While we've had a few cool nights and the daytime highs haven't been in the 80s like they were Easter Weekend, the weather has maintained at mostly sunny, with highs in the 70s and things are starting to come around. Several of the days last week had more wind than we would have liked, but at least they were sunny and warm. Even better, the forecast is giving us sun through Saturday and then just some cloudiness and slight cooling. The daytime highs will drop into the 60s for a few days, but we should be back to normal by mid week.
We had a little bit of an anomaly with the water temperatures last week and now they seem to be settling back to about where they should be. Last week I reported the water temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier at 65 degrees. It dropped to 61 degrees early in the week, but had climbed back to 64 degrees by Thursday.
The weekend wind forecast is tolerable early before getting gusty later today (Friday), then blowing hard Saturday morning. As the wind settles out later Saturday, a front will cross and we should get a little cooler and see the wind direction shift back to more northerly for a few days. It isn't predicted to blow hard after the shift, so hopefully it will allow lots of fishing.
There was one nearshore slug of warm water that confused everything up the coast last week. It blew up the beach and settled in the hook at Cape Lookout for a day or two with water temperatures that approached 70. Fishermen were questioning their temperature gauges and calling their buddies to check. This pod of warmer water must have sheared off from one of the Gulf Stream eddies and blown inshore. Over the course of the week, it blended with the water around it and has cooled to the low 60s.
In talking about water and how it moves independently in the oceans, I want to mention a message in a bottle that was sent from a preschool class at Cape Fear Community College's Child Development Center. Cape Fear Community College is in Wilmington, but has faculty and students on research ships all over the Atlantic and Caribbean. The preschool teachers wrote a note about the class and how to contact them, which they laminated and put in a bottle. The bottle was given to the father of one of the students, who dropped it into the Gulf Stream about 80 miles off Charleston, S.C. in 2008. Replies just came back from the folks who found the note--a couple of teachers in training, who were on vacation in Morocco!
I found this very interesting. Morocco is roughly straight across the Atlantic from N.C. Expectations are the bottle was transported north in the Gulf Stream, then across the North Atlantic in the Azores Current, before being caught in the Canary Current and pushed back down the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to Morocco. This is a great example of how the currents in the ocean move the water in big wide circles. If anyone should want to see how the ocean currents work, they can do an internet search for Atlantic Ocean Currents and receive plenty of options to view.
The offshore trollers found the fishing generally a little slow this week. The warm water had moved offshore and it required running a little deeper to find a temperature break and a few fish. Wahoo were again the main offshore catch, but not in the numbers of last week. There were also some blackfin tuna from Cape Lookout to the south. There have been some catches of yellowfin tuna, but primarily north of Cape Hatteras. There was a report on a small blue marlin caught (and released) in about 1,000 feet of water a little south of Swansboro Hole.
If anyone would like to test themselves, the charter fleets at Oregon Inlet and Manteo are reporting lots of bluefin tuna. These had primarily been smaller tuna up until last week, but several in the 400 to 500 pound range were caught last weekend. The bite is pretty good and there are some pleasant surprises of also catching a few yellowfin and bigeye tunas.
Deep-drop jigging is gaining in popularity and several fishermen said with the slow trolling action they stopped over some structure and wrecks to do some deep jigging and had a big time wrestling amberjacks. Amberjacks are a hard fighting fish that almost everyone likes to catch, but have a mixed reputation and low appreciation for their table quality. That is strange as they are considered a delicacy and held in high regard in South Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Amberjack are often more expensive in restaurants in those areas than dolphin or grouper.
I have tried amberjack and find it to be tasty. However, many of them, especially the larger ones, have a tapeworm. The tapeworm is easily seen when cleaning them, so it is easy to remove, but seeing it really turns a lot of folks off. The UNC Sea Grant Program (www.ncseagrant.org) publishes some brochures with information and recipes for lesser used fish and in the brochure on amberjack it states this tapeworm is not something that infects people.
I usually just trim that part of the fillets off and only keep the part without the tapeworm. If you can handle cleaning them, you really should try them. It is a light meat and they have an excellent flavor.
There were a couple of reports of some king mackerel this weekend, but they were scattered and not everyone who headed offshore found them. If the water continues to warm, they should soon be back in around 210 and 240 Rocks and the wrecks in that area.
There was an excellent run of false albacore off Beaufort and Bogue Inlets. There were a few true bonito mixed in, but they were in the minority. They are still a few miles offshore and the artificial reefs are good places to check. More bonito showed up off Little River and Wrightsville beaches this week. Do yourself a favor and learn to tell the difference between these two fish--bonito are excellent table fare!
There were some good catches from the piers, but it isn't consistent yet. There are some sea mullets, but they generally seem to bite best in the late afternoon and early evening. Pier fishermen are also catching black drum, bluefish, blowfish, lots of dogfish sharks and a few gray trout. When the water warms a few more degrees, this should become good.
There have been some scattered reports of a few flounder being caught and Capt. Noah Lynk (www.noahsarkfishingcharters.com) called Wednesday to confirm it. He said most of the flounder were thin, but they made the legal length. He also said there were plenty of bluefish at Cape Lookout. He said the bluefish fishing was so good that one day he ran three half-day trips and they all caught until they were tired. That thing with three half days in a day must be some of the new math. I couldn't figure it out, but didn't want to appear foolish by asking.
Chasin' Tails Outdoors (www.chasintailsoutdoors.com) reported good catches of sea mullet in the Beaufort Inlet Channel and around the Railroad Bridge, just above the Morehead City State Port. They said there were also a few gray trout mixed in with the mullets. The hot ticket for both has been speck rigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp.
Puppy drum are the most consistent inshore and nearshore fish still. There are some schools of overslot pups on the Cape Lookout Shoals, but they have been fished so hard and heavy they are pretty gun shy some days. Smaller drum are being caught in the Haystacks, Middle Marshes, North River Marshes and up Core Sound at Drum (Ophelia) Inlet. The drum have been showing a definite preference for mud minnows, but will also usually pick up fresh cut bait and are starting to respond better to lures.
Some speckled trout are being caught, but the changing water has them moving and being a little unpredictable. Some good catches have come from Core Creek, Adams Creek and some of the creeks off the Neuse River around Oriental.
Last week I reported the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC, www.ncdmf.net) voted not to accept the changes to the gray trout (weakfish) fishery mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). During their fall 2009 meeting, the ASMFC voted to reduce the recreational limit for gray trout to one per person effective by May 1, 2010 and severely restrict the commercial harvest of gray trout (100 pounds per day in most operations). Talks are ongoing between the two organizations, but no compromise has been reached yet.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has said they will immediately post whatever happens on their website at www.ncdmf.net. If this isn't resolved by May 1, I would suggest checking that website every morning before going fishing to see what the current regulations are. If a settlement is not reached, the feds could step in and close the N.C. gray trout fishery completely.
The time period for commenting on Amendment 17A to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan expires Monday, April 19. The SAFMC is planning to close the ocean to all bottom fishing in a zone that runs from northern-central Florida to the Ga./S.C. border and includes all waters from 98 to 240 feet deep.
Fishermen have expressed concerns that these area closures, which they believe are not needed, would force commercial fishermen to move farther north and create a situation of local depletion for grouper and other species in the area that remains open. This is a valid point that merits serious consideration.
Comments may be sent to the SAFMC by internet, mail or fax. Electronic Submissions must go through the: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The docket ID for this proposal is NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035 and it must be entered in the search box. Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Kate Michie--NOAA Fisheries Service--Southeast Regional Office--Sustainable Fisheries Division--263 13th Avenue South--St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505. Comments may also be faxed to 727-824-5308 and sent attention of Kate Michie.
If you haven't seen or heard about the movie "Redfish Can't Jump" you should check it out on at the website, www.redfishcantjump.com. Filming was done in the waters around Wrightsville Beach and Southport for this film that strives to capture the essence and the controversy surrounding North Carolina's state fish, the red drum. Regardless of how you feel about the issues and controversy, you will appreciate the fishing footage in this film.
This weekend there will be two screenings of the movie and they will coincide with the official release of the "Redfish Can't Jump" DVD. The first screening will be Friday, April 16, at the Turnage Theatre in Washington and will begin at 8:00 P.M. There is a small admission fee and DVDs will be offered at a discount.
The second screening will be at 7:00 P.M. Sunday, April 18, at the Lumina Theatre in the Fisher Student Center on the UNC-W campus in Wilmington. This screening will be hosted by the UNC-W Department of Geography and Geology. DVDs will be for sale. For more information or to pre-order a copy of the DVD, log onto the website at www.redfishcantjump.com or visit them on Facebook.
The first Get Outdoors Expo will be held at Palmetto Creek, near Southport, this Saturday, April 17. The event will begin at 10 and will include displays, exhibits and seminars on outdoor activities including saltwater fishing, kayaking, surfing, kite boarding and more. There will also be a boat show featuring area dealers. In addition to the many other activities and displays, I will be hosting three saltwater fishing seminars during the day. Palmetto Creek is located on NC 211 between Southport and Supply and the Get Outdoors Expo is free. More information and directions are available at the event's website, www.getoutdoorsexpo.com and on Facebook.
Several Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings will be held in the coming two weeks and all include a public comment period. The meetings are:
* April 16, 1:00 P.M., MFC Coastal Recreational Fishing License Advisory
Committee, NCDMF Headquarters, Morehead City;
NCDMF Headquarters, Morehead City;
The draft pan for the Spotted Sea Trout Fishery Management Plan is being discussed at most of these meeting. For more information contact the DMF at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8023, or by visiting www.ncdmf.net.
On April 24, the first 1st Crawl Environmental Spring Festival will be hosted by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department. The day will begin with the Team Turtle Triathlon (paddle, pedal and run). After the triathlon, there will be displays, events, exhibits and live music at the Soccer Fields at Middleton Park at Oak Island. I will be there with the N.C. Kayak Fishing Association (www.nckfa.com). More information is available at the Oak Island website at www.oakislandnc.com or by calling the Oak Island Recreation Department at 910-278- 5518.