When this cold and wet weather rolled in Saturday afternoon, it obviously came to stay a while. Even though Tuesday started off cold, as in ice on many docks, the sun came out and the day warmed nicely. Unfortunately that was just a little reprieve to get us to let our guard down. Wednesday and Thursday were rainy and cold, but we are supposed to be working out of it for a few days beginning today (Friday).
With the rain, the water temperatures dropped a few degrees, but were trying to crawl back up as I was doing this report. Hopefully a few days of sun, even if it isn't really warm, will return the water temps back to rising again.
The forecast for most of the weekend is windy, but it looks like a window is trying to form on Sunday. I wouldn't want to commit on Friday, but if things still look good late Saturday afternoon, I might consider filling up the tank, icing the fish boxes and setting the alarm clock for 0-Dark-30. The wind looks a little strong for the other days, but this might be a chance to get offshore.
While the monsoon rains have kept pier fishermen away most of this week, they should be back out again by Saturday. The piers have seen bursts of really good fishing. Bogue Inlet Pier reported some good catches of large sea mullet, some as heavy as pound and a quarter. Bluefish, blowfish and even some early spots are also being caught by the pier anglers.
NC fishermen from all along the coast have been reporting good numbers of puppy drum. The reports vary from day to day and even the stage of the tide, but pups are hungry and biting. Pay attention to the stage of the tide and you should be able to pattern them.
I spoke with Capt. Robbie Hall of Hall'em In Charters in Swansboro and he said there were nice drum everywhere around Swansboro. He said there were mixed schools from small to large and schools that were divided by size.
Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters in Harkers Island also called and said he was catching lots of pups. Lynk said the bluefish have moved in around Cape Lookout and he has been having fun catching them on topwater lures. He warned that bluefish will bite and admitted that one latched onto his new retriever puppy on it's first trip. The good news is that after yelping in surprise, the pup bit it back. Lynk said he didn't catch all the colors, but also was catching black drum.
Some trout are waking up and feeding. I watched some get caught and caught some pups that were feeding on the flats near them. Plastic shrimp seemed to draw more strikes than jerk baits or paddletails and chartreuse was the hot color. While all the trout were legal length, the season is still closed and they weren't around in large numbers, so this area might benefit from allowing them to spawn a few times before they can be kept.
Fishermen should note that speckled trout season is only closed in Coastal and Joint Waters. It remains open in Inland Waters, but you must stay in Inland Waters or they become illegal. This will probably change soon as the Wildlife Resources Commission held public hearings this week to discuss changing these regulations to match the Coastal and Joint Waters regulations.
Releasing trout without hurting them is important, especially now while the season is closed. The new N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries newsletter, Fish Eye News, has a good article on this featuring Capt. Gary Dubiel of Spec Fever Guide Service in Oriental. The newsletter is on the NC DMF website and a direct link is http://www.ncfisheries.net/fisheye/2011FishEyeNews/Q1_2011_FishEyeNews.htm.
Stripers have moved out of the ocean, into the rivers and are working their way upriver to spawn. Weldon and Roanoke Rapids become noted fishing destinations once the stripers arrive and it is about time for the first wave to reach there. Weldon, which boasts the moniker "Rockfish Capital of the World," is hosting the first Annual Big Rock Fishing Tournament on April 9 and that is only a week away. They are already catching a few stripers and are expecting a big showing of fish and fishermen for the tournament. For more information, visit http://www.historicweldonnc.com or call 252-536-4836.
The weather this week may have set things back a little, but shad had been running well in the rivers too. The 2011 Grifton Shad Festival is scheduled for April 12 through 17 and always promises a good time. For more information visit www.griftonshadfestival.com.
This wasn't a good week to head offshore, especially in anything but a large boat. The reports prior to this wind had been for good numbers of wahoo and blackfin tuna from Cape Lookout to the south and a mixture of tuna (blackfin, bluefin and yellowfin) with some wahoo, from Cape Hatteras to the north. Hopefully this will pick up again and maybe even improve.
Tomorrow (Friday) is April 1 and no fooling, one of the closed seasons is opening. The season for beeliners (vermilion snapper) opens April 1. They haven't been targeted since November 1, so there should be some nice fat ones waiting to be caught. Beeliners are one of the offshore bottom fish that often hover just off the bottom. Sure, they can be caught on the bottom, but many times simply cranking your reel about 5-10 times to get the bait off the bottom will put you in prime beeliner territory. Circle hooks are required now, but bait them with chunks of cut bait and hold on. Grouper and sea bass must still be released, but amberjacks and cobia occasionally try to steal a bait or fish on the way up and can be kept.
There have been reports of king mackerel in the 30 mile range offshore. The key seems to be water that is 67 degrees or warmer and right now this is generally around 100 to 110 feet of water. These are mostly smaller kings and they will usually be found holding over structure that is also holding bait. These kings will hit live baits, but don't require them. Many days they bite best on spoons and sea witches with strips.
False albacore are being caught by fishermen along the inshore edges of the Gulf Stream and some schools were reported within sight of Cape Lookout a couple of weeks ago. They may be hit and miss for a while, but as the water reaches the mid sixties, they should be moving closer in.
More important than false albacore is the spring run of bonito -- and it should be starting at any time. Many fishermen mistakenly call false albacore bonito, but they are wrong. Learn to tell the difference between these two football sized cousins in the tuna family. If you catch a bonito, you will welcome him to the dinner table, but false albacore is too strong for most people.
After my report last week about the 109 pound blue catfish from Kerr Lake, I received several calls and e-mails asking what the N.C. record is. The N.C. record is 89 pounds and was caught by Eric Fincher in Badin Lake in November of 2006. All current freshwater record fish are listed on the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is seeking public comments on a regulatory review program required by EO 13563. For those who are not happy with the current NMFS regulatory process or with particular regulations, this might be a good time to comment. Comments are due by April 4.
The website with this information is http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-5681.pdf. Documents must be identified by RIN 0648--XA282 and may be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, by fax at 301--713--0596, Attn: William
Chappell and by mail at Attention William Chappell, 1315 East-West Highway, SSMC3, SF5, Room 13142, Silver Spring, MD 20910. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change.
According to several of the bill's sponsors and co-sponsors, House Bill 353, the bill to give gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass, is in a temporary slowdown to research all the possibilities associated with it. The bill passed its first reading on March 16 and was referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor and was scheduled for a vote, but was withdrawn from that committee and redirected to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development.
The bill has numerous sponsors and co-sponsors from across party lines, which indicates broad support. One sponsor said the extra time was to allow extra research to approach it as jobs legislation and they are studying just how much money is put into local coastal economies by traveling recreational fishermen.
Fishermen are urged to contact their local legislators and the members of the committee to tell them how they feel about this bill. A previous gamefish bill died when it was not brought to a vote in committee. The language of the bill, which includes a three year buyout provision for commercial fishermen participating in any of these fisheries, plus a list of state congressmen, their committee assignments and contact information, is available at www.ncleg.net.
Another bill pertinent to fishermen and boaters is HB 421, entitled Fuel Tax Refund for Marinas. This bill, which was introduced on March 22 by Rep. Frank Iler of Brunswick County, would allow marinas to get a quarterly refund of the excise tax for gas sold for use in a boat or for other marine use. While it doesn't state as such, this would allow Marinas to refund the excise tax to boaters and fishermen on the spot, which could lead to a significant savings per gallon of gas. This tax is currently available for refund, but only if the boater keeps records and applies for it at the end of the year. For more information, view HB 421 at www.ncleg.net and use the links there to let your legislators know if you support this bill.
The NC Marine Fisheries Commission Blue Crab Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet March April 4, at 6:00 P.M. at the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information visit the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.net or contact Sean McKenna at Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7804 or Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-405-7774.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has held three meetings along the coast seeking input from the for-hire fishing industry about whether to restructure the current permit and license requirements, and if so, how to proceed. Those guides and charter captains wishing to comment and unable to attend a meeting may submit written comments to Don Hesselman, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 796, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or to Don.Hesselman@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC), which sets and enforces the regulations on all fish in inland waters, even when those fish are salt water fish, held four meeting this week to discuss the differences between WRC and DMF regulations for spotted sea trout (speckled trout), flounder, gray trout (weakfish) and red drum. WRC has a proposed rule to establish the same seasons and size and creel limits for these four saltwater fish species when caught in inland waters by referencing those regulations set by the Marine Fisheries Commission.
Adopting a rule to mirror DMF regulations on these four species would provide consistency for managing them and should minimize confusion for anglers fishing in different jurisdictional waters. The final of the four meetings is tonight, April 31, in Raleigh, but public comments will be received by mail and e-mail through May 2. Comments may be mailed to the WRC at 1721 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721 or e-mailed by visiting the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, and clicking on the "Proposed Fishing Rule Changes Submit Comments" link on the right side of the page.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org/fishing. For more information on fishing in coastal and joint waters, visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries' website at www.ncdmf.net.
I offer information on this tournament with a heavy heart. Eric Powell, who managed New River Marina in Sneads Ferry and is the son of Dale Powell who runs Power Marine Outfitters at the same location, was diagnosed just before Christmas with rapid onset ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease). He recently returned home after a lengthy stay at Duke Medical Center and his friends are organizing a redfish tournament in his honor and to help offset some of his medical expenses. The Eric Powell Redfish Tournament will be held April 30 from New River Marina/Power Marine Outfitters in Sneads Ferry.
Guaranteed prizes will be offered, including Lady and Junior Angler Awards. Unlike many redfish tournaments, participants will not be limited to two fishermen per boat and fishermen are welcome to carry their wives and children. For more information call Capt. Ricky Kellum at 910-330-2745.