Everywhere I have been this spring, fishermen are talking about our unusual weather. Weíre just dealing with a late arriving spring after a winter that didnít happen until it should have ended. It has been a setback, but now we have slowly warming weather and water and the fish are starting to arrive.
Many fishermen have been looking forward to the opening of grouper season on May 1. Unfortunately the weather forecast wasnít the best for the first few days and doesnít appear it will be good offshore conditions until some time next week. This morning the marine weather was forecasting small craft advisories through Saturday evening south of Cape Lookout and Sunday morning east (north) of the cape. Hopefully the forecast will shift for the better, but right now it looks like it will be a while before the wind and swell subside enough to allow fishermen in smaller boats to go catch some fresh grouper. This same forecast makes it difficult to get offshore for trolling also.
Last week I mentioned that Southport and Hatteras had been nominated as a couple of the Ultimate Fishing Towns in the US for a poll run by the World Fishing Network. With only tomorrow (Friday) left to go, Hatteras is leading, but itís not wrapped up yet. Votes are allowed several times daily and there are ways to get extra points. The link for voting is www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/homepage.php.
Those fishermen who have ventured offshore during the last week found a mixed bag of fishing. Stopping short of the Gulf Stream there are some king mackerel holding over wrecks and rocks in approximately 100-115 feet of water. If a spot has bait, it should have kings. Bait suspended from the middle to the upper reaches of the water column is best for kings. Kings have been biting on lures, dead baits and live baits.
Many of the same places that have been holding kings are also holding bottom fish. With May 1 passed, grouper season is open and three nice grouper really help the bag limits of beeliners, grunts, triggerfish and porgys. The rumor from the feds is something good is about to happen with black sea bass. Look though the meeting notices below for more details.
A few fishermen went all the way to the Gulf Stream during the last week and they caught wahoo, blackfin tuna, and dolphin. A few more yellowfin tuna were caught off Cape Lookout and a couple near Cape Fear. Many fishermen are holding their breath hoping the yellowfin action continues along the central and southern N.C. Coast. There were also a few encounters of the billfish kind.
Closer in, generally within sight of land, there have been some scattered reports of false albacore and Atlantic bonito. The falsies have been scattered from Wrightsville Beach to Ocracoke, but the best reports of the bonito have been around New River Inlet. Unfortunately, this can still be hot and cold fishing, even on the same day.
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.
There are still some chopper bluefish around. They could be anywhere between the nearshore artificial reefs and a few miles inside the inlets from Brunswick to Dare Counties. This week several fishermen around Cape Lookout found some choppers inside the hook and in a few inland creeks closer to Morehead City.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of bottom fish, plus some occasional chopper blues and smaller blues. On Wednesday there were reports of Spanish mackerel caught on the piers at Oak Island and Topsail.
There is also a report of a 20 pound king mackerel caught from Johnnie Mercerís Pier in Wrightsville Beach on Sunday. Usually the first pier king of the year comes from one of the Oak Island piers, but this is a little farther up the coast. There was a 16 pound king caught from one of the N. Myrtle Beach Piers on Wednesday. It seems like the kings are starting to move up the coast even if the water isnít as warm as they usually like.
There are reports of several cobia being caught in the past few days near Bardens Inlet at Cape Lookout. I havenít seen any pictures, but the source was reliable. This is a little early, but as unusual as things have been this spring, it might be time to go soak a few baits.
There has been good gray trout fishing this week around AR 315 at Atlantic Beach and from Beaufort Inlet to the Turning Basin. The largest has been Steve Smithís massive 7 pounder. Sea mullet, black drum, hogfish, red drum, flounder and bluefish are also biting. Double drop bottom rigs and speck rigs tipped with fresh shrimp have been the hot setup.
There have been red drum and speckled trout caught in coastal creeks and bays from Sunset Beach to Manteo. This week the puppy drum have been more aggressive and biting well. Specks have been biting well in some of the coastal rivers. The New and the Neuse stand out.
I donít want this to sound like there is an ultra-hot flounder bite, but the flatfish are digging out of the mud and heading inshore from wherever they spent the winter. Many are shorts, but they are biting. Most of these early flounder are being caught as secondary species when fishing for pups and specks and even a few when bottom bouncing. Hopefully they will put on an inch of length and some girth in the next few weeks and keep biting.
Those fishermen interested in heading to the Roanoke River at Weldon for some striper fishing should find the fishing going well, but the keeper season closed at midnight on April 30. There are also barbless hook and other regulations for stripers on the Roanoke River. Check the regulations at the Wildlife Resources website at www.ncwildlife.org or the NC Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net for complete details.
While they are still moving upstream in the Roanoke, some Neuse River stripers have returned from their spawning run and are hungry. Several fishermen reported good topwater action for the linesiders.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia still offshore of the continental shelf but moving in different directions. Lydia is east of Long Island, New York and South of Nova Scotia, while Mary Lee has turned south again and is east of Drum Inlet. Genie still hasnít pinged a location since January, so Iím going to omit her until she pings again. To keep an eye on the travels of Lydia and Mary Lee, plus other tagged sharks from around the world, open the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
Last week I was told by a usually reliable source that Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) would not be forwarded out of the Senate Finance Committee. That was a little true and a little false. On May 1, a committee substitute bill was sent to the Senate floor from the committee, but it is significantly different from the original bill. About the only thing similarities are the bill number and name and the intention to raise boat registration fees to help pay for dredging the shallow N.C. inlets. There were numerous issues with the original bill and some, but not all, were addressed in the committee substitute bill.
The SB 58 substitute bill does away with most of the numerous boat size and registration fee levels in favor of a simple two level version where owners of boats of 25 feet and less would pay $25 annually or $75 for a three year registration and owners of boats of 26 feet and longer would be charges $50 annually or $150 for a three year period. It also appears the exemptions for commercial boats and documented vessels have been removed. However, this additional fee will still be charged to all N.C. boat owners, regardless of where they live and if they ever have or will use one of the dredged channels, which are all coastal. There are also still not provisions for how the dredging projects will be prioritized and scheduled.
House Bill 983 includes a provision to pay for the shallow channel and inlet dredging and it is done there with an increase in the Coastal Recreational Fishing License (salt water fishing license), which is only required for people who fish at the coast. This still includes some folks who will not be using the inlets, but focuses more on the people who are.
House Bill 983 is generally referred to as the gamefish bill, but its specific title is the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act. HB 983 is a bi-partisan bill that was introduced on April 17. 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 debate on HB 983 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.
The House of Representatives has scheduled a special meeting on Monday, May 6, to hear public comment on HB 983. It will be held at 1:30 P.M. in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh. Persons wishing to speak must register in advance and will be allowed two minutes.
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 arguments of the billís proponents are 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 and misinformation on several chat boards and I would suggest reading the bill before discussing it.
Several N.C. fishery meetings 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 available in the Public Meetings Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet May 13 at 12:30 P.M at the Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Tina Moore or Trish Murphey at 252-808-8082 or 252-808-8091 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov Trish.Murphey@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 Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet May 15 at 6:00 P.M. at the Craven County Agricultural Extension Office in New Bern. For more information contact Trish Murphey or Chris Stewart at 252-808-8091 or 910-796-7215 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Chris.Stewart@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 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. Direct questions to John Carmichael, Science and Statistics Program Manager, through email (email@example.com) 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.
The comment period for SAFMC Amendment 9 ends today (May 3) and for Amendment 28 ends on May 13. Amendment 9 is for the Fishery Management Plan for the Shrimp Fishery of the South Atlantic Region and Amendment 28 is for 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.
NOAA Fisheries is also seeking public comment on proposed actions in Amendment 28 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region regarding a season for red snapper. The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on April 29, 2013 (78 FR 25047) and comments must be submitted by May 29, 2013.
These actions would establish (1) a process to determine if a fishing season will occur each year; (2) an equation to determine the annual catch limit amount for each sector; and (3) management measures if fishing is allowed. Please note that these actions are only to specify a process to determine if a season would occur. The red snapper actions in Amendment 28 propose an opening date of the second Friday in July with several Friday, Saturday and Sunday sections that would be announced when opening day is announced and the establishment of a 1 fish bag limit with no minimum size
Comments may be submitted electronically or by mail. Electronic comments must be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0040. Mail comments should be directed to Rick DeVictor - NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505. More information, including Frequently Asked Questions for Amendment 28, can be found online at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm.
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. and the primary topic will be increasing the black sea bass annual catch limits for the southeastern States. 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. For more information on the webinar or to register visit the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net.
Fishermen wishing to comment, but unable to register for the webinar should e-mail their comments to SGRegAm19Comments@safmc.net or mail them to Robert Mahood, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. Comments must be received by May 10, 2013 so they can be included for the webinar.
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 8 will be coming to Jaycee Park in Morehead City on Saturday, June 1. There will be pier, inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing trip for the troops and onshore activities for the families. Over 450 troops from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy have already registered for the event. MAD has booked the three headboats, but still needs personal boats to take troops fishing and volunteers to help with the shoreside duties. If you are interested in spending the day thanking those who protect our freedoms, visit the MAD website at www.militaryappreciationday.org and volunteer.
The first weekend in May has several events of interest. 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 Oak Island Recreation Department will offer a kayak fishing class 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 910-278-4747.
Tournaments are beginning too. 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 Far Out Shoot Out Tuna Dolphin and Wahoo Rodeo will be held May 10 Ė 18 from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. This tournament covers eight days, but each competitor only fishes a single day. The day can be picked due to schedule, weather or whatever factor affects that participant. Prizes will be paid in all three species, plus aggregate weight of one fish of each species. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The NC Spring Redfish Shootout will be held from the Wildlife Access Area at Fulchers Landing in Sneads Ferry On May 11. This is a team redfish tournament and participants are encouraged to keep their fish alive and healthy for release after being weighed. Penalties will be assessed for dead fish. Advance registration can be done through Riley Rods at www.rileyrods.com and questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.