We've gotten to that time of year when we want every thing to continue warming and that is especially so after a cold wet winter like we endured this year. Unfortunately the weather isn't cooperating just right for this to happen. The daytimes highs aren't too bad--and we will probably be wishing a little more for days like them soon enough, but the cool nights from the weekend and the past few days are negating any warming the water saw during the day.
Earlier this week the water temperature reading at Bogue Inlet Pier was 62.1 degrees and the nearshore Onslow Bay Buoy, just a couple of miles off the beach, was almost a degree cooler at 61.3. Both of these are colder than the 64 degree reading from last Thursday.
The strangeness with the water temperatures continues when heading offshore. We would normally expect the water at Diamond Shoals Tower to be at least in the high 60s and maybe flirting with 70 degrees by now but it isn't the case. The water temperature at the buoy there is a few degrees cooler than the nearshore water and was only 57.4 the same morning. The water was a little warmer to the south at Frying Pan Tower, which was 62.1 degrees, but the inshore water was 64 degrees and expectations are the temperature at the tower should have been 68 to 70 degrees.
Not that anyone went offshore in the gusty winds over the weekend, but the folks who have been recently were reporting they were not getting into the 70s at the Big Rock, but having to go beyond them to find that mark. The Big Rock, Swansboro Hole and several similar popular spots are at about 150 to 180 feet and usually are on the edge of the Gulf Stream and almost always have eddies and spin-off from the Gulf Stream covering them with warmer water. That isn't the case right now, but maybe it will be soon.
The good news is this is the edge of the break and only a few miles offshore the water depth drops quickly and the water temp is warmer. The offshore bite is generally a little slow, but the wahoo bite continues to be the best thing going in these depths. When you can get there and locate them, the wahoo have been biting well. There are some blackfin tuna and an occasional dolphin being caught also. By the time this is printed, the winds should have subsided enough to allow heading offshore again and switched back to a southerly flow, which should be a little warmer.
The reports of tuna are still coming from Oregon Inlet (primarily) and Hatteras. It is a shorter run to the fishing area in these locations and they can go on days it would be too far in the conditions elsewhere. They are catching lots of bluefin tuna, with some yellowfins and bigeyes mixed in. Yellowfin and bigeye tunas will give you a workout and stretch your string, but bluefins will find out just how tough you are.
Amberjacks and cobia are being caught by fishermen who are vertical jigging over wrecks. It amazes me the fish will attack those metal jigs like they do, but they rarely refuse if they are there.
There were just a couple of reports of scattered pods of king mackerel during the past week. With the water cooling again, it may put them off for a while, but kings could be arriving in numbers soon. The first key is plenty of baitfish for food and then for comfortable water temperatures. In offshore water, 67 or 68 degrees is often warm enough for kings, but it usually has to make the low 70s before anything but a straggler or two reaches the beach.
There is a run of bonito off Wrightsville Beach and Topsail. This started Sunday and was getting better during the first of the week. Perhaps they will be spread along more of the coast by the weekend. There were a few false albacore mixed in, but the majority were bonito. Learn to tell the difference between these two fish--bonito are excellent table fare!
There weren't any new reports from the piers this week. Sea mullet are the primary catch, with some blowfish and bluefish. The sea mullet bite has been best in the late afternoons and early evenings. The occasional flounder are being caught from the piers at Topsail and to the south. They may be legal length, but are rather thin. Those fish will have fattened up and will be appreciated during the fall.
There are some scattered reports of a few flounder around the inlets, along the edges of the State Port Turning Basin and in the hook at Cape Lookout. There are lots of small to several pound bluefish at Cape Lookout. The big blues haven't arrived yet, but should be showing up around the first of May. There should be some gray trout in the deeper water near the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty.
Sea mullet are also biting in the Beaufort Inlet Channel and around the edges of the State Port Turning Basin. The first gray trout of the spring are mixed with the mullets. Speck rigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp are great for the sea mullet and do pretty well with the gray trout too. Several fishermen suggested using a Stingsilver or Jig Fish as the weight on the speck rig to make it even more attractive to the gray trout.
Puppy drum are being caught in the backwaters, on Cape Lookout Shoals, on the ocean beach from Drum (Ophelia) Inlet to Beaufort Inlet, and in the surf around Bogue, Bear and Browns Inlets. In the current combination of bait and water temperature, puppy drum are providing the most consistent catches. Mud minnows, fresh cut bait and lures are all catching the pups.
The speckled trout bite is improving, but hasn't gotten good. A little warmer water should help get the specks feeding. Some of the best reports of trout are coming from a little farther inland. Core Creek, Adams Creek and the creeks off the Neuse River around Oriental and Havelock have all been mentioned.
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Beaufort Harbor Marina and Yacht Club and the Carteret County Economic Development Foundation, received one of 13 2010 Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The grant is for $455,176 that will be matched with $506,176 to construct 50 transient boat slips and other amenities along Beaufort's Town Creek. BIG grants are to construct, renovate and maintain tie-up facilities with features for transient boats (those staying 10 days or less) that are 26 feet or more in length and used for recreation. The funds are also used to produce and distribute information and educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fishing and Boating Trust Fund, formerly known as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, which is supported by excise taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and boat fuels.
I participated in the first Get Outdoors Expo that was held at Palmetto Creek, near Southport, on Saturday, April 17 and had a great time. I was doing fishing seminars, but had great folks and they were much more like open discussions than me standing in front of a crowd and lecturing. There were folks giving kayak instructions and rides, plus giving stand-up paddleboard instruction and rides. Other activities included artists painting and working with aspiring artists, gardeners displaying and teaching their secrets, and even a professional golfer helping duffers remove strokes.
I don't consider myself artsy and one glimpse of the drawings I use to illustrate rigs and trolling spreads will convince anyone of my lack of ability, but the most impressive thing to me was the huge sand sculpture. It blew my best childhood sandcastle creations away--hands down. The sculpture was more than eight feet tall and ten feet wide and was of a kayaker coming out from a waterfall. I was very impressed; I can barely get that much detail with a camera. When this event comes around next spring, it will be a good one to remember to attend.
Several weeks ago 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, www.asmfc.org). 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) 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.
In response to their less than stellar reputation with recreational fishermen, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hosted hundreds of anglers over last weekend at a national summit on recreational fishing. NOAA is showcasing a series of new initiatives aimed at calming politically hostile waters with anglers who have been angered by Obama administration policies.
This was touted as an attempt to reconnect with more than 15 million saltwater recreational anglers who boost the economy with roughly $31 billion each year and have felt neglected by the Obama administration. It will be interesting to see if the NOAA administrators actually listened and heed the fishermen's concerns.
I'm sorry, but I was late finding out the Marine Protected Area Federal Advisory Committee was meeting this week in Charleston. Unfortunately the meeting began Tuesday (April 20) and ended Thursday (April 22). There were public comment periods on both of those days.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are one of the newer forms of fisheries conservation, where a section of water is made off limits to certain or all types of fishing. For more information on the variety and scope of MPAs, visit www.mpa.gov.
We already have two MPAs off our coast. One is the Snowy Grouper Wreck MPA that is approximately 65 miles southeast of the Cape Fear River and the other is the Northern South Carolina MPA that is approximately the same distance southwest of the Cape Fear River. These two MPAs allow trolling but no bottom fishing and are monitored by satellite.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is in the midst of a round of advisory committee meetings. Several have already been held and there are a few remaining. All include a public comment period. The meetings are:
* April 23, 10 A.M., MFC-WRC Coastal Recreational Fishing License Committee, NCDMF Headquarters, Morehead City;
* April 26, 10:30 A.M., MFC Civil Penalty Remissions and Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, NCDENR Regional Field Office, Wilmington;
* April 27, 10:00 A.M., Strategic Habitat Areas Region Two Advisory Committee, NCDMF Headquarters, Morehead City;
* April 28, 4:00 P.M., MFC Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, NCDENR Regional Field Office, Washington.
* April 29, 5:00 P.M., MFC Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, Chowan County Agricultural Extension, Edenton.
The draft plan 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 at Oak Island. The day will begin with the Team Turtle Triathlon, a combination of paddling a canoe or kayak, riding a bike and a run (or walk) to the finish. This is a team event, with one member doing each part. The distances are short and were designed in the spirit of fun and highlighting the Oak Island Turtle Program.
After the triathlon, there will be displays, events, exhibits and live music at the Soccer Fields at Middleton Park at Oak Island. 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.
The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (www.nckfa.com) will have a booth at the festival and it will be staffed by NCKFA Founder Mark Patterson of Brigadoon Kayak Guide Service, plus other NCKFA members. The NCKFA will also have a fishing outing at Oak Island this weekend, so it could be an excellent time to join the group and meet some of the members, who will be coming in from all across N.C. I plan to fish with the group a while early Saturday morning and then head over to the NCKFA booth by mid-day.
Tournament time is coming soon! The first tournament of 2010 is the Reelin' For Research Tournament that will be next weekend, April 30 and May 1, in Morehead City. This is an offshore tournament that supports North Carolina Children's Promise and pediatric hematology and oncology patients. For more information, visit www.reelinforresearch.org.