Spring has sprung, but you sure can't tell it by the forecast for this weekend.  The early forecast has lows dipping to near freezing Sunday morning.  This is hard on us, but it is also hard on the fish, birds, plants and animals.  Like I've said the past several weeks, maybe this will level out next week.

In addition to unsettled temperatures, we also have a lot of wind.  There were a couple of days earlier this week that fishermen headed offshore and the fishing was pretty good.  The improvements in fishing and the weather are coming slowly, but they are coming. 

Next weekend is Easter Weekend.  That's important in several ways other than the religious significance.  Most of the public schools in the state take their spring break either the week before Easter or the week after.  Beginning this weekend, we should see a little more hustle and bustle around the beaches and just about everything will be open.  It might not be the official beginning of the 2015 beach season, but it's when people begin heading to the beach again in numbers.  Get yourself prepared for longer waits at the ramps, in check out lines, at restaurants and in the left turn lane.  

The fishermen who headed offshore earlier this week had some pretty good catches.  They found wahoo on the offshore ledges and along the edges of Gulf Stream eddies and most caught several.  I know of one boat that caught 11 and there was talk of more boats with big catches I couldn't confirm.  There were also some small blackfin tuna caught. 

Inshore of the Gulf Stream there were several good reports of king mackerel and bottom fish.  Several good catches of kings came from near Frying Pan Tower.  They were small, but biting. 

Some bottom fish were caught in the same general area, plus other ledges and structure in approximately 100 to 130 feet of water.  Several fishermen said they anchored and fished the bottom, plus a few light lines for kings, while others trolled for their kings and then anchored to fish the bottom.  The mix of bottom fish included black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.

A few bluefin tuna were caught north of Diamond Shoals.  The bluefins are moving the catches varied from less that 30 fathoms to offshore of 100 fathoms.  There have been some yellowfins and even a few bigeye tuna mixed with them.

The surf temperature just won't rise to 60 degrees, but there is a little action there and from the piers.  There have been some puppy drum, black drum, whiting, bluefish and blowfish biting in the surf zone.  They aren't big, but they are good to see.    

Red drum and speckled trout are biting in inside waters.  Drum seem to be spread over more creeks, plus moving out into the marsh systems and onto open flats, while specks are still holding in the creeks and they aren't in every creek.  Fishermen will talk a little about where they caught drum, but they get lockjaw when asked where the specks are biting. 

The little info I can get is that the water has warmed enough specks have moved out of the backs of the creeks toward the mouths, but it isn't quite warm enough yet they are ready to leave the creeks.  One successful speck fisherman said he could catch them on soft plastics, but it was much easier with a struggling mud minnow suspended under a popping cork and drifted across the hole.  Drum have been hitting lures, live baits and cut bait.

I've also heard of a few flounder being caught, but they the ones caught inside are thin.  They'll fatten up in a month or so and be nice fish.  There are also flounder being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs and rocks.  These flounder are hitting bottom rigs with live and cut bait, plus jigs.

Stripers are biting in most of the coastal rivers.  Stripers should be staging to head upriver to spawn, but all the cold rainwater running down the river has them a few weeks behind.  Take advantage of it as they are feeding hard and aren't particularly choosy about bait and lures.  Stripers are hitting a variety of diving and topwater lures, plus soft plastics and natural baits. 

Check the striper regulations before keeping one.  They are strictly managed and the regulations vary between many creeks and the river.  No striper may be kept in the Cape Fear River and its tributaries.  The regulations can be found under the regulations tab at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/

The spring shad run is in full swing too.  Reports are excellent on hickory shad and there are American shad in some of the other rivers, including the Cape Fear.  The water level is high and in many of the rivers fishermen are catching more shad in the flooded timber in the flood plain beside the river than in the main channel. Shad darts and small gold spoons are the hot lures.  Some fishermen are also catching well using a tandem rigs with 2 inch chartreuse curly-tail grubs.

More on Ocean Fish Kill at Northern Outer Banks
Bad news from last week's fish kill at the northern Outer Banks around Corolla hasn't quite quit, but it has slowed.  Unfortunately, before it slowed there were several more dolphin (mammals), a pair of pigmy whales and some birds added to the toll.  I received an e-mail from a biologist at NOAA Fisheries last weekend and he said this couldn't be from a spill by a menhaden boat as there had not been a menhaden boat in that area since December 6. 

Fishery biologists still do not have an exact answer for what caused this.  Two prominent theories are a phenomenon called whirling in which menhaden swirl in close quarters and flush the oxygen out of that area , then expire or the deaths are caused by concussions from offshore sonic seismic tests.  The presence of dolphins and whales in the kill has some locals leaning to believing it was spurred by the offshore seismic tests.  Biologists said while unusual, this wasn't an unheard of event and the numbers weren't extraordinary.  They are still examining the fish, porpoises and whales.   

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 to not 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.

eLoran Being Considered Again by US Dept. of Transportation
While e-Loran was accepted as the most effective and least expensive way to a complimentary navigation system to GPS in 2008, there wasn't any movement towards implementing the system. Now, e-Loran is being considered again as a complementary positioning, navigation and timing system for GPS for critical infrastructure protection.  In a notice posted in the Federal Register on March 22, the U.S. Department of Transportation is requesting public comments regarding implementation of eLoran (Enhanced Long Range Navigation) in the U.S. 

The government requests comments from the public and industries who would use the system.  Comments must be logged in by May 22 and may be submitted by logging on at Https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/23/2015-06538/complementary-positioning-navigation-and-timing-capability-notice-request-for-public-comments or http://rntfnd.org/2015/03/22/us-announces-it-is-considering-eloran-wants-public-comment.

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.

New Research Sanctuary
An area adjacent to the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores in Bogue Sound has been designated as a research sanctuary and is closed to all fishing effective March 26.  The area, which is slightly more than two acres in size surrounds the Aquarium’s dock.  Posts and signs mark the four corners. 

The sanctuary will be used by the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to develop and   demonstrate oyster culture methods, monitor oyster spatfall and expand education efforts.  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rule 15A NCAC 03I .0109, specifies that Research Sanctuaries are in effect for no more than one year, subject to renewal at the end of that year.  For more information visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/.

Fisheries Meetings
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.

April 14:  North Carolina Coastal Conference, NC State University McKimmon Center (8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.), N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center (Evening Reception), North Carolina Sea Grant, www.ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/nc-coastal-conference.

April 14 - 16:  Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting, Ocean Place Resort, Long Branch, New Jersey, www.mafmc.org, For online access, log on as a guest at http://mafmc.adobeconnect.com/april2015/

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
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.

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

April 10 to 12:  Gold Leaf Waterfowlers Outdoor Expo, Wilson County Fairgrounds, Wilson, www.waterfowlersexpo.com

April 17 to 19:  East Coast Paddle Sports and Outdoor Festival, James Island Park, Charleston, S.C., www.ccprc.com.

April 17 to 19: Big BOW Workshop, (ladies - only), Wilkes County at the YMCA Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge, Boomer, www.ncwildlife.org.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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