We are more than half way through March and unfortunately weather is still an issue with almost every fisherman I talk with.  For some reason spring just can't seem to break through and take control.  Today is the first day of spring, but there is still some cool to cold weather in the forecast for next week.  Everything has been running a week or so late so far this year, so I'm hoping that spring weather takes over the week before Easter. 

It's a little frustrating, but the water temps are rising - just slowly.  There were some setbacks this week as the cooler days and cloud cover allowed the water to cool a few degrees.  It will catch back up.  The water is actually a couple of degrees warmer than it was this time last year. 

Most of the ocean piers are open but fishing is slow.  There have been a few small whiting, some blowfish and a few black drum caught.  A week of warm sunny weather will make a difference.

This has been a windy week and there haven't been many fishermen venturing out on the ocean.  The few reports I have heard mentioned lots of bottom fish beginning with black sea bass just a few miles off the beaches and adding grunts, porgys, triggerfish and beeliners as they headed farther offshore biting.  Grouper season is closed until May 1 so they must be released.

I heard several reports of king mackerel being caught over some of the rocks and wrecks in 100 to 125 feet of water.  Water temp and bait are the keys to catching kings this time of year.  The kings prefer 67 degrees or warmer, but if there is a lot of bait, they will tolerate a few degrees colder.  Suspended bait is a much better sign of feeding fish than bait barely off the bottom.

If the wind will ever lay out for a while, I expect to hear of good catches of wahoo and tuna.  Hopefully this year more yellowfins will move up our side of the Gulf Stream, but the blackfins seem to be willing to step in to provide us with action and fill fish boxes. 

Bluefin tuna are being caught between Diamond Shoals and Oregon Inlet.  They are moving about in this area and may be shallow one day and deep the next.  There are a few yellowfins and even some scattered bigeye tuna mixed with them.

I didn't hear of as many citation red drum in the Hatteras and Ocracoke surf this week, but there have been reports of upper to overslot puppy drum in the surf from Nags Head to Wrightsville Beach.  Keep in mind that drum prefer to feed along beaches that aren't full of houses with bright lights.  I don't know how this matters during the daytime too, but many times it does.

Inshore fishing reports are getting better, but there are still some hiccups as the weather continues to change.  Red drum are fairly active and feeding, trout get rambunctious after several consecutive sunny days and there are even a few reports of early flounder waking up hungry. 

More baitfish are stirring in the creeks and bays and this will get the pups and specks going even if the water temps rise slowly.  In most places, the inshore waters have warmed enough drum are milling about and looking for food.  They will typically be a little deeper early in the day and move shallower as the sun rises. 

Trout prefer water a little warmer that where we are, but are feeding a little.  They tend to hold in deeper water all day, but will occasionally move up into the shallows and mix in a school of drum to eat bait the drum root out and don't catch.  There may be black drum mixed with red drum or trout and they are fun to catch and taste good.

Trout and both drum will readily eat mud minnows fished on a Carolina rig or under a float.  This is what often tempts the early flounder.  Drum will also hit pieces of cut bait and shrimp.  Trout will occasionally pick up a piece of shrimp, but rarely pick up cut bait. 

Trout, red drum and early flounder will also strike soft plastics.  Black drum will occasionally hit soft plastics too.  Trout and red drum will also hit hard baits.  Some fishermen like sinking and diving lures, while other prefer suspended lures.

Stripers have been biting in all the coastal rivers except the New all winter and still are.  They are feeding hard, preparing to head upriver to spawn and aren't particularly choosy about bait and lures.  Cut bait and pieces of crab are good choices for natural baits, plus stripers will also hit a variety of soft plastics and hard lures. 

Check the striper regulations before keeping one.  They are strictly managed and the regulations can vary between many creeks and the rivers.  The regulations can be found under the regulations tab at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/

The spring shad run is hot on several coastal rivers and picking up on others.  The current hot spot is on the Neuse River and the creeks off of it between New Bern and Kinston.  The water level is really high from all the rainwater runoff and many fishermen are having better luck by moving into the flooded timber along the river rather than staying in the main channel. Shad darts, small gold spoons and tandem rigs using 2 inch chartreuse curly-tail grubs have all been producing lots of strikes.

Ocean Fish Kill Reported at Northern Outer Banks
Menhaden began washing up on the northern Outer Banks beaches around Corolla early this week.  Tuesday the heavy area of the kill covered approximately a mile of beach and by Wednesday morning that had grown to approximately three miles.  By Wednesday afternoon, the number of dead fish washing ashore appeared to be slowing, but there were more on the low tide Thursday morning.

A single common dolphin washed up on the beach at the same time.  There is only speculation on whether it is related to the menhaden kill or a separate incident.  It was reported the dolphin had a gash in its side.  The menhaden were not scarred.

As of Thursday afternoon, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Division of Water Quality had not pinpointed a reason for the kill.  Residents of the area offered numerous possible causes to be checked out.  These ranged from possible reactions to the earthquake in coastal Virginia, offshore seismic testing for oil and natural gas exploration or to sun spot explosions that moved the aurora borealis far enough to the south it was seen in the Midwest, but a common theme was a possible menhaden fishing spill by one of the menhaden boats fishing from Reedville, VA.  Purse seine menhaden fishing is prohibited in N.C. waters but a boat fishing legally offshore or a few miles north in Virginia could have experienced a spill and the northeast winds would have pushed the floating fish south to the N.C. beaches.  Hopefully DMF will have an answer soon.  

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.

Fire Extinguisher Recall
Kidde Fire Extinguisher Company has announced a voluntary recall to replace certain Kidde fire extinguisher units.  A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency. About 4.6 million of the extinguishers with the potentially faulty valve were sold nationwide between August 2013 and November 2014.  Thirty-one models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers are being recalled including the Mariner 10, Mariner 110, Mariner 5, and Mariner 5G units that are popular with boaters.

To see if you have an affected fire extinguisher and arrange for a replacement, go to www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2015/Kidde-Recalls-Disposable-Plastic-Fire-Extinguishers.

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 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.

April 6:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.

April 8:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Southern Regional Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., N.C. DMF Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Trish Murphey at 252-808-8091 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.

April 9:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Northern Regional Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contact Katy West  at 252-946-6481 or katy.west@ncdenr.gov or Holly White at 252-473-5734 or holly.white@ncdenr.gov.

 Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
March 20:  Spring begins.

March 20:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.

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.

April 5:  Easter  

April 10 to 12:  Oriental In-Water Boat Show and Marine Flea Market, Oriental Harbor, www.orientalboatshow.com

April 11:  Kayak Fishing Seminar and Paddle Day, John E. Pechmann Education Center, Fayetteville, Kayak Fishing School and Kayak Demo Day), www.ncwildlife.org/learning.aspx.  


Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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