I don't expect to have a report next week because of the holiday, so I will wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving today. I hope you have much to be thankful about.
Keep a positive spin on being thankful as I discuss the fishing weather. The bottom line is it isn't great, but a few days in the next week are shaping up pretty good. The wind and seas are forecast to be laying out overnight on Friday with Saturday having good potential as a day to head into the ocean. Unfortunately, both should pick back up on Sunday for a couple of days, then be nice on Tuesday and picking back up again for Wednesday and Thanksgiving. There should be a few days the ocean won't be too rough, but most of the coming week or so might be a good time to fish in protected waters.
Temperatures are slowly easing down too. It's going to be chilly this weekend, but is supposed to warm back into the high sixties for next week. After being warm so far into the fall, this is more seasonable weather and we should get used to it. The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a cold wet winter and their predictions are surprisingly correct. In the short run, the forecast is dry most of the next week except for a growing chance of rain on Sunday and Monday.
The big news this week, both literally and figuratively, is bluefins. There were a handful caught on Wednesday out of Morehead City and one was reported at 91.5 inches. I've been hearing a little rumbling about the big tuna for a week or so, but no one wanted to comment "on the record." Monday morning there was chatter from the Hatteras charter fleet that there were lots of bluefins just outside Hatteras Inlet. There was some speculation regarding if they were heading south and it appears they were.
I was first told these were east of Cape Lookout Shoals and then later that several were caught in sight of Shackleford Banks. Looking back, there were bluefins in the area this time last year too, though the water was a little cooler then. Those who head out to chase these giant tuna should be aware a Highly Migratory Species permit is required even for personal use and there are special regulations for them. Those regulations, an application for the permit and reporting instructions can be found at www.hmspermits.noaa.gov.
Weather has been limiting the days available for fishing the deep, but fishing remains good. Wahoo are the primary catch, but there are tuna (mostly blackfins), a few dolphin and even a few late sailfish. On days when there isn't an obvious temperature break, color change or rip to concentrate effort, fishermen have been beginning over structure at the break at the edge of the Continental Shelf and working up or down it until they find a concentration of fish.
Closer in, the king mackerel and offshore bottom fish are biting well. There were kings caught as shallow as 50 feet this week and then out to 125 feet or so. The offshore bottom fishermen are catching well and have been concentrating on 80 to 125 feet. There have been kings caught on light lines while bottom fishing and some gag grouper are being caught as shallow as 60 feet.
A genuinely big king mackerel was caught during the Cape Lookout Shootout King Mackerel Series Championship Tournament on Sunday. The tournament was held from Beaufort and most fishermen ran to off Ocracoke or Hatteras. Fishermen found big hungry kings and lots of them. This was a championship tournament with a 27 boat field and they weighed 11 kings heavier than 40 pounds. The top three were 68, 56 and 53 pounds. That's a real impressive leader board. Can you imagine catching a 53 or 56 pound king and not winning the tournament?
The 68.67 pound winner, caught by Capt. Jody Gay and the crew of the Blue Water Candy, is the largest king ever weighed in a N.C. tournament. The previous record was 66.55. Fishermen said the bite was on and they caught limits and released kings all day. King mackerel fishing has been good for a while and many fishermen believe the good king fishing will last a while longer unless there is a freak nasty cold snap.
There are a few Spanish mackerel still around, but not many. They have retreated to warmer climes for the winter. However, fishermen continue to catch a bunch of false albacore. The falsies run faster and fight harder than Spanish macks and you know really quickly it isn't a mackerel. They don't have much for food quality, but sure are fun to catch. They like small flashy lures and they can be trolled or cast and retrieved.
A few hardy flounder are still on the nearshore artificial reefs, but the catch there is mostly gray trout and undersize black sea bass. There are some keeper sea bass in the mix, but you have to go through a bunch of shorts to find them. Don't be surprised if a large red drum grabs your bait or jig while fishing the nearshore artificial reefs. This has happened a lot in Long Bay and some in Onslow Bay. A few big reds are being caught from the piers and in the surf too.
Typically by now the water has cooled a few degrees more and pier catches are slowing. That wasn't exactly the case this week. The big tackle busters were false albacore and many of them were ready and willing to stretch string. There were good mixed catches of mostly sea mullet, with speckled trout, bluefish, pompano and puppy drum. A few piers have already closed and most of the others will be closing for the season on November 29, which is the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.
The speckled trout bite is on. I can't say they are everywhere, but they are certainly in a lot of places. I'm hearing good trout reports from Manteo to Calabash. Many time the right tide makes all the difference, but sometimes they seem to bite all day. Unfortunately for this week's dinner, but good for the future, there are a lot of short trout. There are some nice ones too, but they are seriously outnumbered. Estimates of keeper trout range from 1 in 5 to 1 in 25, depending on just how frustrated the fisherman is with all the small specks. They are hitting live baits and a variety of artificials.
Unfortunately, drum fishing isn't as good as trout fishing. There are puppy drum and black drum in most of the creeks and bays along the coast, but the numbers of red drum aren't what was expected for this fall. There seems to be a year class missing too. Most fishermen are catching red drum from shorts to about 21 inches and then a few barely legal to overslot ones. According to biologists those missing 22 to 26 inch drum are 2 to 2 1/2 years old. I haven't heard a reason why their absence is so noticeable, but most fishermen are talking about it. The good news is if the smaller ones make it through the winter, they should be fat upper slot fish next year.
Flounder are about gone from inside waters for the fall, but a few are still hanging in. It seems like there are a few nice ones caught each week. The places to look for them are around the bulkheads and pilings of bridges and along the seawalls and other bulkheads, especially near the inlets. The wall at the Morehead City State Port has given up several citation flounder (5 pound minimum) in the past week or so.
With the cold fronts rolling through more frequently now, flounder in other places have become incidental catches, rather than targeted species. Still, no one complains when a keeper flounder takes one of their puppy drum or speck baits and it happens enough it isn't a big surprise.
Stripers are biting in many of the coastal rivers. The best reports have come from the Neuse River near New Bern. They will hit diving and suspended hard lures, plus paddletail and shad/fluke shapes of soft plastics. There are also specks and a few puppy drum along the edges of the Neuse and in the creeks off it and fishermen targeting them said stripers will also hit soft plastics in shrimp shapes.
State Record White Marlin
Wildlife Resources Commission to Offer Kayak Fishing Programs
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is one of four outdoor education centers operated by the Wildlife Resources Commission across the state. The other education centers include the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, the Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education on the campus of NC State University in Raleigh and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest near Brevard. The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is the Wildlife Commission's newest education facility, built in 2007 and named after late Wildlife Resources Commission Chair, John E. Pechmann, who was from Fayetteville. The center is built at a former hatchery, with Lake Rim, a Wildlife Resources Commission lake, directly across the road and this makes it an ideal location for fishing education. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and click on the "Learning" icon at the top of the page and then select the "Courses, Seminars and Workshops" tab.
The new plan, which passed 6 to 3, with Commissioners Rose, Willis and Corbett giving the nay votes, raises the commercial minimum size to 15 inches to match the recreational minimum size. This required raising the minimum mesh size for anchored large mesh gill nets to 6 inches to avoid an abundance of regulatory discards. Anchored large mesh gill nets and trammel nets will be removed from the water October 16 through December 31. A TAL (Total Allowable Landings) will be calculated by the Division of Marine Fisheries statisticians based on a 38 percent reduction based on the 2011 to 2015 landings and pound nets and commercial gigs will close when that is met. For this calculation, the TAL will be equal to the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and will be based on the water body. DMF is to have the TAL calculated by the February 2016 meeting. Flounder pound nets will have 5 3/4 inch mesh escape panels. Recreational fishing, including recreational gigs, will close on October 16 to December 31. Other that setting the TAL, these restrictions will begin January 1, 2016.
There were public comment periods Wednesday evening and again Thursday morning. The primary topic of the comments at both public comment sessions was the flounder supplement that was heavily favored (99 percent) during its initial public comment period in June and again at the August MFC meeting when Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart sent a letter instructing the commissioners to delay the vote.
Once again on November 19 in Nags Head, a N.C. legislator, this time Senator Jerry Tillman of Archdale, threatened legislative override of any action taken by the MFC if it didn't meet the expectations of the legislature. Representative Bob Steinberg of Edenton had made a similar threat at the August meeting. I'm not a politician, but I don't understand how legislators can be allowed to communicate threats to a regulatory commission duly appointed by the governor and going about their duties in good faith. Regardless of how you feel about this issue, this action strongly resembles the political machine politics typically considered only to be associated with cities like Chicago.
I served on the Marine Fisheries Commission Southeast Regional and Southern Regional Advisory Committees for 12 years and have been part of this negotiating process, so I believe I can comment on it. I like parts of this supplement. It is finally a move in the right direction. However, I don't think it goes far enough with catch restrictions on the commercial side and goes too far with the closure on the recreational side. It seems that everyone somehow forgot that recreational fishermen have made 2 concessions to lower their catch in the years since biologists first said there was a need for flounder catch reductions and the commercial industry has done nothing more than meet the requirements of the suit settlement regarding them catching endangered sea turtles. The recreational fishing limit was lowered twice and the minimum size raised once and these requirements already have them meeting the 40 to 60 percent reductions recommended by biologists and the 0 to 60 percent reduction recommended by the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, Donald R. van der Vaart.
Fisheries Seeks Comments on Black Sea Bass Trap Prohibition
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
December 7 to 10: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting, Annapolis, MD., December 7 at O’Callaghan Annapolis Hotel and December 8-10 at the Westin Annapolis, www.mafmc.org.
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.
December 14: NC Marine Fisheries Commission Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee Meeting, 1:30 P.M., Department of Environmental Quality Regional Office, Washington, Contact Anne Deaton or Katy West at 910-796-7215 or 252-946-6481 or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov or Katy.West@ncdenr.gov.
December 14: NC Marine Fisheries Commission Coastal Recreational Fishing License Committee Meeting, 1:30 P.M., N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office, Morehead City, Contact Wayne Johannessen, 252-808-8004 or Wayne.Johannessen@ncdenr.gov.
December 17: NC Marine Fisheries Commission Sea Turtle Advisory Committee Meeting, 4:00 P.M., Department of Environmental Quality Regional Office, Washington, Contact Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.
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