Well, its spring and we need to get used to the fact that our weather won't stabilize for a while. The little fronts keep rolling through every couple of days, but once again we are looking at a pretty good weekend. The weather is forecast to be mostly sunny, with wind hovering just under to just above tolerable levels. When the wind velocity in the forecast is this varied the weatherman often misses it, so it might be wise to be ready to go -- just in case.
Last week I was talking about more sunshine due to Daylight Savings Time starting on Sunday and moving an hour of daylight to the afternoon. However, this weekend the forecast is for warm and sunny. We may see the eighties on Friday and Saturday, but it will probably only actually reach the high seventies as the coastal breezes keep the beaches just a little cooler.
The water continues to warm and will probably rise another degree or two if the weekend weather is as warm as the forecast. The water temperature along the beaches is in the mid fifties and many fishermen are reporting temps into the lower sixties on the flats and in the backs of coastal tidal creeks.
On the inshore side of things, puppy drum are the premiere species being represented. I heard of a couple of schools of pups that were acting finicky this week, but for the most part they have warmed to the point they are active and hungry. Pups are being found in the surf in several locations and in most coastal marshes and creeks. The key seems to be finding a spot with slower water flow so the water stays in place and warms. Soft plastics and live or natural baits usually get good results.
Some trout obviously survived the winter as fishermen are finding them too. While the pups are up on the flats and near shallow banks, the specks are holding in water a little deeper. The specks will also hit soft plastics and live or natural baits, plus they like hard baits.
Knowing I will be releasing them, since speckled trout season won't reopen until June 15, I hate to use lures with treble hooks. However, I would be remiss if I didn't say the MirrOlure 17 MR lures are catching trout. Electric Chicken is a popular and productive color along most of the coast.
Fishing piers are reopening. I received an e-mail this week that the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach will be joining the ranks of the open piers effective on Friday, March 18. Most piers are already open and I anticipate all of them to be open by the end of the month.
Emerald Isle Pier had a good crowd over its opening weekend as the town was celebrating St. Patrick's Day last Saturday. While the wind was a little breezy, the sun was shining and fishermen saw some action from sharks, blowfish and skates. Mike Stanley of EIP said that where there are skates there are some sea mullet.
With the warming water the ocean striper bite off the Outer banks is slowing and stripers are moving into the rivers. There have been good reports from the Roanoke, Albemarle, Tar/Pamlico, Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers. Stripers are managed regionally and the regulations vary, so check the regulations at www.ncdmf.net before you go.
Many rivers are seeing good shad runs also. This week there was an excellent report from the upper Roanoke, plus the Neuse and the Cape Fear. A press release from the Corps of Engineers said the first phase of work at Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River has been completed and the new wider ramp is open. The reports are that shad, stripers and catfish are all biting right below Lock and Dam Number 1.
Capt. Dave Dietzler said there were lots of false albacore just east of Cape Lookout in the general area of AR 285. These are feisty little fish that are willing biters and really give you a workout on light tackle. The most difficult thing is finding a suitable day to cross the shoals in a small boat to go chase them. Maybe the wind will lay out or they will move across to the west side of the shoals.
The big news from the offshore ocean this week is the new state record
bluefin tuna caught by Corey Schultz of
Waverly, Va. Schultz was fishing with
Capt. Ned Ashby and mate George Cecil on the Sea Breeze out of Oregon Inlet
Fishing Center on Saturday, March 12, when the big fish hit. It took Schultz 2.5
hours to subdue the big tuna and then another 30 minutes to get it on the boat.
The record was approved on Wednesday, March 16. The record bluefin tuna weighed 805 pounds 8 ounces and eclipsed the existing record by 61 pounds. The tuna was 112 inches long and 76 inches in girth. Schultz fought the fish on a custom rod, equipped with a Shimano 80 wide, loaded with 130 pound mono and 130 pound braid backing. The tuna ate a naked ballyhoo fished on a flat line. This catch was a team effort and congratulations are in order for Schultz, Ashby and Cecil for a job well done.
While the wind hasn't really laid out for the past week, several boats have made the trip offshore. There are some yellowfin, bluefin and blackfin tuna from Cape Hatteras to the north and wahoo and blackfin tuna to the south.
The weather hasn't been good to go for a while but there are amberjack to jig and some bottom fish to be caught. Many of the bottom fish must be released, but hog snapper, triggerfish, grunts and porgys can be invited home for dinner.
There was some good news from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting last week in St. Simons Island, Ga. The best news is they decided not to change the wahoo or dolphin limits and voted against catch shares. In a case of not so bad news, they also voted to reduce the black sea bass limit to five fish trying to prevent having to close the recreational season once it reopens on June 1.
The bill to give gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass was introduced in the N.C. House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, March 15. This is HB 353 and it has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor. Fishermen are urged to contact their local legislators and the members of the committee to tell them how they feel about this bill. A previous gamefish bill died when it was not brought to a vote in committee. The language of the bill, plus a list of state congressmen, their committee assignments and contact information is available at www.ncleg.net.
The meeting of the N.C. MFC Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee scheduled for March 22, 2011 at 6:00 P.M. at the NCDENR Regional Field Office at Washington Square Mall in Washington has been cancelled. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net or contact Sean McKenna at Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov or 1-800 338-7804.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is seeking input from the for-hire fishing industry about whether to restructure the current permit and license requirements, and if so, how to proceed. DMF will hold three meetings to accept public comment on this issue at the following times and locations:
* March 21, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Wilmington Regional Office, 127 Cardinal Drive, Wilmington
* March 23, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, 5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City
* March 29, 6:00 P.M., Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo
More information on these meetings may be found at the press releases section of the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net or by calling Don Hesselman, DMF License and Statistics Section Chief, at 252-808-8099. For those wishing to comment and unable to attend a meeting, written comments may be sent to Don Hesselman, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 796, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or to Don.Hesselman@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board will meet March 24, 2011 at 10:00 A.M. at the Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City. For more information visit the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net or contact Cristy Giddens at Cristy.Giddens@ncdenr.gov or 910-796-7215
The N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Joint Albemarle/Roanoke and Central Southern Management Area Advisory Committees will meet on March 24, 2011 at 5:30 P.M. The Albemarle/Roanoke Advisory Committee will meet at the Chowan County Agricultural Extension Center in Edenton and the Central Southern Advisory Committee will meet at the NCDENR Regional Field Office in Washington. The meeting will be linked by telephone. For more information contact Charlton Godwin at 1-800-338-7805 or Charlton.Godwin@ncdenr.gov or Katy West at 1-800-338-7805 or Katy.West@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) sets and enforces the regulations on all fish in inland waters, even when those fish are salt water fish. Several differences have been noted in the regulations, specifically that red drum and speckled trout are classified as gamefish and this winter many people realized the minimum size and creel limit were different for speckled trout and speckled trout season remains open in inland waters even while closed in coastal and joint waters.
In seeking to eliminate the inconsistencies, the WRC has scheduled four public hearings in late March to gather input on a proposed rule that would standardize regulations for sea trout (spotted or speckled), flounder, gray trout (weakfish) and red drum taken in inland, joint or coastal fishing waters. The proposed rule would establish the same seasons and size and creel limits for these four saltwater fish species when caught in inland waters by referencing those regulations set by the Marine Fisheries Commission. Adopting this rule would provide consistency for managing these four saltwater fish species and should minimize confusion for anglers fishing in different jurisdictional waters.
The meetings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
* March 28, 2011, Bladen County Courthouse, Elizabethtown;
* March 29, 2011, Craven County Courthouse, New Bern;
* March 30, 2011, Chowan County Agricultural Center, Edenton;
* March 31, 2011, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Headquarters, Raleigh.
All meetings begin at 7:00 P.M.
In addition to the four hearings, the public can provide input by mailing comments to the WRC at 1721 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721 or visiting the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, and clicking on the "Proposed Fishing Rule Changes Submit Comments" link on the right side of the page. The public comment period for this proposed rule ends May 2, 2011.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org/fishing. For more information on fishing in coastal and joint waters, visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries' website at www.ncdmf.net.
Congratulations are in order for some Tar Heel fishermen following the IFA Atlantic Division Redfish Tour and Kayak Tour events over the weekend in Savannah, Ga. Rob Koraly, of Emerald Isle, and Dustin White, of Smithfield, weighed in a two-redfish limit that totaled 9.26 pounds to win the IFA Redfish Tour event. Second-place finishers, Mike Pedersen and Lee Parsons, both of Wrightsville Beach, finished with 8.91 pounds and the third-place team of Rennie Clark Jr., of Wilmington, and Drew Arndt, of Wrightsville Beach, was just behind with 8.89 pounds.
Nathan Raycroft of Swansboro won the IFA Kayak Tour Event with a redfish that measured 34 inches. Raycroft also won the Berkley Gulp Big Redfish Award, the Cabela's Award and the Ego Nets Award. As a coincidence, this was on his 34th birthday. Congratulations to all and happy birthday Nathan.
The Cape Fear Wildlife Expo will be this Friday through Sunday, March 18-20, at the Wilmington Convention Center and Coastline Convention Center on the Wilmington waterfront. The expo includes numerous booths and displays, plus hunting and fishing seminars and all sorts of activities for the whole family. For more information visit www.capefearwildlifeexpo.com.
The Sportsman Fishing School will be held this Saturday (March 19), at the Wilmington Convention Center and Coastline Convention Center on the Wilmington waterfront. This is in conjunction with the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo and registration includes a three day pass to the expo. This is a saltwater fishing school that features prominent fishermen from across N.C., S.C. and even Dr. Mitch Roffer, seawater thermal imaging expert, from Fla. In addition to the many other excellent speakers, I will be giving presentations on king mackerel fishing, kayak fishing and a hands-on session on throwing cast nets. For more information and a schedule, visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.
Dr. Mitchell Roffer of Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service will be in North Carolina for two days of seminars this weekend. Roffer was the pioneer in using seawater thermal imaging, along with numerous other factors, to predict where pelagic gamefish would be found in concentrations and has numerous tournament successes to validate the science. On Friday, March 18, he will be at West Marine in Morehead City at 4:00 P.M. and on Saturday he will be at the North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School in Wilmington throughout the day. For more information call 252-240-2909 (West Marine) or 1-800-538-4355 (NC Sportsman Fishing School).