Thankfully the passing of Tropical Storm Bonnie wasn't too eventful.  There was some serious roadway flooding on the outer banks, but the that was from rain, not the sound or ocean and the winds never reached gale force.  The weather was mixed, with some sun, some rain and various winds.  For the most part, fish were still biting. 

Unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend and coming week continues to be mixed.  There is potential for showers  and thunderstorms through Monday and Tuesday and the National Hurricane Center is watching a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that they feel might cross Florida into the Atlantic early next week.  We should know more by the end of the weekend.

The big catches this week were dolphin, cobia, Spanish mackerel, and speckled trout.  Dolphin fishing shouldn't slow much, but the catch will soon begin having more smaller dolphin and less gaffers.  They have already begun moving closer to shore.  Several good catches have come from well inshore of the Gulf Stream and in a few weeks there will be scattered dolphin at many rocks and wrecks 10 miles or so off the beach.  Some will come even closer.

Offshore fishermen are also catching wahoo and blackfin tuna and are having billfish encounters of the fun kind.  That's good news for the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament currently underway and the upcoming Keli Wagner Lady Angler and Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournaments that begin next weekend.

Offshore bottom fishing has been good for a while and hasn't slowed.  Rough seas are the only deterrent to good bottom catches.  The offshore bottom catch includes grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts and porgys.  If you head offshore bottom fishing, it is always wise to drift a light line or two behind the boat.  The activity in the water, plus many of the fish regurgitating their most recent meal is a strong attractant and most days this helps add a wandering king, dolphin or cobia to add to the catch.   There have also been some hog snapper and African pompano caught off Cape Fear.    

We're in June now and cobia could disappear as quickly as they arrived a month ago.  The action slowed a little a week ago, but picked back up over last weekend and this week.  If you want to catch a brown bomber, the sooner the better.  Cobia are being caught by floating live baits under corks or balloons, soaking chunks of bait on the bottom, and sight fishing, then casting live eels or jigs to them.  A tip for fishermen using live baits under floats is to try the Cajun Thunder Magnum popping float.  Cobia are curious and this is a big float that makes lots of fish attracting noise. 

Remember there are now special cobia regulations and recreational fishermen in private boats can only keep cobia on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The new regulations are explained below.

Spanish mackerel are around the inlets, along the beaches, at the nearshore artificial reefs.  Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters in Harkers Island has been catching limits of large Spanish in waist deep water along and on Cape Lookout Shoals.  He said once you locate a school to switch to casting gear and have fun on lighter tackle. 

Spanish are also hitting small spoons and feathers trolled pretty quickly behind small planers and trolling sinkers.  Clarkspoons in size 0 and 00 are local favorites and have produced well for decades.  Mackerel tree rigs and bird rigs also catch a lot of Spanish macks. 

Bluefish are often mixed with and around schools of Spanish.  They like the same lures, but usually prefer a slower retrieve or trolling speed.

There are flounder on many of the nearshore artificial reefs and rocks.  The easiest technique is jigging 2 to 4 ounce bucktail jigs with trailers.  The most popular trailers are scented soft plastics, but regular soft plastics, strips and squid work also.  Fishermen are also catching the reef flounder with live baits.

Several schools of large red drum were spotted feeding on bait balls in the Beaufort Inlet to Cape Lookout area and they pretty much hit anything that was cast into the action.  Many were spotted by cobia fishermen and caught on cobia jigs.  This is unusual at this time of year, but is a unique and fun opportunity.  All of the drum in these schools are overslot and must be released.

There were a few more kings and cobia caught on the southern N.C. piers and the first pier cobia of the year was caught Saturday at Bogue Inlet Pier.  Mike Davis caught the 28.4 pound cobia even though it insisted on trying to wrap around the pier pilings and break off.  Pier fishermen are catching good numbers of sea mullet, plus a mixture that includes Spanish mackerel, bluefish, black and red drum, pompano and more.

There was better inshore fishing than most fishermen expected over the Memorial Day Weekend.  One of the keys to this was weather that wasn't nearly as bad as the initial forecasts.  Several fishermen reported good catches of speckled trout especially in the Lower Cape Fear River.  There were a dozen or more citation size specks including a 10 pound, 13 ounce brute caught by Kyle Peters.  There were also some that fit the frying pan nicely.  Many fishermen relied on live mud minnows, mullet minnows, and shrimp for their trout catches.  Others convinced the speck to eat topwater lures early in the morning and then switched to soft plastics once the sun got up a little. 

There seemed to be a little upsurge in the numbers of red drum caught during the past week or so.  That is really good news for the fishermen in the Carolina Redfish Series first 2016 tournament this Saturday in Atlantic Beach.  Several fishermen said they thought the dropping barometer helped spur the pups to feed.  That's as good a guess as any, but I'm just glad to finally see a few more of them.  The pups hit the same variety of live baits and artificials as the specks.

Flounder fishing isn't good when compared to the really good years, but has been better than fair.  Flounder fishermen aren't catching limits or a bunch of citation fish, but they are catching several for dinner on most trips.  Those 2 to 4 pound flounder sure fit the pan well.  There are a lot of shorts too.  Most flounder fishermen are using live baits.  Several fishermen after puppy drum and trout said they caught flounder mixed with them and some hit lures fish slowly across the bottom.

Black drum continue to be fairly plentiful and have added a lot to many fishing trips.  They aren't as pretty as their pumpkin colored cousins, but they are willing biters and put up a good fight.  Black drum prefer pieces of shrimp, cut bait and live baits, but occasionally hit lures, especially soft plastics with scent or scent added.

Unexpected New Cobia Regulations Became 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.  The new N.C. regulations became effective on May 23.  These regulations are for all waters until the federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore) close on June 20 and are for state waters (from the beaches out to 3 miles) after that.  By reducing the catch, the MFC is hoping to keep cobia season open through September 30.

There are some very specific and limiting regulations, including closed days each week for recreational fishermen in private boats.

I received several calls and e-mails on this last week and will try to state this as simple as possible.  North Carolina recreational anglers in private boats may only keep cobia on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays regardless of where you may be fishing.  Beginning June 20, recreational fishermen are prohibited from keeping cobia in waters 3 miles or farther offshore.  The minimum size for cobia for all N.C. recreational anglers has been increased to 37 inches (fork length).  Surf and pier anglers may keep one cobia per day.  Charter operations may keep one cobia per person per day, up to a maximum of four per boat.  On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, recreational fishermen in private boats may keep one cobia per person per day, up to a maximum of two per boat. 

I followed this up with Col. Jim Kelley of the N.C. Marine Patrol and he verified it is correct.  The federal closure will prohibit keeping cobia in waters beyond 3 miles offshore beginning June 20.  In all waters until then and in state waters (0 to 3 miles offshore) after June 20, N.C. size and number regulations will apply.  Kelly also asked that if a cobia must be handled to be released to try not to use a gaff.  If a gaff must be used to control the cobia to release it, please only lip gaff them.  Gaff holes in muscle tissue can cause infections that might kill the fish.  For more information visit www.ncdmf.net and click on the "Regulations" link.

No Red Snapper Season for 2016
On May 19, NOAA Fisheries announced there would not be an Atlantic red snapper season for 2016.  The reasoning for this is a combination of recovering stocks and a severe over catch with too many discards when the red snapper season was closed in 2015.  For more information visit www.safmc.net or www.nmfs.noaa.gov.   

Boating Courtesy Around Fishing Piers
I spent some time on several ocean fishing piers last week and realized that many boaters get too close to fishing piers.  I'm willing to chalk it up as not knowing better, but that needs to change.  I really believe common courtesy should tell boaters to stay a reasonable distance away from the piers.

Reasonable distance isn't just enough to stay out of casting range.  The minimum should be several hundred yards.  For those who have difficulty estimating distance - a football field is 100 yards.  Two football fields is not enough and three is still marginal distance.

Pier end anglers may wait all day for a single king mackerel or cobia strike.  When those fish run offshore, they often cover 300 to 400 yards in less than a minute.  You can't get out of the way fast enough!  There have already been a couple of incidents this year of boats snagging the lines of pier fishermen fighting fish and breaking them off. 

Besides, if you're in a boat, you can go numerous places while the people on the pier must fish there.  In your boat, you can go to the artificial reefs, inlet sea buoys or one of the many hardbottom areas or wrecks off the beaches.  Don't get close enough to the piers to take a chance on interfering with their opportunities to catch fish.  If you want to fish that close to the piers, save your gas and fish from them.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
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 this Saturday, 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. 

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comment on Snapper-Grouper Regulatory Amendment 25
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on Regulatory Amendment 25 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The proposed rule for Regulatory Amendment 25 published in the Federal Register on June 1, 2016 (81 FR 34944) and the comment period ends on June 16, 2016.

Regulatory Amendment 25 proposes the following changes:
* Black sea bass - Increase the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from five to seven fish per person per day. The higher bag limit would increase the probability that the recreational annual catch limit is reached.
* Blueline tilefish - Increase the annual catch limits for blueline tilefish to 87,521 pounds (commercial sector) and 87,277 pounds (recreational sector).  Increase the commercial trip limit from 100 to 300 pounds gutted weight.  Increase the recreational bag limit from one per vessel to three fish per person per day for the months of May through August. There would continue to be no recreational retention of blueline tilefish during the months of January through April and September through December, each year.
* Yellowtail Snapper - Change the yellowtail snapper fishing year start date for both the commercial and recreational sectors from January 1 to August 1, each year. Changing the start of the fishing year to August 1 would benefit both sectors because it would ensure that harvest is open during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price per pound commercially, and during peak tourist season in south Florida where the majority of yellowtail harvest takes place.

Electronic copies of Amendment 25 may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/reg_am25/index.html, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and the Council's Web site at www.safmc.net.  More information, including Frequently Asked Questions for Regulatory Amendment 25 can be found online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/reg_am25/index.html

Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0042 and click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.  Comments may also be mailed to: NOAA Fisheries Service - Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - c/o Mary Vara - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.

 Recaptured Tagged Shark
Capt. Chip Michalove of Outcast Sportfishing in Hilton Head Island reported that over Memorial Day Weekend he caught Chessie, a 1,200 pound tiger shark that was tagged there last year.  He said she is still very healthy.  Michalove, who works with Ocearch when they are in the area, specializes in shark fishing and caught several great white sharks during the winter of 2015-2016.  Ocearch tags sharks around the world and puts transmitter tags on some of them.  You can track the movements of these sharks by going to www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.

Fisheries Meetings
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.

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 4:  Carolina Redfish Series Event 1, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, NC, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.  

June 4:  Military Appreciation Day, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.militaryappreciationday.org.  

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

June 11:  Keli Wagner Lady Angler Billfish Tournament, Morehead City Waterfront, 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:  Carousel Center Flounder Tournament, Inlet Watch Yacht Club, Carolina Beach, http://carouselcenter.org/events

June 18:  Sneads Ferry Lions Club Pinfish Tournament (Also Flounder and Speckled Trout), Sneads Ferry Community Center, Sneads Ferry, www.facebook.com/Sneads-Ferry-Lions-Club-101553526572291.  

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

June 24 and 25:  Topsail Inshore Challenge, Sear's Landing, Surf City, www.fishermanspost.com

June 25:  RFANC Benefit Inshore Tournament, Snows Cut Park, Carolina Beach, www.facebook.com/RFANC

June 26 to 30:  Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament, Hatteras Marlin Club, Hatteras, www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.       

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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