It seems like Iíve said this several times lately, but what a difference a week makes. Last week I was singing the praises of how the nice warm weather had arrived and over the weekend we fell back into the freezer. Thankfully we have crawled back out this week, but the temperatures havenít yet risen to the levels of last week.
The weekend isnít exactly a great forecast, but isnít too bad for the larger boats. The winds are supposed to settle back to 10 to 15 knots. Seas are projected at 3 to 5 feet east of Cape Lookout and 2-4 feet to the south. The wind directions are northeast and east, so the run offshore should be pretty nice, but the ride home in the afternoon is going to be bumpy.
Unfortunately, there isnít a strong warming trend also in that forecast. Weíre looking at cool to cold nights and daytime highs only in the high 60s for the weekend and then easing back into the 70s next week.
The water temperatures that were rising so well last week took a nose dive over the weekend. Bogue Inlet Pier reported the surf temperature that had risen to 68 late last week had dropped 10 degrees to 58 over the weekend. Thankfully, most of the sudden cooling was inshore and along the beach. Many of the offshore temperature reporting stations were within a degree or two of their highs from last week. Unfortunately, there is concern about how quickly the nearshore and inshore water temperatures will warm back up. Several species began putting in good showings late last week and no one wants an extended shot of cooler water to run them off.
Before I get deeper into this weekís report, Iím happy to report that two N.C. towns have been nominated in the Ultimate U.S. Fishing Towns competition on the World Fishing Network website. Currently, Cape Hatteras is leading the voting and Southport is in tenth place. The link to the website for voting is below and Iíll ask you to take a minute to log-on and vote and then pass this information and especially the link for voting to all your friends and fellow fishermen who appreciate the fishing along the N.C. Coast. I know it would have divided the vote, but Iím surprised Morehead City or Atlantic Beach wasnít also included.
The link to the voting section of the World Fishing Network website is www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/homepage.php. The first prize is $25,000 for fishing recreation programs in town and there are also eight regional prizes. You can vote up to 4 times in a 24 hour period, plus earn extra votes for sharing the link by twitter and Facebook. All the information is on the website.
While the wind blew over the weekend and Monday, fishermen were able to get offshore and to the Gulf Stream several days during the middle of the week. The bulk of the Gulf Stream fishing continues to be wahoo and blackfin tuna. There were some dolphin caught, plus I heard of a pair of unsuccessful encounters of the billfish kind. One of the most interesting reports was of a 96 pound wahoo caught on 20 pound line on a king mackerel live bait outfit offshore of Wilmington.
Fishermen at Hatteras and Oregon inlet are catching a mixture of blackfin and yellowfin tuna. Last week there were several good catches of yellowfin tuna out of Morehead City and it took a while to follow them up this week. Several more good catches of yellowfin were recorded on Wednesday and this adds hope that they are moving back to the inshore edges of the Gulf Stream for their northern migration in the spring. Hopefully as the weather improves and more boats are heading offshore, the yellowfin catches will continue to increase in the central coast and also move to the southern coast.
A little closer in fishermen are finding more king mackerel. The key seems to be finding structure in the 90 to 115 foot depths that is holding baitfish. Different spots along the ledge near the Navy Wreck off Southport were hot several days. The kings are still feeding heavily and arenít real picky about what they eat. Many are being caught on lures and a growing number are being caught using frozen cigar minnows slow trolled on live bait rigs.
Bottom fish were also biting well. Chunks of cut bait and squid, plus pieces of cigar minnows and chunks of pogies were bringing lots of strikes. Fishermen can currently keep beeliners (vermilion snapper) triggerfish, porgys and grunts. Grouper season will open on Wednesday, May 1 at 12:01 A.M. Unless the weather intervenes, I expect to have some excellent grouper catches to report next week. Check the regulations for all species at www.ncdmf.net. The link for the Recreational Size and Creel Limits is at the upper right.
Several fishermen reported catching false albacore within 5 miles of the beach this week off Atlantic Beach. There were reports of Atlantic Bonito off Cape Fear late last week and some were caught off New River Inlet on Wednesday. They have developed a fondness for New River Inlet over the past few springs, so a trip there might be in order if you would like to chase these tasty football size tuna.
My weekly advice while Atlantic bonito may be around is to get off your wallet and buy a fish ID book and learn to tell the difference between Atlantic bonito and false albacore. Both are cousins in the tuna family and often travel in mixed schools. Both also like shiny lures that are trolled or retrieved quickly and put up an excellent fight for their size. Atlantic bonito are good table fare while false albacore are just a little too strong flavored for most people.
From the beaches to the nearshore artificial reefs, the top topic has been chopper bluefish. Fishermen are catching the long skinny blues from the surf, the piers and from boats at the nearshore reefs, wrecks and rocks. Most of these bluefish are running 7 to 10 pounds, but I have heard of a couple reaching 12 and 13 pounds. They are definitely fun to catch.
There have been some surf catches of big bluefish reported from Cape Hatteras to Cape Fear, but the hot spot for catching the big blues from the surf has been at Fort Macon. Some smaller bluefish are also biting for surf and pier fishermen.
Pier fishermen are also still catching sea mullet, puffers, black drum and this week several fishermen also caught pompano. A push of big bluefish showed at Oak Island last Friday, and then disappeared over the weekend. Expectations are that they will be back at any time.
Fishermen are still catching sea mullet in the ocean along most of the N.C. Coast and inside the inlets at Morehead City and Southport. The hot setup has been a speck rig or double drop bottom rig baited with the freshest shrimp possible. Inside fishermen after sea mullet are also catching some gray trout, pigfish, croakers and an occasional flounder.
The limit is a single fish, but some nice gray trout are biting around the Morehead City high-rise bridges, especially at night. Live baits have been the most productive, particularly for the larger grays. Bluefish are also around the bridges and at times can make it difficult to get a bait down to the gray trout.
There are mixed reports this week on speckled trout, red drum and flounder. There have been excellent catches of specks in some of the rivers and creeks that are just a little inland. In the Neuse River, the speck action goes all the way to New Bern and in the New River it goes to Jacksonville.
Red drum backed off a little after the temperature drop over the weekend, but never stopped biting and were pretty active by Tuesday afternoon. They are spread through many of the coastal marshes and creeks off the rivers and Intracoastal Waterway. Red drum have been hitting a variety of lures, but donít hesitate to eat live and natural baits.
Flounder are just waking up and moving around. They are feeding if you get a desired bait close to them, but arenít moving around a lot searching for food. If the water will warm and stabilize, the flounder bite should grow.
Striper runs are going good in most rivers that have spawning populations. The Roanoke is the most familiar for most fishermen and the bite is on there. Several coastal area guides are there working through the keeper season which ends on Tuesday, April 30. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists are there doing electroshock sampling and have caught some big stripers. This week their largest was 55 pounds and there is a picture on their website at www.ncwildlife.org. Donít you know that would be a heck of a fight on hook and line?
There are also barbless hook and size regulations for stripers on the Roanoke River. Check the regulations at the Wildlife resources website or on the NC Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net for complete details.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia still offshore of the continental shelf east of New Jersey and Genie hasnít pinged since January. Iím beginning to think her transmitter is malfunctioning. To keep an eye on the travels of Genie, Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks from around the world, open the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
On a more local level, the Sensation, captained by Dale Britt, was assisting with a fisheries survey on Wednesday, when the crew discovered a floating whale carcass approximately 10 miles off Bogue Inlet. A great white shark they estimated at 15 feet long was circling the carcass. They filmed it for a while and the footage is posted on their website, www.sensationsportfishing.com and on their Facebook page.
This week I was told by a usually reliable source that Senate Bill 58 (Increase Funding for Dredging) will not be forwarded out of the Finance Committee and therefore is effectively dead. SB 58 was to raise boat registration fees to help pay for dredging the shallow N.C. inlets. There were several serious flaws in the bill and now a provision to pay for the inlet dredging is included in House Bill 983.
House Bill 983 is generally referred to as the gamefish bill, but its specific title is the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act, It was introduced on April 17 by a bi-partisan group that includes Representatives Tom Murry (R-Wake), Michael Wray (D-Halifax, Northampton), Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe), John Bell (R-Craven, Greene, Lenoir, Pitt), Brian Brown (R-Pitt), Paul Luebke (D-Durham) and Joe Tolson (D-Edgecombe, Martin). While many will consider it just a re-do of the bill that didnít reach the House floor in the last legislative session, there are some key differences.
One of the differences is that striped bass are only to be considered gamefish in estuarine waters (inside the inlets) and striped bass in the ocean may be caught commercially and sold. Red drum and spotted sea trout would be gamefish in all state waters and could not be caught and sold.
There are three financial stipulations in HB 983. The first is to provide $1.3 million to the MFC Observer Program to fund that program. There currently is not a provision in place to fund this program and there are locations and times commercial fishermen cannot fish without an observer on board.
A second financial provision is to increase the cost of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses (CRFL), and appropriate some of the fees generated by the sale of CFRLs to be used to fund the dredging of shallow draft channels, including inlets. The third financial provision is to set aside $1 million to compensate commercial fishermen for any documented lost income, and to purchase commercial fishing gear that can no longer be used legally.
The projected implementation date for HB 983 is July 1, 2013. The debate on this bill has already begun on internet forums, at tackle shops, in fish houses and about any other place two or more fishermen might gather. Some of the debate is quite contentious. HB 983 was assigned to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development on April 18. If it is reviewed favorably there, it will next go to the Finance Committee and then the Appropriations Committee before reaching the House floor again.
If passed in its current form, HB 983 would take away part of the income of some commercial fishermen. They would be compensated for three years, but after that the subsidy would be gone. However, the billís proponents believe that better recreational fishing will attract more fishermen, who will come to the area, some also bringing their families, and spend more money in the recreational fishing, hospitality, food and lodging businesses, which will create jobs there. A copy of the bill is available at the N.C. Legislative Website at www.ncleg.net. There are some misrepresentations on several chat boards and I would suggest reading the bill before discussing it.
The April fishery meetings are winding down, but several are scheduled for May. The Joint Marine Fisheries Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission Coastal Recreational Fishing License Committee will meet via conference call at 2:00 P.M. on Wednesday, May 8. Members of the public who would like to listen to the meeting may do so at the Conference Room at N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters in Morehead City. For more information or alternative options for listening to the meeting, contact Beth Govoni, grant program coordinator, at 252-808-8004 or Beth.Govoni@ncdenr.gov. A link to the agenda for the meeting is available in the Public Meetings Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The River Herring Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet May 9 at 6:00 P.M. at the Chowan County Cooperative Extension in Edenton. For more information contact Amy Larimer or Kathy Rawls at 252-264-3911 or Amy.Larimer@ncdenr.gov or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov. A link to the agenda for the meeting is to be posted in the Public Meetings Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting scientists interested in serving on its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and the SSC Social and Economics Sciences Panel (SEP). Membership is open to any qualified scientist, regardless of affiliation or geographic location. The Council will review applications at its June 10-14, 2013 meeting. Applications must be received by May 16, 2013. Please direct questions to John Carmichael, Science and Statistics Program Manager, through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (843) 571-4366 or (866) SAFMC-10 or Fax (843) 769-4520. The mailing address is South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405.
NOAA Fisheries is requesting public comments on Amendment 9 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Shrimp Fishery of the South Atlantic Region and Amendment 28 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Electronic copies and information for making a comment on Amendment 9 may be found at the NOAA Fisheries Office web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SAShrimpHomepage.htm, while electronic copies and information for making a comment on Amendment 28 may be found online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm.
Comments on Amendment 9 must be received by May 3 and comments on Amendment 28 must be received by May 13. All comments received are part of the public record and will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov.
The SAFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) met during April in North Charleston, S.C. to review black sea bass, cobia, and Spanish mackerel stock assessments and the benchmark assessments for cobia and Spanish mackerel conducted through the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment program. At that time the SAFMC said they plan to have a one-day meeting via webinar in May to discuss any action based on the stock update reviewed by the SSC.
This webinar has been scheduled for Monday May 13 from 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. Participants must go to the Meetings Section of the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net and register for the webinar. Public comment will be taken. Having this meeting in May, rather than waiting for the scheduled June SAFMC meeting will allow any changes to happen 30 days earlier. Expectations are the SAFMC will seek to loosen some of the current regulations for black sea bass. For more information on the webinar or to register visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
I was in Charleston, S.C. last weekend at the East Coast Paddle Sports and Outdoor Festival. It was held at their James Island County Park, which includes a large pond, where participants could try out kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and more. There were also numerous demonstrations and seminars corresponding to all the paddlesports and other outdoor sports.
I spent a lot of time in the Hobie Kayaks booth helping with the demonstrations there, but also gave seminars on launching through the surf to fish for king mackerel and blacktip sharks. Unfortunately the unruly weather kept the crowd down some this year, but there were still participants from all the states in the southeast. This is an annual event hosted by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Committee. It will be held again in mid-April 2014. For more information visit www.ccprc.com.
I have to say, it was the first time I loaded my seminar equipment into a kayak and headed across the lake to my seminar. I thought it was rather unique.
If this sounds interesting to you and you missed it and donít want to wait for next year, the Oak Island Recreation Department will offer an abbreviated version of this on Saturday, May 11. There will be classroom sessions in the morning and an optional on-water session that afternoon. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com and click on the Recreation Department or call 910-278-5518.
Hereís one for the ladies!!! The Women Anglers in Training (WAIT), ladies only fishing school, will be held this Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28, at the Oak Island Recreation Center in Oak Island. Saturday (April 27) will be classroom instruction featuring several knowledgeable area fishermen and Sunday (April 28) will be a day on the water to try some of the tactics, techniques, lures and bait discussed in the classroom.
There are several options for Sunday including fishing from Oak Island Pier or boat trips with local guides for inland or ocean species. I will be one of the instructors as will several knowledgeable area fishermen. I really enjoy this seminar each year as the ladies enlighten me with questions from viewpoints I had not previously considered. Most years I learn a little too. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com and click on the Recreation Department or call 910-278-5518.
For those looking for a deal or just to while away a Saturday around boats and boating folks, the Washington Marine Market will be held on April 27 on Stewart Parkway in Washington. The event will include new and used boats, a marine flea market, marine art and antiques, clam chowder and more. For more information visit www.whda.org.
Next weekend May begins with several events. The Big BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) Event will be held May 3 to 5 at YMCA Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge in Wilkes County. This event is for ladies only and participants choose to participate and learn a variety of outdoor skills. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and click on the BOW header.
On Saturday, May 4, the Oak Island Parks and Recreations Department will host the Turtle Triathlon and the First Crawl Environmental Festival. The Turtle Triathlon is a team triathlon event that evolved out of a 5K walk to honor former area educator and turtle parent Linda Erickson who died suddenly and unexpectedly. Proceeds benefit the Linda D. Erickson Scholarship and the Oak Island Sea Turtle Restoration Program.
The First Crawl Environmental Festival will follow the Turtle Triathlon and be held on the soccer fields behind the Oak Island City Hall. There will be seminars on many things that affect the local environment, plus displays and items for sale. I will be there representing the N.C. Kayak Fishing Association and will have a fully rigged Hobie Pro Angler fishing kayak on display. There will also be live music and activities for children. For more information on the Turtle Triathlon or the First Crawl Environmental Festival, visit www.oakislandnc.com or call 910-278-5518.
The 5th Annual Reeliní for Research Fishing Tournament will be held in Morehead City on May 4, with the captainís meeting and reception at Chefís 105 and Jackís Waterfront Bar on May 3. This offshore tournament is held in honor of Tony Montana of Greensboro and supports N.C. Childrenís Promise, the fundraising arm of the N.C. Childrenís Hospital, with a check for $165,000. This year Reeliní for Research hopes to push their donation total past the half million dollar mark. For more information on the tournament or donating to N.C. Childrenís Promise, visit www.reelinforresearch.org.
The Chasiní Tails Outdoors Cobia Tournament is the first of the area tackle shop tournaments for 2013 and it began on April 1 and runs through June 10. While we generally consider May and June to be the cobia months inside and along the beaches, there are already some cobia holding around wrecks and reefs offshore. Several have been caught but not by fishermen registered in the tournament. Be sure to go by Chasiní Tails Outdoors on the Atlantic Beach Causeway and sign up before heading offshore. It would be a shame to catch a potential winning fish and not be registered. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.