It's odd right now that it takes a little longer to get light in the mornings, but that extra hour of light in the afternoon is a real benefit. Even if I don't have something particular to do, it's nice to know I have the daylight to do it.
Spring arrives this Saturday and not a moment too soon. On top of everything else, this winter that didn't want to end will officially, even if not actually, end this weekend. Saturday is the Vernal Equinox--the day when daylight has expanded to be equally as long as the dark and will continue to grow longer. Now we will enjoy six months when the days are longer than the nights!
Finally we caught a break and last weekend wasn't the washout it was forecast to be. There were a few showers and more threatened, but it was a far better weekend than we were expecting. Now we need to work on getting the wind to blow a little softer so we can take advantage of the increasing sunshine and warming weather.
We'll get a start on that Friday, but some weathermen insist on talking about rain on Sunday. We'll just have to wait and see and maybe they'll miss it like last weekend. At least we are looking forward to temperatures at least in the mid 60s, with a weekend forecast that doesn't include a lot of wind. If you did your honey-dos last weekend, you should be able to go fishing this weekend.
With the longer days and increasing sunlight, the water temperatures are rising too. They crept past 50 about a week ago and are headed for 55 right now. It won't be long before they pass that magic mark of 60 and the local fish begin to get active and more migrate into the area.
Before I get into other reports from the last week, this one is a few days older, but I didn't hear about it until last week's report had been posted and I'm sure it will prove interesting to you on some level. Last week, Matt Shepard of Virginia Beach and some friends made a trip on the Big Tahuna out of Hatteras to catch bluefin tuna. That isn't so special, but when I add they booked the boat to transport their kayaks offshore and fought the bluefins from the kayaks, it should raise your eyebrows. The group broke several off before Shepard managed to subdue one that weighed 166 pounds. I expect this is a record of some sort and believe congratulations are in order.
The weather that allowed the kayaks offshore passed much too quickly and became a windy weekend and start of this week. The bluefin continue to bite well off the Outer Banks and a few yellowfins are beginning to mix with them. Hopefully, this trend will continue.
Reports from the latest offshore trips from Cape Lookout and Cape Fear are of wahoo, blackfin tuna and king mackerel. With the water warming, a few dolphin may begin to show up offshore and the kings should begin moving in a little.
There haven't been many folks going offshore bottom fishing because beeliner (vermilion snapper), grouper and red snapper seasons are closed. Those who have been going have been reporting good catches of large black sea bass and those who went deeper than 100 feet are also reporting releasing lots of grouper and beeliners. Beeliner season will reopen on April 1, while grouper season is closed until May 1 and red snapper is closed until June 2 and the closure will probably be extended another six months at that time.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) met in early March and modified their preferred option for Amendment 17A for managing red snapper after the emergency closure expires and is asking for comments from commercial and recreational fishermen. Their previous preferred option closed the ocean to all bottom fishing in a zone that ran from northern Florida to the N.C./S.C. border and included waters from 98 to 240 feet deep. The new proposal places the northern end of that zone farther south, at roughly the Ga./S.C. border.
Several fishermen expressed concerns that all this would do is move commercial fishermen farther north and create a situation of local depletion in the area that remains open. I hadn't thought of it exactly that way, but it is a point that merits consideration.
Comments may be sent to the SAFMC by internet, mail or fax. Electronic Submissions must go through the: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The docket ID for this proposal is NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035 and it must be entered in the search box. Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Kate Michie--NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505. The fax number is 727-824-5308 and comments should be sent attention of Kate Michie.
In the inshore water, red drum are recovering well from their near comatose state when the water temperatures plunged into the low 40s during the winter. In addition to catching puppy drum in the inland marshes and creek, fishermen are seeing schools of feeding drum in the ocean from along Cape Lookout Shoals and Shackleford Banks to Masonboro Island, between Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches. When the wind is calm or blows from the west, fishermen are also seeing drum along Core Banks up to Drum (Ophelia) Inlet. The ocean red drum range from mid-slot to overslot and they have been biting pretty well.
The trout really aren't biting yet, but some experienced trout fishermen have been catching a few of them. Some have said live mud minnows are all the trout will bite, but others are catching them on smaller grubs and MirrOlures. With live bait, it does all the work--as long as you put it in the right places. With artificials, the key is still to move it slow, but with action, until the trout can't resist any longer.
Some black drum are also mixed with the pups and reds. They are pretty adaptable to food and can eat the crabs and such the pups root up off the bottom or join the specks in walloping a school of minnows that make the mistake of passing too close. The reds are generally feeding in shallow water, maybe only a foot or two deep, while the specks tend to hold in holes, depressions and channels that are just a little deeper.
Bogue Inlet Pier opened last weekend, but didn't have any fishing reports yet this week. They are the earliest opening pier, but the others will follow between now and Easter Weekend.
Last week I mentioned the fishermen buying shad lures and darts during the Eastern North Carolina Boat Sale and this week I received a good handful of calls saying the shad bite was picking up. One of the places you can always verify if the shad are biting is to check the ramp and parking area where U.S.70 crosses the Neuse River in Kinston. If the lot is full of vehicles without trailers, the shad are biting well enough they are catching them from the bank.
Stripers continue to bite well in most rivers and in the ocean off Oregon Inlet. The bite has been really good in the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern.
Stripers are managed regionally and the limits may be different in different rivers. There are even some rivers where the season is closed. Striper regulations are subject to change on short notice and it would be wise to visit www.ncdmf.net and check the latest regulations while planning a fishing trip.
Unfortunately the political issues with fishing and our fisheries just will not stop. Last week I mentioned the probability that the newly formed Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was working toward a new management strategy for the U.S. Oceans and Great Lakes that would eliminate recreational fishing.
Since that question was raised, two top NOAA officials have rushed to say that wasn't the case, but they wouldn't exactly say recreational fishing wasn't endangered. What they said was they had no plans to eliminate such a broad spectrum of fishing. That seems to leave them the latitude to close fishing in small increments.
If I sound jaded, this was said by Jane Lubchenco, Director of NOAA Fisheries, who addressed the west coast Recreational Fishing Alliance last fall and said she would be their champion, then closed many areas to fishing.
Another proposal that continues to meet disapproval from fishermen is Catch Shares, which are also sometimes called Individual Fishing Quotas. NOAA Fisheries has drafted a catch share policy for public review and comment, and is seeking input on its draft policy from interested commercial and recreational fishermen, communities, state and local governments, tribes, businesses, associations, non-governmental organizations and the general public. The public comment period will end on April 10, 2010.
Comments may be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; by fax to (301) 713-1940, Attn: Catch Shares; and by mail to the Office of Policy, NOAA Fisheries Service, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The catch shares proposal may be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/catchshare/index.htm. Comments may also be registered from this link.
As I am writing this, the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) terminal groin study steering committee is meeting in New Bern to develop draft recommendations based on a study of the feasibility and advisability of the use of terminal groins as erosion control devices in coastal North Carolina. This is another situation where people need to ask questions and let their voices be heard. More information can be found at http://dcm2.enr.state.nc.us/CRC/crc.htm.
The Cape Fear Wildlife Expo will be this Saturday and Sunday at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington. There will be two days of all kinds of exhibits, booths and simulators for almost anything to do with wildlife, hunting and fishing. It is promised to be fun for the whole family. For more information visit www.capefearwildlifeexpo.com.
The annual Swansboro Rotary Oyster Roast will be held Saturday at the Swansboro Rotary Convention Center in Swansboro from 5:00 until 9:00 P.M. In addition to oysters, there will be fish, barbecue and more. For more information call 910-326-5066 or visit www.swansbororotary.com.