Offshore fishing is very good and fishermen are looking to make the run at any opportunity.  Unfortunately, the sea conditions just refuse to lay out to nice for any length of time.  Fishermen in larger boats are making the trip regularly, but fishermen in smaller boats are often left deciding if the catch is worth making the run.  While there are better days each week, the conditions generally hover right around 15 knot winds and 3-4 foot seas, which might not sound like much, but is pretty rough for a 50 mile ride in 23 to 30 foot center console.

Offshore fishing is hot, especially with gaffer dolphin.  If you find a pod of dolphin they will be hungry and most of them will be gaffers, so there are a lot of mahi-mahi fillets to enjoy later.  Wahoo and tuna, mostly blackfins, are also biting for Gulf Stream trollers. 

Billfish are showing up too - and not just at the Gulf Stream.  My neighbor, Tony Richardson, caught one last Saturday at the Horseshoe off Southport.  This is early for a sail to be that close in, but it's becoming that kind of year.

Offshore bottom fishing is also very good.  Fishermen are catching grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts and porgys.  There are also a few African pompano and hog snappers being caught offshore near Cape Fear.  Some bottom fishermen are also drifting light lines behind their boats in the current an picking up an occasional king, dolphin or cobia.   

King mackerel action has started well off the southern N.C. Coast and should be spreading up the coast at any time.  Kings are being caught off the Oak Island piers and offshore.  Once off the beach, the bite begins in about 50 feet of water and continues out to around 100n feet.  Kings have been hitting spoons, sea witches with strips, swimming plugs and frozen cigar minnows.  Live baits have been a little hard to find some days, but the kings welcome them too. 

Spanish macks and bluefish are biting well around the inlets, along the beaches and around most nearshore artificial reefs.  The easiest way to catch them is to troll small spoons, such as size 0 and 00 Clarkspoons, behind small planers or trolling sinkers.  Some folks carry spinning rods rigged with Got-Cha and other similar jigs to cast to breaking Spanish.  Spanish like their baits moving quickly, while bluefish prefer to feed on slower moving baits.  If you're catching one and would like the other, speed up or slow down accordingly.

Pier fishermen are catching a lot of Spanish mackerel and bluefish.  Got-Cha jigs have been the lure of choice for most fishermen and be sure to get the ones with gold hooks.  Bait fishermen are also catching some bluefish, pompano, drum and trout from the piers.

Pier fishermen have been catching king mackerel and cobia for several weeks at the Oak Island piers and with bait moving up the beaches this action could begin along the rest of the state at any time.  The water looks pretty good, there is bait and the water temps are in the high 60s to low 70s, so it could happen at any time.  Cobia have been cruising the beaches and being caught along Bogue and Shackleford Banks, so it's only a matter of time before one is caught by a pier fishermen.

Speaking of cobia; boat fishermen are catching them well.  It's a rare day that cobia aren't weighed at marinas and tackle shops from Calabash to Oregon Inlet.  Most of them make the 40 pound minimum for an outstanding catch citation too.  One huge cobia of 116 pounds has been caught at Cape Hatteras. 

Cobia fishermen are sight fishing and casting jigs and eels, plus floating live baits and eels and soaking baits on the bottom.  Be prepared for crowds as the word is spreading and there are lots of fishermen chasing cobia.

Fishing inside the inlets isn't as hot as the ocean bite, but there were a few surges this week and it appears to be improving.  There were several good reports of flounder and it's still early for them.  Many fishermen are catching black drum and there are occasional good catches of red drum and speckled trout.  I didn't hear of any citation flounder or specks this week, but there were some 3 and 4 pounders caught and that's pretty good.

Most inside fishermen have been catching better using live baits.  Mud minnows are pretty thick in the backs of small creeks and most tackle shops have them.  Live shrimp are a little harder to come by, but will get fish to bite when they let mud minnows pass.  This early in the season, live shrimp are probably best found at tackle shops.  A few mullet minnows are showing in the backs of creeks.  They are still small, but can be caught using 1/4 inch mesh cast nets and seines.  Killifish are around the inlets and the marsh islands inside inlets.

Black drum and red drum will pick up pieces of shrimp and cut bait fairly well.  Sometimes flounder and trout pick these up too, but it's not as common.  Some fishermen are also catching specks, flounder, and puppy drum using lures.  Soft plastics are the most commonly used lures, but they will also hit hard baits and weedless spoons.

The water has warmed enough inshore fish have spread throughout the river, bays and creeks.  Now is a good time to chase them as the water temp is in their comfortable range and they should bite when you find them.  When the fish are spread as these are right now, be sure to check all of the spots you caught them in previous springs and summers.  They've got to be somewhere. 

There are also flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom areas.  These fish will eat live baits, but you can cover much more bottom by jigging vertically with soft plastics on 2 to 4 ounce bucktails and drifting.  The water over these spots is deep enough you can leave the outboard running to control your drift and hold a location once you locate them.  You might also want to drift a live bait near the surface for Spanish mackerel or bluefish.   

New Cobia Regulations Become Effective May 23
On May 19, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) voted to change cobia regulations and not follow the federal regulations, which have the season closing on June 20.  While this appears to be going out of compliance with the federal regulations, one commissioner said N.C. wouldn't be out of compliance unless the allocation is overfished.  The commission set regulations for state waters (out to 3 miles) that will increase the minimum size and reduce the daily catch to keep cobia season open through September 30.

The new cobia regulations begin May 23 and hit recreational anglers in personal boats the hardest, reducing them to 2 cobia per day and only allow retaining fish on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  Surf and pier anglers are limited to one cobia per day.  The new regulations were obviously geared towards allowing charter boats to continue to possess cobia.  Charter boats may fish every day and keep up to 4 cobia per day.  There is a new and larger minimum size for all N.C. fishermen.  Cobia must now measure 37 inches fork length (up from 33 inches).

The federal closure is still in effect for waters beyond 3 miles offshore and it begins on June 20.  At that point, no cobia may be kept in waters beyond 3 miles offshore.      

Near Record Cobia Caught at Hatteras
Cobia are biting all along the N.C. coast and there are some genuine large ones being caught.  A few hours after I posted last week's report, a pair of Poquoson, Va. fishermen boated a cobia off Cape Hatteras that scared, but didn't quite top the N.C. state record.  Blake Michael handled the rod and his fishing buddy Bryan Nester handled the boat and gaffing the huge 116.2 pound cobia.  Michael said they spotted the cobia along the north edge of Diamond Shoals and cast a chartreuse bucktail with a pink curltail trailer to it and it hit it immediately. 

After a fight much shorter than would be expected with a cobia of this size, they landed it and began to realize just how big it was.  Still, they continued fishing and caught another before heading for the scales.  Michael's cobia is a mere .3 pounds shy of the state record of 116.5 that was caught near Oregon Inlet by Billy Ray Lucas in 2006.  Congratulations on a fine catch even if it isn't a record.  

No Red Snapper Season for 2016
On May 19, NOAA Fisheries announced there would not be an Atlantic red snapper season for 2016.  This is a combination of recovering stocks and a severe over catch when red snapper fishing was last allowed in 2014.  For more information visit www.safmc.net.

Crystal Coast Boat Show
Be sure to check out the Crystal Coast Boat Show on the Morehead City Waterfront this weekend.  This will be your chance to step aboard many of the boats you have looked at all spring while they are in the water.  This is a free event and there will also be vendors with accessories and other boating related items.  For more information visit www.crystalcoastboatshow.com.

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 "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 Family Fishing Workshop will be held June 8  from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville.  This is for families with children 7 and older wanting to learn basic fishing skills.  The workshop is "hands-on" and will cover casting, riggings, tying basic knots, collecting bait, catching and releasing fish and properly handing fish.  It will include fishing in the Pechmann Center's stocked ponds.

Pre-registration online is required and check-in begins 30 minutes prior to the start of the program.  For more information contact Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003 or thomas.carpenter@ncwildlife.org

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

Military Appreciation Day
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 11 is scheduled for June 4 in Morehead City.  MAD is a N.C. based organization that focuses on taking active duty military personnel fishing as a way of thanking them for their service to our country.  This is the 11th year of MAD events and this year there are MAD events planned for Morehead City and Southport in N.C., Charleston, S.C., Hampton, Virginia and Lewes, Delaware.  The Morehead City MAD is the original MAD event and remains the largest.  Military families are also invited to participate in numerous on-shore activities throughout the day. 

Registration for MAD 10 is open for volunteers and troops.  Volunteers are needed for all aspects of the event, from taking troops fishing, helping with the many land-based activities and even cleaning fish.  If you can spare a day, or even a few hours, it will be appreciated by the organizers and really appreciated by the service men and women and their families.  Helping at a MAD event is something special and rewarding.  I take some troops fishing and always feel like I have as much or more fun than they do.  Anyone who would like to help can visit www.militaryappreciationday.org  and register. 

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

May 20:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.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:  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 1:  North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association Cape Fear Chapter Monthly Meeting, Great Outdoor Provision Company, Wilmington, www.nckfa.com.

June 1-4:  Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Wrightsville Beach, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.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.  

June 15:  Jolly Mon VIP, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com

June 17:  Junior Jolly Mon, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.

June 18 and 19: Jolly Mon Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle Beach, www.oifc.com.      

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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