Fishing appears not to have been put off too badly by the cooler weather and excessive rain of Sunday through Tuesday.  Prior to that front, fishing was very good, with king mackerel leading the way in the ocean and speckled trout biting everything thrown at them in inside waters.  The action has been a little sluggish, but improving the last couple of days and that is a good sign.  Let's hope things return to where they were before this cold snap and latest rain because the fishing was good - real good. 

This was deluge of rain number five in just more than a month and it isn't good.  There is so much fresh water in the Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers they are almost as red as when they first come over their dams near Raleigh. 

This front dropped the temperature too and it looks like it might be staying at seasonable to slightly lower levels for a while.  There is another cold front headed our way this weekend and the projected highs for Saturday and Sunday are only in the upper 50s.  That's a pretty significant change and we'll have to wait and see how it affects things.  The temperature is supposed to reach 70 by mid week, but barely the low 70s.  At that point it should hold in the high 60s or low 70s for a few days.  Of course the rain chances return when the weather warms.  I believe fall has arrived and is letting its presence be known.

There are northerly winds associated with the cooler weather and the forecast shows sea conditions with 20 knot winds and 4-6 foot seas over the weekend and then beginning again in the middle of next week.  This will make conditions bouncy for fishermen wanting to head into the ocean.  The surf temperature has been holding right at 70, but will probably slip into the 60s to stay over the weekend.  Hopefully this won't affect the fishing too negatively.  This is cold for this year, but is pretty close to seasonable for most years.  This is the second weekend in November and Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. 

We let down our guard and thought hurricane season was over, but found out there is a reason it doesn't end until the end of the month.  The National Hurricane Center recognized Tropical Depression 12 near the Bahamas late Sunday.  Monday morning it strengthened to tropical storm force and Tuesday became Hurricane Kate.  The good news is that Hurricane Kate made a hard right to the northeast earlier this week and passed by sometime Wednesday out in the open ocean closer to Bermuda and began to weaken shortly after passing.  The effects felt were minimal, but it would be wise to heed this as a reminder from Mother Nature that she calls the ball on the weather and there isn't much we can do about it. 

The king mackerel bite was hot when the wind picked up over the weekend.  There were kings caught from the piers at Wrightsville and Topsail Beaches and a few more large red drum landed by pier fishermen this week at various places along the coast.

Most fishermen were beyond the piers to catch their kings, but not too much.  I heard good reports from 10 to 15 miles off the beach along the entire N.C. Coast.  My neighbor, Kenny Richardson, even caught one at Yaupon Reef while flounder fishing.  Live bait is a plus, but the kings are also hitting frozen cigar minnows and ballyhoo slow trolled on king rigs. 

Farther offshore the fishing is still good too.  The wahoo bite may have slowed a little, but there are still good numbers of wahoo, including some that are genuine studs.  They are holding at the break and on the warm side of temperature changes at the edge of the Gulf Stream.  They have been hitting lures and ballyhoo rigged into sea witches, Ilanders and plastic skirts.  There are some blackfin tuna and a few dolphin mixed with them.  Some of the blackfins are large too.  I heard second hand of a few yellowfin tuna being caught this week.  Even though I didn't see any pictures, the source was pretty good and I believe it.

Offshore bottom fish are chewing too.  They are rarely bashful about biting and the cooling water has really fired them up.  Several fishermen said they were getting hits as their baits were still falling.  The offshore bottom fish catch includes grouper, snapper, triggerfish, grunts, porgys, amberjack, lionfish, red snapper, and more.  The more includes African pompano and hog snapper off Frying pan Shoals.  Remember that some seasons are closed and those fish must be released.   

There are some flounder on the nearshore artificial reefs, plus a few gray trout, mostly undersize black sea bass and the last few Spanish mackerel for the year.  Most fishermen are dropping live baits to the reefs looking for flounder and catching the other species incidental to it.  Several times during the spring and summer I mentioned using 2 to 4 ounce bucktails with a soft plastic trailer.  Those will still work and some fishermen are doing well on the mixed bag of fish using metal jigs like the Jig Fish, Stingsilver and Hopkins.  False albacore are inshore in many areas and the metal jigs can do double duty with them.  Instead of jigging them vertically, they can be cast and retrieved quickly.  This will also catch Spanish Mackerel.  Slow the retrieve down and the metal jigs will catch bluefish too.

A mixture of fish are biting at the piers, but it is mostly bottom fish.  Except for those kings from Wrightsville to Topsail last week, kings have moved offshore beyond the piers.  There were a few false albacore and large red drum caught this week from the pier ends too.  Spanish mackerel reports have all but ended and expectations are they have begun heading south for the winter.  This week's pier catches included sea mullet, blowfish, pompano, spots, red drum, black drum, flounder, bluefish, and more. 

There are some red drum, black drum, flounder, speckled trout and bluefish being caught in the surf.  Around the inlets and at structure like former piers has been the better locations.  Live bait and fresh cut bait usually produce well and some days artificials produce well, especially for trout. 

Inside fishing is pretty good, even if it is a bit frustrating and in water that is very reddish-brown.  The speckled trout bite is red hot, but most of them are 12 to 13 1/2 inches long.  Estimates of keepers range from 1 in 5 to 1 in 25, but there are some nice trout being caught too.  The specks are hungry and will hit a variety of live bats, natural baits and lures.  Specks are being caught in good numbers from Manteo to Calabash.   

Puppy drum fishing keeps showing some flashes of picking up, but really is lagging.  There are some schools roaming around and if you find one of those fishing is great, but when you don't it can be slow.  There are still a few flounder being caught too and some of them are genuine doormats.  Live bait seems to be the key for flounder, but they will also hit soft plastics. 

Stripers are biting in the Neuse River between Havelock and New Bern and have made a good early showing in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington.  There should also be stripers in the Pamlico and Roanoke Rivers and Albemarle Sound, but I haven't received reports from there. 

MFC Meeting to Include Discussion and Vote on Flounder Supplement
here should be a discussion and vote on the Supplement to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan at the Marine Fisheries Commission meeting that will be next Wednesday evening through Friday (November 18-20) at Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head.  This is the first time the MFC has met since a group of 13 legislators convinced Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald R, van der Vaart to send a letter to the MFC recommending they not vote on this issue as was scheduled at their August meeting in Raleigh.  There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue and discussion prior to the vote is sure to be heated.

There are six options for the supplement that were opened for public comment in June and the comments were more than 99 percent in favor of Option 1.  Supplement Option One is the most restrictive of the six options and calls for raising the minimum commercial flounder size to 15 inches, eliminating anchored large mesh gill nets after the 2015 season, reducing commercial gigging to four nights a week, establishing a trip limit of 36 flounder per gig license, increasing the size of escape panels in pound nets, daily reporting for pound nets, a moratorium on new pound net sets until the next Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan review and establishing a Total Allowable Catch for the year.

The purpose of the supplement process is to allow the MFC to make quick management changes when a serious problem is found and not have to wait until the next fishery management plan review. A tenet of the supplement process many seem to forget is that changes made by supplement are only in effect until the next fishery management plan review and may or may not be included in a fishery management plan amendment at that time.   

There will be public comment sessions Wednesday evening and first thing Thursday morning.  In anticipation of a high number of people wishing to comment, the MFC has asked that those interested speak at either of the comment sessions, but not both.  For more information, visit the MFC website at www.ncdmf.net and open the "Public Meeting Notices" tab.

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Black Sea Bass Trap Prohibition
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for Regulatory Amendment 16 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 16).

On October 23, 2013, fishery managers implemented an annual prohibition on the use of black sea bass pots from November 1 through April 30 in the South Atlantic.  Regulatory Amendment 16 contains management measures to modify this prohibition in terms of area and time closed.  The regulatory amendment also contains management actions to require specific rope marking for black sea bass pot gear.  The purpose of the proposed actions is to reduce the adverse socioeconomic impacts from the prohibition while continuing to protect whales in the South Atlantic region.

Electronic copies of the draft amendment and environmental impact statement are available on the NOAA Fisheries Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2013/reg_am16/index.html or the e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0165

Comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0165, may be submitted through December 7, 2015.  Comments may be submitted by:
* Electronic Submission - Go to: www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0165 and click on the "Comment Now!" icon, then complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.
* MAIL: Submit written comments to Rick DeVictor - Southeast Regional Office, NMFS - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

November Public Hearings Scheduled for Proposed Federal Fisheries Management Measures
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) is soliciting public input in November.  Commercial fishermen that target dolphin (fish) in federal waters along the Atlantic coast may be operating under a new commercial trip limit if measures proposed by the SAFMC are approved during its December 7-11, 2015 meeting in Atlantic Beach, NC.  The SAFMC is developing Regulatory Amendment 1 to the Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan (FMP) with trip limit alternatives designed to help extend the commercial season.

On June 30, 2015, the commercial dolphin fishery was closed for the first time ever when NOAA Fisheries projected the annual catch limit would be met.  Dolphin are managed from New England to the Florida Keys under the FMP, and the closure impacted the commercial fishery along the entire Atlantic coast.  The SAFMC approved measures in December 2014 to modify the allocation between commercial and recreational sectors, increasing the commercial allocation to 10% and the annual catch limit by 377,484 pounds.  NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the measures approved by the SAFMC.  As proposed, the trip limit would become effective once a designated portion of the commercial annual catch limit is reached.  Fishermen are being asked to provide their comments on various alternatives by participating in public hearings being held via webinar or by submitting written comments.

The SAFMC is also requesting public input on proposed management measures for blueline tilefish, yellowtail snapper and black sea bass in Regulatory Amendment 25 to the Snapper Grouper FMP.  New annual catch limits for blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic and other management parameters are being considered based on a new Acceptable Biological Catch of 224,100 pounds.  Changes to commercial trip limits and recreational bag limits for blueline tilefish are also being considered.  For yellowtail snapper, a species commonly targeted off the southeastern coast of Florida, the amendment includes alternatives to change the fishing year and modify accountability measures. 

The change in the current fishing year is being requested by fishermen in order to allow harvest during the winter season and have any closures that may occur due to meeting the annual catch limit coincide with the spring/summer spawning season.  The final action in Regulatory Amendment 25 would allow an increase in the current recreational bag limit for black sea bass of 5 fish per person per day.  Alternatives range from increasing the bag limit to 6 fish up to a total of 10 fish per person per day.  Once overfished, the stock was deemed rebuilt based on the 2013 stock assessment and the annual catch limit more than doubled.  The SAFMC is scheduled to approve measures in Regulatory Amendment 25 during its December meeting in Atlantic Beach, NC.

The public is encouraged to provide written comment and participate in upcoming public hearings scheduled via webinar with concurrent comment stations at various locations. The public hearings begin at 6:00 PM.  Information is available from the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the SAFMC website.  Public Hearing Summary documents for each amendment and other materials will be posted by October 30, 2015.

Public hearings were held via webinar in conjunction with comment stations throughout the region and the hearing with the N.C. Comment Station was held on November 12.  Written comments may be submitted via mail, fax, and email and will be accepted until 5:00 PM on November 16, 2015. Instructions for submitting comments are available from the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net or by contacting the SAFMC office at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10.

 Fisheries Meetings
November 18 to 20:  Marine Fisheries Commission Quarterly Meeting, Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

December 7 to 11:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Doubletree by Hilton Oceanfront, Atlantic Beach, www.safmc.net

December 8:  NC Marine Fisheries Commission Shellfish / Crustacean Advisory Committee Meeting, 5:30 P.M., Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Trish Murphey or Anne Deaton at 252-808-8091 or 252-808-8063 or at Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.

December 9:  NC Marine Fisheries Commission Southern Regional Advisory Committee Meeting, 5:30 P.M., Department of Environmental Quality Regional Office, Wilmington, Contact Trish Murphey at 252-808-8091 or Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov.

December 10:  NC Marine Fisheries Commission Northern Regional Advisory Committee Meeting, 5:30 P.M., Department of Environmental Quality Regional Office, Washington, Contact Katy West or Holly White at 252-946-6481 or 252-473-5734 or at Katy.West@ncdenr.gov or Holly.White@ncdenr.gov.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events

October 17 – November 28, 2015:  Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, The Reel Outdoors, Emerald Isle, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd

November 13 and 14:  Cape Lookout King Mackerel Shootout Championship, Boathouse Marina Beaufort, http://capeshootout.weebly.com.

November 14:  The Carolina Redfish Series Championship scheduled for November 14 from Chasin' Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach has been postponed until spring 2016.  The date and details will be released later at http://pcflive.com/carolinaredfish.

November 14:  Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament, Casper's Marina, Swansboro, 910-326-4300.

November 14:  NC Kayak Fishing Association, Specks & Spots Tournament, Federal Point Wildlife Ramp, Fort Fisher, www.nckfa.com

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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