Our excellent March weather had a little hiccup early this week, but it wasn’t too bad. We were so much warmer than usual that the weather only cooled to what is typical for this time of year. The temps began warming again on Wednesday and we are enjoying above normal temperatures as we have the past few weeks.
March is typically windy and the March winds are gusting right now. However, the forecast for the weekend is generally good. The warming trend is forecast well into next week and the winds should drop out enough to be comfortably fishable on Friday, Sunday and Monday. Depending on exactly where you are and how the small front passes, Saturday may be a good fishing day also.
Bogue Inlet Pier reported the surf temperature had dipped to 57 degrees Wednesday morning, but was already up to 62 by early afternoon Thursday. It should be well into the sixties by the weekend.
The flounder bite is ahead of schedule and giggers are reporting good catches, with a lot of larger fish this week. A good handful of five to eight pound flounder have been reported at various places along the N.C. coast, so it looks like we might have an early flounder season this year.
Inshore bottom fishermen are catching whiting and blowfish at Southport and sea mullet, croakers and hogfish at Morehead City. Whiting, sea mullet and Va. mullet are the same fish and like double-drop bottom or speck rigs tipped with small pieces of shrimp. The other fish were caught incidental to that.
Several fishermen this week said the days of cooler weather this week might help prolong the spring trout bite. Specks have been biting inside pretty well and a little in the surf, primarily on the east facing beaches. A few fishermen have already reported speck strikes on topwaters. Mud minnows are the only live bait readily available and there is no doubt they work. A variety of soft plastics and suspending hardbaits, like the MirrOlure MR 17 are also catching trout.
I made a trip right after my deadline last week with Capt. Ricky Kellum of Speckled Specialist Fishing and Tim Ellis of N.C. State University who is running the speckled trout tagging program that is providing the Division of Marine Fisheries with their information. We fished the New River and several of the creeks off it.
Ellis said that Kellum had tagged more than 1,200 trout and the program had tagged more than 7,000. Kellum was excited as he had recently caught his first and second of the trout he had tagged. While we didn’t catch another of Kellum’s previously tagged trout, we managed to bump that number a little as we caught, tagged and released another 15 or so trout.
Fishermen should be on the lookout for tagged trout. First and foremost, the information from reporting catching the tagged fish is very valuable. The information gives travel patterns and timeframes and that is extremely important in planning for seasons and limits. The tag can be cut off and the fish released if that is the fisherman’s preference. Secondly, there are rewards for reporting catching tagged fish. The yellow tag earns a T-shirt and/or hat, but the red tag carries a $100 reward.
As I reported last week, there were drum feeding in the marshes and creeks, but most seemed to be either 15 to 19 inches or 25 inches plus. No one found those 22 to 23 inch drum this week either, but some bruisers showed up on Cape Lookout Shoals from Cape Lookout out to the bars around Shark Island and at Yaupon Reef off Oak Island.
Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Arks Charters aid there were good numbers of 35 inch and larger fish feeding in the sloughs on Cape Lookout Shoals and they copped an attitude when they realized they were hooked.
Stripers are still biting in many coastal rivers, but with the warming water emphasis has switched to other fish. Several large stripers were caught last week in the Pamlico/Tar River and the first ones have arrived at Weldon on the Roanoke River. While the run is slowing, shad are also being caught in many coastal rivers.
Pier fishing and surf fishing is surprisingly good for this early in the year. Sea mullet continue to bite well and are joined by puffers and black drum. The first taylor blues arrived this week and were hitting Got-Chas. It wasn’t a lot, but they were here and biting.
On Wednesday fishermen at one of the Topsail piers reported seeing several large schools of chopper blues swim through the pier.
Not many boats headed offshore this week. Those that went found some wahoo, blackfin tuna, a growing number of dolphin and a few scattered yellowfin. The dolphin have been mainly gaffers.
The 2012 beeliner season opens on Sunday (April 1). Many fishermen said they will be heading to their favorite rocks and wrecks if the weather allows and it looks good so far. Expectations are to find good numbers of beeliners at approximately 30-40 miles offshore. They will be a welcome addition to the grunts, porgies, triggerfish and hog snapper that can currently be kept.
King mackerel, a few cobia and amberjack are being caught while bottom fishing. All are moving closer to shore with the bait and warm water.
Last Friday, while doing a fishing seminar at the Camp Lejeune Base Exchange, a fisherman told me that a few days earlier he had caught a 20 pound class king only seven miles off New River Inlet. This is very close for this time of year, but as the water warms and baitfish move inshore and north, it becomes more likely.
Schools of false albacore have been sighted just at the horizon during the past week. These fish have moved in about 20 miles in two weeks. They could be just off Cape Lookout in another week if the water continues warming. Fat Alberts are fun to catch, but don’t have many fans as good table fare.
Atlantic bonito are a cousin of false albacore in the tuna family and should be arriving at any time. Atlantic bonito are very good to eat, so learn to quickly distinguish between them and false albacore and only release the fat Alberts.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Shellfish Advisory Committee will meet before everyone gets their paper next week. The meeting will be April 9 at 6:00 P.M. at the DMF Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Mike Marshall at 252-808-8077 or Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov or Craig Hardy at 252-808-8046 Craig.Hardy@ncdenr.gov.
The Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council will meet April 10-12 in Duck. There are times during the meeting for public comment and it is welcomed. For more information and an agenda visit www.mafmc.org.
The Coast Guard is seeking comments regarding the extended closure of Bogue Sound in Morehead City during the 2012 Crystal Coast Grand Prix powerboat race, which has been extended to a two-day event, Sept. 15 and 16, for 2012.
The public is encouraged to voice their opinion and comments on the date extension and waterway closure online. The notice to proposed rulemaking can be found by searching USCG-2012-0109 at http://www.regulations.gov/. Comments and related material must be submitted by April 16. For more information, contact Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Edge, at 252-247-4525, or email Joseph.M.Edge@uscg.mil.
North Carolina Sea Grant will host the 2012 N.C. Marine Recreational Fishing Forum on Saturday, April 21 from 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The event is expected to draw recreational anglers, fisheries scientists, resource managers, elected and appointed officials, and others with an interest in the latest happenings in North Carolina marine recreational fishing. Sea Grant hosted similar events from 1992 to 1997 and has committed to reviving the idea.
The event is free and lunch is included, but preregistration is required. Space will be limited to the first 200 registrants. Registration will close at 5:00 P.M., April 13. For a complete agenda, registration details, directions and proceedings from past forums, go to www.ncseagrant.org/s/recfishforum. Contact Lisa Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910/962-2490, or Scott Baker at email@example.com or 910/962-2492 with questions regarding online registration.
Before next week’s report is out, Atlantic Sturgeon will be on the endangered species list. I have not heard of what restrictions, if any, may be placed on N.C. fishermen, but they are expected to be forthcoming. It would be wise to pay attention and know, rather than risking potentially serious consequences.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) have decided to join with the Gulf Fisheries Council and are moving forward in examining Marine Protected Areas as a means to protect endangered corals and establish protected areas for hinds and Warsaw grouper. There is already one of these off the southern N.C. Coast and no bottom fishing is allowed.
The SAFMC website is www.safmc.net and all fishermen would be wise to check the SAFMC announcements and news listings occasionally. Press releases there link to current issues and have instructions on how to file a comment electronically, by fax or by mail.
Fishermen from North Carolina joined several thousand in Washington, D.C. on March 21 at the Fishermen’s Rally, sponsored by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). This event was a gathering of fishermen from across the United States hoping to convince the U.S. Congress to reform the Magnusson-Stevens Fisheries Act and NOAA Fisheries. Many N.C. legislators support this change and several spoke to the group. Several fishermen who attended said they felt the politicians who joined with them were working to reform fisheries management.
Unless you have had your head in the sand, you know that the access policies at Cape Hatteras National Seashore have become so restrictive as to prevent even walking on the beach when it is deemed certain birds are nesting. Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr., (R-NC), has filed HR 4094, which seeks to override the restrictive access policy at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. HR 4094 would replace the Final ORV rule and Consent Decree with a plan that doesn’t treat Cape Hatteras with stricter biological measures than other National Seashores. It also requires the National Park Service to consider public access and recreation a priority in Cape Hatteras National Seashore once again.
A copy of HR 4094 is available at http://www.islandfreepress.org/2012Archives/02.28.2012-JONENC_053.pdf. Fishermen and other users of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore are requesting everyone call or email their Congressmen and the members of the Natural Resources Committee and tell them if you support HR 4094 and why you care about public access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The list of committee members is available at http://naturalresources.house.gov/About/Members.htm.
Fishing and boat shows, seminars and expo type events are slowing from their frantic winter pace. There are a few more, but the number and frequency are waning. This is an "off" weekend and is shaping up to be one to spend outside enjoying a fishing trip.
One event I would like to suggest to everyone is the Kayak Fish and Float Day sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. It is still a few weeks off, but space is limited and it is expected to fill up. This event is scheduled for Saturday, April 14, and will include seminars on kayaks and fishing in fresh and salt water, plus two of the largest kayak dealers in N.C. will be bringing their demo fleets for attendees to try out. For more information or to register call Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003, Ext 15 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chasin’ Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge begins on April 1 and runs through June 11 at Chasin’ Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach. That is a long time and there usually are some very large cobia caught during that timeframe. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The Tackle Box in Southport is sponsoring monthly tournaments this year and the current one is for speckled trout. Entry is free for customers of the store. For more information on the tournament visit www.the-tackle-box.com.