Our March winds got a late start, but they have been puffing since they got going.  There was lots of wind last week and the early forecast has most days being windy still.  There were only a couple of days small to mid size boats could head offshore and a few days it wasn't wise to head offshore in any size boat.  Unfortunately, this week may be a repeat. 

Cooler and some genuinely cold weather has come with these latest winds too.  We had the first shot earlier in the week an another is forecast for Saturday night into Sunday morning.  The first shot only cooled the water temps a couple of degrees and that was warming back up already.  However, there is concern that the next nasty cold front could drop it a little more.   

Whatever you call them, sea mullet, whiting or Va. mullet remain the primary catch of a lot of fishermen all along the NC coast.  There are blowfish, gray trout, and a few croakers mixed with them in most places and some pigfish are joining them in the Morehead City area too.  Two hot spots are the Beaufort Inlet Channel to the Morehead City Turning Basin and the mouth of the Cape Fear River from just outside the inlet to a few miles upriver.   

The hot setup for whiting/sea mullet/Va. mullet is a double drop or speck rig tipped with the freshest shrimp possible.  Synthetic bloodworms from Fishbites are a good second choice for bait.  Most of the other fish are being caught fishing this way, so they must like it too.  Gray trout will also hit metal jigs like the Sea Striker Jigfish and Haw River Stingsilver.

Pier and surf fishermen are also catching good numbers of sea mullet, blowfish and a few nice black drum.  Sea mullet and black drum are bottom grubbing fish and use their superior sense of smell as well as sight to locate food.  They will bite in the surf and just beyond on those days the wind is blowing onshore and the surf has kicked up.

The wind holding fishermen inshore was a good thing for some this week.  They went exploring protected waters and found specks, puppy drum, black drum and even a few early flounder.  Some of the flounder were pretty chunky for this early in the year and appeared to have been eating well.  The folks at Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach said they saw their first large flounder of the year this week when a fisherman brought one by hoping for a citation, but it didn't quite reach the 5 pound minimum.  Capt. Jimmy Price at Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport said he had seen a lot of 2 to 3 pound flounder, especially for this early in the year.

There have been a few larger trout, but many of them have been just under or just over the 14 inch minimum size.  Red drum bit a little better this week and there were pups from underslot to overslot size.  Black drum were mixed with the pups and the specks in different places.

Fishermen are catching drum and trout on a mixture of live baits and artificials.  Several fishermen said they caught specks and pups using artificial shrimp under popping corks and retrieving them at a medium pace.  Berkley Gulp shrimp and other shrimp shapes dabbed with Pro-Cure Scent Gel were mentioned often as the preferred artificial baits. 

There has been a little topwater action too.  Watching a trout chase and slap a topwater is fun, but there is something special about watching a redfish whack it.  The red has an inferior mouth (on the bottom of its head), so it has to come to the surface and then roll to grab a topwater bait.  It's a fun sight to see and they're fun to reel in too.     

Shad have moved well up the rivers, but there are still stripers around Wilmington, New Bern, Washington and other towns along US 17.  It's about time for the stripers to get the urge to head upriver and spawn too. 

They aren't thick yet, but bluefish have arrived.  Many are small to a pound or so, but Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters in Harkers Island said there are feisty two pounders around Cape Lookout.  They are feeding aggressively and will hit a variety of lures, including topwaters.  A bluefish attacking a topwater makes a big splash.

Several Wrightsville and Topsail Beach fishermen found false albacore, Atlantic bonito and even a few (very) early Spanish mackerel this week.  None of these were abundant, but there were a few caught and that's a good sign. 

For the most part, wind and sea conditions have not been good to head offshore in the past week, especially in smaller boats.  I had hoped for a good weather break this weekend , but there are questions.  Hopefully the break in the wind and seas that is forecast for Sunday into Monday will arrive earlier and stay later.  In the southern part of N.C., fishermen that have made the trip to the Gulf Stream have been catching wahoo, tuna (primarily blackfins) and some early dolphin.  Fishermen off the Outer Banks have added yellowfin tuna to their catch and there are still a few bluefins off northern N.C.

Offshore bottom fishing has been good when the sea conditions allow making the trip.  This should stay good and improve.  It's only 3 weeks until grouper season reopens on May 1.  A lot of folks are looking forward to adding them to the current catch which includes black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys. 

There are a few king mackerel being caught by fishermen running light lines while bottom fishing.  There are a few being caught across the N.C. coast, but the hotspot is in the general area of Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear.  Kings like the same bottom structure that holds bottom fish. 

Two good signs for kings are pods of bait suspended in the water column above the structure and water temperatures in the mid 60s and warmer.  Kings that are feeding in cooler water typically aren't picky about baits and lures.  They will usually hit spoons and sea witches rigged with strips and frozen cigar minnows slow trolled on live bait style rigs.

New State Record False Albacore
The 32 pound false albacore that Mike Voytkowski caught off Atlantic Beach almost a year ago has been approved as the new N.C. state record.  There wasn't any controversy; The record application and approval process was started after Voytkowski had returned home and was handled by mail, so it just took a while to work through the process and verify everything.   

Voytkowski, of South Waverly, PA., was fishing with a group of friends on the Beagle out of Morehead City on April 7, 2015, when the big fat albert hit.  It fought really hard and was noticed to be large, but no one initially thought of it as a possible record.  It was the first fish of the day and got everyone excited, but their attention was on fishing and catching more fish.  It wasn't until the fish were unloaded back at the dock that Beagle Captain Bill Dillon and mate Nathan Stafford realized how big this fish was.

"This was my first deep sea fishing trip and the others in the group had been before," Voytkowski said.  "They insisted I take the first fish and this was it. 

"Man, that fish kicked my butt," Voytkowski said.  "I couldn't tell if I was getting it in or not.  It would run and I would reel.  I reeled until I didn't have anything left and couldn't reel any longer and paused a little.  When I paused my son and my buddies kept telling me I could do it and encouraging me, so I found a little more strength and energy and kept slowly reeling it in.  I really didn't care about the size then, I was just glad I finally got it in.  That fish was strong."

Voytkowski said he was really pleased to hear the record had been certified.  He said this and his introduction to offshore fishing might be more good reasons to return to N.C. and fish with his son who lives in Raleigh.

"When the fish hit and ran, it went harder and farther than a fat albert or blackfin usually goes," Capt. Dillon said.  "I thought it might be a yellowfin as we had caught some there the week before.  We had it on a 30 wide outfit and it was all he wanted.   That was a good day for big fat alberts.  "We had several others that probably would have broken the old record, but this one easily stood out as the largest.

The big false albacore hit a green lantern lure made by Dillon or Stafford and rigged with a medium ballyhoo.  Voytkowski's false albacore exceeded the previous record by 5.5 pounds.  It was 39 3/4 inches long and 24 1/4 inches in girth.  The former record, which was caught by Lyman Kinlaw, Jr, off Wrightsville Beach in 1991, weighed 26.5 pounds and had stood for 24 years.

Wildlife Commission to Host Kayak Fish and Float Day at Pechmann Center
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center will host its annual Kayak Fish and Float on Saturday, April 9th, 2016 from 9 am until 4 pm.  The event consists of kayak fishing how-to seminars and demonstration of popular fishing kayaks. Featured presenters will Capt. Jerry Dilsaver of the Hobie Kayaks Fishing team and Mark Patterson of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association.  They will cover topics including kayak safety, rigging, and kayak fishing for fresh water panfish and bass, saltwater inshore fishing and nearshore ocean fishing. 

While this is not an on-the-water fishing day, there will be several hours where participants can test paddle a variety of kayaks.

This is a free event. However, classroom space is limited and preregistration is strongly encouraged. To register follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/hzwev8l.  For more information about this event contact Pechmann Center Director, Tom Carpenter @ 910-868-5003 or thomas.carpenter@ncwildlife.org

Pechmann Fishing Education Center to Offer Family Fishing Day
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center will offer a family fishing day on April 16.  The workshop is designed to teach families with children 7 years old and older, the basic skills needed to go fishing. If you have never gone fishing before, this workshop will help get everyone started on the path to creating an outdoor adventure and cherished fishing memories. This workshop is an active hands-on learning experience for all family members to include fishing on the Pechmann Centerís stocked ponds.

The workshop will include 3 hours featuring fishing skills such as, casting a spin-cast outfit, setting up a fishing outfit for fishing, tying basic fishing knots, collecting bait, how to catch fish, sustainable catch and release fishing methods, and how to properly handle fish.

Parents and guardians will participate in the fishing activities along with the kids to enhance the learning experience and begin building those fishing memories.  The Pechmann Center will provide all of the necessary equipment and bait for this workshop. They request you leave your personal gear at home.  The workshop will be held weather permitting, so please consider the weather when planning for this event and dress appropriately.  

Space is limited so register early at http://tinyurl.com/j7c577k.  For more information about this event contact Pechmann Center Director, Tom Carpenter @ 910-868-5003 or thomas.carpenter@ncwildlife.org

Public Hearing for Temporary Black Bear Hunting Proposals
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission voted in early February to begin the temporary rulemaking process for black bear hunting and scheduled five public hearings to take comments on a set of proposed temporary rules.  These public hearings focused on potentially extending the time that bears can be taken with the aid of unprocessed food as bait to the entire open season.

The remaining public hearing will be in Williamston, tonight, April 8 at 7;00 P.M., at Martin Community College.  Those unable to attend one of the meetings may submit comments through April 12.  Comments may be submitted online at www.ncwildlife.org, e-mailed to regulations@ncwildlife.org, or mailed to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission - 1701 Mail Service Center - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1701.

WRC Seeks Members for Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking nominations for three seats on its Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee ó a board of North Carolina citizens that provides advice to the Commission on nongame wildlife conservation issues across the state.

The first seat is an expert affiliate seat.  Nominees for this seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.

Two additional seats are at-large affiliate seats.  Nominees for these seats should be qualified individuals from land trusts serving North Carolina, federal natural resource agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-governmental conservation organizations, industries with operations and/or management that have landscape-scale effects on wildlife, or other organizations that provide a stakeholder voice in wildlife resource conservation. Individuals should have a comprehensive knowledge of nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.

The committee meets four times a year, usually at the Commissionís headquarters in Raleigh.  Nominations will be accepted through May 16.  The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will appoint the committee members at its July meeting.  Nomination forms and information on supporting documents can be downloaded at www.ncwildlife.org.  Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee - Attn: Shauna Glover, Habitat Conservation Division - MSC 1721 - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700.  Electronic nominations should be emailed to shauna.glover@ncwildlife.org.  For more information, e-mail Glover or call (919) 707-0064.

SAFMC Seeks Scientific Advisors
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting scientists interested in serving on its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC).  This is open to any qualified scientist, regardless of affiliation or geographic location. The Council will review applications at its June meeting.  Applications received by April 20, 2016 will be submitted to the Council for consideration.

The SAFMC is one of eight U.S. regional fishery management councils.  Each council has an SSC responsible for reviewing the scientific basis of council management plans and actions, and developing fishing level recommendations in accordance with national fisheries management guidelines.  The SAFMC SSC meets at least twice a year to address a broad range of topics, including stock assessments, management action evaluations, social and economic analyses, habitat evaluations and ecosystem management issues.  SSC members also play a key role in developing and reviewing stock assessments through participation in SEDAR, the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review program.  SAFMC SSC members serve 3-year terms and may be appointed to multiple terms.

Anyone 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, is encouraged to apply.   Application materials including the required financial disclosure form and SAFMC SSC job description, and details on the application process, may be obtained by contacting John Carmichael at john.carmichael@safmc.net or (843) 302-8435.

NOAA Fisheries to Host April Public Meetings Regarding Skimmer Trawl Regulations
NOAA Fisheries is considering new regulations in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United States based on information indicating sea turtles are vulnerable to capture by skimmer trawls and reduced tow times may not be as effective in reducing bycatch-related mortality as turtle excluder devices.  The agency will host five public meetings in the Southeast U.S. and Gulf of Mexico States to discuss and receive input from fishermen and other constituents on alternatives to reduce sea turtle bycatch and mortality.

These public meetings are the first stage in a multi-step process required by the National Environmental Policy Act to ensure that Federal agencies evaluate the environmental impacts of major Federal actions.  The public will be provided with opportunities to assist in determining the scope of issues that require analysis.  The analysis of issues and the environmental impacts of the proposed actions will be presented in a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will then be made available for public comment.  The notice of intent to prepare the draft statement was published in the Federal Register on March 15, 2016.

There is a scoping document and a list of frequently asked questions available on the NOAA Fisheries website at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/index.html.  The scoping document describes the major issues, current management and legal requirements, and identifies potential management measures to reduce interactions, and in particular, lethal interactions, between sea turtles and trawl fisheries.

Four of the public meetings will be held in Gulf of Mexico states.  The fifth meeting will be April 13 at 2:00 P.M. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.  Comments may also be submitted during a concurrent 45-day comment period that will be published with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Fisheries Meetings
April 11:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, 6:00 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact: Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or  Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Trish Murphey at 252-808-8091 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov.

April 11-14:  Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting, Montauk Yacht Club, Montauk, NY, www.mafmc.org.

April 13:  NOAA Fisheries Skimmer Trawl Public Meeting, 2:00 P.M., Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, www.nmfs.noaa.gov.  

April 13:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Finfish Advisory Committee Meeting, 5:30 P.M., Department of Environmental Quality Regional Office, Washington, Contact Lee Paramore or Kathy Rawls at 252-473-5734 or 252-808-8074 or Lee.Paramore@ncdenr.gov or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov.

April 14:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Shellfish / Crustacean Advisory Committee Meeting, 6:00 P.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Trish Murphey at 252-808-8091 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Anne Deaton at 252-808-8063 or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.   

May 2-5:  Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Spring Meeting; Westin; Alexandria, VA, www.asmfc.org.  

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
April 8 to 10:  Oriental In Water Boat Show, Oriental Harbor Marina, Oriental, www.orientalboatshow.com.     

April 9:  Annual Kayak Fish and Float Day, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.

April 16:  Family Fishing Workshop, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.     

April 25:  North Carolina General Assembly convenes for the 2016 Short Session.

April 30 and May 1:  Women Anglers In Training (WAIT) Ladies only fishing school, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com, 910-278-5518.

May 3:  Craven County Recreation and Parks Department Kayak Fishing Seminar at Creekside Fellowship Church in New Bern, https://cravencounty.recdesk.com, 252-636-6606.

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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