Last weekend was a good one for fishermen and there were good reports all around. Unfortunately we slipped back into cold and windy weather during the week. The water temperature dropped a handful of degrees too, which wasn’t good. The weather should be gradually warming over the weekend, but the forecast is windy and with a chance of rain until Monday.
This is Easter weekend, which typically is a big weekend at the coast and the anticipation is for another large crowd this year. While the weather is forecast to warm back up into the sixties, there is rain, clouds and breezy conditions in the weekend forecast. With some luck, the rain will miss, the sun will be brighter and the winds less than the forecast. Hopefully, even though the water cooled quite a bit, those fish that have already moved inshore will stay there and be hungry. It shouldn’t affect the offshore fish and we can head offshore and chase them as soon as the wind allows.
Before I get into catches of the past week, I would like to congratulate Frank Dalli of Wake Forest for his big catch on April 2. Dalli was fishing with Capt. Mike Jackson on the Live Line out of Wrightsville Beach when his date with fishing history struck. After a long and tough battle, Dalli boated a 49.1 pound jack crevalle that is pending certification as the next N.C. state record for the species.
Dalli’s big jack eclipsed Kenneth McArthur’s 25 year old record by 2.1 pounds. McArthur’s jack crevalle, which was caught off Cape Hatteras, weighed 47.0 pounds and his record had stood since 1989.
“We were approximately 65 miles out of Wrightsville Beach and fishing a ledge in 150 feet of water where my son and I have caught many nice amberjack and African pompano with Capt. Mike,” Dalli said. “We were jigging gold 7 ounce, Stingo jigs and it was my first drop of the day. I suspected it was something different when it hit and ran out to the side, but when it took off again after I got it halfway in, there wasn’t any doubt. The first time we saw it, it was still deep and looked like a huge African pompano. Once we got it closer, Capt. Mike recognized it as a jack crevalle and when he lifted it in to weigh it, he was sure it would be a state record.”
Congratulations Frank! Capt. Jackson said you also had a near record African pompano, lots of amberjack and a 40 pound wahoo. That’s good fishing for sure.
Fishing was excellent last weekend from the backwaters to the blue water. The action continued into Monday, but then the winds breezed up and winter paid another visit. Hopefully fishing will pick up again by the weekend and the winds will be lighter than the early forecast.
Once again the big inside catch was sea mullet and blowfish or puffers were right behind. Both are very tasty and many fishermen filled coolers with a combination of them. Many were caught from the ocean piers and there were also good reports from the mouth of the Cape Fear River at Southport and the Turning Basin at Morehead City. Fresh shrimp on double drop bottom rigs or speck rigs are the hot deal for catching sea mullet, but many fishermen are also catching them well using FishBites synthetic baits. Blowfish aren’t particular and will hit anything the sea mullet will eat. There were also some gray trout mixed with the sea mullet in the Turning Basin.
We thought the big bluefish could arrive at any time and this has been the week. There were several caught by surf and boat fishermen in the Atlantic Beach to Cape Lookout area. The catches slowed after the weekend, but should pick back up as the water clears and warms again this weekend and into next week. The big blues like chunks of cut bait in the surf and will also hit cast or trolled lures.
Speckled trout are biting well and their numbers are better than anyone thought they would be after the January freezes and stuns/kills. Some big trout are in the mix too and there may be a lot of citations issued once the season opens in June. Specks are hitting hard and soft plastics. Several fishermen have also reported catching them on topwaters.
The water must have warmed right at the end of last week as puppy drum woke up late in the week and woke up hungry. Lots of fishermen reported good catches of pups through the weekend and they were caught from the surf to well back in creeks and marshes. The pups are hitting a variety of soft and hard lures, gold spoons and spinnerbaits, plus cut bait and live mud minnows.
I didn’t hear much about shad this week, but stripers are still making their way up the rivers. The hotspot in the state right now is the Roanoke River and fishermen are talking regularly of 100 fish days. There are also stripers in most of the other coastal rivers. If you would like some stripers for another meal or the freezer, you should check the regulations for where you plan to fish and plan to make the trip soon. Striper regulations vary in different areas, with some areas such as the Cape Fear River closed and the keeper season closes in most areas on April 30.
In addition to sea mullet and blowfish, pier fishermen are catching a few red and black drum and some bluefish. A lucky fisherman at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island caught the first pier Spanish mackerel of the year on April 10 while jigging for bluefish. This is very early and the water is still a little cool, but sometimes odd things happen and this was obviously one of those times.
Speaking of Spanish mackerel, a couple of boats that were trolling for Atlantic bonito around one of the nearshore artificial reefs off Wrightsville Beach caught a few early Spanish last week too. It was a one day thing and it hasn’t happened again yet. Both of these incidents are early for Spanish, but the reports should include them pretty regularly once May arrives.
Atlantic bonito and the spring run of false albacore have been reported to some degree from Wrightsville Beach to a little east of Cape Lookout. Get out your fish ID books and polish up so you can tell the difference between these two inshore cousins in the tuna family. Atlantic bonito are excellent table fare and even make great sashimi and sushi. False albacore have a darker meat that most people find too strong for their taste.
The wind behaved over the weekend, but this week the wind hasn’t been particularly good for heading offshore. As the cold front crossed into the ocean Tuesday and Tuesday night, several locations along the coast reported wind gusts stronger than hurricane force and many areas had winds that exceeded 50 MPH.
Last weekend fishermen took advantage of the incredibly good weather and calm sea conditions to head offshore. Those after bottom fish found black sea bass, grunts and porgies closest in. Black sea bass are everywhere from the artificial reefs right off the beaches out to 100 plus feet of water. The percentage of keepers rises as the water gets deeper, but there are reports of weeding through shorts to catch limits closer in. Be forewarned - there are a lot of shorts.
The best mixture of bottom fish seems to be in the range from approximately 90 to 125 feet deep. Here triggerfish and beeliners join the others. Grouper are also biting, but their season doesn’t open until May 1, so they have a “get off the hook free’ card right now.
Fishermen that made the trip to the Gulf Stream were rewarded with wahoo, blackfin tuna and a few dolphin south of Cape Hatteras and wahoo, blackfin and yellowfin north of Hatteras. Dolphin numbers should begin to increase over the next few weeks and some of the largest dolphin of the year are usually caught in May. Fishermen from Oregon Inlet also caught a few more big bluefin tuna last week.
A couple of weeks ago, I reported that the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) had closed its doors. Fishermen who love the thrill of competition and want to compete on a trail that crowns a national champion received good news this week. The National Boat Owners Association (NBOA, www.nboat.com) announced they have completed a deal to purchase the SKA and will seek to continue regional competition leading to a national championship, plus have a professional kingfishing tour. Exact details haven’t been released yet, but I’ll have them as soon as I receive them
The five great white sharks we have been following have moved around a little this week. The biggest news here is that Genie has rejoined us with four pings in the last few days after staying under water and not pinging since late January. April has moved a little to the north and near the Continental Shelf off of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. There must be good food sources in this area as she has been along the Continental Shelf between the bay and Oregon Inlet for more than a month.
Genie, who last pinged a location off Brunswick, Ga. in late January, is back on the surface and pinging again about 100 miles east of Oregon Inlet. I was beginning to worry about her and I’m glad to know where she is. Genie was tagged off Mayport, Fl. last winter and was barely a quarter mile off the beach in roughly 25 feet of water when she was hooked.
Katharine has moved back up the beach and has been barely off the beach at Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge and Little St. Simon Island, which is the entrance to Altamaha Sound in Georgia. Mary Lee stayed the closest to where she was last week and remains in the open ocean, near the Continental Shelf, about 100 miles east of Brunswick Georgia. Lydia also stayed pretty close to where she was last week. She is just west of the mid-Atlantic Ridge roughly halfway between Bermuda and Morocco. 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.
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:
• 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.
• 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, please 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 Council’s 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 Council’s website at www.safmc.net.
The Third Annual Chasin’ 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 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.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will offer their annual Women Anglers in Training (WAIT) seminar next weekend, April 26 and 27. This is a ladies-only fishing school that combines classroom and outdoor training sessions on Saturday, with a day on the water putting everything to good use on Sunday. For more information visit the Town of Oak Island website at www.oakislandnc.com and open the Recreation Department tab.
The Washington Harbor District Alliance will host the Washington Marine Market on Saturday, April 26. The event will be in downtown Washington on Stewart Parkway. For more information visit www.whda.org.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will offer their annual Kayak Fishing School on May 3. This school is two parts with a classroom session in the morning and an on-water session in the afternoon. Participants can register for only the morning or all day. Capt. Jerry Dilsaver will be the key instructor in the classroom sessions and will be joined by others to help participants become more comfortable in their kayaks and set them up for better fishing during the afternoon. For more information visit the Town of Oak Island website at www.oakislandnc.com and open the Recreation Department tab.