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06-23-11

The weathermen continue talking about rain chances and cooling temperatures, but I'm rather dubious. They have called for the showers several times in the past two weeks, but what has blown through has been really spotty and moving quickly. It appears summer has set in and we are in for more days of pressure cooker heat and humidity, with thunderstorms.

I must be getting soft in my old age, or hopefully learning a little from years of sleeping through class in the school of hard knocks, but I pay a lot more attention to heat and humidity than as a youngster. I remember clearing survey lines with a bush axe and driving nails from sunup to sundown during the summers as a teen and in college. Sure, I drank some extra water and even took those awful tasting salt pills, but a little zinc oxide on my nose was about all the sunscreen I ever used.

Well, I know and do better now. Several weeks ago I talked about sunscreen and staying hydrated and that advice remains important. Apply and reapply sunscreen liberally and drink plenty of water. Proper clothing is a big help too. Wicking clothing and the ability to block the sun while allowing ventilation is a must for long days outside in this heat.

The wind switch late last week seems to have slowed some of the fishing and roughed up the ocean too. The ocean had been fairly calm for most of several weeks, which made the conditions seem worse than it was. The slow fishing made the conditions feel crappy too. Have you ever noticed that when the fish are biting the conditions don't seem so bad?

Folks have been fishing, but with the rough conditions few went as far as they would have otherwise. The marine forecast has some of the wind falling out beginning late Friday night, but with the swell lasting into Sunday. As we know, there is a huge margin of error in marine forecasts, so pay close attention if you want to go fishing. The actual weather could be better, or worse, than the forecast.

Speaking of thunderstorms, several lines moved through over the weekend, but they had more rumble than rain. I spoke with several fishermen who saw them coming and chose to be safe and shortened their fishing days to get back to safety. The smart move is to always seek shelter from approaching thunderstorms. I don't put up with lightning, but we are so dry I might hunker down and not complain if I could get caught in a nice soaking rain.

I didn't hear of any really big fish this week, unless you count the blue marlin caught at the Big Rock Tournament in Morehead City -- and they were all caught in the first few days -- almost 10 days ago. The releases of smaller fish continued through Friday, but there wasn't even a billfish release on Saturday and only a couple of gamefish were weighed.

Even the winning king mackerel in the Jolly Mon Tournament wasn't up to the tournament's usual standards. The ocean has been rough during this tournament before, but usually someone managed to find a fish in the high thirties or low forties to claim the win. A report follows, but this year the fish just weren't that big.

For those folks on charter boats or larger personal boats that are comfortable in rougher conditions, the bailer and slinger dolphin bite has picked back up this week. The stretch from 14 Buoy out to and a little beyond the 90 Foot Drop has been mentioned often. The grass was broken up and a little difficult to fish in, but it should be reforming in lines and mats.

Prior to the wind breezing up, the reports of good catches of kings were increasing. Maybe that will continue once the ocean settles out and more folks head out fishing. The water is certainly warm enough the small dolphin are moving into many spots usually thought of as king spots. It is always a thrill to add several dolphin to the fish box when king fishing. Off Morehead City Big 10, Northwest Places and Jerry's Reef should be good spots to try, while Jesse's Ledge and 23 Mile Rock are similar spots off Topsail and Wrightsville and the Horseshoe, Shark Hole and Jungle fill the bill off the Cape Fear Coast..

Spanish mackerel are biting along the beaches for fishermen in boats and from the piers. In this heat, the best fishing is usually early and late in the day, but some are caught during mid day. A few nice pompano are also being caught by pier fishermen. Flounder are there too, for those who have the patience. Other pier catches this week included sheepshead, black drum, whiting, spots and lots of little sharks.

I haven't had a landing reported yet, but there have been several tarpon hookups reported from piers in the past few days. One was landed from Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island this week. There are some large schools of tarpon rolling on Cape Lookout Shoals and some have been seen in Pamlico Sound and the lower Neuse River. This certainly is a sign and hopefully a good sign.

While it is a bumpy trip and a little difficult to feel them bite in the rougher conditions, the offshore bottom fish are biting well. Several fishermen have reported catching nice grouper and some jumbo black sea bass. It just requires getting a little farther offshore and in deeper water. Eighty to 110 feet of water seems to be about right. There are keeper sea bass closer in, but you must go through a bunch of "barely shorts" to find them. The porgys and grunts in your offshore bottom catch taste good too.

The possession limit on black sea bass south of Cape Hatteras has been reduced from 15 to five. It became effective June 22. Also remember that non-stainless steel circle hooks are required for all bottom fishing beyond three miles from shore. Offshore bottom fishing is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Check for the latest information on their website at www.safmc.net.

On the inshore side of things, flounder may be the best fishing, but more folks are excited about speckled trout. Speckled trout season opened on June 16 after being closed since January 14. With trout season open, fishermen are buying live shrimp and there is a premium on popping floats. It shouldn't be long before we see how many trout survived the winter. Our season opens just as the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is asking fishermen to voluntarily release trout through September.

Almost every inshore fisherman has caught a flounder or two this year. They seem to be on the rebound. Perhaps the shorter fishing times and reduced amount of nets in the water to meet the requirements for avoiding sea turtle interactions is helping the rebound?

In inshore waters, flounder are along the marsh edges and at the mouths of creeks where the tide will bring baitfish to them. They have been aggressive and are hitting bucktails and soft plastics as well as live baits. The big difference is it takes a flounder a while to turn a live bait so he can swallow it, so you have to wait to set the hook. With artificials, a slow count to five is all you need most of the time.

Last weekend was windy and more fishermen ventured into the marshes and creeks looking for puppy drum. While they weren't found everywhere, the drum didn't disappoint many. Puppy drum follow baitfish up into the small creeks and flooded grass on high tide. Wise fishermen with patience position themselves at the first water that stays a foot or two deep during low tide and intercept the drum as the falling tide forces them back out into the main creeks. Sometimes the choice of bait or lure is not even a factor. Puppy drum with hit live and cut bait and an assortment of lures and spoons from bottom draggers to topwaters.

The N.C. General Assembly adjourned Saturday (June 18) without discussing several bills important to fishermen. House Bill 353, the bill to grant gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass, died without a hearing in committee as did HB 136, the bill to grant the Speckled Trout Fishery Management Plan exemption from having to meet the requirements of SL 2010-13. The progress of bills and the schedule for committee meetings, plus the contact information and committee assignments for all state legislators can be found on the N.C. General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.

I was surprised to see the gamefish bill (HB 353) not proceed, as it had excellent support from both parties. However, it became a hostage to some political bartering and did not advance from committee. I wasn't really surprised to see HB 136 stall in committee. It was drafted after an emergency meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Seafood and Aquaculture last year and didn't have much support with the new legislators.

I spoke with Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries for a while Monday regarding the ramifications of HB 136 not advancing. He said the Division was already working to get information together for the Marine Fishery Commissioners at their August meeting. He said he expects that after the August meeting the options for the Speckled Trout Fishery Management Plan will go out to the advisory committees for public comment and the Commission will make the decision at their November meeting.

Daniel said he expects the options needed to comply with SL 2010-13 to have very low daily catch limits for recreational and commercial fishermen and/or closed seasons. Whatever is chosen, the statistics must show the plan has at least a 50 per cent chance of achieving a 57 per cent reduction in the trout harvest, while ending overfishing within two years and restoring the fishery within ten years.

In a last-minute move to not lose the hard work done relative to HB 353, it was included as part of a study bill package in HB 773, titled the "Studies Act of 2011." Part XLVIII of this bill forms the Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee. It will consist of four members of the Senate, appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Committee was charged with studying the following points and making a final report to the 2012 Regular Session of the 2011 General Assembly that includes findings, recommendations, and legislative proposals relating to its study.

1. The potential impact to both the State's fisheries resources and the State's economy related to the designation of Red Drum, Spotted Sea Trout and Striped Bass as coastal game fish.

2. Changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.

3. Creation of a hook and line commercial fishery.

4. Elimination of the trawl boat fishery in North Carolina.

5. Entering into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions with regard to the conservation of marine and estuarine resources; and regulating placement of nets and other sports or commercial fishing apparatus in coastal fishing waters with regard to navigational and recreational safety as well as from a conservation standpoint.

6. Entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the Service.

7. Potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.

8. Whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission or the Wildlife Resources Commission.

9. Other findings that promote the allocation of the State's resources to the optimum use.

10. Any other matters the Committee deems relevant.

A couple of N.C. Marine Fishery Commission Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled before the end of June.

* The Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet June 27 at 6:00 P.M. at the DENR Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Sean McKenna at Sean.McKenna@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7804 or Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-405-7774.

* The Strategic Habitat Area Region 2 Advisory Committee will meet June 30 at 9:30 A.M. at the Morehead City Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Anne Deaton at Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov or call 252-808-8067.

More information is available on the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.net.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is requesting public opinion regarding a commercial hook and line fishery for ocean-caught striped bass. At their recent meeting the Commission voted to take the issue to its four regional advisory committees and its Finfish Advisory Committee to receive input from the fishing public. The Commission will consider the gathered input at their August meeting. The Commission said they have not yet decided if they want to create this fishery.

The remaining meeting dates for this include:

* June 28, 6:00 P.M., Inland Regional Advisory Committee, Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building, Raleigh;

* June 30, 6:00 P.M., Northeast Regional Advisory Committee, County Commissioners' Meeting Room of the Dare County Administrative Building, Manteo.

For more information visit the Commission's website at www.ncdmf.net.

On April 20, NMFS filed with the Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the National Standard 10 Guidelines and is requesting public comment on potential adjustments to the Guidelines. National Standard 10 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act states "Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea." The National Standard 10 Guidelines are the primary source of NMFS guidance for the consideration of safety issues in fishery management.

A public meeting was held May 19 at the NOAA Science Center in Silver Spring, MD. NMFS said public comment will be accepted through July 20. Comments may be submitted on-line via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (Identifier "0648-BA74"), by Fax, attention Debra Lambert, at 301-713-1193 or by mail, attention Debra Lambert, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13403, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

North Carolina is also required to participate in gathering input for a Draft Omnibus Amendment for spot, speckled trout and Spanish mackerel for management in a joint federal/state manner. The Draft Amendment can be obtained via the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) website at www.asmfc.org, under Breaking News, or by contacting the Commission at 703-842-0740.

The North Carolina meeting regarding this was held June 21, but public comment is still being accepted by ASMFC through 5:00 PM (EST) on July 20, 2011. Comments should be forwarded to Danielle Brzezinski, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at dbrzezinski@asmfc.org. The subject line should read Draft Omnibus Amendment.

A Kayak Meet & Greet Outing will be held Saturday, June 25, from the Federal Point Ramp at Fort Fisher. The event will feature fishing in the morning and after lunch, with a hotdog lunch, door prizes, swap shop and more sandwiched between. For more information visit www.nckfa.com.

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament began on Monday (June 13), with fishermen being able to pick four of the six days through Saturday (June 18) to fish. The big fish began hitting the scales Monday afternoon and the first two marlin held up to place first and second. They were joined by another marlin on Wednesday to add third place and with a change in the weather at the end of the week, the leaderboard made only a few additions after that.

The Double B, with Capt. Kenny Sexton and angler Travis Stephenson, was the winner with a marlin caught on Monday that weighed 652.8. They pocketed a cool $524,375 for their efforts, but had to wait all week to see it through. The Double B walked away with just more than a third of the $1,464,925 tournament purse.

The Blue Water, with Capt. Grey Hall and angler Jeffrey Gregg, finished second with a blue Marlin that weighed 580.6 pounds and collected $284,750 for weighing the first blue marlin surpassing 500 pounds, plus another $191,050 for second place and a total of $475,800. The Blue Water also caught their fish on Monday and was the first leader in the tournament.

Third place was claimed by the 467.4 pound marlin caught Wednesday by Capt. Tim Day and angler Kevin Travis on the Sushi. Other than one large marlin that was hit by the propellers and had to be disqualified due to mutilation causing impaired fighting ability, these were the only marlin brought to the scales during the tournament.

Appropriately enough, Capt. Rom Whitaker and the crew of the Release, won the Release Points Division. They caught and released a blue marlin and six white marlin to tally 1150 points.

Peggy, captained by Mike Guthrie, Beaufort, caught a 41.1-pound dolphin that won $94, 308. It won the dolphin winner-take-all prize, the tournament dolphin prize, and a daily dolphin prize. They also won a daily dolphin runner-up prize. Franchise Sails, captained by Brian Efland of Cedar Point, won the wahoo division with a 53.7-pounder caught Monday. No tunas were caught during the tournament.

The Sea Hag with Capt. Alan Willis scored twice in the junior angler competition. Lillian Freeman caught a 21 pound wahoo to top that division and John Kirkpatrick released two white marlin to win that division. William Farrior III, fished with William Farrior, Jr. on the Job Site and caught a 29.3 pound dolphin to win Top Junior Angler honors in that division. For more information visit www.thebigrock.com.

The Jolly Mon King Classic was held June 17 through 19 from Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. The format of Jolly Mon allows fishermen to fish one day and they may choose either Saturday or Sunday based upon weather, personal schedules or whatever deciding factor.

The windy weather was an aggravating factor in this year's Jolly Mon King Classic, which drew 185 boats of which 112 fished Saturday and 73 fished Sunday. Unfortunately the weather conditions also hampered participant's ability to run to the fish and the catch was not large. However, the winner is still the one with the largest fish and D. Logan and crew on Logan's Run caught that on Saturday. Their fish weighed 23.60 pounds. Austin Eubank and the crew on the Clearly Hooked caught the largest king on Sunday, but had to settle for second place. Their king weighed 22.50 pounds. The Hot Rod, with Capt. Brett Barnes, finished third with a 19.95 pound king.

In addition to second place, the fishermen on the Clearly Hooked also topped the 23 and Under Class and Margaret Pennstrom received Top Lady Angler honors. The Sea Horse, led by Chad Morris won the Top Family Boat honors with a 17.35 pound king that was also good for Madison Morris to earn Top Junior Angler honors. Dieter Cardwell on the Tide Line was the Top Senior Angler with a king that weighed 17.85 pounds. For more information visit www.oifc.com.

The Carousel Center Flounder Tournament was held Saturday at Carolina Beach. This tournament raises money for the Carousel Center, which is a non-profit organization committed to assisting victims of child abuse and provides critical care services to children from 15 counties throughout southeastern North Carolina. The tournament drew 97 fishermen and raised almost $14,000.

The breezy winds hampered where fishermen could go, but Chris Hunt still found a nice 6.80 pound flounder to claim the win. Michael Accettero also caught a citation size flounder at 6.05 pounds to finish second. For more information on the tournament or the Carousel Center, visit www.carouselcenter.org.

The 52nd Annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament began Monday, June 20, and will fish through Friday, June 24. This tournament is hosted by the Hatteras Marlin Club in Hatteras Village. With two days of fishing remaining, the Eye Catcher was leading with three white marlin and two sailfish releases for 100 points. For more information visit www.hatterasmarlinclub.com.

Carteret County Community College will hold their annual Spanish Mackerel Challenge this Saturday, June 26, in Beaufort, but with a new twist. This year, there will also be categories for dolphin and king mackerel. For more information visit www.carteretsmt.com.

The Third Annual Jodi Tynch King Mackerel Tournament will be held Saturday, June 25, in Wrightsville Beach. This tournament has a guaranteed first place of $5,000 and new this year will be a Spanish Mackerel Division with a guaranteed first place prize of $1,000. For more information call 910-284-3140.

The Wildlife Bait and Tackle Spots In The Slot Red Drum Tournament will be held Saturday, June 25, from Wildlife Bait and Tackle on Fish Factory Road. This unusual tournament is based on catching the slot size redfish (18 to 27 inches) with the most spots. For more information visit www.wildlifetackle.spruz.com.

Good fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver

                                      

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