It must be a holiday weekend. The temperature has cooled to normal for this time of year and the wind is blowing. This is Easter Weekend and the ‘official" opening of the beach season for 2012. You should probably plan for some lines at the boat ramps, in the stores and in the restaurants, but it will be a good thing for the economy.
There is some leftover March wind in the forecast, but Sunday looks like it might be a day to head offshore. Surf temp is in the mid sixties and it shouldn’t cool much with this little front. The creeks are mid sixties at their mouths and approach 70 in the backs. It should be a good weekend.
Offshore the wahoo have been biting well, plus good numbers of blackfin tuna, a growing number of dolphin and even a few yellowfin tuna. The fish have been around the popular offshore spots, so think of the Steeples, the Big Rock, the Rock Pile and the Point as good places to start.
Offshore bottom fish are biting well when you can get there. The bottom fish are in 90 to 120 feet. In addition to the grunts, porgies, triggerfish and beeliners (opened on April 1) that can be kept, there are lots of black sea bass and grouper that must be released. Some amberjacks and cobia are hanging around the rocks holding bottom fish and occasionally being caught.
Bait is arriving and the water is warming and king mackerel are moving closer inshore. There have been some caught in the 20 mile range. I have a report of one king being caught within sight at New River Inlet and on Wednesday fishermen at one of the southern piers said they saw one jump about a hundred yards off the pier.
This isn’t local, but is huge and therefore of interest. I don’t have all the details, but this week a lucky fisherman at Jupiter Inlet, Florida caught a king that weighed 86 pounds. This is a few pounds heavier than our N.C. state record (82 pounds, 4 ounces – James Winch – off Ocracoke) and a few pounds lighter than the world record (90 Pounds – Norton Thornton – off Key West).
Those schools of false albacore off Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout Have moved within sight of land. Small lures trolled or retrieved quickly usually get their attention. Some Spanish mackerel have been caught from Sunset Beach to off Topsail Island and should be spreading farther north.
I haven’t heard of any Atlantic bonito yet and they usually arrive after the false albacore, but before the Spanish mackerel. They may be arriving at any time and they are a football shaped inshore tuna you want to invite home for dinner. Unlike their false albacore cousins, Atlantic bonito are very good to eat. Do yourself a favor and learn to tell the difference between them.
Pier fishing and surf fishing is surprisingly good for this early in the year. Sea mullet and puffers are the main pier catches and both are tasty. Other fish being caught on the piers include an occasional flounder, bluefish, gray trout and black drum. Most of these fish prefer bait, but the bluefish will readily chase Got-Cha and similar jigs. Spanish like these too, so be ready when they arrive. Get the ones with the gold hooks for best success.
King fishermen are lining the ends of the piers and waiting. The kings should be inshore soon, but the chopper blues have already been sighted and could begin biting at any time. Cobia are also a good early possibility from the pier ends.
There are sea mullet, red drum, bluefish and some trout in the surf, especially at the east facing beaches. Fish in the surf are biting bait and lures.
Flounder fishing is also off to an early start. Fishermen have been catching a few off and on for several weeks and giggers have been scoring some really nice flounder. Capt. Matt Lamb at Chasin' Tales Outdoors said this week a few fishermen decided to try their luck at AR 315 and were rewarded. I haven’t heard, but I’ll bet there are some flatfish at Yaupon Reef too. While some are being caught on a variety of lures, live bait and patience usually scores better with flounder.
Fishing has been good in the Morehead City Turning Basin for a while and isn’t slowing. Most fishermen are fishing for sea mullet and also catching gray trout, croakers, hogfish and even an occasional flounder. The standard sea mullet rig is a double-drop bottom rig or speck rig that is baited with small pieces of the freshest shrimp possible. The gray trout are biting in the lights under the Morehead City/Beaufort/Atlantic Beach Bridges at night.
There were more reports this week of good trout fishing and a few very large trout. Soft plastics and MirrOlures have been catching the specks well and certainly don’t forget live baits. Trout will eat mud minnows, but a twitching live shrimp rarely survives being spotted by a speck. Several shops have live shrimp. The Tackle Box at Southport Marina is one of them.
Several fishermen said they also caught trout on topwaters. MirrOlure She Dogs and She Pups, Bomber Badonk-A-Donks and Rapala Skitterwalks were all mentioned. When fishing using topwater lures, be sure not to get excited and try to set the hook when you see the fish charge the bait. You have to wait until you feel the fish hit the bait or you will strike too early and miss it.
While the numbers of puppy drum being caught isn’t as high or consistent as many would think it should be, there are pups feeding in the marshes, creeks and in the surf. Some larger drum have been holding on Cape Lookout Shoals from Cape Lookout out to the bars around Shark Island. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Arks Charters said there were good numbers of 35 inch and larger fish on the shoals and they were hungry.
Some large drum were also caught at the WOFES, Yaupon Reef and McGlammery Reef off Southport.
Fishermen working brackish waters in the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers are catching stripers mixed with the specks. For those waiting to hear reports from the Roanoke River at Weldon, some stripers have been caught and the bite is slowly improving. Give it a few weeks.
Cape Fear River stripers and shad have moved upriver to the base of Lock and Dam number 1.
Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries, issued a proclamation earlier this week with revised rules for fishermen using large mesh gill nets. These nets are primarily used for flounder and cover gill nets with mesh sizes from 4 to 6 1/2 inches. For the past year, these nets could only be set four nights a week, Monday through Thursday, as part of an agreement to settle a suit regarding endangered sea turtles.
The revised proclamation adds Sunday night fishing as a fifth night for the part of the state from roughly Beaufort to the S.C. line. Daniel said this was a negotiated increase that was approved by both sides. He said the flounder limits and turtle interaction numbers allowed remained unchanged. The proclamation can be seen on the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
While they have been illegal to keep in N.C. for years, as of today, April 6, Atlantic Sturgeon have been added to the endangered species list and this prohibits any intentional and most unintentional interactions with them. 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. Once any restrictions are released I will have them here or that should also be listed in the news section of the NC DMF website at www.ncdmf.net.
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.
These are but two of the variety of issues and proposed regulations these agencies examine, create and oversee. New issues arise frequently and all fishermen would be wise to check the SAFMC listings occasionally. The SAFMC website is www.safmc.net. Press releases there link to current issues and have instructions on how to file a comment electronically, by fax or by mail.
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.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Coastal Recreational Fishing License Advisory Committee will meet Thursday, April 12, at 1:00 P.M. in the Conference Room at DMF Headquarters in Morehead City. For more information contact Randy Gregory at 252-808-8078 or Randy.Gregory@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.
According to Capt. Anthony Popiel, Commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, "The Coast Guard's ultimate goal is safety which is why we are seeking input from the public. We want to deconflict any potential issues well in advance of race day."
Popiel encouraged the boating public 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.
On Saturday, April 14, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will host the first annual Kayak Fish and Float Day at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. This is just more than a week away, but space is limited and it is expected to fill up. This event will begin at 9:00 and run through approximately 3:00.
Kayak Fish and Float Day will include seminars on kayaks and fishing in fresh and salt water by Mark Patterson, founder of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association and myself. In addition, two of the largest kayak dealers in N.C., Great Outdoor Provision Company and Get Outdoors, will be bringing their demo fleets for attendees to try out. The event is free, but requires a refundable registration fee. For more information or to register call Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003, Ext 15 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Plunder on the Pamlico Kayak Fishing Tournament was held March 31 from Camp Boddie on the Pamlico River near Blounts Creek. The tournament benefited the Potash Corp ECO Lodge to provide environmental and fishing education programs to youth. Participants and their families could stay at the ECO Lodge during the tournament and there was a pig pickin’ and live music.
The big winner in the tournament was Pat Curley, who claimed all the speckled trout division prizes. Curley was first and second in total trout points and also caught the largest trout. Curley is on the board of the ECO lodge and is the director of the Crystal Coast Chapter of Heroes on the Water, a group that offers kayak fishing as a means of recovery and relaxation to veterans.
In the striper division, Cody Perkins had the most striper points and caught the largest striper. Perkins is a USMC Sergeant and a member of the Crystal Coast Heroes on the Water. Andy Smith was second in the total striper points.
The Chasin’ Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge began on April 1 and runs through June 11. There was not a cobia weighed prior to my deadline, but the water is warming quickly and that could change at any time. There are usually some large cobia caught during the tournament time. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
The Tackle Box, which is located adjacent to the launching ramp at Southport Marina, is hosting a series of monthly tournaments this year. Entry in the tournaments is free for customers of the store and a $100 gift certificate will be given to each month’s winner. The March species was speckled trout and the winner was Don Bryan of Southport, with a 4.48 pounder. This wasn’t the only nice trout either. Chad Casteen of Boiling Springs was second at 3.85 pounds.
The April Tackle Box Tournament will feature two species, speckled trout and black drum. For more information visit www.the-tackle-box.com.