I don't know how many of you realize I am a double citizenship local, but I am. My mom was a Fulcher, with down-east Carteret County roots, while my dad was the second generation of the Dilsaver family in Brunswick County. Unfortunately I didn't know but one grandparent, my dad's dad, but I made up for that with a lot of influence from a big family of aunts and uncles on both sides.
One of the things I will never forget is a simple statement my parents made after every childhood Easter when the crowds returned to the coast for the first big weekend each spring. It was a little funny, but was more of a statement that the beach and fishing season had begun again and an acknowledgement our lives would be a little different until the fall. However, I still chuckle a little every time I hear it. With a few yearly variances, the basic statement was, "Well, we made it through the weekend without the island sinking, so everything must be all right to start another year."
Well, once again I can say we made it through another Easter Weekend and the island didn't sink. It only follows then that everything must still be all right to begin another tourist and fishing season. Actually, things along the coast may be improving a little. There are several new and refurbished ramps (Radio Island opened this week) and Oak Island and Sunset Beach have new high-rise bridges.
After getting through some threats and spotty bad weather on Good Friday, the weather took a nice turn for Saturday and Easter. It was a little windy, but the breeze was needed to handle the warm temperatures. People enjoyed the beach, went fishing and many went catching. It was a good weekend to begin the 2011 beach season.
The bright sunshine did more than give sunburns and make folks sweat. The water temperatures jumped several degrees. This week many of the nearshore temperature monitors are showing 69 to 70 degrees and the water a little inshore of the Gulf Stream had reached the low seventies in many places. Except for dealing with these thunderstorms rolling through this afternoon, the words of a Jimmy Buffett song sum things up pretty well, "The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful."
What a difference a week makes. With the warming water more Spanish mackerel are appearing and there are bluefish everywhere. Feeding with and around the Spanish and blues are some Atlantic bonito and false albacore. The hot spot for the bonito has been around New River Inlet, with more false albacore just off Cape Lookout.
I've been harping on getting a fish identification guide and learning to tell the differences between Atlantic bonito and false albacore (little tunny). Calling false albacore bonito is an insult to real bonito. The two fish are smaller cousins in the tuna family, but bonito have a lighter meat and are excellent table fare, while false albacore have a very red meat and are much stronger tasting. While they are superb fighters and much fun to catch, many people consider false albacore too strong to eat.
Spanish mackerel, bonito and false albacore will all hit small (size 00 and 0) Clarkspoons trolled quickly. The usual technique is to troll the Clarkspoons on mono leaders a minimum of 20 feet behind small planers or trolling sinkers. These fish will all also strike small jigs cast and retrieved quickly. Two of the favorite jigs are the 1/2 ounce Jig Fish and the red head, white body, gold hook Got-Cha Jig. Both are made by Sea Striker and should be readily available at your favorite tackle shop.
Nearshore ocean and pier fishermen also caught lots of bluefish and sea mullet this week. Fresh bluefish taste much better than those that have been frozen and the one to three pounders can be fried, broiled or grilled. Sea mullet (aka Va. mullet and whiting) are the best saltwater panfish bar none. They have the delicate taste of speckled trout, and firm flesh. Ask any old-timer around the waterfront what his favorite saltwater panfish is and he'll answer sea mullet.
Sea mullet are biting well in the Morehead City Turning Basin and out the ship channel to Beaufort Inlet. Some are also being caught along Shackleford Banks at the Dead Tree Hole and the Sea Mullet Hole, plus in the deeper water just off the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty. They are also pretty thick in the lower Cape Fear River around Southport and just out the mouth of the Cape Fear River in the ocean off Fort Caswell. However, the primary name there is whiting. Sea mullet and whiting are also sometimes called Va. mullet.
Gray trout are also pretty thick off Shackleford and in the Morehead City Turning Basin and a couple have been large enough to receive citations (5 pounds). Grays will sometimes hit the same speck rigs and double-drop bottom rigs as sea mullet, but respond very well to small jigs. Two N.C. favorites are Stingsilvers and Jig Fish.
Inshore fishermen continue to catch a few puppy drum, speckled trout, flounder, whiting, black drum, bluefish and flounder. This week there was a surge in flounder catches. Several hotspots were the Cape Lookout Jetty, the rocks off Bogue Inlet Pier and Shallotte and Little River Inlets.
Lots of puppy drum and a few speckled trout are being caught. The pups are in small groups and the specks are sometimes solitary. With the water passing 70 degrees, the action should spread over a larger area.
Remember the season for specks in Coastal and Joint Waters is closed until June 15. If you can find some specks in Inland Waters, the season is open with a minimum size of 12 inches and a possession limit of 10 fish per day. There are a few creeks up the river and the Brunswick River that are Inland Waters, but to keep specks caught in Inland Waters, you cannot go back to Coastal or Joint Waters with them in the boat. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has a list and map of Inland Waters on their website at www.ncwildlife.com.
The first pier king of the year was caught Tuesday (April 26) from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. A fisherman there lost a large one early that morning when it wrapped around a piling and cut the line while being led in to gaff. Later that day another angler scored with one that weighed 19 pounds. The first king of the year is usually caught from one of the Oak Island piers and soon spread to other piers along the coast.
The first cobia showed along the Crystal Coast this week. Several were caught along Shackleford Banks and up to Cape Lookout. They should begin to move inside the inlets during the next week. There were also some seen, but not caught, around Hatteras Inlet.
In the waters from roughly the ends of Cape Lookout Shoals and Frying Pan Shoals to the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream there are king mackerel and a variety of bottom fish. With the water around the tower warming into the seventies, baitfish will be moving inshore and the kings will follow them. Kings have been hitting spoons, sea witches rigged with ballyhoo, plus frozen and live cigar minnows.
The kings are attracted to ledges, rocks and reefs that are holding bait and many of these same areas will hold bottom fish. Red snapper season is closed indefinitely, but grouper season opens Sunday (May 1) and black sea bass will open on June 1. Currently fishermen are catching a mixture of all, but can only keep beeliners (vermilion snapper, grunts, triggerfish, hogfish and porgies. Offshore bottom fishermen should also remember that non stainless steel, circle hooks are now required for offshore bottom fishing.
The ride to offshore waters was tolerable several days last week and those fishermen who made the trip found mixed bag catches of blue water fish, king mackerel and bottom fish. Wahoo, blackfin tuna and some dolphin are being caught along the edge of the Gulf Stream. There have been a few yellowfin tuna caught also, but they are few and far between. All of these fish are being caught trolling lures or lures rigged with ballyhoo.
Late last week there was a goat roping of sorts when the N.C. Department of Administration decided the goats that inhabit three spoil islands between Ocean Isle Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway had to go. They wanted to blame the goats for all the water pollution in the area and called them an invasive species that might even be disturbing bird nests. The state Surplus Department was directed to solicit bids for the goats and to have them removed.
The islands are spoil islands, created when the Intracoastal Waterway was dredged through the area during the 1930s, and since claimed by the state. Long time locals say the goats have been there for decades and are a bit of local legend and tourist attraction for the area. Most locals were shocked at this turn of events and began petitions to halt the auction and removal of the goats. It seems numerous people believe the goats deserve the same treatment as the Outer Banks Ponies and should be left alone.
Finally, someone in authority heard the people and gave the goats a reprieve. The auction has been put on hold indefinitely and the goats will be allowed to stay.
If mentioning the goats might be destroying birds nests seems strikingly familiar, welcome to the club. The hysteria about coastal bird nests continues to grow. After weeks of being allowed to wade through water to get around the perimeter of the nesting area to get to the point at Cape Hatteras, that has been closed to fishermen too. Yep, officials at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore have closed the point to even walking through the water access by fishermen. The goats should be glad they aren't in Cape Hatteras. They may have been shot on site if suspected of disturbing a bird nest there.
Continuing with goat-ropings, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has several committee seats open and is looking for interested qualified people to fill them. There is one seat on the Golden Crab Committee, eight seats on the Snapper-Grouper Committee, two seats on the Wreckfish Sub Committee and ten seats on the Spiny Lobster Committee. For more information on these committee openings, including an application, visit the SAMFC website at www.safmc.net.
As of Thursday afternoon, House Bill 353, the bill to give gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass, had not been scheduled for debate and a vote in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor, where it was sent on March 22. Last week, several economic reports generated from N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries data were distributed to the committee members and other representatives. Word from the committee was that the bill will become a priority now that the budget bill has been delivered.
Copies of these reports are available on the Coastal Conservation Association of NC and the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group websites at www.ccanc.org and www.cfrgnc.blogspot.com. A synopsis of the reports states that in 2010 there were only 1,114 NC commercial fishermen that sold a red drum, speckled trout or striped bass and that only 87 of these had earnings exceeding $2,000 for all three species combined. Combined the three species comprise less than 2 per cent of the N.C. commercial catch, but N.C. supplies almost 90 per cent of red drum landings nationwide. On the jobs end, recreational fisheries account for 12, 424 directly related jobs, plus 5,334 indirect and induced effect jobs. This shows $1.6 billion in direct value to the N.C. economy, plus $1.2 billion in related durable goods.
Fishermen are urged to contact their local legislators and the members of the committee to express their feelings regarding this bill. The bill, with information on its sponsors and its progress, plus a list of state legislators, their committee assignments and contact information, is available at www.ncleg.net.
There are two fishery meetings in N.C. in the coming week.
* The Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet May 2, 2011 at 6:00 P.M. at the NCDENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Sea McKenna at 1-800-338-7804 or (252) 946-6481 or Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov or Lynn Henry at 1-800-405-7774 or (252) 796-1322 or Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov.
* The Central Southern Management Area Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet May 4, 2011 at 6:00 P.M. at the NCDENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Katy West at 1-800 338-7804 or (252) 946-6481 or Katy.West@ncdenr.gov.
In the meantime there are a couple of state and federal fisheries proposals that are still open for public comment:
* The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) is accepting written comments on Amendment 18 to the Coastal Migratory FMP (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cobia) and Amendment 10 to the Spiny Lobster FMP relative to establishing ACLs and AMs to prevent overfishing and other management measures through April 29. Details on these amendments and directions to comment are on their website at www.safmc.net.
* The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is accepting comments through May 2 on changing the Inland Waters regulations for speckled trout, red drum, gray trout and flounder to match the regulations in Coastal and Joint Waters. Comments may be mailed to the WRC at 1721 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721 or e-mailed by visiting the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, and clicking on the "Proposed Fishing Rule Changes Submit Comments" link on the right side of the page.
* NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)/Amendment 10 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Spiny Lobster in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The DEIS became available April 15, 2011 (76 FR 21345) and there are 10 actions in the DEIS. Written comments must be received by June 1, 2011. Copies of the DEIS and directions for commenting may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Service Web site http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SpinyLobsterAmendment.htm, the e-Rule Making Portal http://www.regulation.gov, the Gulf Council's Web site http://www.gulfcouncil.org, or the South Atlantic Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
On April 20, 2011, NMFS filed with the Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the National Standard 10 Guidelines and is requesting public comment on potential adjustments to the Guidelines. National Standard 10 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act states "Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea." The National Standard 10 Guidelines are the primary source of NMFS guidance for the consideration of safety issues in fishery management.
A public meeting will be held May 19th, 2011, from 1:00 to 3:00 P.M. at the NOAA Science Center, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD. Additional public meetings may be scheduled around the country during the comment period. Comments must be received by July 20, 2011. You may submit comments on-line via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (Identifier "0648-BA74"), by Fax, attention Debra Lambert, at 301-713-1193 or by mail, attention Debra Lambert, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13403, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comments on a proposed rule that would prevent the progressive shortening of fishing seasons for black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper, and would increase the trip limit for greater amberjack. To address issues of shortened recreational seasons and commercial derby fishing, Regulatory Amendment 9 to the FMP was developed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries Service.
If implemented, Regulatory Amendment 9 would:
* Reduce the bag limit for black sea bass from 15 fish per person to 5 fish per person;
* Split the black sea bass commercial quota into two seasons, (June-November 128,547 lbs gw) and (December-May 180,453 lb gw);
* Establish a trip limit of 1,000 lbs gw for gag;
* Establish a trip limit of 1,500 lbs gw for vermilion snapper;
* Increase the trip limit for greater amberjack from 1,000 lbs gw to 1,200 lbs gw.
Written comments on this proposed rule must be received no later than May 16, 2011. Electronic copies of proposed rule may be obtained from the e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net.
Comments may be submitted by the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, by entering ANOAA-NMFS-2011-0107" in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ASelect to find documents accepting comments or submissions@, then select ASend a Comment or Submission. By mail to Kate Michie - NOAA Fisheries Service - Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, or by Fax attention to Kate Michie at 727-824-5308.
For more information on Regulatory Amendment 9 visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web page at: www.safmc.net.
The Martini's Hook a 'Hoo Rodeo Fishing Tournament began April 23 and will continue through May 1. Fishermen select one of the 10 days of the tournament to fish dependent on weather and their schedule. This is an annual fishing event put on as a fundraiser for the Shriner's Burn Center. The Weigh-in location is Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach, with the Awards at the Midtown Bistro. As of deadline, there were no reports of fish being weighed yet, and only a couple of fishing days remaining. For more information visit www.hookahoorodeo.com.
If any ladies are interested, they can register in advance through Friday afternoon or Saturday morning at the door for the annual W.A.I.T. (Women Anglers In Training) ladies only fishing school on Saturday and Sunday April 30 and May 1 in Oak Island. A spokesman for the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department said Saturday will be a classroom day learning about tackle, equipment, knots and techniques for catching different species and Sunday will be a day on the water for the ladies to put all that information to use. Options for Sunday include pier fishing, inshore fishing from boats and ocean fishing from boats. For more information call 910-278-4747.
The Fayetteville Fly Tiers in association with the Fayetteville Area Anglers Network (FAAN) and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will hold a Fly-Tie-A-Thon at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville, N.C. on Saturday, April 30. Proceeds from the event will benefit the March for Babies program of the March of Dimes. In addition to the fly tieing exhibition and tutorial, there will be fly casting demonstrations, activities for the kids, items for sale, silent auctions, refreshments and more. For more information visit www.flytieathon.com.
The Eric Powell Redfish Tournament will be held Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30, from New River Marina/Power Marine Outfitters in Sneads Ferry. On Saturday, there will be a barbecue dinner, raffle and auction during the weigh-in and awards. Eric Powell, who managed New River Marina in Sneads Ferry and is the son of Dale Powell who runs Power Marine Outfitters at the same location, was diagnosed just before Christmas with rapid onset ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease). In late March he returned home after a lengthy stay at Duke Medical Center and his friends are organizing a redfish tournament in his honor and to help offset some of his medical expenses.
Guaranteed prizes will be offered, including Lady and Junior Angler Awards. Unlike many redfish tournaments, participants will not be limited to two fishermen per boat and fishermen are welcome to carry their wives and children. There will also be a barbecue dinner and raffles for fishermen and their families that were not able to participate in the tournament. For more information call Capt. Ricky Kellum at 910-330-2745.
The Rebel King Pier Tournament will be held May 6 to 8 from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island. The registration fee is $50, with cash prizes paid to first through third places for the heaviest king mackerel. Fishermen may fish from 6:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on Friday and Saturday, but the tournament ends at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday. For more information call 910-278-6674 or e-mail Vance Courson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Reelin' for Research Tournament will be held in Morehead City on May 7, with a Captains Meeting at Chefs 105 on May 6, with the weigh-in and Awards at Jack's Waterfront Bar on May 7. Reelin' for Research is an annual bluewater tournament to honor Tony Montana. The tournament proceeds are dedicated to NC Children's Promise, the fundraising arm of NC Children's Hospitals in their search for cures for cancer. For more information on the tournament, visit www.reelinforresearch.org.