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11-18-16

The windy weather that blew out this past weekend wasn't welcome, but it appears to be returning again for at least part of this weekend.  While the forecast is for mostly sunny weather, the wind is forecast to begin increasing on Saturday with Sunday and Monday being very windy and cold too.  The forecast has the temps dropping to daytime highs only in the 50s for several days beginning then and slowly warming back into the 60s from Tuesday on.  The wind is supposed to drop back below 10 knots from Tuesday on for a while, so you might consider doing some honey-dos this weekend and planning to fish over Thanksgiving and next weekend.

Yes, Thanksgiving will be here before my next report.  This is the last big hurrah for folks weekending at the beach and there is usually a crowd.  Folks with cottages are winterizing them and it's the last weekend for some businesses until spring.  I wish everyone safe travels and hope that you have much to be thankful for. 

While we could certainly use the rain that came Sunday and Monday morning, we didn't need it nearly as bad as the folks in the western part of N.C.  I wish I could somehow send it to them.  I was in the N.C. Mountains over the weekend and had my reservations cancelled one night because one of the fires was too close.  We were never close enough to see flames, but drove by or around several smoke plumes and visited many areas that were smoky.  We should all say a prayer for and/or send positive energy to the many people affected and the firefighters battling the many blazes.

This run of cooler weather has cooled the water too.  It was the last straw for Spanish mackerel and convinced them to head south for the winter.  It has also pushed bait and king mackerel offshore. 

The Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program (CORMP) station in Taylors Creek in Beaufort was showing 59 degrees on Thursday, with the LEJ3 buoy a little offshore in Onslow Bay was showing 69 degrees.  Large red drum and false albacore are about the only large fish that will be in nearshore water this cool.  There haven't been any reports of large red drum in a while, but expectations are there could be some around Cape Lookout Shoals and moving down the coast from the Outer Banks.  False albacore have been biting well.  Some even moved inside the inlets this week.

King mackerel that were pushed off the beach by the cooling water haven't gone too far.  Some have been caught around the Northwest Places, but better reports have come farther offshore, like at Jerry's Reef, Big 10 Rock and east of Cape Lookout at East Rock, 1700 Rock, Atlas Tanker and Chicken Rock.  Kings still like live baits, but have gotten active enough they are competitive for food and they will readily hit frozen cigar minnows and sardines.

A good tip for catching kings on dead baits is to watch the fish finder closely and when moving across structure with fish marks, pull the boat out of gear so it stops and the baits sink.  Give the pause somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute or two to let the baits sink down to the fish and then ease the boat barely back into gear and get ready.  When the lines come tight and the baits head up in the water like they're running away, kings, and any misplaced cobia, wahoo or whatever, will usually strike to keep the baits from getting away.  

My broken record alarm keeps binging like crazy when I write this, but offshore bottom fishing is hot.  These fish seem to always be hungry.  There are gray trout, black sea bass and a few large red drum on the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs and then grouper, snapper, beeliners, porgys and grunts as you get to deeper, warmer water.  These fish are usually aggressive and will hit bait and jigs.

If you use jigs with treble hooks, I suggest switching them to J-Hooks.  The J-hooks make removing fish much easier and this is especially important if it is a fish that needs to be released quickly. 

Only a few of the larger boat made the run offshore this week and they found some fish.  The fish were scattered, but they are there and feeding.  The cooling water will make the temperature breaks at the edge of the Gulf Stream more pronounced and easier to find.  The offshore trolling catches this week included wahoo and blackfin, plus a few late dolphin and sailfish.  There have been a few scattered yellowfin tuna cruising the rips and temperature breaks, but I didn't get any reports of them this week. 

This will be the last full week for pier fishing, but the fish are biting.  Bogue Inlet Pier closed this past Sunday to get a head start on some renovations and repairs, but fishermen were catching a mixture of fish until then.  All emphasis now shifts to Oceanana Pier until they close at the end of the month.  Fishermen there have been catching a few puppy drum, black drum, trout and false albacore.

The south-facing beaches of Bogue Banks aren't the best for surf fishing, but there has been a little action.  A few fish have been caught scattered along the beach, but the best reports have come from the inlets at Fort Macon and the Emerald Isle Point and the site of the former Iron Steamer Pier.  There haven't been strong reports, but the mixed catch included puppy drum, black drum, flounder, speckled trout, gray trout, bluefish, and a few sea mullet and spots.  

There have been several reports of spots at different places along the N.C. Coast, but they have been really scattered locally.  Last week we hoped the cold front would get them to huddle in larger schools and move slowly while feeding aggressively.  It worked to a point, but no one has reported a cooler filling run that lasted more than a tide or two.  The places mentioned most have been the piers, Gallants Channel, Taylors Creek, and around the Emerald Isle Bridge.  They haven't moved in with last week's cold snap; maybe this one will do it.

The best inshore action has been with trout for a few weeks.  Some fishermen seem to find them everywhere, but they really aren't quite that thick.  However, they are in many of their usual haunts and most are nice fish, with some large ones mixed in.  The spots to look are in creeks and in holes in the marsh with moving current, but something to break up the current and give them places to hold without exerting too hard. 

There are also speckled trout at the Cape Lookout Jetty, but the report is they are smaller than many of the inside trout.  There are also gray trout in the deeper water at the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty and many of them are nice fish.  Remember the limit on gray trout is a single fish.

Inside the inlets, there have been trout mentions from Core Creek, North River, Cape Lookout, Newport River, White Oak River, Hammocks Beach State Park, and several places along the Intracoastal Waterway.  Live shrimp suspended under corks has been the trout magnet, but they are also hitting minnows and a variety of lures. 

Many fishermen have their favorite soft plastics and all of them work at times.  The lure that has gotten the most talk this fall along the entire N.C. Coast is the MirrOlure MirrOdine Series in any color with pink.  The MR 17 is the smaller lure and the MR 27 is a little larger.  These are suspending lures that will sink a couple of feet and hold there.  There is also a MR 18 Heavy Dine for when you need to fish deeper. 

Puppy drum are also biting, but not as well as the trout.  However, you might find pups in more places.  The odds are that when you find a pup, there are more close by.  There will still be some singles and pairs, but with the water cooling, they are beginning to gather in schools.

Pups will eat anything a trout will, plus sandfiddlers, crabs, and even sand dollars.  Drum, both red and black, have excellent noses and can find baits.  One very reliable way to catch drum is to fish part of a crab on a Carolina rig.  Drum really like crabs and crab scent carries very well in the current, so drum pick up on it from long distances and come to eat. 

There are also a few flounder being caught and some are very healthy.  Flounder are either setting up in the creeks for the winter or heading towards the inlets to winter in the ocean.  Flounder will readily hit live minnows, but one way to find a few more with them moving is to fish a soft plastic slowly across the bottom.  This allows covering more area.  Another plus of soft baits is they fold when fish hit and easily go in the fish's mouth, so you can set the hook immediately instead of waiting for the fish to turn and swallow a live bait.

Flounder Season Has Not Closed
Flounder season did not close on October 16 as had been previously scheduled by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission.  I still am asked about this several times a week and am glad that folks are checking the regulations before going fishing.  There was a suit filed by two groups representing commercial fishermen and the judge granted an injunction to keep the season open.  There will be a final hearing, but the timing on it is not yet known, so keep catching with the limit the same at 15 inches minimum size and a limit of 6 per person per day.  More information is available at www.ncdmf.net.   

ASMFC South Atlantic Board Releases Cobia PID for Public Comment
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissionís South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board has released the Public Information Document (PID) for the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Cobia for public comment.  As the first step in the FMP development process, the PID provides stakeholders with an opportunity to inform the ASMFC about changes observed in the fishery and provide feedback on potential management measures, plus any additional issues that should be included in the Draft FMP.  Specifically, the PID seeks comment on the management unit; goals and objectives of the plan; commercial and recreational measures; coastwide, regional or state-by-state measures; and other issues.

The ASMFC released the PID in response to a request by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) for the ASMFC to consider joint or complementary management of cobia in light of the significant overage of the 2015 recreational annual catch limit (ACL) and the impact of those overages to state management.  Recreational landings of the Atlantic Cobia Migratory Group in 2015 were approximately 1.5 million pounds, which is 145% over the ACL, resulting in a June 20, 2016 closure of the fishery by NOAA Fisheries. Commercial cobia landings in 2015 were 83,148 pounds, 38% over the ACL.

Cobia, which are widely distributed throughout the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, are managed as two distinct groups Ė the Gulf Migratory Group and the Atlantic Migratory Group.  The Atlantic Migratory Group, which range from New York to Georgia, is managed by the SAFMC.  The east coast of Florida falls under the Gulf Migratory Group. The SAFMC manages the east coast of Florida sub-ACL which is set by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

The 2016 closure, which was in response to the 2015 overage, created concerns in states whose recreational seasons would have been significantly reduced by the closure.  North Carolina and Virginia, developed alternate management strategies to reduce economic impacts to their state fisheries which resulted in differing regulations for federal and state water fishing.  An intent of a complementary Cobia FMP is to provide the states the flexibility to respond to changes in the fishery and stock that meet their state fisheries needs without impacting federal fishermen while meeting the goals and objectives of the FMP.

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on the PID either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. The PID can be found at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/CobiaPID_PublicComment.pdf or via the Commissionís website, www.asmfc.org, under Public Input.  Public comment will be accepted until 5 PM (EST) on January 6, 2017 and should be forwarded to Dr. Louis Daniel, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at ldaniel@asmfc.org with the subject line: Cobia PID.

States from Delaware through Florida will be conducting hearings over the next couple of months and the details of those hearings will be included in a press release.  The Management Board will meet at the Commissionís 2017 Winter Meeting to review and consider public comment and provide direction to staff for items to be included in the Draft FMP.

Atlantic Menhaden Draft Amendment 3 PID Released for Public Comment
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissionís Atlantic Menhaden Management Board has released the Public Information Document (PID) for Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden for public comment.  As the first step in the amendment process, the document seeks input from stakeholders and those interested in Atlantic menhaden about changes observed in the fishery/resource and potential management measures.

Draft Amendment 3 was initiated following Board review and acceptance of the 2015 Stock Assessment and Peer Review report, which found the menhaden resource in good condition - not overfished nor experiencing overfishing.  The PID outlines a number of issues in the fishery and solicits feedback on how the resource should be managed.  In addition to the specific issues identified in the PID, commenters are welcome to provide input on all aspects of the fishery and resource, including recommendations for future management.

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on the PID either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment.  The North Carolina public hearing will be November 30 at 5:30 P.M. at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries office in Morehead City.  For more information contact Michelle Duval at 252-808-8013.

The PID can be found at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/AtlMenhadenAmend3PID_PublicComment.pdf or via the Commissionís website, www.asmfc.org, under Public Input. Public comment will be accepted until 5 PM (EST) on January 4, 2017 and should be forwarded to Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org with the subject line: Menhaden PID.               

The Management Board will meet at the Commissionís 2017 Winter Meeting, February 2-4 in Alexandria, VA. to review and consider public comment and provide direction to staff for items to be included in the Draft Amendment 3.

Marine Fisheries Commission Seeks Advisers
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists to advise it on various fisheries issues.

Two regional advisory committees Ė Northern and Southern Ė and three standing advisory committees Ė Finfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean Ė review matters such as draft fishery management plans that are referred to them by the MFC and recommend management strategies.  Committees may also bring issues pertaining to their region or subject matter to the commissionís attention.

The MFC chairman appoints members to these committees for three-year terms, and several terms will expire in January.  Applicants for the advisory committees must not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years.

Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process.  This includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies.  Advisers will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.

Advisory committee applications are available online at The MFC website (www.ncdmf.net), by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632, or by visiting a DMF office.  Applications are due by December 7 mailed to the Division of Marine Fisheries - P.O. Box 769 - Morehead City, N.C. 28557- Attention: Nancy Fish.

State to Remove Artificial Reef Buoys
In the coming months, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will remove all remaining buoys from the stateís artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.  The yellow buoys, which are used to identify the location of an artificial reef, are not required for safe navigation in the ocean.  The Dept of Environmental Quality sent a press release stating they are being removed because the state no longer has equipment capable of servicing them, and contracting for this service would be cost prohibitive.

Artificial reef buoys break free during storms and in the three decades plus of the NCDMF Artificial Reef Program there have been numerous buoy replacements and relocations.  Some of the artificial reefs in deeper water farther offshore were never marked with buoys, but many of the nearshore artificial reefs are used by fishermen without expensive navigation equipment, who have relied on seeing the buoys to locate the reefs.

The removal of artificial reef buoys actually began in late 2014 and 11 buoys were removed from artificial reefs then.  An additional 25 buoys were slated for removal once GPS coordinates were verified for navigational charts. These verifications have been made, and state and federal permitting agencies have given authorization to proceed.  Seven of these buoys came loose during storms since 2014 and were either removed or not replaced.  DMF will begin removing the remaining 18 buoys at the end of November.

The NCDMF Artificial Reef Program will continue and will maintain all 42 ocean artificial reefs, periodically adding material and monitoring the status.  GPS coordinates, site maps and other information about the artificial reefs can be found on the Artificial Reef Programís website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/artificial-reefs-program, and the Artificial Reef Program has recently published a paper-bound Artificial Reef Guide.  For more information, contact Jason Peters with the divisionís Artificial Reef Program at 252-808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. Aquariums Host Ongoing Fishing Programs
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission operates four education centers across N.C. and offers a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. 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.  For more information on the centers and their programs, 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. 

The North Carolina Aquariums offer fishing and other outdoor programs through their aquariums and Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head.  The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium is local and others are at Fort Fisher and Manteo.  For more information on the Aquariums and their programs, visit www.ncaquariums.com and select your preferred location.

Tournament Tidbits
The Specks and Spots Kayak Fishing Tournament that was scheduled for November 12 at the Federal Point Wildlife Ramp at Fort Fisher was extended to include November 13 and allow fishermen to choose the day they wanted to fish.  Both days were windy and Sunday, which was originally forecast to be better weather, brought rain too.  However, the kayak fishermen showed once again they can produce fish in less than perfect conditions.

William Ragulsky and Andrew Imes tied for the win with 36 inches in one speckled trout and one red drum.  The win was awarded to Ragulsky (19.50 inch trout and 16.50 inch redfish) on a tie-breaker based on the largest fish.  His 19.50 inch trout was longer than Imes' largest fish, which were both 18 inches.  Dan George finished in third place, only a half inch behind, at  35.50 inches based on his 19.75 inch trout and 15.75 inch redfish.

2016 Southern Kingfish Association National Championship
The 2016 SKA National Championship was held in Fort Pierce, Florida on November 11 and 12.  North Carolina fishermen have a great history in this tournament and are always among the favorites.  They were hoping to best the 2015 SKA Championship when N.C. fishermen won the Single Engine and Small Boat classes, but it wasn't to be. 

Two N.C. fishing teams, On a Mission from Ocean Isle Beach and Reel Thrill/ Bone Suckin Sauce from Raleigh scored second place finishes in the Open Class and Small Boat Class respectively, but came up just a bit short for the wins.  The class breakdown for the three SKA Classes is; Open Boats (all boats longer than 27 feet and any shorter that elected to fish this class), Small Boats (boats of 27 feet and less) and Single Engine Boats.  SKA Championship tournaments are determined by the aggregate weight of a team's two largest kings.

In the Open Class, Team Tuppens/Garmin paired 62.33 and 37.45 pound kings for their 99.78 pound aggregate and the win.  On a Mission, led by Capt. Chris Bryan of Ocean Isle Beach, paired 51.67 and 22.55 pound kings for 74.22 pounds total and second place.  Team Raymarine/Strike Two finished third with 64.71 pounds.

In the Small Boat Class, Team Blondie had a 51.36 pound aggregate with kings of 31.85 and 19.51 pounds to score the win.  Team Reel Thrill/Bone Suckin Sauce, lead by Capt. Vaughn Ford of Raleigh, only weighed a single king, but at 49.52 pounds, it was heavy enough to claim second place on its own.  Team Top Down finished in third place with 47.09 pounds.

The Single Engine Class was won by Team G-Force with 52.11 pounds.  MacDaddy placed second with 36.71 pounds and Flight Risk was third with 33.87 pounds.

Tagged Great White (and other) Shark Watch
Newcomers and reappearing old-timers are the highlights of shark tracking this week.  Mary Lee, the adult female great white shark that brought the Ocearch tagging program to our attention, is pinging again and this time she is a few miles off the beach at Hilton Head Island, S.C. 

Cisco, a young male great white that was tagged off Nantucket on October 7, pinged off Duck last week for the first time and hasn't pinged again yet, so the assumption is he is still in the area.  A Blue Shark, Mack Attack, tagged off Cape Cod on October 19, made his first appearance off the Carolinas last week in the open ocean about halfway between the Outer Banks and Bermuda.  He has moved to the edge of the Continental Shelf this week. 

Tiger shark Crystal remains in the general area of the Far East Tanker off Drum Inlet.  Lexi, another of the tiger sharks tagged off Wrightsville Beach in June and July, had pinged inside Pamlico Sound between Hatteras and Buxton several weeks ago, but hasn't shown movement since then and there is concern that something may have happened to her.  Ocearch is asking anyone with information to contact them. 

Miss Costa moved to near the continental shelf off Charleston three weeks ago and hasn't pinged her location since.  However, this seems to be a trait of hers and often happens when white sharks move into this area.  You can follow the travels of Cisco, Crystal, Lexi, Mack Attack, Mary Lee, and Miss Costa, plus the locations and wanderings of numerous other tagged sharks around the world, by visiting www.ocearch.org and opening the shark tracker.  

Fisheries Meetings
November 16-18:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, Contact Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

December 5-9:  South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, DoubleTree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront, www.safmc.net.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
September 10 to December 3:  Tex's Tackle Trout and Flounder Tournament, Tex's Tackle, Wilmington, www.texstackle.com.             

October 16-January 31:  Intracoastal Angler Speckled Trout Tournament, Intracoastal Angler, Wilmington, www.intracoastalangler.com.  

October 17-November 28:  Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation, Weigh at Reel Outdoors, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd.  

November 19-20:  Cape Lookout Shootout King Mackerel Series Championship, The Boathouse, Beaufort, www.capeshootout.weebly.com.              

Good fishing and Happy Thanksgiving.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver

                                      

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