The weather forecast for the weekend and the start of next week appears to pretty much be a replay of last week - and that's good news. The ReefCast forecast (http://fryingpantower.com/North_Carolina_Offshore_Weather_Forecast.html) has the winds holding below 10 knots through Tuesday night and seas staying at about 3 feet or less. There will be some clouds at times, but they are holding off the chances for rain until next week when the wind begins picking back up. Seriously, unless the weatherman is way off, this might be the nicest weather week so far this year and last week was really nice. Hopefully you can get out to take advantage of it.
Cobia fishing has been good along much of the N.C. Coast and they finally moved to within range of fishermen on Bogue Inlet Pier this week. Kings put in a return appearance this week off the southern piers, but have been offshore elsewhere.
Pier fishermen are also catching some Spanish mackerel and bluefish on Got-Chas and other jigs. There is a mixture of bottom fish that includes a lot of sea mullet, plus some pompano, croakers, flounder and more.
The rainwater runoff from TS Ana hasn't quite passed yet, but the nearshore ocean is clearing a little faster than the inshore waters, except for right around the inlets. It will all clear eventually, but it's sure taking its time. There have been Spanish macks and blues along the beach on the entire N.C. Coast. There are also some on the clean side of the tide lines around the inlets and at the nearshore reefs. Clarkspoons have been producing well for trolling fishermen and Got-Cha jigs and metal jigs have worked well for casting and vertical jigging.
There has been a surge in flounder caught at the nearshore artificial reefs and it was really noticeable off Atlantic Beach this week. The percentage of keepers in the catch has risen and there are a few really nice flounder in the mix. The weapon of choice for these flounder has been a white 2 ounce jig, with a scented white soft plastic as a trailer. Some fishermen prefer to use Berkley Gulp baits with the scent made in them and some are coating non-scented baits with scent. Pro-Cure is the scent mentioned most often.
Some larger cobia were caught this week, but the bite slowed from its frantic pace of last week. They have been scattered along the beach at Cape Lookout and from Cape Hatteras to Oregon Inlet. Some have been caught by pitching eels to bait pods, but they may also be holding in the shadows under buoys heading out the inlets.
Several 60 to 80 pound cobia were caught on chunks of menhaden fished on the bottom near Cape Lookout. This technique has been producing regularly for a couple of weeks. Right off the buoy at the point of the hook has been a popular place to fish. The standard bottom setup is a fish finder rig baited with a chunk of fresh menhaden.
There have also been some citation red drum caught while fishing for cobia around Cape Lookout. The big reds don't know those chunks of menhaden aren't for them. Take a quick picture and let them go.
Several fishermen had good catches of king mackerel during the last week. Apparently the kings were biting when you found a school, but the schools were pretty tight and not everyone found schools. The area off Cape Fear, especially the wrecks and rocks from Frying Pan Tower in to the Horseshoe has been the hot spot.
The water is warming and the bait is slowly moving inshore, so the kings should follow it. I don't know that they are in real close, but I wouldn't be surprised to find kings in 50 to 70 feet of water off any of the N.C. Capes. Live bait might be an advantage, but I believe these kings would readily hit frozen cigar minnows. I'd dress the minnow up with a small duster or skirt to give it some action, but these are still mostly smaller kings and they are usually pretty aggressive.
Offshore bottom fishing is very good. The headboats and other fishermen targeting offshore bottom dwellers are bringing in nice catches of grouper, beeliners, grunts, triggerfish, porgeys and more. A light line or two drifted back in the current while bottom fishing will often produce a king or maybe a dolphin. The bottom fish are constantly regurgitating on the way up and that creates a chum line for the larger predators.
Speaking of dolphin, they have become the top offshore catch and no one is complaining. They have broken out of the Gulf Stream and are moving inshore and will soon be in the range of a lot of fishermen. I know why dolphin are a favorite of so many fishermen and had that reaffirmed when I enjoyed some dolphin fillets on the grill over the weekend.
Offshore trollers are still catching a few wahoo and blackfin tuna too. There are reports of encounters of the billfish kind almost every day. There wasn't a big blue marlin weighed during the Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Billfish Tournament last weekend, but there was lots of release action. That bodes well for the upcoming Cape Fear and Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournaments.
There is still rainwater runoff from TS Ana making its way to the ocean and it is keeping much inshore water dirty. The rivers are still muddy, but are slowly clearing and once the runoff slows our coastal water will clear. I received mixed reports on inshore catches this week and many of the slower reports were tied to the dirty water. This week's reports were a little better than last week's though and that's a good sign.
Most of the inshore catches have been mixed. If one species is leading, it appears flounder numbers picked up this week, but they just haven't been consistent. More keeper flounder are showing, but there are still a lot of shorts. The best flounder action last week was in the ocean, but there were some nice fish caught inside the inlets too.
Several fishermen have already reported tailing red drum from roughly Morehead City to the north. They haven't been feeding particularly well, but seeing them is encouraging and fishermen are catching enough to continue going. Some black drum have also mixed with the reds in places.
Trout fishing was slow, but a good number of the ones caught were 2 to 3 pounds or heavier. Trout of this size are a good indication the spawn will be good as they lay a lot more eggs than smaller specks.
There is some bait beginning to show in the creeks and that is good. Most of the bait is smaller, but it will grow. I'm hearing of lots of small shrimp and lots of folks are happy to hear that. Last year was not a good year for shrimp, but the early signs are better this year.
Last week I talked about bait a little and want to emphasize it again. Choosing the right bait can help a lot when the water is dirty. Active live bait helps get itself noticed and baits with lots of scent leave a trail that helps fish find them. Natural baits have scent, but some are better than others. If I'm not using live baits, I like pieces of mullet minnows as they have a lot of oil and make a good scent trail.
Fishermen using lures can benefit from scent too. Berkley Gulp is one of the premiere soft baits with scent made into them. There are also several companies that make scent to be added as you use the lures. I like Pro-Cure, which is a jell you add directly to the lure as you are fishing.
There are increasing reports of sheepshead around bridges and bulkheads near inlets. For years I thought the prime bait for them was fiddler crabs, but in the past few years I have caught more using sea urchins. They are easier to feel cracking the sea urchin out of its shell.
There have been good catches of gray trout and bluefish around the Morehead City high-rise bridges, especially at night. Bluefish bust bait under the bridge lights and the trout are holding under them eating bits and pieces. One of the tricks of fishing under the bridge lights at night is getting a bait past the bluefish to the trout.
May MFC Meeting
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission held their second of four quarterly meetings last week in New Bern. One of the most highly anticipated discussions was on whether to proceed with modifying the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan with a Supplement so it could be done immediately, rather than waiting to change the plan by Amendment when the mandated review comes in two years. During the public comment periods there were impassioned pleas from commercial fishermen not to make changes and from recreational fishermen on how badly the changes are needed. This was after a N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries report was released early last week that said even with the closed areas and reduced times gill nets were allowed, commercial fishermen had a banner year in 2014 with one of the largest flounder catches in recent history, while recreational catches were down.
The MFC voted 8-0 to proceed with the Supplement process and developed six options to send forward to public meetings and for comment by mail, fax and e-mail. The options are multi-faceted and affect every type of flounder fishing. They are listed on the Marine Fisheries Commission website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=ab753c22-e257-4d4b-bbe7-62d421dfd2b1&groupId=38337. Current plans are for the options to be open for public comment from June 10 to July 10 and followed with a public meeting. The parameters of the public comment and date and location of the public meeting have not been decided yet. When information on this becomes available, it will be included here.
The Marine Fisheries Commission opted to take this to public meeting differently than their standard procedure. Standard procedure is to send the options out to the regional and standing committees and use their meetings for public meetings across the state. For whatever reason, they have decided to depart from that for this issue and will only be having a single public meeting, but it will be with the Marine Fisheries Commissioners, rather than smaller regional meetings with the committees. I'll have the date and location here once it is announced.
A speckled trout review was also presented at this meeting and the Commissioners decided to delay action on speckled trout until 2017 when a mandatory review is required by the Spotted Sea Trout Fishery Management Plan. The Commissioners voted to implement regulations on sheepshead at this meeting. The recreational regulations are a limit of 10 sheepshead per day with a minimum size of 10 inches fork length (tip of nose to center of fork in tail). The commissioners also voted to fund up to $10,000 from the Marine Fisheries Commission Conservation Fund for the James Francesconi Memorial Artificial Reef project.
Billfish tournaments have gotten off to an excellent start this year. The 2015 N.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series got underway with a bang at the Hatteras Village Offshore Open two weekends ago when fishermen released a bunch of marlin and several 500 and 600 pound marlin were brought to the scales. There wasn't a big marlin weighed this past weekend at the Swansboro Rotary Club Memorial Day Bluewater Tournament, but 16 of the 46 boat field released billfish during the tournament.
The Miss Judy, with Capt. Lacy Henry from Atlantic Beach, released four blue marlin to score 1,200 points for the win. Second and third places were decided by a time-based tiebreaker as the Double B, with Harry Smith of Greenville and the Builder's Choice, with Harris Huddle of New Bern, each released two blue marlin and scored 600 points.
The Governor's Cup Billfishing Series moves to the south this week with the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament in Wrightsville Beach. It will be interesting to see if the good fishing continues. For more information visit www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
Military Appreciation Day
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 10 is tomorrow, May 30, at Jaycee Park and City Depot Park 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 10th 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 or go by Jaycee Park and volunteer.
Wildlife Resources Commission Seeks Members for NC Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking nominations for two 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. One opening is for an Expert Affiliate Seat and the other is for an At-Large Affiliate Seat. Nominations will be accepted through June 26 and the Wildlife Resources Commission will appoint committee members at its July 9 meeting in Raleigh.
Nominees for the Expert Affiliate Seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina. Nominees for the At-Large Affiliate Seat 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.
To nominate an individual for the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee, submit a nomination form with information regarding affiliation and expertise, a résumé, if available, and a cover letter. The nomination form can be downloaded from the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, by clicking on the "Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee" icon on the home page. Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee, Attn: Shauna Glover, Division of Inland Fisheries, MSC 1721, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721. Submit electronic nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the committee or the nomination process, e-mail Glover or call her at (919) 707-0064.
Wildlife Resources Commission Seeks Public Comment on Early Migratory Game Bird Seasons
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is inviting public comments on the early waterfowl and webless migratory game bird hunting seasons. These seasons include dove, woodcock, rail, snipe and those waterfowl seasons that begin prior to Oct. 1. Input on extended falconry seasons for webless species also will be taken at this time.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the framework from which state fish and wildlife agencies select respective hunting season dates. After reviewing public comments, Wildlife Commissioners will select season dates for North Carolina during their July 16 meeting.
The comment period will begin June 1 and extend through June 21. For more information on migratory game birds in North Carolina, visit www.ncwildlife.org. To comment on the proposed season dates or falconry, open the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and click the “Submit Your Comments” tab.
Wildlife Resources Commission to Host Deer-Management Forums
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will host nine public forums across N.C. during June to discuss deer management in N.C. These forums will utilize an interactive approach to share information and gain feedback from deer hunters and others about their preferences for deer management in North Carolina. The forums will not replace regulation proposal meetings, which will be held in January 2016.
“White-tailed deer are the most popular hunted species in North Carolina, with more than 200,000 hunters annually taking to the field in pursuit of deer,” said Brad Howard, a wildlife biologist with the Commission. “The forums are excellent opportunities for North Carolinians to learn about deer in their respective parts of the state. We also want to provide an opportunity for deer hunters and other stakeholders to discuss deer-management issues as we plan for the future.”
The closest of the forums will be in Orringer Auditorium at Craven Community College in New Bern on June 16. The forums are scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. A listing of the dates and locations is posted on the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.
NOAA Fisheries Seeks Public Comment on Magnuson-Stevens Act
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposal to revise the guidelines for National Standard 1, 3 and 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The National Standard guidelines assist the eight regional fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries in developing effective fishery management plans.
“The proposed revisions clarify and streamline the National Standard guidelines, address concerns raised by partners and stakeholders during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility to address fishery management issues,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The proposed revisions, if implemented, will result in better-managed and more sustainable fisheries.”
The National Standard 1 guidelines provide guidance on preventing overfishing while achieving the optimum yield (the amount of fish which will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities) from each U.S. fishery. The National Standard 3 guidelines provide guidance on managing a stock as a unit throughout its range, and the National Standard 7 guidelines address minimizing costs and avoid duplication in fisheries management.
The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require councils to revise their current fishery management plans. Rather, they offer additional clarity and potential flexibility in meeting current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates.
The proposed revisions include:
● Increasing flexibility in setting timelines for rebuilding programs;
Public comments on the proposed rule are due June 30, 2015. To learn more and read the proposed rule as well as to submit comments, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/national_standards/ns1_revisions.html.
June 3: Scientific and Statistical Committee Meeting, 1:00 P.M., Via webinar, register for webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1634019781014553345.
June 8 to 12: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Doubletree Gran Key Resort, Key West, FL. Public comments will be accepted on June 10 beginning at 5:30 P.M., For more information visit www.safmc.net.
June 15: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington, Contacts Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
April 18 to June 14: Chasin' Tails Cobia Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
May 27 to 30: Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.
May 29 to 30: Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.fishermanspost.com.
May 30: Military Appreciation Day, Morehead City Downtown Parks, Morehead City, www.militaryappreciationday.org.
May 30: Carolina Redfish Series, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
May 30 and 31: Oak Island Open Pier Fishing Tournament, Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers, Multiple species, www.oakislandnc.com.
June 6: Kelly Wagner Lady Angler Tournament, Big Rock Landing, Morehead City. www.thebigrock.com.
June 5 to 13: Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Big Rock Landing, Morehead City, www.thebigrock.com.
June 13: Beyond BOW - Fly-Fishing Basics for Women (Ladies-only), John E. Pechmann Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.aspx.
June 16: Wildlife Resource Commission Whitetail Deer Management Forum, Orringer Auditorium, Craven Community College, New Bern, www.ncwildlife.org.