The wind has been a pain in the butt for those fishermen that like to head to the Gulf Stream for a while. The run to the Gulf Stream is 40 plus miles depending on exactly where you go and that is a long ways to ride uncomfortably in anything, especially a boat. Thankfully as we were warming from last weekís cold snap, there was a nice wind break from Friday through the weekend and a couple of days during the week and many fishermen took advantage of it. Unfortunately the wind and swell appears to be building a little and is right at that point where it might be too strong to be comfortable for this weekend.
Everyone I spoke with that headed offshore has been catching fish too. Some said it wasnít as good as they had hoped or that they didnít find the fish right off, but no one said fishing was poor. Wahoo, blackfin tuna and dolphin were the primary fish caught and there were good numbers of them. Some fishermen caught in the morning and some in the afternoon, but most of the fishermen who gave it the good old college try put fish in the fish box sometime during the day.
Just a little inshore of the Gulf Stream the offshore bottom fish and king mackerel are biting. The general area is from about 80 feet of water to about 120 feet deep. Donít keep everything though. Grouper, red snapper and black sea bass cannot currently be kept. Grunts, porgies, triggerfish and beeliners are fair game, within their limits.
I know it seems like black sea bass are everywhere, but their season is closed until June 1. Last week I mentioned a press release from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) about black sea bass. This press release set an opening date for N.C. black sea bass as May 19 and a limit of 25 per person. I pointed out this was for the waters from Cape Hatteras to the north and not for us.
I received a dozen or so phone calls and e-mails from folks saying they saw this and I was wrong. Folks, I wish I was wrong, but I am correct on this. That notice was for the northeast states and that jurisdiction begins at Cape Hatteras. The press release has been corrected and reissued so that the heading for North Carolina is now followed with parentheses that say North of Cape Hatteras.
For the federal waters from Cape Hatteras southward to Florida, the black sea bass season opens on June 1 and the limit will be five per person. Also understand this personal limit could be reduced at any time. The federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore) south of Cape Hatteras are controlled by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) and this is on their website at www.safmc.net.
Setting out a light line baited with a frozen cigar minnow, small grunt or something similar while bottom fishing offshore will often attract a king mackerel, cobia or amberjack. Once the water gets a little warmer, this will sometimes attract dolphin and an occasional wahoo too.
There are some widely scattered reports of kings moving into the 60 to 80 foot depths. I believe the kings would definitely have been in this range if these little cold snaps hadnít suddenly decided to confuse our weather. Iím also not surprised to hear a few kings have moved into these areas anyway. Once the water passes around 65 degrees and there are baitfish to feed on, kings may move into the area.
One of the more popular of these 60 to 80 foot deep areas off N.C. is the Horseshoe area between Cape Fear and Frying Pan Tower. Fishermen head there from Southport and Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches. Off Cape Lookout the area from 14 Buoy out to the 90 foot drop is similar in popularity.
Kings have been caught in 100 to 120 feet of water for most of the winter. Heck, there have been some wahoo caught just off the 90 foot drop and Frying Pan Tower already this year. The water has been warm enough the baitfish didnít leave and the kings stayed around the buffet table. Kings have been hitting Drone spoons, sea witches with strips and frozen cigar minnows.
Fishermen trolling along the beach and the tide lines at the inlets are catching some Spanish mackerel and bluefish. They arenít thick, yet, but they are there and the numbers should improve. There are also some false albacore and Atlantic bonito scattered along the coast. The hot spot for bonito is off New River Inlet.
Small spoons, like 00 size Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons work well for all these and bluefish. Some should be just under the surface and others at deeper depths using planers or trolling sinkers. Spanish, false albacore and bonito feed pretty quickly and prefer lures trolled quickly. Bluefish feed slower and like slower trolling speeds. If you are catching one and want the other, speeding up or slowing down might help.
Pier fishing is pretty good. Catches include good numbers of sea mullet and blowfish, plus some spots, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, red drum, black drum, speckled trout, pompano and more. Shrimp has been the most productive bottom bait, but be prepared to go through a lot as all the bait thieves like it too.
The pier king mackerel bite fired up off Oak Island this week. There was a 20 pound, 5 ounce king caught from Ocean Crest Pier on Monday, Several lost on Wednesday and then in a flurry of action four hit the deck Thursday afternoon. The largest was 32 pounds and all were 20 pounds or heavier.
The water temperature in the surf has reached 65 degrees or warmer everywhere from Cape Lookout to the south. The weather buoys just off the beach at New River Inlet and Sunset Beach were registering 67 degrees. That is the bottom edge of warm enough. The king fishermen are certainly out at the pier ends each day and have some baits in the water waiting. This might be the week it happens here too.
Some of the same bottom fish that are being caught from the piers are also biting in the surf. The rising tide, through high tide, and for an hour or so of the falling tide have been the best times. If the tide is high in the early morning or late afternoon, that seems to be even better.
Inshore fishing has seen a couple of hiccups with the weather changes, but continues to be good. The water temperature in many of the creeks is approaching 70 degree at low tide and the fish are active and feeding. Most fish are several weeks ahead of when they are usually here and numbers have been pretty good too.
This week there was another influx of larger redfish on Cape Lookout Shoals out towards Shark Island. Catching those larger redfish usually means larger smiles too. Smaller reds are scattered through area creeks and in the bays along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Speckled trout have been a little less predictable than the redfish, but there are trout in many of the bays and creeks. Lots of the trout are small, but there are some nice ones too. The trout prefer live shrimp over all other baits, but can be coaxed into hitting mud minnows as a substitute live bait and also MirrOlures on topwater and suspending and occasionally on soft plastics too for lures.
Flounder are starting to fill through the area. They are steadily moving into their regular haunts around wrecks and artificial reefs in the ocean, scattered through the Turning Basin, and in area creeks. Some are hitting soft plastics, but mud minnows will really get their attention.
Capt. Matt Lamb of Chasiní Tails Outdoors said his customers had reported good action in the Morehead City 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.
Stripers are still biting in the Neuse River around New Bern and in the Pamlico River around Washington. Some days they mix with speckled trout and the fishing is really fun.
I was told stripers were biting around Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River, but went by there last Friday morning and found the river muddy and no one fishing. However, I was impressed with the progress on the rock and pool fish ladder being built at the dam to assist spawning fish with their trip upriver. The ladder is completed about 2/3 or more across the river. Biologists say that when this is completed it will boost the spawn in the Cape Fear River by 50 percent. I sure hope so.
Capt. Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Outfitters said the striper bite on the Roanoke River at Weldon is building. There are groups of local fishermen who annually make the drive to Weldon to partake in the stateís premiere striper fishery each spring and that time is rapidly approaching. The keeper season is short, barbless hooks are required and there are special limits. However, you can often catch and release until you get tired. Hundred fish days are not unusual. This is fishing and there are off days, but it is usually worth the drive from mid April to mid May.
Robert Pedigo had a bad day last month even though he landed a 427.9 pound yellowfin tuna, that would have been a new world record. Yep, the key phrase is "would have been." Pedigo was fishing on the Journeyman from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and fought the huge yellowfin unassisted, but the mate touched the rod during the fight and the fish had to be disqualified as a potential record. Other fishermen aboard the Journeyman said the mate did not actually assist Pedigo, but he did touch the rod and International Game Fish Association (IGFA) rules state only the angler can handle the rod during the fight.
Pedigo may not have gotten the record, but that sure is a lot of sashimi, tuna tartar, grilled tuna steaks and otherwise excellent eating. That will have to be enough reward.
I was one of the speakers at the Kayak Fish and Float Day held Saturday, April 14, at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. This program, which was presented by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (www.ncwildlife.org), was the first in N.C. to combine fishing seminars and paddling demos on the same day at the same facility. The seminars included freshwater and saltwater fishing and I was joined by Mark Patterson, founder of the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (www.nckfa.com), who handled the freshwater seminars.
Kayaks for the paddling part of the event were provided by Great Outdoor Provision Company (www.greatoutdoorprovision.com) and Get Outdoors (www.getoutdoors.us). There were fishing kayaks from many brands and participants could try all they wanted. It was a good time and plans are already underway for the 2013 event.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) have joined with the Gulf Fisheries Council and are examining Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a means to protect endangered corals and establish protected areas for hinds and Warsaw grouper. There is already one of these at the Continental Shelf roughly south-southeast of Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear. No bottom fishing is allowed in the borders of an MPA.
These are but two of the variety of issues and proposed regulations these agencies examine, create and oversee. New issues arise frequently and all fishermen would be wise to check the SAFMC listings occasionally. The SAFMC website is www.safmc.net. Press releases there link to current issues and have instructions on how to file a comment electronically, by fax or by mail.
The Coast Guard is seeking comments regarding the extended closure of Bogue Sound in Morehead City during the 2012 Crystal Coast Grand Prix powerboat race, which has been extended to a two-day event, Sept. 15 and 16, for 2012.
Capt. Anthony Popiel, Commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, encouraged boaters to voice their opinion and comments on the date extension and waterway closure online. The notice to proposed rulemaking can be found by searching USCG-2012-0109 at http://www.regulations.gov/. Comments and related material must be submitted by April 16. For more information, contact Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Edge, at 252-247-4525, or email Joseph.M.Edge@uscg.mil.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting qualified individuals to serve on its Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel. Advisors will assist in developing management measures to reduce impacts on Atlantic sturgeon. Applicants who are appointed to the Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel will serve a term of 3 years.
Anyone interested in serving Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel should submit an application to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901, email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to (302) 674-5399. Applications can be obtained by visiting www.mafmc.org or by contacting the Council office at (302) 674-2331 (ext.253). Applications must be received by May 11, 2012.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is seeking applicants for seats on its advisory panels. Advisory panel members provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans. The Council has 11 separate advisory panels composed of individuals who are engaged in the harvest of managed species, or are knowledgeable and interested in the conservation and management of the fishery or managed species. Members include recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.
Advisory panel members are appointed by the Council and serve for a three-year period, based on the frequency of meetings. AP members generally meet no more than once or twice each year and are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings. Applications are now being solicited for the following positions:
Coral Advisory Panel (1) Coral Scientist Seat;
Dolphin Wahoo Advisory Panel (1) NC Charter Seat; (1) FL Charter Seat; and
(1) NGO Seat;
Golden Crab Advisory Panel (2) Open Seats;
Habitat Advisory Panel (1) GA Commercial Seat;
King & Spanish Mackerel Advisory Panel (1) NC Commercial Seat and
(1) FL Commercial Seat;
Law Enforcement Advisory Panel (1) Open Seat;
Deepwater Shrimp Advisory Panel (1) Open Seat;
SEDAR Pool * Open Seats;
Shrimp Advisory Panel (1) NGO Seat;
*Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.
Persons interested in serving on the Council's advisory panels, must submit an application to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. Applications can be obtained by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or toll free 866/SAFMC-10. Application forms are also available online at www.safmc.net. Applications must be received by May 1, 2012.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact area Council representatives to discuss their interest in serving. Contact information for all Council members is available at www.safmc.net or through the Council office. Advisory panel members will be selected during the next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, scheduled for June 11-15, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is seeking a recreational fisherman to fill one vacant seat on a Coastal Recreational Fishing License Advisory Committee, a charter and/or for hire fisherman to fill one vacancy on a Northeast Regional Advisory Committee and fishermen from the Pamlico and Core Sounds areas to fill seats on the Sea Turtle Advisory Committee.
Duties of the Sea Turtle Committee include reviewing sea turtle observer reports, assisting with fishermen education; determining measures to reduce the incidental take of sea turtles; monitoring observer program issues; and reviewing Incidental Take Permit applications to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Coastal Recreational Fishing License Committee reviews applications for Coastal Recreational Fishing License grants related to public outreach and education, and improving public fishing access and fishing opportunities.
The Northeast Committee reviews and advises the commission on fisheries issues pertaining to the northern coastal area of the state. These issues may be referred to them by the commission, such as draft fishery management plans, or brought to the commissionís attention by the committee.
Individuals interested in serving as advisers should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process. Advisers will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
Applications are available online at http://www.ncfisheries.net/mfc/advisorforms.html, at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheriesí offices or by calling 252-808-8023 or 800-682-2632. Applications should be returned by May 4 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, Attention: Lauren Morris.
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. For a complete agenda, registration details, directions and proceedings from past forums, go to www.ncseagrant.org/s/recfishforum. Contact Lisa Humphrey at email@example.com or 910/962-2490, or Scott Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910/962-2492 with questions regarding online registration.
A huge kayak gathering is scheduled for this weekend in Charleston, S.C. The East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival will be held April 20 to 22 at James Island County Park in Charleston. The event is a program of the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission and is sponsored by Subaru. There will be paddle and fishing seminars, paddle excursions, a paddleboard race and a fishing tournament in addition to the display and sale of kayaks and related items. Many kayak manufacturers will have their demo fleets and factory representatives there for attendees to try out. For more information visit www.ccprc.com.