Several kinds of fishing are red hot right now.  Offshore fishing is one of them, but the wind and waves just refuse to lay out and make the long trip offshore smooth for smaller boats.  It's not too much on larger boats, but not everyone has a 40 to 60 footer.  Some hardier folks are accepting the challenge and returning with fish, but even many younger fishermen need a day to recover from all the rocking and rolling. 

Earlier in the week the forecast was a little better, but as the weekend approached the wind forecast began to increase.  Several fishermen said they plan to go this weekend and will be leaving early to get offshore before the wind blows up and plan to ride a following sea back home.  It may work, but with the fronts running through N.C. I suggest checking the forecast and offshore conditions closely before committing to the long ride. 

The Gulf Stream catch includes wahoo and blackfin tuna, with dolphin numbers good and growing almost daily.  Most of the dolphin are gaffers and it's easy to fill a fish box.  This hot action won't last forever, but it's wide open offshore trolling right now and that's what is making fishermen question going in marginal conditions.  Pay close attention to the weather and conditions and don't do anything foolish.   

Offshore bottom fishing is good.  Grouper season opened on May 1, so they can be kept again.  It's nice to be able to add a few grouper to a catch that includes nice black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys.  Sea conditions are important here too, even though the run isn't as long as to the Gulf Stream.  It's difficult to feel bites when it's rough.

King mackerel are biting in some places and biting well.  There is a beach bite, including the piers in Long Bay.  The catch has been particularly good from Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers in Oak Island.  In this area, there are also kings moving in from offshore and being caught from about 65 feet of water and offshore. 

Elsewhere in the state there are scattered kings over the wrecks and artificial reefs typically around 80 feet deep and out.  The offshore kings tend to be smaller, but are willing biters once found.  They have been hitting spoons, sea witches with strips, swimming plugs and frozen cigar minnows.  Some bottom fishermen are also catching kings by drifting light lines out behind the boat while bouncing the bottom.

Cobia made their appearance this week and in a big way.  The numbers are increasing almost daily and Blake Michael and his friend Bryan Nester have already pulled a brute weighing 116.2 pounds across the gunwale of Nester's boat off Hatteras.  This fish was only 3/10 of a pound off the N.C. state record of 116.5 pounds held by Billy Ray Lucas of Wilson.

In addition to Cape Hatteras, there have been good cobia catches reported at Oregon Inlet, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear.  Some fishermen are heading to known cobia spots and anchoring to soak baits, while others are cruising the beaches just beyond the breakers and looking for the dark shadows of cobia, then casting jigs.  Both techniques have been working well.

Nearshore trollers are catching Spanish macks and bluefish.  Size 0 and 00 Clarkspoons trolled quickly behind small planers or trolling sinkers has been the hot ticket.  The fish have been around the inlets, nearshore rocks, and artificial reefs.

Pier fishermen are catching lots of bluefish.  Some are on the bottom, but many are hitting Got-Cha Plugs.  There are also some Spanish mackerel, sea mullet, black drum, plus a few red drum and gray trout being landed at the piers.  The first cobia or king mackerel could hit the planks this week.  There is bait and the water is warm enough.     

Fishing inside the inlets continues to be a little hit and miss.  There are sea mullet, gray trout, croakers, and more being caught along the edges of the channels at Hatteras, Ocracoke, Morehead City, and Southport.  This fishing is about as simple as it gets.  Simply drift along the edge of the channel and lightly jig a double drop bottom rig or speck rig with its hooks tipped with small pieces of the freshest shrimp possible.  Pieces of Fishbites Bag-O-Worms synthetic bloodworms have been catching well also.

There are flounder, red drum, black drum and speckled trout at various places, but nothing has been real consistent.  Black drum, flounder, puppy drum and specks all like live baits.  Black drum, red drum and trout (to a lesser degree) will also pick up cut baits.  Cut bait should be fresh.  If it smells questionable to you, it probably smells bad to fish.

Live and cut baits can be fished along the bottom or suspended under a float.  I like fishing under floats as I can use the tide to carry my bait along and cover more water.  When I fish floats, I generally like to position the bait about a foot above the bottom.  This puts it in the strike zone for all, including flounder. 

Puppy drum, specks, flounder, and occasionally black drum will usually hit soft plastics.  I am a believer that using scented baits or adding scent helps convince fish to bite.  When they are feeling iffy about a bait, smelling good can seal the deal and draw strikes. 

Pups, specks, and flounder will also hit hard lures and spoons.  Puppy drum are usually hungry and are the least picky.  Trout occasionally hit other things, but generally prefer lures that look like small baitfish. 

When flounder are feeding, they will sometimes hit anything that comes close.  I catch a surprising number of flounder while fishing gold weedless spoons for puppy drum.  I also occasionally catch flounder on hard lures.  I add pro-Cure Scent Gel to all my lures and am certain it sometimes convinces fish to strike that wouldn't have otherwise.

Speaking of flounder; I made a quick trip this week with Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters of Harkers Island.  He called and said he was on some early flounder and had a day free if I wanted to fish.  My only question was, "What time do I need to be there."  It was the right answer!

Capt. Noah had found some flounder and my first one tasted real good for supper the next evening.  The others will taste good too.  We caught 6 keepers and a couple of them were nice 3 to 3 1/2 pound fish.  We caught them fishing the drop-offs along several deeper cuts in the marsh using large mud minnows and killifish.  We were surprised, but didn't have any drum, red or black, crash the party.

The water has warmed to the point inshore fish may be anywhere from the backs of the creeks to flats and oyster rocks in the bays off the main channel in creeks and the river.  I usually find red drum and flounder shallower (less than 4 feet deep) and trout a little deeper.  Black drum may be with either.  

There are also flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs.  Many fishermen jig vertically with soft plastics on 2 to 4 ounce bucktails.  They will also eat live baits, but you can idle or use the trolling motor and cover so much more area while jigging. 

Illegal to Remove Billfish From Water for Pictures
I didn't realize this and had it brought to my attention this week by one of the directors of the South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfish Series.  Federal regulations prohibit taking billfish (and any Atlantic Ocean highly migratory species that will not be kept) from the water to take pictures.  Federal regulation 50CRF 635.21 (a)(1) states: An Atlantic highly migratory species that is not retained must be released in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival, but without removing the fish from the water.  The concern is that the handling adds stress on the fish and could injure it, therefore lowering its chance of survival after being released. 

More information and links to request compliance and release guides can be found at http://go.usa.gov/3qjTH.

Marine Fisheries Honors Former Reef Coordinator with Artificial Reef Additions
Two vessels were sunk last week by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to memorialize former Artificial Reef Program Coordinator Jim Francesconi.  Francesconi, who began working for DMF in 1987, headed the Artificial Reef Program for 14 years before losing a battle with leukemia on July 18, 2014.  He was a very good friend to the artificial reef associations along the N.C. Coast  and was instrumental to their ongoing renourishment programs and helped establish several new reefs. 

The largest vessel, a 108-foot retired U.S. Army tugboat, was renamed the James J. Francesconi and now sports his name in steel letters on the forward portion of the wheel house. The second vessel, The Tramp, is a 65-foot retired New York Harbor tugboat, that was sunk in-line with, and tethered to, the James J. Francesconi.  The vessels were sunk near the northwest corner of the Howard Chapin Reef (AR 330), approximately 10 miles west-southwest of Beaufort Inlet in Carteret County.

For more information on this and other N.C. artificial reefs, visit the DMF section of the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality website at www.ncdmf.net and open the Artificial Reef Program tab from the Quick Links.    

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has several outdoor education seminars in the general area in the coming weeks.  A beginner fly tying seminar will be at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville on May 14.  There is no cost.  For more information, contact Tom Carpenter at thomas.carpenter@ncwildlife.org, or 910.868.5003, Ext 11 or visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the Learning tab.

A "ladies-only" Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) weekend event will be held May 20 to 22 at the Eastern 4H Environmental Education Conference Center in Columbia, N.C.  This will cover multiple topics during the weekend.  For more information contact B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638 or bb.gillen@ncwildlife.org, or visit the "Learning" section of the Commission’s webpage at www.ncwildlife.org.   

An Outdoor Cooking Workshop is scheduled for June 4 from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  Participants will learn how to prepare a meal over a wood fire and charcoal briquettes.  They will learn how to cook game, fish and other traditional meals in a camp setting, using a Dutch oven and learn new cooking techniques.  Due to the hands-on nature of the workshop, space is limited to the first 25 people ages 14 and up and pre-registration is required.  To register or for more information, contact Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003, ext. 15 or Thomas.carpenter@ncwildlife.org.  For me information about the John E. Pechmann Center, or to learn more about the many workshops conducted across N.C., visit the Wildlife Commission’s website's "Learning" page at www.ncwildlife.org/learning.  

A "ladies-only" Beyond BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) Shooting Sports Workshop is scheduled for June 11 at the Wake County Wildlife Club near Durham.  The workshop will highlight safety and shooting skills for using bows and arrows, shotguns and rifles.  For more information contact B.B. Gillen at 919-218-3638 or bb.gillen@ncwildlife.org, or visit the "Learning" section of the Commission’s webpage at www.ncwildlife.org.    

National Fishing and Boating Week Events to be Held Across N.C.
National Fishing and Boating Week will be June 4-12, 2016  and is just around the corner.  The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is teaming with TakeMeFishing.org, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service and Neuse Sport Shop to host more than 35 kids fishing events across N.C. in late May and early June.  Kids can fish for free and register to win prizes, including two lifetime licenses, at all of the events, which are listed in the "Fishing" section of the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.

The grand prize in the random drawing is a lifetime sportsman’s license donated by Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston.  This includes freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges, plus hunting privileges.  The first prize, donated by Trout Unlimited, is a lifetime freshwater fishing license.  Local sponsors for many events will provide prizes and gifts to registered participants as well.

 “The Commission is stocking fish, such as trout and channel catfish, in support of many of the events surrounding National Fishing and Boating Week,” said Christian Waters, chief of the agency’s Inland Fisheries Division. “We are very grateful to everyone — from sponsors Neuse Sport Shop and Trout Unlimited to the many cooperators who are hosting a kids’ fishing event — for making these events possible. We couldn’t do it without them.”

A list of events is available on the Commission’s Fishing page or by calling the Inland Fisheries Division at 919-707-0220.  For more information about National Fishing and Boating Week, visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s website, www.takemefishing.org

WRC Seeks Members for Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking nominations for three seats on its Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee — a board of North Carolina citizens that provides advice to the Commission on nongame wildlife conservation issues across the state.

The first seat is an expert affiliate seat.  Nominees for this seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.

Two additional seats are at-large affiliate seats.  Nominees for these seats should be qualified individuals from land trusts serving North Carolina, federal natural resource agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-governmental conservation organizations, industries with operations and/or management that have landscape-scale effects on wildlife, or other organizations that provide a stakeholder voice in wildlife resource conservation. Individuals should have a comprehensive knowledge of nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.

The committee meets four times a year, usually at the Commission’s headquarters in Raleigh.  Nominations will be accepted through May 16.  The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will appoint the committee members at its July meeting.  Nomination forms and information on supporting documents can be downloaded at www.ncwildlife.org.  Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee - Attn: Shauna Glover, Habitat Conservation Division - MSC 1721 - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700.  Electronic nominations should be emailed to shauna.glover@ncwildlife.org.  For more information, e-mail Glover or call (919) 707-0064.

Fisheries Meetings
May 18-20:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Meeting, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

June 13-17:  South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) meeting,  Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, Cocoa Beach, FL, www.safmc.net

June 14-16:  Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) meeting, Courtyard by Marriott, Newark, DE, www.mafmc.org.           

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
April 16 to June 12:  Chasin' Tails Outdoors Cobia Challenge, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailoutdoors.com.

May 7 to 15:  Far Out Shoot Out, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com

May 7 to June 18:  Hatteras Village Cobia Shootout, Pelican's Roost, Hatteras, www.facebook.com/Hatteras-Village-Cobia-Shootout-1054821231255937/timeline

May 10 to 14: Hatteras Village Offshore Open, N.C. Governors Cup, Hatteras Harbor Marina, Hatteras,  www.hvoo.org

May 14:  Oak Island Kayak Fishing Seminar, Cape Fear Yacht Club, Oak Island Parks and Recreation, Oak Island, http://oakisland.recdesk.com,

May 14 and 15:  Rebel Pier King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.

May 20 to 22 Topsail Island Surf & Pier Fishing Challenge, East Coast Sports, Surf City, www.fishermanspost.com

May 20 to 22:  N.C. Offshore Challenge, Atlantic Beach and Wanchese, Hillsborough Sportfishing Club, www.hillsboroughsfc.com.

May 21:  Cape Fear Flatfish Open, Island Tackle and Island Marina, Carolina Beach, 910-223-3633 or 910-524-0353.

May 21:  CCA-NC Cobia Challenge, TowBoat US/Portside Marina, Morehead City, www.ccanc.org.

May 21 and 22:  May 21 and 22:  The Oak Island Open Pier Fishing Tournament scheduled for May 21 and 22 has been cancelled.  For more information contact Oak Island Parks and Recreation at 910-278-5518  or visit http://oakisland.recdesk.com.

May 21 and 22:  Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.crystalcoastboatshow.com

May 26 to 29:  Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Blue Water Fishing Tournament, N.C. Governor's Cup, Swansboro Rotary Civic Center, Multiple weigh locations, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com

May 27 to 30:  Cobia Clash, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com

May 28:  Blackbeard's Spring King Bash, Blackbeard's Restaurant, Sneads Ferry, www.blackbeardskmt.com.  

June 2 to 4:  Bald Head Island Fishing Rodeo, Bald Head Marina, Bald Head Island, https://www.facebook.com/BhiRodeo.

June 3-4:  Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.fishermanspost.com.  

June 10-18:  Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Morehead City Waterfront, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.  

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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