The weather has been seasonable to warm, with no freezing dips, for more than 10 days and Iím thrilled to se it. This is the first time weíve seen weather this consistent since late January and Iím taking it as an omen that spring may have finally arrived. Iíve been waiting to say that for a while.
It wasnít by leaps and bounds, but fishing improved a little this week. The water temperatures are still in the 50ís, but are rising and the fish must feel pretty good. They arenít what could be called active yet, but will eat if you get a bait close to them. It wonít be long before they are active.
Once again the best inshore and nearshore reports this week are with puppy drum. They have been caught in the creeks, on the flats and in the surf. Thatís triple threat status for right now. They are still cold and arenít actively chasing baits, but if a bait looks and smells good, theyíll usually bite it. There seem to be a lot of lower to mid slot fish in the creeks and upper slot fish in the surf.
The drum in the surf like natural baits. Shrimp and chunks of mullet are usually best, but they will eat mud minnows too. On the inshore, the fish like bait that looks and smells good too, but can be convinced to take a Gulp Bait or another soft bait smeared up good with scent. When fishing lures, donít be afraid to dead stick them and let them sit occasionally.
While the drum bite picking up a little is good news, there is more. The season for speckled trout will be closed until June 15, but they are warming up and are hungry. Many drum fishermen are reporting catching a few specks while fishing for reds. There have been enough trout in a few places that fishermen are heading out after them knowing they will release them. The baits that have been best at catching specks have been live mud minnows, Vudu Shrimp and MirrOlure Soft Dines. My suggestion would be to leave off the Soft Dines, so you donít have to remove treble hooks from fish you know you will be releasing.
Stripers and still some shad are biting well up the rivers and inland. There continue to be good reports of shad well up the rivers and stripers a little behind them. They should both move well on up during April and get on with the business of spawning. There were still stripers around New Bern and Washington this week, but once the water warms a few more degrees they will be headed inland. Some reports have the shad passing Kinston and Greenville.
The action isnít hot yet, but pier fishermen are catching the first of the sea mullet and puffers. Some of the puffers are pretty big, but the sea mullet arenít yet. The freshest shrimp possible, fished on a double-drop bottom rig will catch both well. Take the time to learn how to clean puffers and youíll be glad you did. I wonít say they taste like chicken, but suggest you introduce some to House Autry breader and hot grease and see for yourself.
There are lots of hungry black sea bass at the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs, but youíll have to release a bunch to fill a limit. The bigger ones are farther off and seem to be best from about 60 to 100 feet deep. Itís about time for them to start gathering on some of the rocks and reefs and spawning and thatís when you can fill your limit with those hump-head three pounders.
Out where the keepers outnumber the short black sea bass, there is also a good mixture of grunts and porgys. Beeliners and triggerfish numbers will grow once you pass 100 feet. There are also some grouper and a few red snapper in the 100-125 foot range, but their seasons are closed, so take a picture and release them.
A few nice days are working their way into the weather mix and fishermen who have been cooped up all winter are heading offshore. Offshore fishermen are finding wahoo and blackfin tuna from Cape Lookout to the south and adding a few yellowfin and bluefin tuna from Diamond Shoals to the north.
Just after I posted last week, I received the news that the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) was ceasing operation. That news was a bit of a surprise, but not that much of a shock considering the suppressed economy and how it is affecting boating and fishing.
The SKA began as a sanctioning body for king mackerel tournaments in 1991. For 23 years they oversaw the Mercury Tournament Trail, which included tournaments from Manteo to Texas. A little more than a decade ago, they established the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour and established seven professional events that ran concurrent with the Mercury Tournament Trail across the regions. At its peak, the Mercury Tournament trail included 13 regions with four or five tournaments each. The top 25 fishing team in each region, plus all the Pro Tour teams were invited to a championship each year and several years there were more than 300 teams that attended. Iím proud to say that my team won the championship in 2001.
The first tournament ever sanctioned by the SKA was the Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day King Mackerel Tournament in 1991 and many other N.C. tournaments were in the mix over the years. North Carolina proved to be a hotbed for king mackerel tournaments and excellent fishermen. Most years there were at least three SKA regions in N.C. waters. N.C. fishermen still claim the most SKA championships.
There has been some chatter about the SKA being bought and continued, but that hasnít happened Ė at least not yet. Most of the tournaments were independent before the SKA and have said they will continue. Several groups have quickly moved to establish some sort of regional series and Iíll have more information as those things develop. Right now it has only been a week and some fishermen are still in shock. RIP SKA, I hate to see you go.
The N.C. MFC Finfish Advisory Committee will meet at 6:00 P.M. on April 15 at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. The Finfish Committee is serving as the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, advising the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the development of the planís first amendment. In this capacity, the committee is scheduled to discuss the Commercial Fishing, Socioeconomics and Recreational Fishing sections of the plan. An agenda is available at www.ncdmf.net under the Public Meeting Notices link. For more information, contact Jason Rock or Casey Knight at 252-946-6481 or Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. MFC Coastal Recreational Fishing License Committee will meet at 10:00 A.M. on April 16 at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters in Morehead City. For more information contact Beth Govoni at 252-808-8004 or Beth.Govoni@ncdenr.gov. A copy of the agenda is available at www.ncdmf.net under the Public Meeting Notices link.
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. Comments must be received by May 5.
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 SAFMC is soliciting applicants for several vacancies on advisory panels and from scientists interested in serving on the Science and Statistical Committee. SAFMC has 11 advisory panels that have representation from the recreational and commercial sectors. Appointments are for three years with meeting several times each year.
Persons interested in serving on an advisory panel, please contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the SAFMC office at 843/571-4366 (Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10). Application forms are available from the Council office and may also be downloaded from the Advisory Panel page of the Councilís website at www.safmc.net. Applications should be mailed to Kim Iverson, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405.
Persons with expertise and experience in the areas of fisheries biology, population dynamics, fisheries research and monitoring, and social and economic analyses of natural resources, especially as applied to fish species in the South Atlantic, are encouraged to apply for membership on the Science and Statistical Committee. Persons interested in applying for the SSC should contact John Carmichael, Science and Statistics Program Manager, through email at John.Carmichael@safmc.net, by phone at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10. Additional information about the SSC is available from the Scientific and Statistical Committee page of the Councilís website at www.safmc.net.
The Beyond BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) Fly-fishing Weekend will be held April 4 to 6 at the PCWE & Davidson River Campground in Transylvania County. This is a ladies only fly-fishing school. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the BOW tab.
The 2014 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Kayak Fishing Seminar and Paddle Day will be held April 5 at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. There will be kayak fishing seminars for fresh and salt water, plus the opportunity to try out a variety of fishing kayaks on the adjacent lake. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org/learning.aspx.
The Crystal Coast Chapter of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association will meet April 9 at Fat Fellas in Newport. The program will be on catching cobia and will be presented by Capt. Bobby Brewer of Oriental. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will host a bass-fishing seminar April 10 at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. The topic will be Bassiní with Wooden Crankbaits, presented by Mark McGowan. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.
A couple of big events are scheduled for the weekend of April 11 to 13. Closest will be the Big BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) Event at the Eastern 4H Environmental Education Conference Center in Columbia. This is a weekend for the ladies to improve various outdoor skills. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the BOW tab.
The East Coast Paddle Sports and Outdoor Festival will also be held the weekend of April 11 to 13. This annual event is hosted by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Committee at James Island Park in Charleston, S.C. Most of the major kayak and paddle sports manufacturers will have their demo fleets and pro staff at this event to let you try out just about anything. The will be lots of booths with all kinds of gear and accessories for sale, plus demonstrations, and seminars. For more information visit www.ccprc.com and open the Special Events tab.