I always heard the one thing you can count on with eastern N.C. weather is that it will change and the past few weeks have been testimony to that. We’ve seen rain, thunderstorms, sunshine, heat and cool – in each week. At least we didn’t see an April snow like some places in the Northeast U.S.
While they may have been cool and overcast, there were several days last week that were good weather and sea conditions for heading offshore. While some caught more than others, everyone I spoke with was rewarded for making the long run out to and near the Gulf Stream. Wahoo, blackfin tuna and dolphin were the main fish caught and several boats stuffed their fish boxes. Capt. Mike Webb of Pelagic Sportfishing said they had several good days including limits of wahoo.
There were also a few yellowfin tuna and king mackerel and at least a couple of sailfish caught. Several fishermen said they crossed weed lines and temperature breaks a little inshore of the Gulf Stream and stopped and caught fish there. Wahoo have been caught for several weeks just off the 90 Foot Drop.
Offshore bottom fishing is good too. There are some grunts and porgies as close in as 80 feet, but most of the beeliners are out around 100 or more feet and triggerfish are scattered through these depths. Grouper season will open on May 1, which is Tuesday and only a few days away. Man, it’s been a long time since that season closed on January 1. It is still a month more until black sea bass season reopens on June 1.
King mackerel have been a story unto themselves during the past week. The large migratory groups are scattered from similar depths as the bottom fish towards the beach. However, along the southern beaches there has been a run of kings right along the beach. This is an oddity, specific to the beaches around Cape Fear, which happens almost every year.
Otherwise, kings are following baitfish and warmer water towards the shore and the larger group is still from 60 feet or so deep on out. An arc beginning just beyond the end of Cape Lookout Shoals and running loosely to Christmas Rock off New River should give a realistic idea of where the kings are right now relative to the beach.
The nearshore kings will usually hold out for a live bait this early in the year, but the deeper water kings will usually hit spoons, sea witches rigged with strips, frozen cigar minnows and live baits. If you are bottom fishing and catch a small grunt or something similar, put it back out on a light line and see what happens. It should attract a king if one is in the area. Cobia and amberjack will hit light lined live baits too.
Fishermen trolling small Clarkspoons and Drone Spoons just off the beaches and along the tide lines around the inlets and the edge of the muddy water at Cape Lookout are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Catching limits isn’t consistent just yet, but everyone said there are enough to catch a meal or two on most trips – and it will get better.
Schools of false albacore and Atlantic Bonito are also off Cape Lookout. Both are on both sides of the cape, but more false albacore have been on the west side of Cape Lookout Shoals while more Atlantic bonito have been in the cleaner water east of the shoals. The hot spot for Atlantic Bonito so far has been off New River Inlet.
Pier fishing has been pretty good almost everywhere. Two of the prime species being caught right now are sea mullet and blowfish. The size will vary and the larger ones are often caught just before and after dark, especially if the tide is near high. Other pier catches include flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, red drum, black drum, speckled trout, pompano and more.
Shrimp is an excellent bottom bait, but all the bait thieves like it too. Some of the synthetic baits like FishBites Bag o’ Worms attract fish almost as well and stay on the hook better.
On Saturday, Maurillo Marquez of Cary was jigging for Spanish on Bogue Inlet Pier at Emerald Isle and hooked and landed a 21 pound, 12 ounce blackfin tuna on a Got-Cha Plug. The hot color was a red head with a white body, but even Marquez thought it was a lucky strike. It took some good angling to bring that fish in without pulling the little gold treble hooks on the lure. A few false albacore and bonito have been landed there, but this is the first tuna in the 41 year history of the pier.
Fishermen on the southern coast piers caught king mackerel from early last week through Saturday. The stormy and cooling weather that came in on Sunday seems to have shut down the action, but it could fire back off. The hotspot was Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island where they landed 10 kings and nine were from Thursday through Saturday. Oak Island Pier, also on Oak Island accounted for three more and several were caught at Kure Beach Pier in Kure Beach.
Two of the kings were citation size fish at 32 and 33 pounds. Felix Abiles caught the 33 pounder (33 pounds and 8 ounces) at Oak Island Pier on Saturday. It would have been heavier, but lost a few bites to a shark when tired enough it was being brought to the gaff. The 32 pounder (32 pounds and 5 ounces) was caught by Ronnie Gadd on Thursday and he returned to catch a 26 pounder early Friday morning.
Surf fishing has been pretty good. The fish in the surf are sea mullet, blowfish, drum and bluefish, including a few choppers.
Inshore fishing has been good too. A good number of speckled trout are being caught. There are the barely legals, a good number of 2 to 3 pounders and a few large fish. Most are still in the creeks, but the water is warming and they are working their way closer to the rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway. The hot bait for trout has been live shrimp.
Puppy drum will also jump right on those live shrimp intended for the trout. Puppy drum will readily hit a variety of lures too. Soft plastics, especially the scented bio baits, are favorites of drum and gold spoons also catch them well. Weedless gold spoons can be fished along grassy edges and around rocks without hanging up as often. The past week or two there have been more large drum, including several schools hanging on the shoals off Cape Lookout, and they have been aggressive. If you get a bait close to them, they usually hit it.
While some flounder have been caught for the past month or more, they are just really spreading through the area. The artificial reefs, inlets, around bridge pilings and creek mouths are good places to find flounder. Live mud minnows and soft plastics are good choices for catching flounder.
Good reports of mixed action are still coming from the Turning Basin. The most abundant fish there are sea mullet, but fishermen are also catching some nice gray trout, croakers, hogfish and a few flounder. The fishing is simple too. Most fishermen drift and lightly jig a double-drop bottom rig baited with shrimp or a speck rig tipped with just a small piece of shrimp.
The spring striper run on the Roanoke River at Weldon is building. This area proclaims itself as the striper capital of the world and it certainly is the striper capital of N.C. There are some special regulations, but with barbless hooks you can catch and release until tired. Days of releasing 100 or more fish are fairly common, so it’s easy to see why it is such a popular destination. Crowds are huge on the weekends and much more manageable on weekdays.
Over the weekend I headed to Charleston to help in the Hobie Kayaks booth at the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. This is a huge event hosted by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. It is set around a lake in their James Island County Park and participants can attend seminars, go on paddle excursions, participate in a paddle race, participate in a kayak fishing tournament or simply spend time checking out and demoing the latest in kayaks, paddleboards and related gear and accessories.
The event is sponsored by Subaru and it is very impressive walking up to the lake. There is more than a quarter mile of vendors, plus most of the kayak manufacturers have their demo fleets on hand for attendees to try out, with factory representatives and pro staffers on hand to answer questions.
A hearing of the National Parks Congressional Subcommittee is being held in Washington, D.C. Friday morning regarding access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The topic of this meeting is HR 4094, a bill sponsored by Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC) titled Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act. Representative Jones’ bill would overturn a final rule implemented by the National Park Service (NPS) in mid-February, as well as the 2008 U.S. District court approved Consent Decree. This would allow taxpayers access to the recreational areas they own and help restore the Hatteras Island Economy.
N.C. Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan introduced a similar bill in the Senate on Thursday.
The SAFMC is the group that manages most fishing in the federal waters from North Carolina to Florida and 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 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 and 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 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) 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 email@example.com 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 N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is seeking a recreational fisherman to fill one vacant seat on a Coastal Recreational Fishing License Advisory Committee and 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.
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 Fisheries’ 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.
The annual Women Anglers In Training (WAIT), Ladies-only Fishing School will be held at Oak Island by the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department on April 28 and 29. Saturday will be a classroom day at the Recreation Center and Sunday will be a fishing day to try out Saturday’s lessons. For more information call the Oak Island Recreation Department at 910-278-5518.
The Day at the Docks King Mackerel Tournament will be held in Holden Beach this Saturday, April 28. The event also includes a Flounder Division and is sponsored by the Holden Beach Merchants Association. Final registration is Friday night at Paradise Cafe. Other Day at the Docks festival events are all day Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 828-200-9290.