Happy Birthday America!  Enjoy your Fourth of July holiday.  No fishing license is required in any N.C. waters on July 4, so take someone fishing.

This is the Fourth of July week and all coastal, lake and river facilities will be crowded.  Allow for some extra time and try not to get upset when the ramp or marina is crowded and people do foolish and inconsiderate things.  Give them the benefit of the doubt that they probably aren't avid boaters and don't know any better.  You could also offer to help.  Be prepared and considerate with what you can control and I hope you have a great time celebrating our nation's birthday. 

The long range forecast has the temps running from the mid 80s to the low 90s depending on where you are at the coast.  The forecast also has blustery winds hanging on through the weekend, but dropping back below 10 knots after midnight on Sunday and staying there for the balance of the week.  This is very welcome and some folks will be looking forward to this.  There is a chance of thunderstorms almost every afternoon, so be prepared and have a plan for when they pop up in your area.  

I've said the water is warm enough for tarpon for a couple of weeks and now have a trail of catches working up the coast.  There have been tarpon caught and released from the piers at Oak Island, Wrightsville Beach and Topsail.  There have also been a few king mackerel, cobia, Hatteras bluefish and even a couple of barracuda caught a piers between Sunset Beach and the Outer Banks.

The stirred up water has also slowed the Spanish mackerel and bluefish action on the piers, but it should pick back up in a day or so after the wind subsides.  There are some bottom dwellers still biting for pier fishermen.  The bottom action includes red drum, black drum, sea mullet, flounder, pompano and more.

There are Spanish mackerel and bluefish just off the beaches and they will hit small spoons trolled quickly behind small planers and trolling sinkers.  Clarkspoons in the 00 and 0 size are favorites and come in silver and gold, plus varieties with flash strips.  Capt. Noah Lynk's Mackerel Master rig, which combines a duster about 18 inches in front of a Clarkspoon, has been producing well also.  The wind has been blowing a while and some enterprising fishermen that wanted to fish but knew they had to hide from the wind have found schools of Spanish and bluefish just inside the Inlets at Southport and Morehead City and inside the Hook at Cape Lookout.

A pleasant and absolutely unexpected surprise has been an area of pretty, blue, Gulf Stream water moving in near Atlantic Beach and Cape Lookout and bringing some dolphin with it.  Several fishermen have been pleasantly surprised with dolphin hitting their Clarkspoons and dusters.  Most have been smaller dolphin, but there have been a few surpassing 10 pounds.  There are also dolphin right off the beaches at Ocracoke, Hatteras and around Oregon Inlet.

There are flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks, but the ocean conditions are making it tough to catch them.  Much like with other ocean fishing, some morning are calm enough to go for a while.  However, when the wind comes up and the waves begin to build it is uncomfortable and very difficult to feel bites.  The forecast with light winds for next week is certainly welcome.

Spadefish have begun showing at the nearshore artificial reefs and should be there once the seas calm.  Spadefish like to eat small pieces of jellyball jellyfish.  They are much easier to catch in calm, clear water.

Fishing offshore has been the realm of larger boats for about two weeks, but a weather change is on the way.  There have been a couple of small weather windows, but, for most of the past week sea conditions have been windy and rough.  There are hungry fish offshore to be caught and if the forecast holds true, we should have good sea conditions to get there beginning Monday.

King mackerel have been showing on many of the rocks and wrecks in water 40 to 70 feet deep.  They have preferred live baits, but have also hit dead natural baits and a few lures.  There have been dolphin and even a few sailfish mixed with the kings.  July is when dolphin and sailfish typically follow baitfish closest to the beaches and are caught in odd places.  One former sailfish state record, held by Floyd Moody of Stella, was caught during July over the Hutton wreck, a few miles offshore of Emerald Isle. 

Offshore bottom fish are also biting in the ocean - when the sea conditions allow making the trip out to them.  Grunts and porgys begin showing as close as 60 feet deep, but the better action is from 80 feet deep out to 100 feet plus.  The bottom catch includes grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, black sea bass, porgys and grunts.  Most casual fishermen don't go deep enough to encounter snowy grouper, but beware that season closes on July 6.

Fishing inside the inlets hasn't been particularly good for any one species this week, but fishermen willing to fish for a variety of species have had some good catches that provided fresh fish for dinner.  One of the staples has been black drum and sometimes it seems like they might be anywhere.  Black drum like bottom structure, but somewhere holding food is more important.  They are meat eaters, and that preference runs the range from minnows to shrimp, crabs and sandfiddlers.  Black drum may gather in a group of their own or they may be found with red drum and speckled trout

Puppy drum fishing has been very inconsistent except around Bogue Inlet and New River and that is surprising after a promising spring.  Pups will eat most live baits, but will also hit a variety of spoons and lures, and also will track down pieces of cut bait and crabs.  Crabs might be considered a secret weapon for them as they seem to follow the smell and come to them ready to eat.  Puppy drum will move to deeper water for food or to escape the heat, but generally prefer the shallows of creeks and marsh systems where it is easier to catch food.

Flounder numbers have been increasing and the number of keepers in the mix has been growing, but some days it seems like they just aren't hungry and won't bite.  Flounder will hit lures and I have caught a bunch on spoons and soft plastics intended for puppy drum.  I have even caught a few on MirrOlures fished just above the bottom.  Flounder also like live baits and that could be anything from a small minnow to a 6 inch pogy or mullet.  It doesn't look like it, but flounder can open their mouth very wide.

Flounder orient to structure and often won't move even a few inches off of it to grab a bait.  I have had days when they were laid up so close to bulkheads you had to bounce your jig or sinker off the bulkhead so it sunk next to it to get a strike.  If you cast to the water beside it, your bait pulled away a few inches with the current and they wouldn't chase it.  You want to fish beside the structure so you won't lose rigs, but sometimes that isn't quite close enough.  Some of the best advice I can give regarding flounder fishing is to be prepared to lose a few lures or rigs and to start fishing around the edge of structure, but to be ready to fish right in the structure to get bites.   

There are a few speckled trout in the marshes and creeks, but they have been very inconsistent and difficult to pattern.  It almost seems like they are moving around and sometimes you find them and sometimes you don't.  When you find them they bite and often bite well.  Not to say you won't catch a few specks at other times during the day, but the best action has been from first light for a few hours and then sometimes again in the last couple of hours of light to a little while after dark. 

Some of those early morning and late evening trout have been aggressive enough to hit topwater lures.  They prefer smaller lures like the MirrOmullet, MirrOmullet XL, Top Pup and She Pup from MirrOlure.  They will also hit soft plastics and one guide said to keep a soft plastic shrimp rigged when fishing topwaters.  He said if a trout made a pass and missed, to cast the shrimp to that spot and it would hit it most of the time. 

A few trout are being caught later in the day, but they are holding out for live baits.  Shrimp drifted under a float has been the most productive, but remember that everything likes shrimp and you will be feeding lots of bait thieves too.  Trout like moving water that concentrates bait, so focus on points, around oyster rocks and along drop-offs near the bank or oyster rocks.

Sheepshead are unusual fish, that are tough to catch and taste great.  They like vertical structure and have the ability to suck bait off a hook without the fisherman feeling it.  Pilings, bulkheads and jetties are good places to find them.  Some large sheepshead are being caught along the wall at the Morehead City State Port.  Fiddler crabs and sea urchins are good baits.  Learning to detect the subtle bites of sheepshead is the main part of learning to catch them.

The first of the large red drum have arrived in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River.  Several fishermen have caught a few using jigs and soft plastics under popping corks during the heat of the day and chunks of cut bait on the bottom in the late afternoons and evenings. 

Remember that beginning July 1, if you fish in the Pamlico Sound or its tributaries between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. and use natural bait with a hook larger than 4/0, you will need to use one of the Owen Lupton style rigs with a barbless or compressed barb circle hook and a 2 ounce or heavier sinker pegged in place no more than 6 inches from the hook.  Information on this regulation and the required rig is available under the "Red Drum Circle Hook Rig" tab in the Quick Links section at  http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.

Fishing License Not Required on July 4
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission have declared Saturday, July 4, as a free fishing day in N.C.  The requirement for licenses is suspended for just that day in Coastal and Inland Waters.  For more information visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf or www.ncwildlife.org.   

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.  

Recreational Season For Snowy Grouper Will Close on July 6
Recreational harvest of snowy grouper in the South Atlantic will close at 12:01 A.M., July 6, 2015.  Recreational harvest will reopen at 12:01 A.M. on January 1, 2016. The 2015 recreational catch limit is 523 fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service has determined the closure is necessary to protect the snapper-grouper resource.

During the closure:
•Recreational harvest or possession of snowy grouper is prohibited.
•The closure applies in both state and federal waters for vessels with a valid charter/headboat permit for South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper.
•Commercial harvest of snowy grouper for the 2015 fishing season closed on June 30, 2015; therefore, harvest or possession of snowy grouper in or from federal waters is closed.
•Sale and purchase of snowy grouper in or from federal waters is prohibited.

SAFMC Seeks Applicants for Federal Fishery Advisory Panels
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting applicants for open advisory panel seats.  Advisory panel members work at the grass roots level to provide information and guidance in the development and implementation of federal fishery management plans.  Advisory panel members are appointed by the SAFMC and serve for a three-year period, based on the frequency of meetings.  AP members generally meet no more than once or twice each year and are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings. 

The SAFMC has eleven advisory panels composed of individuals who are engaged in the harvest of managed species, or are knowledgeable and interested in the conservation and management of the fishery or managed species.  Panel members include recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, and concerned citizens.  Applications are now being solicited for the following panels:  Golden Crab Advisory Panel (4 Open Seats), Habitat Advisory Panel (1 FL Conservation Seat and 1 Conservation Seat), Mackerel Advisory Panel (3 Open Seats), Law Enforcement Advisory Panel (1 Open Seat), Deepwater Shrimp Advisory Panel (10 Open Seats), Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel (2 NC Open Seats, 1 FL Open Seat, 1 Media and 1 NGO Seat), SEDAR Advisory Panel (Pool* - Open Seats).  *Applicants appointed to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Pool are eligible to serve on species-specific panels for future stock assessments.

Persons interested in serving as a member on the Council's advisory panels, should contact Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, at  Kim.Iverson@safmc.net or call the Council office at 843/571-4366 or 866/SAFMC-10.  Application forms are available from the Council office and may also be downloaded from the Advisory Panel page of the Council's website at www.safmc.net.  Applications should be mailed to Kim Iverson, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405 or submitted via email at the address above. 

 Applications are due by July 31 and AP members will be selected during the Council's September 14-18, 2015 meeting in Hilton Head Island, SC.

SAFMC Seeking Comments on Snapper/Grouper Visioning Draft
During 2014 the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council held a series of stakeholder port meetings from N.C. through Florida.  The purpose of these meetings was to receive stakeholder ideas and concerns regarding what worked and didn't work for managing the snapper grouper fishery in the south Atlantic.  The SAFMC wanted to develop a "vision" for managing this fishery in the future.  Input received at these port meetings along with ideas from the Council members themselves were compiled to create a Draft Vision Blueprint for the snapper grouper fishery.

The Draft Blueprint for the South Atlantic Snapper/Grouper Fishery is now available at the SAFMC website (www.safmc.net) and fishery stakeholders are again being asked to provide Council with input during a series of webinars and comment station meetings running from July 7 through July 30, 2015 and a public comment Period that extends through September 1.

The Draft Vision Blueprint consists of proposed objectives and actions under the four broad goals of: Science, Management, Communication and Governance.  The SAFMC would like to know which action items are supported or not supported and why.  They would also like any other ideas or possible solutions for managing the Snapper/Grouper Fishery.  The plan is that after the meetings and public comment period the actions will be separated into short-term and long-term action items. Short-term action items will then be prioritized and developed into an amendment to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2016.

Webinars begin on July 7, with Science as the focus area.  Management follows on July 8, and Communication and Governance on July 9.  Webinars will start at 10 A.M. and 7 P.M. each day and registration is required.  Registration and information are available at the Visioning Project page on the SAFMC website.

Participation for the Comment Station Meetings can be via webinar or in person.  If participating by webinar, registration is required and available at the Visioning Project page on the SAFMC website.  The Comment Station Meetings begin at 6 P.M.  Three Comment Station meetings are scheduled for North Carolina in Wilmington on July 28, Morehead City on July 29 and Wanchese on July 30.

Written input and ideas will also be accepted via mail addressed to the Council's mailing address and through an online comment form that will be available on the Council's website once the webinars and comment station meeting begin on July 7, 2015.  For more information contact Amber Von Harten, SAFMC Outreach Specialist at amber.vonharten@safmc.net or 843-571-4366.

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 11:  All American Flounder Tournament, Wildlife Bait and Tackle, Southport, 910-443-1211.    

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

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

July 17:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers, Monthly Meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.

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.    

July 23 to 25:  Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish” Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.bandthebillfish.com

July 24 to 25:  CCCF Spanish Mackerel Challenge, The Boat House, Beaufort, 252-222-6222.

July 24 to 25:  Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.rswsc.org.  

July 28: Take a Kid Fishing, Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, www.takf.org.

July 31 to August 2:  Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open, Motts Channel Seafood, Wrightsville Beach, www.fishermanspost.com

Happy Fourth of July, Safe Boating and Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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