Weather has been a factor in our fishing all spring and the temperatures finally warmed to where they should be today. The warm temperatures and sunshine have warmed the water a little too. Even with some clouds slipping in, the air temperatures are forecast to remain in the high 70s through Sunday, then dropping back into the 60s for a few days at the beginning of next week. I believe the water will continue warming through the weekend and hope the cold front Sunday night doesnít cause another setback.
Wind has been another weather issue all spring and unfortunately, the weather forecast isnít wind friendly for smaller boats to head offshore this weekend Itís staying in that 15-20 range that is makeable but bumpy on the larger boats, but just a little too much for the smaller ones. Maybe when it warms again later next week the winds will calm too.
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. Southport didnít make the finals but Hatteras did and I think we should all join in and support the town from our state. A new round of regional and national voting has started. 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.
While the weather was marginal at best for smaller boats, some larger boats and charter boats made the run to the Gulf Stream this week and had good catches. There are still good numbers of wahoo and blackfin tuna and dolphin are arriving in good numbers. There are some scattered yellowfin tuna being caught, mainly north of the Big Rock, and some boats have found them in numbers. A few more billfish encounters were also reported.
Some warmer water has pushed inshore of the Gulf Stream and the king mackerel action in the 25 to 35 mile offshore range has picked up. Baitfish are moving inshore with the warming water and the kings are following them. The water temperature has been 70 and a little warmer over many of the rocks and wrecks in 80 to 110 feet of water and if they are holding bait, they are also holding kings. The kings are feeding heavily when you find them and arenít picky. They have been hitting lures, dead baits and live baits.
Many of the same places that are holding kings are also holding offshore bottom fish. If the kings are biting well, you will probably limit out pretty quickly and might want to bounce a few baits off the bottom before leaving. Grouper season opened on May 1 and everyone appreciates a nice grilled grouper fillet for dinner.
Good reports of Atlantic bonito began again this week from just offshore of New River Inlet. Divers Rock was mentioned often, but several fishermen said they left the rock to get out of the crowd and found some schools between the rock and the beach. There are also some false albacore schooled and feeding with the bonito.
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.
It appears some chopper blues have moved inshore around Cape Lookout. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noahís Ark Fishing Charters (www.noahsarkfishingcharters.com) in Harkers Island said he was catching the big blues on topwater plugs around Cape Lookout and in the channel from Cape Lookout to Harkers Island.
Pier fishermen are catching a variety of fish that includes sea mullet, black drum, puffers, gray trout, smaller bluefish, plus an occasional Spanish mackerel or chopper blue. A cobia was spotted, but not landed off Bogue Inlet Pier over the weekend. There have been growing reports of Spanish mackerel caught on the piers from Brunswick County up to Topsail and with this warm weather they should be continuing to move up the coast.
I assisted at the Boots on the Boards pier fishing trip last Friday for Wounded Warriors from Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. This is an annual event sponsored by Fishermen in Support of Heroes (FISH, www.fishheroes.org) that is held at Sea View Pier at North Topsail Beach. Most of the troops (and other pier fishermen) were catching whiting, bluefish and skates, with an occasional flounder or black drum and such.
Suddenly there were a lot of excited shouts from out near the end of the pier and I turned to see a deeply bent rod. I rushed out to help clear the way as the fish headed offshore. It was a slow steady run that made me think it was a larger version of the smaller skates many had been catching. A few minutes later, everyone was surprised when Sgt. David Hardy led a 3 Ĺ foot sturgeon to the landing net. Once the hook was removed and a few quick pictures snapped, the sturgeon was released. This is the first sturgeon I have even seen or even heard of being caught from a pier.
There were some reports of cobia being caught offshore this week and many fishermen think this weekend will be the time for the first push of cobia along the beaches. One of the first places cobia show each year is off Shackleford Banks and a nice one was caught somewhere there on Thursday. This may be the weekend they arrive. Look inside Beaufort and Bardens Inlets too.
Bottom fishermen have been catching some flounder at the nearshore artificial reefs and AR 315, off Atlantic Beach is also holding some nice gray trout. There are bluefish throughout the water column at the reefs and Spanish should arrive at any time.
While there are some specks in the deeper holes along the coast, the red drum and a slowly growing number of flounder have been the excitement in the creeks along the Intracoastal Waterway and the lower rivers. The specks seem to be thicker a little farther inland. Good speck reports are coming from the New River around Jacksonville and the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern. There are also some hungry stripers just returned from spawning around New Bern. Several fishermen said you could catch them and the specks on topwaters, especially early and late in the day.
The keeper season for stripers on the Roanoke River at Weldon is closed, but with the overly cool spring the spawn was delayed and the fishing is still good. This is catch and release fishing and requires hooks that are barbless or with the barb mashed down. There may be other special regulations too. If you decide to make this trip, 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.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia still offshore of the continental shelf but moving in different directions. Lydia has made a loop in the past week and is still east of Montauk Long Island, New York and South of Nova Scotia, while Mary Lee has taken a liking to warmer waters again and has moved from off Cape Lookout to off Charleston this week. 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.
The Senate Finance Committee substitute bill for Senate Bill 58, (Increase Funding for Dredging) passed its final vote in the Senate on Monday (May 6) and was forwarded to the House. The bill passed itís first reading there on Wednesday (May 8) and was referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. If reviewed favorably, it will then go to the House Finance Committee.
The substitute bill for SB 58 is significantly different from the original bill. About the only 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 current wording and progress on SB 58 can be found at www.ncleg.net.
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 channels or inlets dredged with these funds. There are also still not provisions for how the dredging projects will be prioritized and scheduled.
House Bill 983 is generally referred to as the gamefish bill, but its specific title is the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act. HB 983 also includes a provision to pay for the shallow channel and inlet dredging and it is done in this bill 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 a few folks who will not be using the inlets and exempts commercial fishermen who donít also have recreational licenses, but focuses more on the people who are actually using the inlets.
There has been a lot of heated discussion and disagreement on HB983. There was enough concern that the House of Representatives scheduled a special hearing on this bill on Monday, May 6. Both groups were well represented and comments were taken for approximately 2.5 hours. HB 983 was assigned to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. 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.
HB 983 is a bi-partisan bill that many consider just a re-do of the bill that didnít reach the House floor in the last legislative session, but 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. According to Division of Marine Fishery records, these fish constitute approximately 1.5 percent of the annual commercial catch
There are three financial stipulations in HB 983. As already noted, one is to increase the cost of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses (CRFL), and appropriate some of the fees generated by the sale of CFRLs and some road tax monies to be used to fund the dredging of shallow draft channels, including inlets. Another is to provide $1.3 million to the Marine Fisheries Commission 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. The third financial provision is to set aside $1 million to compensate commercial fishermen for any documented lost income for three years and to purchase commercial fishing gear that can no longer be used.
Opponents of the bill feel it will financially hurt too many commercial fishermen and remove these three species of fish from fish markets and restaurants, plus create waste with dead discarded fish that canít be kept or sold. Supporters of HB 983 believe that gamefish status will create better fish stocks, which in turn will attract more recreational fishermen and their families to the area, which will create more spending in the recreational fishing, hospitality, food and lodging businesses, and it will create jobs. If you would like to discuss the bill there are discussions on several internet chatboards, plus at most tackle shops and fish houses. I would suggest reading the bill before discussing it. A copy of the bill is available at the N.C. Legislative Website at www.ncleg.net.
Several more N.C. fishery meetings are scheduled for May. 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. Applications must be received by May 16, 2013. 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.
The comment period for SAFMC Amendment 28 ends on May 13. 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 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) is the group that hosts a pair of fishing days for service members each year. The larger of these events is in Morehead City in June and the other is in Southport in September. This year the Morehead City MAD Fishing Day will be June 1 at Jaycee Park. There will be pier, inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing trip for the troops and onshore activities and boat rides for the families.
More than 450 troops from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy have already registered for the June 1 event. MAD has booked the three Morehead City and Atlantic Beach headboats, but still need personal boats to take troops fishing and volunteers to help with the shore side 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 Oak Island Recreation Department will offer a Kayak Fishing Seminar on Saturday, May 11. The day will begin with classroom sessions throughout the morning. There is also an optional on-water session that afternoon to review and practice things learned in the morning. Participants may choose from just the morning classroom session or both sessions.
As of my deadline, there are spots for the morning only session, but the spots for the afternoon are limited and were filling quickly. The folks at the recreation department said they would be taking standby registrations and adding to the afternoon session as possible. For more information visit www.oakislandnc.com and click on the Recreation Department or call 910-278-4747.
For anyone still looking for a boat or any of the accessories usually associated with boat shows, the Crystal Coast Boat Show will be held on the Morehead City Waterfront May 18 and 19. For more information visit www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.
Safe Boating Week begins May 18 and runs through May 24. National Safe Boating Week is an opportunity to highlight the importance of safety precautions and sensible behavior when spending time on the water, including wearing a life jacket, not boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and being aware of other general boating safety practices. For more information visit the Safe Boating Council website at www.safeboatingcouncil.org.
If a weekend in the mountains is calling you, the 2013 Southeastern Fly Fishing Festival will be held May 17-18 at the Ramsey Center Arena at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. This is in Jackson County, a popular destination for fly fishing enthusiasts and home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. There are many seminars and activities scheduled for the show, including opportunities to fish the WNC Fly Fishing Trail. For more information visit www.southeastfff.org.
The NC Spring Redfish Shootout will be held May 11 from the Wildlife Access Area at Fulchers Landing in Sneads Ferry. This is a team redfish tournament and participants are encouraged to keep their fish alive and healthy for release after being weighed. Advance registration can be done through Riley Rods at www.rileyrods.com and questions should be directed to email@example.com.
The Far Out Shoot Out Tuna Dolphin Wahoo Rodeo will be held from Ocean Isle Fishing Center May 10 through 18. Participants will choose one of the eight days to fish. The tournament will feature prizes for the largest aggregate weight and the largest of each species. For more information visit www.oifc.com.
The Armed Forces Day Paddle Fishing Tournament (kayak fishing tournament) will be held May 18 based from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9960 in Swansboro. There will be a fresh water division and a salt water division. For more information call 214-724-9253 or visit www.armedforcesfishing.webs.com.
The Hatteras Village Offshore Open will be held May 15 to 18 in Hatteras Village. This is the first N.C. Governorís Cup Billfish Tournament of 2013 and features release prizes for billfish, a capture prize for blue marlin and capture prizes for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. For more information call 1-800-676-4939 or visit www.hvoo.org.
The 2013 Oak Island Open Pier Fishing Tournament will be held May 18 from Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers. This is a unique pier fishing tournament that allows participants to fish for their favorite catch, or fish for all the species found around a pier. There are three divisions based on fish size and categories and fishermen may enter one or all three of the divisions. For more information visit www.oakisland.nc.us and open the Parks & Recreation Department section or call 910-278-5518.