For one of the first times this year, the discussion of weather in the fishing conversations hasnít been all negative. The cold front that passed earlier in the week wasnít too strong and temperatures began warming again on Wednesday. Wind is always an issue and there were a couple of days smaller boats made the trip offshore in the past week and it appears some more are coming up this weekend.
With the abundant sunshine, the water has warmed a little more too. The temps in the ocean are below the sound side water, but at least it is warming. I was kayak fishing Saturday afternoon and my temperature gauge was reading 82 degrees. I thought it was broken so I paddled near several other kayak fishermen and asked them their temperature readings. Their responses ranged from 81 to 83 degrees, so I guess it really was that warm. The surf zone warmed up too, but only to around 67 degrees, depending on the location and time of day. A good place to check water temperature is www.carolinasrcoos.org.
With the warmer temperatures and rising humidity, the forecast this weekend includes a chance of showers and thunderstorms. This is a sure sign summer is approaching. If you are out and see a storm cloud building, it is wise to seek shelter. Donít wait too long to make your move either. Those storm clouds move pretty quickly.
There were some Atlantic Bonito caught this week off Atlantic Beach, New River Inlet and Wrightsville Beach. There were other fish mixed with them that included false albacore and Spanish mackerel in most places and what was believed to be baby bluefin tuna off Wrightsville Beach. Several fishermen off Wrightsville Beach hooked several fish that spooled them or they barely managed to run down and catch. They said they were definitely something from the tuna family, but were in roughly the 25-30 pound range and didnít have stripes. Baby bluefin tuna have made spring appearances off Wrightsville Beach in years past and may have again this week.
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.
The biggest news from the Gulf Stream this week is that more and more dolphin are arriving. Several boats had near limits and there were some nice 15-20 pound dolphin in the catch. Most boats also caught a few wahoo and a bunch of blackfin tuna. There have been several reports of scattered yellowfin tuna being caught north of the Big Rock and the numbers increase above Hatteras. The Hatteras Village Offshore Open tournament began on Wednesday and fishermen have released a few billfish.
King mackerel are biting in the pockets of warm water 20 to 35 miles offshore, but they are taking a little back seat to grouper right now. Grouper season opened on May 1 after a 4 month closure and re-stocking freezers with grouper fillets is high on the to-do list of many fishermen. Surprise catches while bottom fishing in this area include cobia.
Baitfish are moving inshore from the Continental Shelf and edge of the Gulf Stream with the warming water. When the food source moves, so do the fish and offshore bottom fish and king mackerel are holding on many of the rocks and wrecks in 80 to 110 feet of water. In addition to grouper, the bottom fish include beeliners, triggerfish, grunts and porgys. Black sea bass can be added to the catch beginning June 1.
Something good for fishermen chasing black sea bass happened this week. The South Atlantic Marine Fishery Council (SAFMC) met by webinar on Monday (May 13) to discuss raising the annual catch for black sea bass. The most recent black sea bass stock status report had been reviewed in April and the stock was upgraded to recovered status. The SAFMC voted to increase the annual catch from 847,000 pounds (whole fish weight) to 1,814,000 pounds. This increase will be effective for 2013, 2014, and 2015. Beginning in 2016, the ACL would reduce to 1,756,450 pounds until reviewed and changed and a review is scheduled for this year.
Several SAFMC members said the reason for scheduling the webinar was to be able to implement the ACL increase in time for it to extend the 2013 season. It will still need approval from the office of the Secretary of Commerce, but that is expected without any issues. The 2013 black sea bass season opens on June 1 and was anticipated to run through mid-August. If the increase is approved, the season length should more than double.
More large bluefish were caught at several of the nearshore artificial reefs this week and they have also moved inside the inlets in several places. Flounder are also moving in on the nearshore reefs. There were several good catches this week at the reefs close to Beaufort and Bogue Inlets. AR 315, just off Atlantic Beach, is also holding some nice gray trout.
For the flounder, vertically jigging bucktails with Gulp! artificials has been especially productive. Several fishermen said they really like the new 2 ounce Flounder Fanatic bucktails from Betts Tackle. They believe the hooks being turned to the left really do hook more fish. It also works well for gray trout and bluefish that try to steal your baits.
Pier fishermen have been seeing pretty good action too. It hasnít spread up the coast yet, but a king and cobia bite started Motherís Day at the Oak Island piers and several have been caught throughout the week. Other pier catches include sea mullet, flounder, black drum, gray trout, pompano and more using bait on the bottom. Pluggers have been catching bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
For the past few weeks boaters have been catching some cobia while offshore bottom fishing. A couple had also been caught near Cape Lookout. Beginning last Friday, the cobia began moving along the beaches at Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout. The most consistent action has been fishing the bottom near Bardens and Beaufort Inlets, but they have also been caught drifting and sight fishing. It is a special thrill to spot a swimming cobia and cast a bait to it and watch it eat the bait.
Gray trout, sea mullet, flounder and more being caught while drifting or power drifting along the channel from Beaufort Inlet to the Morehead City Turning Basin. Flounder prefer baits dragged along the bottom, but will hit speck rigs and double-drop bottom rigs tipped with shrimp that are lightly jigged. Grays and sea mullet prefer the baits that are being lightly jigged. Drifting allows covering more bottom.
Even though the water warmed this week, there were more reports of specks. Maybe the warming water is moving them into the deeper holes and concentrating them. I saw shrimp running in several places, so there is good food for them.
Puppy drum are feeding heavily most of the time. Sometimes they get a case of lockjaw that is hard to understand, but most of the time if you bring a bait by one in a reasonable presentation, it will get eaten. Reds have been caught in most of the bays and creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal Rivers.
For the past few weeks I have pointed out the Ultimate Fishing Towns poll that is being run on-line by the World Fishing Network. Southport fell out last week and the last remaining N.C. town is Hatteras. I think we should all join in and support the town from our state. Voting is allowed several times daily and there are ways to get extra points. The link for voting is www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/homepage.php.
This weekís tagged great white report finds Mary Lee and Lydia still offshore of the continental shelf but moving in different directions. Lydia has moved well offshore into deep ocean water east of Long Island, New York, while Mary Lee has taken a liking to warmer waters again and has been hanging around the Continental Shelf southeast of Charleston for more than a 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 May 6 and was forwarded to the House. The bill passed itís first reading there on 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 N.C. Legislature website, www.ncleg.net, does not currently show any action on this bill beyond that.
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 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, but focuses more on the people who are.
There are two other financial stipulations in HB 983. One 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 other 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.
While HB 983 is a bi-partisan bill, there has been a lot of heated discussion and disagreement on it, including a special hearing for the legislature on May 6. 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.
Many consider HB 983 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
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. Whatever your opinion, the way to have your opinion heard so it matters is to write your legislators. The contact information for your legislators and the legislators on the committees reviewing the bill can be found at www.ncleg.net.
NOAA Fisheries is 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.
Military Appreciation Day is hosting a fishing day for service members in Morehead City on June 1. There will be pier, inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing trip for the troops and onshore activities 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, give boat rides for family members 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.
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.
The Crystal Coast Boat Show will be held on the Morehead City Waterfront this weekend, May 18 and 19. For anyone still looking for a boat or any of the accessories usually associated with boat shows, this would be a good place to visit. For more information visit www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.
If a fly fishing trip or the need for a weekend in the mountains is whispering in your ear, the 2013 Southeastern Fly Fishing Festival may be just the thing for you. The Fly Fishing Festival will be held May 17-18 at the Ramsey Center Arena at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. 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 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, in partnership with Neuse Sport Shop, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service, is supporting more than 35 free fishing events for kids from late May through early June. To give kids a better chance of catching fish, the Wildlife Commission is stocking fish at many of these sites before the events ó from trout in the mountains to channel catfish and bluegill in Piedmont and coastal public waters. The events, which are held throughout the state each year in celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week, are listed on the Commissionís website, www.ncwildlife.org, alphabetically by county.
Young anglers registered at any fishing event can enter a statewide drawing for a chance to win one of more than 150 fishing-related prizes. The grand prize is a lifetime sportsman license, which includes freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges, as well as hunting privileges, donated by Neuse Sport Shop, located in Kinston. The first prize is a lifetime freshwater fishing license, donated by the N.C. State Council of Trout Unlimited.
Neuse Sport Shop also is donating tackle boxes, rod-and-reel combos and fishing line, while the Wildlife Commission is donating prizes, such as fishing towels, playing cards and mini-tackle boxes. Local sponsors for many events will provide prizes and gifts to registered participants as well. The Wildlife Commission will conduct the drawing for prizes at the end of June and will publish a list of winners on its website, www.ncwildlife.org, in early July. For more information about National Fishing and Boating Week 2103, visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundationís website, www.takemefishing.org.
The Hatteras Village Offshore Open began on Wednesday, May 15, and will continue through Saturday in Hatteras Village. This is the first N.C. Governorís Cup Billfish Series Tournament of 2013 and features release prizes for billfish, a capture prize for blue marlin and capture prizes for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Several billfish were released on Wednesday, plus dolphin and wahoo were weighed in the gamefish categories. The early leader was Stream Weaver with 600 points on two billfish releases. All but two boats took lay days Thursday so it looks like a shootout as the weather improves for Friday and Saturday. For more information call 1-800-676-4939 or visit www.hvoo.org.
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.
A Youth Fishing Derby will be held by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department on Bogue Inlet Pier on Saturday, May 18. The Derby will focus on kids catching fish and having fun, with numerous special prizes being awarded. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.com and open the Recreation Department heading.
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.
The Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Bluewater Fishing Tournament will be held May 24-26, with the Captains Meeting at the Swansboro Civic Center and Weigh-ins at Casperís Marina in Swansboro and Big Rock Landing in Morehead City. This is the second tournament in the 2013 N.C. Governorís Cup Billfish Series and features release prizes for billfish, a capture prize for blue marlin and capture prizes for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. For more information visit www.swansbororotary.com.
The Fishing the Range King Mackerel Tournament will be held May 24-25 from New River Marina/Power Marine Outfitters in Sneads Ferry. Friday, May 24, is the final sign up day and fishing will be on Saturday. The tournament will be held in memory of Eric Powell, operator of New River Marina and friend of many fishermen, who passed away earlier this year. The tournament will feature prizes for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin and cobia. For more information call 252-236-2450 or 252-290-0925.