Winterís grip held a long time, but it appears it has finally loosened and spring is on the way. This is our third week in a row of good weather and the fish are realizing it too. Fishing isnít hot, but itís getting better almost daily and that should continue with the great forecast for the next week.
One of the biggest fishing improvements this week was with sea mullet. Sea mullet are also called Va. mullet and whiting and there are three different species. The species name is kingfish and there are northern, southern and gulf varieties. Which variety really doesnít matter as all of them are excellent table fare.
Whiting (sea mullet, Va. mullet) have arrived in the Morehead City Turning Basin and the Lower Cape Fear River at Southport and there are some nice fish in the catch. Pier and surf fishermen are also catching some. Whiting are a cousin of drum and tend to feed by grubbing along on the bottom. They locate a lot of their food by their sense of smell and really like pieces of fresh shrimp. Some of the synthetic baits, like FishBites, also attract them well.
Itís a shame trout season isnít open as quite a few people are catching a lot of them this week and many are nice size fish, well above the minimum size. One fisherman I spoke with said he caught at least 200 in four days of fishing and most were 18 inches and longer. If this continues, we should be able to have a heck of a fish fry when the season opens on June 15.
A few more puppy drum were caught this week, but they were overshadowed by the excellent trout and sea mullet fishing. The puppy drum action in the surf has slowed, but has picked up in creeks and on the flats. While not wide open like they should be when the water warms a few more degrees, puppy drum are biting pretty well. Much like their cousins the sea mullet, puppy drum use their nose to help find food and like baits that smell good.
There have also been a few sporadic runs of bluefish at different places along the N.C. Coast. One of the more consistent spots has been Cape Lookout and they are around the jetty and inside the hook there. Bluefish are fun to catch and taste pretty good if kept heavily iced and cooked quickly.
There are still good reports of shad and stripers inland in the rivers. Shad are acrobatic, but can easily be handled and are lots of fun on very light tackle. One of the popular shad rigs is a No-Alibi rig that combines a spoon and a shad dart. These are not legal in the upper Roanoke River because of special ďsingle hookĒ regulations there. Stripers are biting a variety of cut bait, hard lures and soft plastics.
Pier fishermen are catching whiting and puffers, plus a few red and black drum. Most of the whiting are smaller fish, but larger ones should arrive at any time. Itís also time for bluefish to take up residence around the piers for a while. This should begin with smaller blues and soon the 10 pound ďHatterasĒ blues will be stealing live baits at the end of the piers.
The wind hasnít been the friendliest for offshore fishing, but a few fishermen have taken advantage of small weather breaks. Offshore bottom fish have been the most predictable and easiest to reach. Black sea bass are closest in, but there are high numbers of shorts in those closest to shore. At approximately 100 feet deep, there is a good mixture of bottom fish and you may find black sea bass, grunts, porgys, triggerfish and beeliners. Grouper are biting well too, but must be released until May 1.
Fishermen trolling offshore have been catching wahoo along most of the state. There are blackfin tuna mixed with the wahoo south of Hatteras and from hatteras to the north there are some yellowfins inn the catch. There were more bluefin tuna caught out of Oregon Inlet this week.
This is some news I had hoped not to have to report this year. Unfortunately, a kayak fisherman either rolled or fell out of his kayak in Colington Harbor near Kitty Hawk last night and lost his life. The kayaker was found this morning about 11:30 A.M., and identified as Jonathan Day of Colington. Search teams also found Dayís kayak and some fishing tackle and a PFD with it.
At this point it appears Day either fell out or rolled from his kayak just after dark on April 9. A woman heard a call for help and threw a life ring toward the sound, but lost sight of him. One man went in the water to try to find him, but had to give up after just a few minutes saying the water was too cold.
I hate to beat the bushes after an accident like this, but will recommend that all kayakers and boaters or fishermen by themselves wear their PFDs. They will not help you if you cannot get to them to put them on. A PFD will buy you extra time in any conditions, but especially in colder water.
This time of year the air has warmed and feels nice, but the water hasnít warmed that much yet. The water temperature was probably only in the low 50s and that will cool your body to the point muscles donít work in approximately 10 minutes. This is something to be especially concerned with as the weather warms in the spring and the water slowly follows.
My thoughts and prayers are with Dayís family and friends. Please everyone else; learn from his mistake and donít repeat it.
The five great white sharks we have been following have shifted about a little this week. April is closest to where she was last week and is just a little north of Oregon Inlet out at the Continental Shelf. Local fishermen believe she is staying here to gorge on tuna. Genie is the lost girl and hasnít sent a locating ping in more than two months. She was off Brunswick, Georgia then, but could be anywhere by now. Katharine has moved south and towards the beach again. She is within about 10 miles of the beach between Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine in Florida.
Mary Lee must have found something interesting as she stayed in the open ocean about 100 miles east of Brunswick Georgia. Lydia, who was tagged last winter just off the Beach at Mayport, Fla. and spent this fall and winter up around Greenland and Newfoundland, is moving south along the mid-Atlantic Ridge roughly halfway between Bermuda and Morocco. This is the second week she has been working her way south down the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. You can follow the travels of April, Genie, Katharine, Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.
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 currently also serving as the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee to advise the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the development of the planís first amendment. 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. An 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 (SSC). 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. Applications for the advisory panels must be received by May 2 and for the SSC by May 14, 2014.
Persons interested in serving on an advisory panel should 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 SSC. 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.
A couple of big events are scheduled for this weekend beginning Friday. The Oriental In-Water Boat Show and Marine Flea Market at Oriental Harbor in Oriental on April 11 to 13. There will be boats on display in the water and on land, numerous booths of boating and fishing accessories, plus the Marine Flea Market. For more information visit www.orientalboatshow.com.
The Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) program of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will host the Big BOW Event at the Eastern 4H Environmental Education Conference Center in Columbia on April 11 to 13. 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 be held April 11 to 13 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 answer your questions and let you demo drive their kayaks, canoes and SUPs. 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.
The Cape Lookout Fly Fishers will meet Friday, April 18, at Cox's Family Restaurant in Morehead City. Dinner will begin at 6:00 P.M. with the meeting following at 7:00 P.M. The program will include a movie on fly fishing, discussion of the resurrection of The Cape Lookout Albacore Festival on 10/24/14 and 10/25/14, and a raffle with lots of fun stuff. For more information visit www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
The Third Annual Chasiní Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge begins on April 19 and continues through June 15. Those interested can find more information at www.chasintailsoutdoors.com
The Crystal Coast Kayak Fishing Series (CCKFS) will have their second tournament of the year next weekend on April 20 in Swansboro. Fish included in the tournament are flounder, red drum and speckled trout. Scoring will be based on the length of the fish using CPR (catch, photograph and release) scoring. For more information on the CCKFS or the tournament visit www.flatwaterspaddling.com/CCKFS.