouths.  That is a lot of warming for a week.

Puppy drum and black drum are being caught in most creeks.  Chunks of cut bait and pieces of shrimp have the scent to lure them in.  Puppy drum have also been hitting soft plastics well, particularly those with scent or scent added.  They are also hitting hard lures, notably those that suspend a foot or two below the surface. 

Trout action has picked up in the creeks.  The water is warming and they may be anywhere from the backwaters to near the mouths.  Even though the water has warmed a little and trout are feeding, they aren't real active and may have to be coaxed into eating.  Trout tend to like water a little deeper than drum and will be over the ledge or in holes. 

Several fishermen said having mud minnows was the key to getting the trout to feed.  They said they would also hit soft plastics, especially those with scent, but they must be fished slowly.  Several fishermen said they had been doing well on the 14 MR MirrOlure MirrOdines. These little lures are only 2-1/4 inches long and apparently the specks really like them. They said to lather the lures up with Pro-Cure and fish them very slowly, only twitching them lightly every half minute or so.

 Stripers have been active during the cold weather and continue to be active as the water warms.  There is good striper action in most of the coastal rivers from the Cape Fear at Wilmington to the Roanoke at Plymouth.  Stripers will hit a variety of hard and soft lures plus pieces of cut bait. 

Check the striper regulations before keeping one.  They are strictly managed and the regulations will vary at different places in the rivers and sometimes in the creeks off the rivers.  Striper regulations and maps can be found under the regulations tab at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/

Last week there were a few reports of shad in the Neuse River and creeks off of it above New Bern and this week the run is in full force.  I haven't received reports from other rivers, but the shad run should be starting coast wide.  The rivers are high and several fishermen said the key to the best shad action was to move out of the river channel into the flooded timber.  Shad darts and small gold spoons, like the Nungesser 000 and Tony Accetta Pet Spoons are Neuse River favorites.  Several fishermen are also singing the praises of tandem rigged chartreuse curly-tail grubs in the 2 inch size.

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. 

There is a growing push to find a way to replace this buoy and restore it to service.  It is very important to fishermen and boaters in Onslow Bay.  An earlier meeting that was postponed has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 26 from 6:00 to 7:30 at the N.C. State CMAST Building in Morehead City.  All who are interested in replacing this buoy and restoring it to service are asked to attend.  For more information on the efforts to reestablish Buoy 41036 visit http://secoora.org/buoy.  

Information and Comment Requests/Pending Legislation and Regulations
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposal to revise the guidelines for National Standard 1, 3 and 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The National Standard guidelines assist the eight regional fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries in developing effective fishery management plans.

“The proposed revisions clarify and streamline the National Standard guidelines, address concerns raised by partners and stakeholders during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility to address fishery management issues,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The proposed revisions, if implemented, will result in better-managed and more sustainable fisheries.”

The National Standard 1 guidelines provide guidance on preventing overfishing while achieving the optimum yield (the amount of fish which will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities) from each U.S. fishery.  The National Standard 3 guidelines provide guidance on managing a stock as a unit throughout its range, and the National Standard 7 guidelines address minimizing costs and avoid duplication in fisheries management.

The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require councils to revise their current fishery management plans. Rather, they offer additional clarity and potential flexibility in meeting current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates.

The proposed revisions include:
● Increasing flexibility in setting timelines for rebuilding programs;
● Providing flexibility for better managing data-limited stocks;
● Clarifying guidance on which stocks require conservation and management;
● Enhancing current efforts by the councils to apply ecosystem approaches to management;
● Providing for more stable fisheries through guidance on multiyear overfishing determinations, phasing in results of new stock assessments and the carryover of the unused portion of annual catch limits to subsequent years;
● Adding a definition for “depleted stocks” to recognize non-fishing-related impacts to fish stocks, and;
●  Recommending the councils re-evaluate the objectives of fishery management plans, to ensure they reflect the changing needs of the fishery, including allocation of fishery resources.

Public comments on the proposed rule are due June 30, 2015.  To learn more and read the proposed rule as well as to submit comments, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/national_standards/ns1_revisions.html.

Fisheries Meetings
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.

March 19: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Sea Turtle Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office, Washington, Contact Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.

March 23 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 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 31:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Shrimp Bycatch Reduction Industry Work Group, 9:30 A.M., North Carolina History Center, Tryon Palace, New Bern, Contact Kevin Brown at 252-808-8089 or kevin.h.brown@ncdenr.gov.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
March 13 to 15:  Eastern NC Boat Sale, Greenville Convention Center, Greenville, www.greenvilleconventioncenter.com

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

March 14:  Inaugural Stew and Brew Competition, Fish Stew Cooking Contest, Mother Earth Brewery, Kinston, www.motherearthbrewing.com

March 17:  Beginning Fly-Tying Course, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org.

March 20:  Spring begins.

March 20 to 22:  Cape Fear Wildlife Expo, Wilmington Convention Center, Wilmington, www.capefearwildlifeexpo.com

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

March 21:  March Family Fishing Workshop, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, (crappie fishing seminar), www.ncwildlife.org.

March 26:  March Fly-Tying Forum, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org.

March 27:  Spring Madness, Marine Corps Exchange, Camp Lejeune.  

March 28:  Outdoorsman’s Bonanza, Market Station, Albemarle, www.outdoorsmansbonanza.com.

April 1:  NCKFA Cape Fear Chapter, GOPC Wilmington, King Mackerel Fishing From A Kayak, www.nckfa.com.


Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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