With July 4 being on a Saturday this year, this will be the first of three weekends I expect to see crowds related to the holiday.  Next week and the week after July 4 are traditional holiday weeks for factory shutdowns for maintenance and upgrades and the time when workers and their families headed out to the coast, river or lake for a vacations.  Some of the factories are no longer operating, but the weeks before and after July 4 are still prime vacation times and most recreational areas will be crowded. 

We should all take a few sips of patience with our morning coffee and be prepared for lines at ramps, fuel pumps, grocery stores, restaurants and left turn lanes.  Launching ramps seem to be a place where folks aren't ready and patience is stretched very thin.  Folks should have things in the boat and be ready to launch before backing down the ramp and pull off of the ramp to get things ready for the trip home after retrieving the boat.  The idea is to spend as little time actually on the ramp as possible.  This helps with patience and may lower the temperature too!

The heat has raised the water temperatures and it is affecting fishing - especially inshore.  In the afternoons the water temps in some of the shallow creeks are in the high 80s and I've heard several fishermen say they saw low 90s on their water temp gauges.  It definitely feels almost like bath water. 

Dolphin fishing has been good.  Last week there were dolphin caught within sight of land along most of the N.C Coast.  They are also all the way out to the Gulf Stream.  Dolphin feed constantly, so finding bait is a big key to finding them.  They are also attracted to just about any floating object.  Nothing is too small, so don't overlook anything.  I caught three one day that were hanging around a fish trap float that had broken loose.

Dolphin are mixing with king mackerel and eating live baits and frozen cigar minnows and will also hit ballyhoo rigged into sea witches and other lures.  Kings typically like natural and live baits more, but will sometimes hit lures.  They have been biting well at times, but aren't on every rock or wreck.  The primary spots have been in 50 to 80 feet of water, but they are moving and may not be in the same spot on back to back days.  There have also been some scattered cobia mixed with the kings.

There are still wahoo and blackfin tuna at the edge of the Gulf Stream.  The marlin action has slowed, but in the past week there were a lot of sailfish caught in the 20 to 30 mile range offshore near Cape Fear. 

Offshore bottom fishing is the most consistent ocean fishing and the bottom dwellers are gnawing.  Everything is biting from grunts to groupers.  The key is to get anchored positioned so your baits will drop to the structure holding the fish.  They won't move very far off the structure.  Offshore bottom catches include grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, porgys, grunts and more.  This is about as close to catching as fishing gets.  At some point the numbers of hog snapper and African pompano catches should begin to rise off Cape Fear.

Spadefish have joined flounder at many of the artificial reefs.  Flounder generally prefer the nearshore reefs, but spadefish might show anywhere.  Flounder react well to live baits fished on the bottom and bucktail jigs, but spadefish prefer pieces of jellyball jellyfish fished on a bare hook that is allowed to slowly sink over a wreck or reef.  If you didn't scoop up a bucket of jellyfish on the way out, they will sometime also eat pieces of clams or shrimp.  I make it a point to carry a can of clams on my boat at all times.

Spanish and bluefish have been saving a lot of windy days lately.  They are generally pretty close to the inlets and beaches and can be reached on days a trip any farther offshore would be really uncomfortable.  They also often come inside some of the larger inlets, like Beaufort and the Cape Fear River Inlets, and can be caught inside in calmer water. Most days there are Spanish and bluefish inside the hook at Cape Lookout. 

The heat is slowing pier fishing, but there are fish to be caught.  Some nice Spanish mackerel and bluefish are being caught by fishermen casting Got-Chas.  There are also red drum, black drum, sea mullet, flounder, pompano and more in the pier catches.  There isn't a hot bite at the end of any of the piers, but fishermen there are catching scattered king mackerel, cobia and other game fish.  A barracuda was caught off Bogue Inlet Pier and a few tarpon have been caught from Oak Island to Topsail. 

Inside fishing has been inconsistent, but good at times.  The high water temps certainly don't help, but fish have been biting.  Lots of fishermen are catching black drum and they are being caught in a lot of places and while fishing for red drum, flounder and trout.  Black drum like shrimp, minnows and pieces of cut bait, which just happen to also be prime baits for flounder red drum and trout.

Sheepshead are biting well and there are some big ones being caught.  Sheepshead orient to vertical structure and places like the pilings and bulkheads of bridges and large docks are good place to find them.  Many fishermen consider fiddler crabs to be the best bait for sheepshead, but I do better with sea urchins.  Whichever you try, you need to pay attention as their bite can be difficult to feel.

The speckled trout bite isn't overly hot, but there are some surprises at times.  They are actually pretty active considering the temperature of the air and water and the intensity of the sun.  Some fishermen are catching a few on topwaters early, but the mainstay is live shrimp under a cork drifted along channel edges and drop-offs around points and oyster rocks.

Flounder have been biting pretty well inside the inlets too.  They don't move around a lot, so look for places where the tidal currents will carry bait by them.  The edges of channels and creek mouths are good places to try and there have been flounder in the sloughs beside the channels in most inlets. 

Puppy drum aren't picky when they're ready to eat and they are usually hungry.  Unfortunately they just haven't been around in good numbers since the early spring.  They bite well for a week or so and you think they have arrived and then they might be AWOL for a few days.  Pups sometimes grab those live shrimp intended for specks, but they aren't choosy and will also eat the minnows and peanut pogeys intended for flounder.  Puppy drum have also been hitting topwater lures in the mornings, and weedless gold spoons and soft plastics all day.   

Public Comments Sought for Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Supplement
At their May meeting, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission decided to move forward with a Supplement to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.  A Supplement is a means of temporarily modifying a fishery management plan so it can be done quicker than the process for modifying the plan by Amendment.  Supplements expire at completion of the next review of the fishery management plan unless they are renewed in an amendment and the next review for the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan isn't scheduled to begin for another two years. 

The MFC developed six options to send forward to a public meeting and for comment by mail and e-mail.  The options developed by the MFC are multi-faceted, detailed and affect every type of flounder fishing.  They are listed on the Marine Fisheries Commission website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf under the "Hot Topics" tab at the upper right.  The public meeting was held June 17, but comments may be submitted by mail or e-mail until July 10.  Comments may be submitted by e-mail to flounder.supplement@ncdenr.gov  and by mail to Southern Flounder Comments - c/o Nancy Fish - P.O. Box 769 - Morehead City, N.C. 28557.  More information is available at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.   

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;
● Providing flexibility for better managing data-limited stocks;
● Clarifying guidance on which stocks require conservation and management;
● Enhancing current efforts by the councils to apply ecosystem approaches to management;
● Providing for more stable fisheries through guidance on multiyear overfishing determinations, phasing in results of new stock assessments and the carryover of the unused portion of annual catch limits to subsequent years;
● Adding a definition for “depleted stocks” to recognize non-fishing-related impacts to fish stocks, and;
●  Recommending the councils re-evaluate the objectives of fishery management plans, to ensure they reflect the changing needs of the fishery, including allocation of fishery resources.

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.  

Fisheries Meetings
July 13:  Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., NC DENR Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact 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
July 8 to 11:  Hatteras Grand Slam, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Village Marina, Hatteras, www.hatterasgrandslam.com.  

July 10 to 12:  The East Coast Got-Em-On Classic, Carolina Beach Boat Docks, Carolina Beach, www.gotemonliveclassic.com.  

July 16 to 18:  Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament, Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Beaufort Town Docks, Beaufort, www.bartaboysandgirlsclubbillfish.com.  

July 15 to 17:  International Convention of Associated Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL. www.asafishing.org.   

July 17 to 18:  Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com.

July 17 to 19:  Cape Lookout Shootout, Tournament 1, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.    

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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