If warm is what you are looking for, this should be a good weekend for you. However, there is a front forecast to move through sometime and bring some gusty winds and that may be the make or break part of the forecast. There are some weather windows, but the forecast is still evolving and those windows may open enough to allow a trip offshore. Be careful though, the weather windows are small and sometimes those small windows slam shut sooner than we want.
We started daylight savings time last Sunday and spring officially arrives on Wednesday. The calendar is moving ahead and that is good. The recent rains and cold fronts have slowed the arrival of spring weather down a little, but if we can just get through these March winds, weíll be well on the way to a nice spring. Check your calendars folks; itís only two weeks to Easter.
Every week more fishing piers reopen and by Easter all, except for a couple still doing repairs, should all be up and running. The surf temperature is hovering around 50 degrees and the fishing isnít good yet, but there are some fish to try to steal your bait. The pre-opening report from Bogue Inlet Pier lists puffers and a few black drum as already biting. There are some dogfish moving along the beach, plus a few (very) scattered reds and specks. Soon these will be joined by sea mullet and all will be right in the spring world.
The water is still cool enough any inclement weather can stifle the bite for a day or so, but there are pretty good numbers of speckled trout, red drum and black drum in inshore waters across much of the coast. Cold rain is one of the worst deterrents and we have had that once or twice a week for a month, but after a day or two, they are nibbling again. Right now it looks like the forecast may hold pretty well through the weekend, except for wind, so this might be a good time to plan a fishing trip on a sunny afternoon. With Daylight Savings Time in effect, we suddenly have an extra hour of daylight each afternoon
Puppy drum are generally the most active in cooler water. There are some pups along the inshore flats and in the shallow marshes and creeks, plus there are pups on the ocean beaches. I donít know how they can tell, except for the absence of lights at night, but they prefer the uninhabited beaches.
There are a few specks feeding with the pups along the beaches, but the cooler fronts pushed them back into the backs of creeks a month or so ago and they havenít returned to the open water in any numbers. Some were moving toward the front of the creeks this week and maybe this will be the time they get out in the creeks and rivers and stay. Fishing slowly is still important, especially for the specks. They donít handle cold water as well as the pups.
Soft plastics are still accounting for the great majority of the specks, stripers and reds regardless of where they are caught. Scented baits, and baits with scent added usually produce the best. Fishermen who have the patience to work suspending lures slowly are catching generally larger fish, but not as many. MirrOlure MR17s and Badonk-A-Donks have been mentioned often.
Shad are moving up the coastal rivers and the reports are of a lot of shad in the Neuse River, with smaller numbers in most others. Fishermen report the old standard lures are working for shad again this year. The standards are small spoons (typically gold is the best color) and shad darts with a chartreuse or fluorescent red head. A no-alibi rig contains one of each and takes away any excuse of not having the right lure.
Offshore ocean fishing has been spotty and a big part of that is not having calm seas to be able to make the trip. There are a couple of small weather windows this weekend and weíll have to wait and see what happens. As soon as the weather settles out, the offshore catches should improve.
Wahoo and blackfin tuna have been the main part of most offshore trolling catches from Cape Lookout to the south. A few yellowfin tuna have been caught north of Cape Lookout and bluefin tuna have been from Hatteras to the north in pretty good numbers.
Offshore bottom fishermen are catching a good mixture, but can only keep grunts, porgies and triggerfish. These arenít enough to make a special trip, but are a nice addition to a trolling trip. Beeliner season open on April 1 and there is discussion at the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to realign the season closures, so the seasons for more species are open at the same time. Nothing will happen in time to help for this year, but maybe some common sense will apply in the future.
Offshore fishermen have reported seeing schools of false albacore from 5 to 25 miles offshore when heading to the Gulf Stream. These fish will be moving inshore soon and should provide some reel screaming fun for lots of fishermen. Some king mackerel are also holding around the rocks and wrecks in 100 to 120 feet of water. Bait and water of 65 degrees or warmer are the two primary indicators of kings.
Those great white sharks that have been tagged in U.S. Atlantic waters are moving around and creating a tracking trail of GPS pings when they reach the surface. Well, Mary Lee and Lydia are; Genie always spent more time underwater and she hasnít pinged a location since January 19.
Lydia has generally stayed in the waters off Jacksonville, Fla., where she was tagged on Sunday, March 3. After moving up to Southern Georgia, she has moved back offshore of Jacksonville. Mary Lee looked to be heading around Florida and possibly into the Gulf of Mexico, but in the last few days she has begun moving northwest and was just a little east-northeast of Great Abaco, Bahamas on Thursday afternoon.
If you have any curiosity about how and where great white sharks move, you can follow the travels of Mary Lee, Genie and Lydia, plus lots of other sharks from around the world, by using the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org. I am really intrigued by it.
Senate Bill 58 (Increase Funding for Dredging), which was introduced by Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) on February 5, 2013, seeks to raise boat registration fees to help pay for dredging the shallow N.C. inlets. While boaters realize something must be done to keep the shallow inlets open and passable. Many feel this bill has some serious flaws and it has met with a lot of resistance. This week BoatUS (www.boatus.com) joined in the efforts against SB 58.
There are several major issues with SB 58 and the largest is there are too many exemptions to N.C. boat registration. Boats that are federally documented (most large boats) are exempt from N.C. registration and most N.C. commercial boats receive free registration. Another prominent issue is that SB 58 raises the registration fees of all N.C. registered boats, regardless of their size and location, and many will never pass through an inlet. Other concerns include who prioritizes and schedules dredging?
The registration fees proposed in SB 58 are:
Up to 14 feet: $15 annual or $45 for 3 years;
14 to 20 feet: $25 annual or $75 for 3 years;
20 to 26 feet: $50 annual or $150 for 3 years;
26 to 40 feet: $100 annual or $300 for 3 years;
40 feet plus: $150 annual or $450 for 3 years.
The fee for all size N.C. registered boats is currently $15 annually or $40 for 3 years. There is no argument this will be a substantial increase for owners of all but the smallest boats.
SB 58 designates half of the collected fees to go into a fun earmarked for shallow inlet dredging. Still, this fund would only pay for half of the dredging costs. The remainder must be funded by the local communities and/or county. The remaining half of the registration fees stays with Wildlife Resources and there should also be guidelines regarding how it can be used.
I would suggest taking time to read SB 58. It can be found on the "Find A Bill" segment of the N.C. Legislature website at www.ncleg.net. While at the website, you can find the ways to contact your Representative and Senator and let them know how you feel. BoatUS also has a link to SB 58 and a way to express yourself. To use this, simply go to www.BoatUS.com/SB58 and click on "Take Action."
N.C. Sea Grant offers grants for coastal and marine research projects. They have begun a new funding cycle for the 2014-2016 grants and invite pre-proposals for projects and research during this time. Completed pre-proposals are due April 5, 2013.
"Pre-proposals identify coastal research priorities and describe the relevance of the research to North Carolina," explains Susan White, executive director. "We expect a wide range of topics for projects seeking improved understanding, utilization and management of marine and coastal resources, particularly relating to coastal North Carolina and adjacent regions."
Proposals in a wide range of sciences, including social sciences, are encouraged, as are interdisciplinary and inter-institutional proposals that reflect the linkages within our state. Pre-proposals must emphasize, and fall under, one of the five focus areas identified in the N. C. Sea Grant Strategic Plan, which is included as a link in the application materials at www.ncseagrant.org/researchforms. Full proposals will be requested later this year, but only from those who submitted pre-proposals. Maximum Sea Grant funding for the two-year funding period will be $100,000 per project.
Those with questions should contact Steve Rebach, N.C. Sea Grant, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Messages may be left at 919-515-9104, but e-mail will receive a faster response. You may also contact Susan White, Executive Director, N.C. Sea Grant, at email@example.com or 919-513-1145.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationís (NOAA) Fisheries Office is requesting public comments on Amendment 9 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Shrimp Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Amendment 9 was approved for review by the Secretary of Commerce during the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's September 2012 meeting. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 9 published in the Federal Register on March 4, 2013 (78 FR 14069).
Amendment 9 contains the following actions:
* Streamlining the process for a South Atlantic state to request concurrent closure of federal waters to penaeid shrimp fishing when state waters close to protect overwintering white shrimp from directed fishing pressure during cold weather events.
* Adding a į9C (48į F) or below temperature threshold that could be used as a triggering criterion for states to request closures of federal waters to shrimp harvest during cold weather events, in lieu of, or in addition to, the current 80 percent or greater reduction in abundance of white shrimp criterion.
* Establishing a new biomass at maximum sustainable yield proxy for pink shrimp using the most recent catch per unit effort data available. Biomass at maximum sustainable yield is a component of the definition for overfished (the population is too small) and overfishing (individuals are being removed from the population too quickly) status determination criteria.
Comments on Amendment 9 must be received no later than May 3, 2013, to be considered by NOAAís Fisheries Office and may be submitted electronically at the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (select "Submit Comment," then type in "NOAA-NMFS-2012-0227" in the "Keyword or ID" box) or by mail at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationís Fisheries Office - Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - c/o Kate Michie - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.
NOAA Fisheries is also seeking public comment on proposed actions in Amendment 28 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The notice of availability was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2013 (78 FR 15672) and comments must be submitted by May 13, 2013. More information for Amendment 28 can be found online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm.
If a red snapper season is allowed, Amendment 28 proposes the following measures for the recreational sector:
* Opening date of second Friday in July. The season would only consist of weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The end date would be announced at the same time the opening day is announced.
* Elimination of the current 20 inch minimum size limit during the fishing season.
* A recreational bag limit of one fish per person per day.
Request for Comments
Comments on Amendment 28 may be submitted either electronically or through mail. Electronic Submissions may be made via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0040. Once there, click on the "Comment Now!" heading, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments. Comments sent by mail should be addressed to: Rick DeVictor - NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. All comments received are part of the public record and will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) held their quarterly March 6 to 8 at St. Simons Island, Ga. Several important issues were discussed at the meeting, with some decisions being made and other topics opened for public comment. A brief summary of the meeting is:
The SAFMC gave final approval on
* Increased vermilion snapper ACL;
* Vermilion snapper commercial trip limit of 1000 pounds with a step-down to 500 pounds when 75 percent of the commercial ACL has been met;
* Removal of the recreational vermilion closed season;
* Modified red porgy ACL;
* Crew size of 4 for dual-permitted vessels;
* Allow bag limit retention of snapper grouper species for for-hire captain and crew;
* Removal of blue runner from the snapper grouper fishery management plan;
* Weekly headboat reporting requirements (SG, mackerel, and dolphin-wahoo).
The SAFMC also approved public hearings for the VMS amendment (Snapper Grouper Amendment 30). These will take place before the June council meeting, with dates and locations to follow. The black sea bass stock assessment update will be reviewed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) in April, and the SAFMC plans to have a one-day meeting in May via webinar to discuss any action based on the stock update. Having this meeting in May, rather than waiting for the scheduled June SAFMC meeting will allow any changes to happen 30 days earlier. More information, including a detailed press release is available at www.safmc.net.
The SAFMC is considering the use of MPAs to help reduce bycatch of speckled hind and Warsaw grouper. The SAFMC received a report from the February 2013 meeting of the MPA Expert Workgroup that included recommendations for modifying existing deepwater MPAs as well as alternatives for new sites. The Council also received a minority report from fishermen who serve on the Workgroup. After much discussion, the Council decided to address the issue of MPAs again during its September 2013 meeting, focusing on the purpose and need as well as options to reconfigure existing MPAs and target spawning areas.
The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for June 10-14, 2013 in Stuart, Florida. Details for the meeting and meeting materials will be posted at www.safmc.net as they become available.
A handful of N.C. Marine Fishery Commission Advisory Committee meeting are scheduled in the next week. Those meetings include:
* Bay Scallop Advisory Committee, March 18 at 12:30 P.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact: Trish Murphey or Tina Moore at 252-808-8091;
* Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board, March 19 at 10 A.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact: Cristy Giddens at 910-796-7261;
* Shrimp Fisheries Management Plan Advisory Committee, March 20 at 6 P.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact: Trish Murphey or Chris Stewart at 252-808-8091 or 910-796-7215;
* Sea Turtle Advisory Committee, March 21 at 6 P.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact: Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009;
* River Herring Fisheries Management Plan Advisory Committee, March 21 at P.M., Chowan County Cooperative Extension, Edenton, Contact: Amy Larimer or Kathy Rawls at 252-264-3911;
* Public Hearing on Proposed Smooth Dogfish Regulatory Changes, March 21 at 6 P.M., Dare County Administrative Building, Manteo, Contact: Holly White at 252-473-5734.
More information on these meetings can be found at www.ncdmf.net
This weekend begins with the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo at the Wilmington Convention Center in Wilmington. The Expo opens today and will continue through Saturday and Sunday. There will be boats, outdoor/wildlife booths, tackle accessory booths, seminars and more. For more information visit www.capefearwildlifeexpo.com.
The N.C. Sportsman Saltwater Fishing School will be held in conjunction with the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo at the Wilmington Convention Center in Wilmington on March 16. Admission to the fishing school includes weekend admission to the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo. For more information visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center will hold their Spring Classic Sale and Fishing Seminars at Ocean Isle Beach on March 16. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Greenville Parks and Recreation Department will host a saltwater fishing school at River Park North on Wednesday, March 20, from 6:30 to 9:30 P.M. The school will cover mixed inshore fishing, fishing for king mackerel and throwing cast nets. For more information or to reserve a spot, call 252-329-4560.