After a threat of main snow flurries on late Wednesday into Thursday, we are once again looking at a nicer weekend that in many weeks. The forecast holds a good amount of sunshine and daytime highs in the 50s every day but Friday and we're supposed to make 49 then. However, there is another threat of cold, snowy weather headed our way next week.
The winds are forecast to be really gusty, even to gale force velocities in some areas through Friday, and them falling out, especially south of Cape Lookout, to lower velocities for the weekend. There should be good opportunities to look for some trout and puppy drum in inside waters over the weekend and a few larger boats may even head offshore to see if the wahoo and tuna are hungry.
The best reports I have heard since last week were on the bluefin tuna off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. The reports are for good numbers of small to medium fish, plus a few yellowfins and blackfins are mixed in. That's a combination for sushi and pan seared tuna that is hard to beat.
Stripers are still biting too. Some excellent striper bites have been reported off Oregon Inlet in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which runs from 3 to 200 miles offshore, but it is illegal to possess stripers in these waters. To keep stripers, they must be caught and kept within three miles of the beach. Jigs and Mojo rigs have been working well in the ocean. There are also stripers in the state waters inshore of the EEZ, but the numbers have not been as large as in the EEZ.
There have been good striper reports from the Neuse, Tar/Pamlico, Cape Fear and Albemarle Rivers. Stripers are managed by the different rivers and the regulations are subject to change on short notice, it would be wise to visit www.ncdmf.net before a striper trip and check the latest regulations for where you plan to fish.
There were several reports of brief runs of shad last week. The activity isn't near what it will be later, but the first shad have arrived and are working their way up most of the same rives as the stripers. Shad are loads of fun to catch on light tackle and aren't usually bashful about hitting if they're moving through. Shad darts, small bucktails and Nungesser spoons will all catch shad well.
I'm going to apologize in advance for how political this week's column might sound, but there isn't a lot of fishing going on right now and there are some management issues that are pretty charged politically and we need to be aware of what might be happening.
As I was writing this last week's column, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) was meeting in New Bern to discuss issues related to a proposed May 15 to December 15 closure for large mesh gill nets. The closure would have affected most inshore waters south of Oregon Inlet. This proposal had come from collaboration between the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). It was an attempt to keep gill netting season open in N.C. waters, even though there had been more "takes" of sea turtles in gill nets during 2009 than was allowed under the Incidental Take Permit received by the DMF and MFC. The letter outlining this proposal can be viewed at http://www.ncdmf.net/Gill Net Closure/DMF to RoyCrabtree-Turtles.pdf.
After listening to hours of complaints and concerns from an audience that was primarily pro-gill net supporters, the MFC approved a motion to change their proposal to the NMFS. The new proposal doesn't include a closure during this time frame, except on weekends. It allows gill netting four of seven days each week.
Another move to bolster the netters was a bill from Representative Walter Jones requesting nothing be done about the turtle and gillnet interactions until a study and aerial survey can be done. All of the species of Sea Turtles found in N.C. waters are listed as either endangered or threatened on the current Endangered Species Act. A copy of the final draft of Jones' bill was sent to me, but it did not have a number assigned yet. A form to express your like or dislike of this bill can be found on Jones' website at http://jones.house.gov/contact_form_email.cfm. This is an issue where everyone, pro or con, should let him know how they feel.
Staying with the issue of sea turtle and gill net interactions, a suit requesting the North Carolina DMF and MFC stop allowing gill net fishing in N.C. waters was filed on Tuesday, February 23, by the Duke University Law School on behalf of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The suit contends that the interactions of the sea turtles and the gill nets are violations of the Endangered Species Act. This follows a November 20, 2009 letter from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to the DMF and MFC that the suit would follow if the nets were not removed voluntarily.
Many fishing industry spokesmen and political leaders who support the fishing industry are calling the "United We Fish" rally that was held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday a tremendous success. Planners for the event hoped to have 3,000 fishermen for the three-hour event near the Capitol building and estimates of the crowd size place the actual number much higher, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.
The rally was held to bring attention to an inflexible nature in managing fisheries by the recent renewal of the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) and the use of flawed science by the National Marine Fisheries Service to reduce allocations and close fisheries that are actually healthy.
While the event was organized and coordinated by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (www.joinrfa.com), it was a rally that brought recreational and commercial fishermen together for a common cause--keeping viable fisheries open. They were definitely both present in large numbers and walking and standing side-by-side as they made their collective voice heard. Even better, the representatives and senators from many of the coastal states attended and listened.
North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan spoke to the group as did N.C. coastal representatives, Mike McIntyre and Walter Jones. While he didn't address the entire crowd, Senator Richard Burr met with the North Carolina fishermen after the rally.
Other notable legislators who spoke to the fishermen gathered at the rally included Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who authored Senate Bill 1255 to reform the MSA, Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who authored House Bill 1584 also to reform the MSA, Representative John Mica of Florida, who authored House Bill 3307, to require the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a thorough assessment of the red snapper stocks before implementing complete closures and many other legislators who support these bills and the fishermen they would help.
Numerous busses traveled from various origins across North Carolina and carried fishermen to the rally. Rally organizers heralded the North Carolina contingent as one of the largest. I traveled with the group from Ocean Isle Fishing Center and want to thank the McMullan's for providing the bus.
There is not a boat show scheduled for this weekend, but a pair of fishing schools are on tap. The Fisherman's Post Magazine Fishing School will be held Saturday at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. There is a registration fee of $100. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be at Libby Hill Seafood in Greensboro this Saturday, Feb. 27, for the final of three Sea Striker and Star Rods Saltwater Fishing Schools held across North Carolina during February. This is an all day event featuring the inshore species of specks, reds, flounder sheepshead and gray trout, plus Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, offshore bottom fishing and throwing cast nets.
The school will begin at 9:00 A.M. and last until approximately 4:00 P.M. There is a registration fee of $50 through Friday afternoon that increases to $60 at the door. Visit www.captjerry.com or call 910-279-6760 for more details or call 910-279-6760 to purchase tickets.