Spring is trying to sneak in as I am writing this. However, we should expect at least one more week of the same weather cycle of several warm then several cold and maybe with ice as we have seen for the past two months. Hopefully this is the last of this cycle, but itís coming again next week.
Iím anxious for spring to move in and take over. Iím looking forward to some nice weather that will allow fish and fishermen to get into more spring like weather. Fishing while warm, for fish that are warm and active, will be nice. Letís hope the beginning of that is only a week away.
I didnít get to fish this week as work and weather wouldnít align to give me a break. Iím sure some of you think all I do is hunt and fish, but thatís not quite true. Just like with anyone else, work often rears its ugly head and gets in the way. One of the things that kept me off the water this week was attending one of the N.C. Port Meeting held by the Snapper Grouper Committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC).
These Port Meetings are part of the Visioning Project, which is a new attempt to involve fishermen in developing long-term management strategies for the snapper grouper fishery off the South Atlantic states. They are finishing up the N.C. meetings as I am writing this, with meetings held this week in Southport, Shallotte, Sneads Ferry, Morehead City, Raleigh, Wanchese and Hatteras. If this works it is to be expanded into other fisheries.
My schedule dictated I attend the Shallotte meeting on Monday afternoon. Iím sure some of the other meetings were different, but it was good to hear commercial and recreational fishermen agreeing on ways they thought management of the snapper grouper fishery could be modified to benefit both user groups without compromising the fishery. The comments and summaries from the meeting will be posted on the SAFMC website soon. Comments from previous meeting are already there. For more information on the Visioning Project and the Port Meetings, visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net and scroll over the Visioning Project tab in the left margin.
Fishing has been a little hit and miss for the past week. As one of my friends described it, ďyou hope to hit the fish while the rain misses you.Ē There is no doubt we had some rain early this week, but it began drying out on Wednesday and should be dry through Friday with slight chances of showers on Saturday that increase as the temperatures begin to cool on Sunday. However, the fish have liked overcast days and if the wind isnít blowing too hard, they could be good days to wet a hook.
The water temperatures have risen to the mid to high 50s a couple of times in the past month or so but are again struggling just to stay in the 50s and this is keeping the fish cold and not very active. The fish are feeding when the opportunity presents itself, but arenít expending a lot of energy to do it. In the past couple of weeks, there has been some red drum action in the surf, but it hasnít been extremely consistent.
Some of the places reporting fish in the surf include the southern facing Outer Banks, Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Lee-Hutaff Island, Masonboro Island and Fort Fisher to Bald Head. There are also a few speckled trout mixed with the reds, but they must be released. Some black drum are in the same areas and often mix with the reds and specks while feeding.
Fishermen are finding a mixture of mainly puppy drum, but with a few black drum and specks in the coastal Marshes from Manteo to Calabash. Two hotspots have been around Swansboro to Topsail and Ocean Isle to the S.C. state line. While the shallower water in the marsh usually warms a few degrees by afternoon, these fish are cold too and arenít extremely active. Casting scented lures close to the fish has worked well to convince them to bite. Sometimes dead sticking a scented bait or fishing fresh cut bait is required to get strikes.
Striper and shad fishing continues to be good up the coastal rivers. Striper generally stay in the actual river bed, but move close to the bank when the water is high enough it is also in the flood plain. Shad will move out of the river into the flooded timber and sometimes easing your boat into an opening in it is the best way to catch shad. Both Hickory and American shad are running now, so the catch could vary from less than a pound to more than 5 pounds. Both are loads of fun on ultra-light tackle.
There hasnít been much offshore effort in the past week south of Hatteras. I received a question about a school of bluefin tuna that supposedly were just off Shackleford Banks this week and a couple caught. I havenít received any reports of this, but apparently something went buzzing down the coconut telegraph. If anyone has any news, I would appreciate it.
Once again the primary offshore reports I received this week were for bluefin tuna and they were located from Cape Hatteras to the north. There was at least one, and I really think two, bluefins that surpassed 600 pounds caught this week. There are also some yellowfin tuna north of Hatteras and there should be some wahoo and blackfin tuna from roughly the Big Rock to the south for the rest of the state, but I havenít received a report in a couple of weeks.
While assembling this, I just realized I havenít received an offshore bottom fish report this week. The bottom fish had been biting well and there hasnít been a reason for that to slow. When the wind breaks and the seas lay down, fishermen heading offshore should expect to catch good numbers of black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.
One of the five great white sharks we have been following returned to waters off the N.C. coast this week. April has been staying somewhere roughly between Diamond Shoals and the Virginia/Maryland state line and is back off Oregon Inlet this week. She is holding at roughly the Continental Shelf and suspicions are she has been dining on bluefin tuna as she moved back south. Katharine has moved back to Florida waters and is about 30 miles off Jacksonville Beach, while Mary Lee is less than 100 miles to the north off Savannah, Ga.
Genie must like being the lost girl as she hasnít sent a locating ping since late January. She was off Brunswick, Georgia then. Lydia still has her liking for cold water. Early in the week she moved towards Iceland, but has shifted her course back to the west and is near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge south of Greenland. You can follow the travels of April, Genie, Katharine, Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
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.
NOAA Fisheries must receive comments on this amendment no later than May 5, 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.
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
The Spring Redfish ShootOut presented by Riley Rods will be held March 22 from the West Beaufort Wildlife Boating Access in Beaufort. This is the first of three redfish tournaments that will be followed by a championship tournament this fall. The deadline for entry is Friday evening and is on-line only. There will not be a Captains Meeting. For more information on the tournament, series or to register, visit www.redfishshootoutseries.com.
The Palmetto Sportsmenís Classic is an out of state event, but it is good enough I thought I would mention it. The Palmetto Sportsmenís Classic is put on by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at the S.C. State Fairgrounds in Columbia and covers much of the hunting and fishing available in S.C. There are boats, numerous booths with outdoor, hunting and fishing supplies and seminars throughout the weekend. The date is March 28 to 30 and for more information you can visit www.dnr.sc.gov/psc.
Ride the Tide is an annual celebration of spring that includes kayak races and a leisurely 5 mile paddle riding the falling tide through several of the creeks in the Town of Oak Island. This year the date is March 29. For more information visit the Oak Island website at www.oakislandnc.com and click on the Parks and Recreation Department tab.
For you fishermen that live upstate and wonít be headed to the coast, the Outdoorsmanís Bonanza will be held at Market Station in Albemarle on March 29. There will be outdoor displays, all kinds of fishing, outdoors and hunting accessory booths and more. For more information visit www.outdoorsmansbonanza.com.
For the kayak fishermen interested in learning more about launching through the surf and fishing in the ocean for king mackerel and more, the topic of the April 2 meeting of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Cape Fear Chapter will be just that. The meeting is April 2 at the Great Outdoor Provision Company Store in Wilmington. For more information visit www.nckfa.com or www.greatoutdoorprovision.com.