I hope you like your weather hot. You're going to continue to see it for a while. Over the weekend the southern N.C. coast is forecast to reach the high 90s, with low to mid 90s for the central coast and Outer Banks. Unfortunately, the forecast also holds more wind for the weekend and early next week. The wind forecast isn't severe, but after a week of lower winds and light seas, the forecast shows the wind picking up to averages of 15 knots and the seas adding a foot or two through the middle of next week. Hopefully it's mostly afternoon sea breeze generated by the warmer weather.
The forecast also includes warnings for those ever-present summer thunderstorms from the central coast northward, but not along the southern coast. Don't get complacent and let your guard down, even along the southern coast. When the temperature and humidity are high, local nasty thunderstorms can form really quickly. Keep an eye to the sky and seek shelter when the clouds began to gather and turn dark. These usually pass quickly and you can get back to fishing once it passes.
Depending on who you talk to, fishing is somewhere between pretty good and real good. There is a mixture of fish and they aren't playing too hard to get. However, chasing them, especially several days in a row, can be a challenge, so be sure to protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated. I hope last week's column helps with that.
One of the bright spots for the past week has been fishing in the ocean and there have been good reports from the beaches to the Gulf Stream. One reason for the success has been a week with less wind. The ocean fishing begins with Spanish mackerel around the inlets, from the piers and along the beach. Flounder fishing has also been good at the nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottoms.
There has been good action with king mackerel beginning about 10 miles off the beach. The mix ranges from some not quite legal fish to smokers on the heavy side of 30 pounds. There are also large Spanish mackerel and some scattered dolphin mixed with the kings and they are always a welcome surprise. One of the biggest surprises this week, both figuratively and literally, has been some hoss wahoo well inshore of the Gulf Stream. Several 60 to 80 pounders have been caught on live bait gear by fishermen after kings. If you've ever heard a wahoo in that size hit a king mackerel reel, you'll never forget it. They can really make a small reel scream.
Offshore bottom fishing is very good, with fishermen landing a variety of species. There have been a few hog snapper and African Pompano in the area around Frying Pan Tower. The sailfish action has been building for a few weeks and no one should be surprised to hook one anywhere from just offshore of the area sea buoys out to the Gulf Stream. The sails are hungry and aren't being particular about the baits they hit. Most are being caught by fishermen after kings and dolphin slow trolling live baits and frozen cigar minnows.
Tarpon stayed in the nearshore picture again this week. One of the best stories was a tarpon estimated at 120 pounds that was caught and released by Dan O'Connor at Bogue Inlet Pier. It seems the tarpon came back to the pier quickly and then wrapped around a few pilings before heading back offshore. Several of the pier end regulars gaffed the line where it came out from under the pier and held it for O'Connor to cut it near the reel and retie it once freed from the pilings. Good teamwork to the Bogue Inlet Pier fishermen and congratulations to O'Connor. There have been tarpon hookups, losses and catches from many piers ranging from Brunswick County to Dare County.
Other pier catches included Spanish mackerel, flounder, drum, pompano, and bluefish. Fishermen at Avon Pier have caught two dolphin this spring, so pier fishermen should understand they are moving close in and could be a pleasant surprise.
"It's about time," is an appropriate response to the red drum action that has been slowly improving for several weeks. This still isn't what I would consider hot, but the numbers are growing and more fishermen are catching them and having fun. The sizes range from underslot to overslot fish.
Flounder have been biting pretty well also. Many flounder have been feeding with drum in shallower water, but some are also in deeper areas along the edges of channels, plus along many bridge bulkheads and the wall at the Morehead City State Port. There haven't been many big flounder, but a lot of 2 to 4 pounders that fit frying pans just right.
There have also been some really nice sheepshead weighed at the Morehead City and Atlantic Beach area tackle shops. I'm sure they are being caught elsewhere, but this is where I've received reports. Vertical structure is the key for sheepshead and there is plenty in the area. Bridge pilings and bulkheads are good spots.
The old drum fishing in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River is slowly picking up. For those not used to the term "old drum," this means big drum - citation size of 40 inches and longer. This should continue to improve for a month or so. The big drum are hitting soft plastics under popping corks along shoals and around creek mouths during the day and moving to the shoals and looking for chunks of cut bait from late afternoon into the evenings.
Fishermen should be aware there are special regulations in effect for fishing this area from the first of July to the end of September. The regulations require a special rig, with circle hook and barb removed or crimped down for hooks larger than 4/0 when using bait between 7:00 P.M., through the night until 7:00 A.M. Check the regulations and see a diagram of the rig at the "Red Drum Circle Hook" link at www.ncdmf.net.
There have been reports of tarpon rolling in Pamlico Sound, but I hadn't heard of one being jumped or released until this week. This fishing should continue to improve too.
There were also tarpon rolling and one released in the lower Cape Fear river behind Bald Head Island. Get ready there have been a lot of tarpon in the ocean this year and that should bode well for
Beware of Undersize King Mackerel
There are still reports of undersize king mackerel mixed and feeding with schools of Spanish mackerel. These fish look very similar, but have significantly different regulations. Fishermen may keep 15 Spanish mackerel per person per day with a minimum size of 12 inches fork length (tip of nose to the fork in the tail). Fishermen may only keep 3 king mackerel and the minimum size is 24 inches, also fork length.
The most reliable way to tell the difference is checking for a black spot on the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin. Spanish mackerel have the black spot while king mackerel dorsals are all gray. This is what the Marine Patrol officer will check to determine the species. For more information go to www.ncdmf.net and open the "Regulations" tab.
NC Wildlife Resources Commission Outdoor Education Opportunities
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and also offers programs at 4-H camps and such through the Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) Program. The closest of the education centers is the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. Others are at the Centennial Campus Center at NC State University in Raleigh, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest.
These centers offer extensive programs and events. For more information on all the centers and the BOW program, go to the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab. The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center also has a Facebook page. There is no charge for programs at the education centers unless there are expendable materials included and then the fee is only to supply the materials.
NOAA Fisheries Seeks Public Comments for Hogfish
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Amendment 37). NOAA Fisheries is proposing to manage hogfish in the South Atlantic as two populations: Georgia through North Carolina and Florida Keys/East Florida. A population assessment determined that the Florida Keys/East Florida population is undergoing overfishing and is overfished and, therefore, in need of a rebuilding plan. The overfishing and overfished status of the Georgia/North Carolina population is unknown.
The draft environmental impact statement for Amendment 37 analyzes a range of alternatives for actions, which include:
•Modifying the management unit for hogfish.
•Establishing a rebuilding plan for the Florida Keys/East Florida population to increase hogfish biomass to sustainable levels.
•Specifying commercial and recreational annual catch limits and accountability measures for the Georgia/North Carolina and Florida Keys/East Florida populations of hogfish.
•Modifying or establishing fishing regulations for both populations of hogfish, including minimum size limits, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, and a recreational fishing season.
For more information, please see the frequently asked questions section at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/am37/index.html. The comment period ends on August 1, 2016. Electronic copies of the draft amendment and environmental impact statement may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/am37/index.html or the e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068.
The document is identified as NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068 and comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal by going to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068 and clicking on the "Comment Now" icon. Comments may also be mailed to: Nikhil Mehta - NMFS Southeast Regional Office - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
SAFMC Examines Options For Cobia and Red Snapper
At their Meeting June 13 to 17 in Cocoa Beach, FL, the members of the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) looked at options to protect the cobia season beginning in 2017 and to have at least a limited red snapper season.
Council members received a new stock analysis that continues to show red snapper as overfished, with overfishing continuing. This comes as fishermen are seeing more red snapper and having to release them, even though biologists estimate 40 percent of those releases don't survive. The SAFMC must balance the desires of fishermen with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
proposed management options include:
* Reducing discards by establishing a federal private recreational snapper grouper fishing season;
* Allowing a limited recreational bag limit for red snapper during the season;
* Use of descending devices and venting tools;
* Changes to size limits;
* Limiting the number of hooks allowed.
There was also discussion of a federal recreational snapper grouper stamp.
In a separate amendment, the SAFMC voted to address options for a limited entry program for the for-hire sector. There are also recommendations for improving data collection for the fishery that include electronic reporting using logbooks for private recreational fishermen, increased biological sampling, discard monitoring using cooperative research and citizen science projects, tagging programs, and more.
This was referred back to the SAFMC Science and Statistical Committee and will be discussed again when the SAFMC meets September 12-16, 2016 at Myrtle Beach, SC.
In a separate action, the SAFMC approved management actions and alternatives for Atlantic cobia to take to public hearings scheduled for August 2016. These measures, as outlined in draft Framework Amendment 4 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan, would reduce harvest of cobia in federal waters along the Atlantic coast from Georgia to New York. The goal of the new measures is to help ensure consistent and stable fishing opportunities for all participants in the fishery.
The sudden push on cobia regulations came about because an overage of the recreational harvest in 2015 required the season to close early (June 20) this year. The 2016 recreational closure of the seasonal fishery occurs during the peak fishing season in North Carolina and Virginia. The SAFMC reviewed numerous written and public comments before choosing alternatives for public hearings.
The actions going to public hearings include reducing the recreational bag limit with a preferred alternative to reduce the daily bag limit from 2 per person/day to 1 fish per person/day with a vessel limit of 3 fish/per day, modifying the recreational fishing year with a preferred alternative for the year to begin May 1st, modifying the current accountability measure, and changes to the commercial trip limit. The dates and locations for the public hearings have not been set yet.
SAFMC Discusses Limited Entry for Federal Permitted Charters
The SAFMC also discussed options for establishing a limited entry program for the federally permitted for-hire sector. This includes the Snapper Grouper, Dolphin/Wahoo and Coastal Migratory Pelagic Fisheries that require federal permits. The Council approved a control date of June 15, 2016 for the open access charter vessel/headboat permits. The control date is designed to alert fishermen that the Council may use that date for making future management decisions. The Council approved development of an amendment to establish a for-hire limited entry program. This should be discussed again when the SAFMC meets in September in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
August 17 to 19: Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Business Meeting, Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone - University, Raleigh, www.ncdmf.net, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
July 1 to September 30: Sheepshead Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
July 1 to October 15: Flounder Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
July 1 to October 31: Spanish Mackerel Jackpot Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
July 22-24: Cape Lookout Shootout, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.
July 23: Carolina Redfish Series Event 2, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
July 27-30: Carolina Boatbuilder's Tournament, Pirate’s Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.
July 28-30: Ducks Unlimited “Band the Billfish” Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.bandthebillfish.com.
July 28-30: Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament, Jaycee Park, Morehead City, www.raleighkmt.org.
July 29-30: Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament, Bridgetender Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.facebook.com/CEHSailfishTournament/?fref=nf.
July 30: TJM Charity Kayak and SUP Fishing Tournament, Hook Line and Paddle/Grace United Methodist Church, Wilmington, www.hooklinepaddle.com.
July 30: TJM Charity Kayak and SUP Fishing Tournament, Hook Line and Paddle/Grace United Methodist Church, Wilmington, www.hooklinepaddle.com.
August 6: Southport Inshore Challenge, Southport Marina, Southport, www.fishermanspost.com.
August 13: Carolina Redfish Series Tournament 3, Hook and Bones Open, Swansboro, http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.
August 14: Alice Kelly Ladies Only memorial Billfish Tournament, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.
August 15-19: Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament, Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, Pirate's Cove Marina, Manteo, www.pcbgt.com.
August 20: Sheriff Ingram's Flatfish Roundup, Southport Marina, Southport, www.sheriffjohningram.com/flatfishroundup.
August 20: Sneads Ferry Rotary Club King Mackerel Tournament, New River Marina, Sneads Ferry, www.sfkmt.com.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver