The fan over the ocean is temporarily out of commission and itís time to go fishing. The wind is forecast to be light through the middle of next week and we are in a warming trend through at least Tuesday. This is what weíve been waiting on for several weeks. Get your gear together and go fishing.
With Thanksgiving passing and the ocean water cooling, many fishermenís fancies have turned to bluefin tuna. The big tuna bypassed us completely last year and they may again, but fishermen are hopeful as they prepare. I did a lot of checking over the weekend and couldnít confirm a keeper (commercial) catch in N.C. yet this year. There was a report, which I was told several times should be trusted, of a short bluefin caught (and released) east of Cape Lookout Shoals, but that was the closest I got to a confirmed catch.
A good number of fishermen began looking for bluefins on Sunday, but so far there isnít a report of a keeper fish. Fishermen reported plenty of baitfish and water temperatures in the right range off all three Carolina Capes. One optimistic fisherman said there could be a catch before this weekend, but his time is running short. It sure would be nice to have a good bluefin run before Christmas and give the fishermen some Christmas bonus cash.
With their dockside value usually being somewhere between $10 and $25 a pound and a minimum size that typically approaches 300 pounds, catching a bluefin is somewhat like hitting the fishing lottery. That 300 pound fish has a value somewhere between $3,000 and $7,500 and most are larger fish.
Regulations for bluefin tuna are different for boats fishing commercially and recreationally. With all pelagic fish, the permit is for the boat, while catch regulations and limits may be either for individual fishermen or for the boat. Currently the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) maintains the current General Category (commercial) daily retention limit of three large medium or giant Atlantic bluefin tuna (measuring 73" or greater curved fork length) per vessel per day/trip for September 1 through December 31, 2012. This limit applies to vessels permitted in the Atlantic Tunas General Category, and to vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat Category while fishing commercially.
The daily retention limit that applies for Angling Category (private recreational) vessels is one school, large school, or small medium bluefin tuna per vessel per day/trip, (one bluefin tuna measuring 27 to less than 73 inches curved fork length). When fishing recreationally, the limit for vessels in the Charter/Headboat Category is one school bluefin tuna (measuring 27 to less than 47 inches) and one large school/small medium bluefin tuna (measuring 47 to less than 73 inches) per vessel per day/trip.
In addition to the daily retention limit, vessels fishing North of Great Egg Inlet, N.J. are also allowed one "trophy" bluefin tuna, measuring 73" or greater, per vessel per year. The Trophy South quota (South of Great Egg Inlet, N.J.) has been filled for 2012 and that season is closed. More information is available at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/Default.asp.
U.S. officials recently returned from the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) meeting November 12-19 in Agadir, Morocco with some good news. Reports from the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) finding possible improvement in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna was a hot topic and even though the U.S. delegation lobbied for reducing the quotas, the same quotas were adopted for 2013. This gives the U.S. Atlantic bluefin fishery a quota of 946 metric tons that will be divided by NMFS into categories sorted by permits and equipment.
Even more fishermen are talking about and catching speckled trout. Speckled trout fishing has been good to excellent for a month or more already and is holding strong. As long as the water temperatures donít take a sudden drop or some unforeseen weather system move in and wreak havoc, this should continue for a while. The best part of the great trout fishing is that reports are coming from many places.
Trout are being caught from Manteo to Calabash, with some excellent reports from surf fishermen along Shackleford Banks and Atlantic Beach. I know it sounds like a broken record, but live shrimp are the top bait for specks and for the last week this has extended to the surf also. This is a natural food they really like and all it requires of the fisherman is to be cast to the right place. It will wiggle and attract fish on its own.
With the wind blowing offshore, it was simply a matter of casting beyond the breakers and waiting for a strike. I believe suspending a live shrimp under a float is the most effective way to use them, but several fishermen said they were having good luck with live shrimp on the bottom too. A Carolina rig works well, but you may want to use a sinker with flat sides so it wonít roll. Sometimes, like when fishing heavy oysters or structure that has shown an appetite for terminal tackle, I often just use a jig head to reduce the tackle I lose when (not if) I get snagged.
My favorite jig head for this is a Blue Water Candy After Shock. This is a glove shaped head that rarely rolls all the way onto its side when stopped. The hook is usually pointed at least a little up and a fish gets it in his mouth when he picks up the bait. I use the lightest weight that will hold position on the bottom.
Specks will also usually hit a variety of soft plastics and lures. Because they are concentrating so heavily on shrimp, shrimp shapes are good soft plastics to use. Many fishermen like the Berkley Gulp! Soft baits and they make shrimp in 2, 3 and 4 inch sizes. These are scented baits.
I think the most realistic looking shrimp is the Billy Bay Halo Shrimp by Betts Tackle. These shrimp have a piece of flash foil in their body and are very soft so they have a lot of movement. DOA, Saltwater Assassin, Storm and more companies also make good looking shrimp shaped baits.
MirrOlure, Rapala, Yo-Zuri, Bomber and other companies make some very effective hard baits that trout hit readily. Yo-Zuri even makes a shrimp shape in a hard bait and many fishermen speak favorably of it.
I like MirrOlures. From years of experience, I know what they do and how to fish them. The 52M, 52MR and TT series are the MirrOlures I grew up with and they still catch well. In recent years, I have become fond of their MirrOdine Series, especially the 17MR and 18MR models.
If there is an issue with the small MirrOdines, it is they have small hooks and some fish throw or pull them. These lures resemble small pogeys and the 17MR suspends a foot to two below the surface while the 18MR is heavier and dives. The R in the model indicates they have a rattle.
Puppy drum are also biting well and are starting to gather in schools for the winter. When you find one, there are usually more nearby. Puppy drum will try to steal a shrimp intended for a trout if it gets close and they are often just up on a shallow flat a few yards from where the specks are feeding.
Puppy drum will hit most live baits, chunks of cut bait, soft plastics and hard baits. They are usually ready to feed, but may occasionally start off a little bashful. Pups get excited after a couple of them hit and run through the school and will usually bite for a while unless something spooks them.
Flounder are almost gone, but donít be surprised to catch one. They are still around and will feed if a bait gets close enough to them. Black drum are gathering with trout and red drum and hit many of the same lures and baits. They taste good too.
I often use scented baits or add scent during other parts of the year, but consider it more important once the water cools. Even fishing a lure perfectly may not be enough to get a cold fish to bite. However when that same lure comes by and smells like a bakery at daylight, the fish usually has to give it a try.
There are many scents on the market and I would like to think they are all effective. However, I stopped looking when I found one I thought was helping. I use Pro Cure Scents and primarily in shrimp, mullet and menhaden flavors.
False albacore returned to the beach this week between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout and presented some excellent fishing opportunities. The word spread quickly and fishermen were moving quickly to find the speedy little footballs. The key seemed to be having a flashy small lure or fly that could be retrieved quickly. Once a lure caught the attention of one of the fat Alberts, it was game-on for a while.
There werenít particularly good catches reported by the fishermen that headed offshore early in the week, but the offshore fishing has improved as the ocean settled out. The offshore fishermen were expecting to find king mackerel in depths of approximately 100 feet. I was told the water temperature was in the high 60s from the Knuckle Buoy down to Frying Pan Tower and this is plenty warm for kings if there is bait to keep them around.
Farther offshore at the edge of the break where the Continental Shelf rolls over into the deep, there were some warm water eddies and the expectations were to find some wahoo and blackfin tuna. Prior to the week plus of wind, there were also some dolphin and sailfish.
I hate to head offshore, especially at this time of year, without taking some bottom fishing gear also. With the water cooling the offshore bottom fish are aggressive and biting well. There were good reports of bottom fish before the latest blow and they should still be in the same places. Grouper, triggerfish, grunts and porgys can be kept, while black sea bass, beeliners and red snappers must be released.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is looking for people to serve on a Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee. The committee will assist the division in drafting an amendment to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan that focuses on bycatch and associated issues. Bycatch is a term that refers to fish or other species unintentionally caught when a fisherman is targeting a different species.
The MFC is looking for a cross-section of people representing the various commercial and recreational shrimp fisheries, including those with experience using all types of shrimping gear. The MFC is also looking for scientists with expertise in the areas of bycatch and gear innovation, especially in trawls and bycatch reduction devices, as well as other individuals interested in shrimp fishing issues, to serve on the advisory committee.
Persons seeking a seat on the committee must be willing to attend meetings at least once a month and actively participate in the committee process. Committee members may not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years. Committee members will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
Applications for the Shrimp FMP Advisory Committee are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees, at DMF offices or by calling 252-808-8022 or 800-682-2632. Applications must be returned by Dec. 14 to the Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557, Attention: Lauren Morris.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) will meet next week, Dec. 3-7, at the Riverside Hilton Inn in Wilmington. Two public interaction opportunities highlight the meeting. One will be an informal question and answer session on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 5:30 P.M. that will be led by NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree and SAFMC Chairman David Cupka. The second will be a pair of public comment session on Thursday, December 6, from 11:15 A.M. to 12:00 PM and 1:30 P.M. to 2:30 P.M.
An agenda for the meeting is on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net. One other thing scheduled is discussion and a vote on Amendment 28, which will lessen the restrictions on red snapper. There is also a link to view the meetings via the internet on the website.
Have you ever wondered how great white sharks move and if they ever come close to land? Sure weíve heard of a few incidents and sightings, but while no one wanted to admit it could be true, many people wonder if there was any truth in the Jaws stories. Now you can see for yourself.
Ocearch is a non profit group that conducts global research on the large ocean fish. One of their projects is tagging and tracking great white sharks and one of those sharks has captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people across the Southeast Atlantic States.
Mary Lee is a 16 feet long, 3,400 pound, female adult great white shark that was tagged off Cape Cod on Sept. 17, 2012. For a while she wandered offshore but generally to the south. In the past few weeks she moved towards shore and has moved from Charleston, S.C. to Fernandina Beach, Fla. and now back up to a few miles offshore near the N.C. / S.C. state line.
Ocearch has a shark tracker on their website and it is staying busy. There is another smaller male great white that was tagged in the same general area and has remained there and numerous other sharks in various oceans around the world. To see where Mary Lee is now, visit the Ocearch website at www.ocearch.org and click on the Shark Tracker. Once it loads, use the menus to select Mary Lee and what you would like to see. It is very impressive.
The National Association of Sportsmenís Caucuses held its 9th Annual Sportsman-Legislator Summit at the Marina Inn at Grand Dunes in Myrtle Beach this week. Congressmen and their aides from across the country were in attendance. The summit began on Nov. 27 and continues through Friday, Nov. 30. For more information visit www.sportsmenslink.org.
The 25th Annual Core Sound Decoy Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3 at Harkers Island Elementary School on Harkers Island. The festival has many attractions that include antique decoy exhibits, retriever demonstrations, competitions including duck calling, loon calling and head whittling, plus plenty of delicious food and shopping opportunities. For more information visit www.decoyguild.com.
A couple of excellent workshops will be offered by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville next week. Participants will make and keep a fishing rod in one and a tool lanyard in the other.
The Rod Building Course is a basic course and is scheduled for Dec. 5, 6 and 7 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. It will cover the basic techniques for building a 6-foot, light-action spinning rod and all tools and supplies are provided. Due to space constraints, the class is limited to 15 participants and pre-registration is strongly recommended.
The Fishing Lanyard Workshop is scheduled for Dec. 8 from 9-10 a.m. Participants will learn to construct lanyards from items that are commonly found at most fishing retailers. Materials, including scissors, line snips and forceps are provided. Pre-registration for the Lanyard Workshop is suggested but not required. To pre-register for either workshop, contact Tom Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 910-868-5003, ext. 15. For more information on other workshops or the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, visit www.ncwildlife.org and click the "Learning" link.