The fishing has held on fairly well, but we have had some up and down temperatures over the last week. The good news is the weather is supposed to be warm and sunny for quite a few days now. The fishing will probably warm up too Ė especially for Spanish, kings and bonito.
Many fishermen feel like they lost a close friend last Friday. Jose Wejebe, host of the popular Spanish Fly television show on The Outdoor Channel, crashed his private plane and died while taking off from the airport in Everglades City, Fla. on April 6. Wejebe, a Cuban immigrant who came to the U.S. with his parents after Castro seized power, was someone many fishermen welcomed into their house on Saturday mornings. Many fishermen learned to use video recorders just to record his show on mornings they were out fishing.
Wejebe was considered a kind, caring and thoughtful person by all who knew him. He wasnít just a TV guy, but genuinely enjoyed fishing and people. There are many stories about his fishing skills and kindness.
I only met Jose casually at several shows we worked, but he was always pleasant and friendly. I had some military friends who were stationed in Key West about 10 years ago and he was their teenage sonís hero. One year the mom got Joseís phone number and called to ask if he would consider being a surprise guest at the sonís birthday party. She knew it was a long shot, but decided to try anyway. He graciously accepted and remained friends with their son, occasionally calling on the phone to talk fishing.
Folks in the fishing world and beyond will miss Jose Wejebe. Even with a time slot when they would have been fishing, his show was enjoyed by millions. While we mourn his passing, we should also celebrate his life. He was a shining example of the American Dream and shared his success and adventures with us through Spanish Fly. Godspeed Jose.
Pier fishing has been good and is continuing to improve. Pier fishermen are catching lots of sea mullet and blowfish, with a few spots, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, red drum, black drum, pompano and speckled trout joining them. Fish are biting through the day, but the larger sea mullet have generally been caught from late afternoon into the night. The blues and Spanish had just started biting before the first cold snap and are biting again already.
Pier fishermen at Oak Island have been lining the rails for a while waiting for a hungry king to get one of their baits. I bet it will happen in the next week. If there is bait and warm water, there should be fish too.
This has been a surprising spring for surf fishing. Fishermen on the east facing beaches have caught the most variety, but fishermen on the south facing beaches are catching fish too. The reports from the surf include red drum, speckled trout, flounder, sea mullet, blowfish and a growing number of bluefish.
It hasnít been a good time for doing much fishing in the ocean during the past week. There were some weather windows, but most were just a little too short for the whole trip to be nice. The wind changed direction a few days and dropped to the point larger boats could handle the trip, but most smaller boats were relegated to inshore and nearshore fishing.
On the nearshore side, there have been some bluefish and Spanish mackerel caught by fishermen trolling around the inlets and just off the beaches. False albacore have been caught off Atlantic Beach, Topsail, Wrightsville Beach and Sunset Beach. For the past several years the Atlantic bonito have shown well off New River Inlet and they put in their first appearance of the year there over the weekend.
Offshore bottom fishing has been good, but many seasons are closed and some nice fish must be released. Grunts, porgies, triggerfish and beeliners can currently be kept.
There was some confusion recently regarding a recent press release from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) about black sea bass. The press release noted a season opening date of May 19 and limits of 25 fish per person. North Carolina is split between two federal jurisdictions on black sea bass and this is only for the region from Cape Hatteras to the north. The federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore) south of Cape Hatteras are controlled by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) and the black sea bass season will remain closed until June 1 and then only have a five fish limit.
If you head out to do some offshore bottom fishing, take some tackle that will handle larger fish. For a month or more fishermen have been catching king mackerel, cobia and amberjack on light lines while bottom fishing. Some have also tried to steal fish that were being reeled up.
Prior to last weekís cold snap, there were a few scattered reports of kings moving into the 60 to 80 foot depths at various places along the coast. The water doesnít appear to have cooled too badly, so they may still be there.
If you canít find kings by 80 feet of water, they should be around the first rocks or wreck holding bait with water temperatures in the high sixties. It looks like we might have pretty good fishing winds Friday and Saturday and at least part of the day Sunday, so there should be some good reports for next week. Kings have been hitting Drone spoons, sea witches with strips and frozen cigar minnows.
Last week wasnít a good week to head to the Gulf Stream unless you were in a big boat and it was testy then too. Wahoo and blackfin tuna have been the primary catches, but more dolphin and a few yellowfin tuna are joining the catch in the fish box.
There were a good scattering of flounder caught during the past week and they came from many different places. The surf, several nearshore artificial reefs, most inlets, the Morehead City Turning Basin and various locations in Hushmouth Creek were all mentioned. Live mud minnows and jigs or leadheads with scented soft plastics were the baits of choice.
Black and red drum and speckled trout are biting too. All prefer live baits, but will hit some lures. Mud minnows are the easiest available live bait right now, but some places have live shrimp too. Pinfish and other bait thieves havenít arrived in big numbers yet so it is possible to keep live shrimp on your hook long enough for the trout and drum to see them. Once the bait thieves arrive, shrimp donít last too long pinned on a hook.
Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasiní Tails Outdoors reported good action in the Turning Basin. He said most fishermen were fishing for sea mullet and also catching gray trout, croakers, hogfish and even an occasional flounder. He suggested a double drop rig baited with shrimp or a speck rig tipped with shrimp and said the fresher the shrimp the better. Capt. Lamb said were some nice gray trout being caught in the lights under the Atlantic Beach and Radio Island Bridges at night.
I didnít hear of any large drum this week, but there may be some still holding off Cape Lookout around Shark Island and on some of the nearshore artificial reefs. This is catch and release fishing only. Many of these fish have been longer than 35 inches and some exceed 40 inches and qualify for a release citation. Take a quick measurement and picture and ease them back over the side.
You should not hang large fish like this from their mouth to weigh them if they will be released. It creates undue strain on their gill and neck ligaments and can injure them badly enough they die. If you want to know what one weighs, leave it in the net and weigh it and the net, then weigh the net separately and subtract the weight of the net. This way the fish is in its best health for survival.
Stripers are still biting in the Neuse River around New Bern, in the Pamlico River around Washington and in the Cape Fear River at Lock and Dam Number 1. Capt. Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Outfitters called to say he had moved to the Roanoke River at Weldon for the striper run and the bite was picking up there too.
Speaking of stripers Ė this isnít saltwater, but it certainly is noteworthy. Tyler Shields of Murphy is only 17 years old, but he is the newest NC state record holder with a 66 pound striped bass he caught in Hiwassee Reservoir on March 31. Shieldsí huge striper blew away the old record by almost 12 pounds and sets up the unusual situation where the freshwater striper record for N.C. is heavier than the saltwater record of 64 pounds. Congratulations Tyler!
Vehicle access to Cape Point at Cape Hatteras was closed on Monday, April 9. At this time beach walkers and fishermen can still access the point by walking about 200 yards in the water, but that was prohibited last year also and expectations are it will be prohibited again.
Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC) has introduced a bill (HR 4094), which seeks to override the unrealistically restrictive access policy at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Current policy even forbids walking on the beach in certain areas. HR 4094 would replace the Final ORV Rule and Consent Decree from the National Park Service with a plan that doesnít 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. If you have an opinion regarding access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, call or email your Congressmen and the members of the Natural Resources Committee and tell them how you feel about the current policy and 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.
If anyone doesnít know, over the past five years or so, I have developed a particular fondness for kayak fishing. I have helped at several kayak fishing seminars and paddle days events, but there has not been a combined event in N.C. yet. That will change this Saturday, April 14, with the first annual Kayak Fish and Float Day sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.
There are a few slots remaining and registration will be allowed at the door. The event will begin at 9:00 A.M. and continue until 3:00 P.M. at the Pechmann Fishing Education Center and the adjacent Lake Rim. There will be seminars on kayaks and fishing in fresh and salt water, plus two of the largest kayak dealers in N.C. will bring their demo fleets for attendees to try out. For more information or to register call Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003, Ext 15 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Cape Fear/Fort Bragg Chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW) will be at Kayak Fish and Float Day selling hot dogs and drinks and accepting donations to fund their kayak outings for helping wounded warriors relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate with society. This will be a great time to meet some of the volunteers and participants of this great organization. For more information on Heroes on the Water visit www.heroesonthewater.org. Once on the HOW website, there are links to the Cape Fear/ Fort Bragg and Crystal Coast/Camp Lejeune HOW Chapters.
The Oriental In-water Boat Show and Flea Market will be held at Pecan Grove Marina in Oriental on April 13 to 15. In addition to the boat show and nautical flea market, there will also be fishing seminars for waters in the Oriental area. For more information visit www.orientalrotary.org.
North Carolina Sea Grant will host the 2012 N.C. Marine Recreational Fishing Forum on Saturday, April 21 from 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The event is expected to draw recreational anglers, fisheries scientists, resource managers, elected and appointed officials and others with an interest in the latest happenings in North Carolina marine recreational fishing. Sea Grant hosted similar events from 1992 to 1997 and has committed to reviving the idea.
Scheduled speakers hail from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina, and more. Topics will include recommendations from the North Carolina legislative study committee looking at marine fisheries; and information for anglers on Atlantic sturgeon that was recently listed as endangered, plus the invasive lionfish.
The event is free and lunch is included, but preregistration is required. Space will be limited to the first 200 registrants. Registration will close at 5:00 P.M., April 13. For a complete agenda, registration details, directions and proceedings from past forums, go to www.ncseagrant.org/s/recfishforum. Contact Lisa Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910/962-2490, or Scott Baker at email@example.com or 910/962-2492 with questions regarding online registration.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will also host a Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) weekend at the Eastern 4-H Environmental Education and Conference Center near Columbia. Many outdoor activities will be covered during the weekend. For more information on BOW visit www.ncwildlife.org or contact B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 14, the Carolina Fishers of Men Inshore Tournament Trail will be in Washington at Tranters Creek. The tournament will feature speckled trout and stripers. Registration begins on site at 5:00, with fishing beginning at 6:30. For more information call 252-230-0359 or 252-245-0808.
The Chasiní 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 again 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.