As years have progressed, concerned anglers have increasingly moved to be better stewards of our fragile fisheries resources, particularly embracing catch-and-release practices as one of the approaches to fish resource conservation.
We have seen this sentiment in state fisheries management as well, specifically within what is called the N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing Tournament Program, commonly referred to as the Citation Program. This rewards the angler a document suitable for framing, heralding your special catch.
Over the years, many of the species, for example speckled trout, now can qualify for a citation for your released special fish, and other species are ONLY for released fish like the tarpon. Over the next few weeks, I will be considering best practices to increase successful live releases and fish survival.
Starting with the basics, we’ll look at the choice of proper tackle for the fish you are targeting. You need to match the target with the proper rod, reel, and most importantly, fishing line strength to enable you to land your catch as quickly as possible. If using bait, these days many have switched to the use of circle hooks to minimize lethal gut-hooking of the fish. In fact, several fisheries, like old red drum, fishery circle hooks are mandated. But remember to mash down the barbs and DO NOT use offset circle hooks which may defeat the purpose of the circle hooks. Also, in many cases, fish caught on flies and other artificial baits survive at a higher rate than bait-caught fish. While using artificial baits, you can also help survival by replacing treble hooks with single J-hooks or circle hooks and also mashing down the barbs.
Let’s say that you are successful in hooking a fish that you intend to release. As noted above, try to land your fish as carefully and quickly as possible. If possible, avoid removing fish from the water. If you need to net a fish, use one of the soft rubber or knotless mesh landing nets. This is slime friendly for the fish, the slime being the protective coating on the surface of the fish. Once the fish is caught, do not let it flop around on the bottom of your boat, especially if carpeted, or flop on the ground or on the sandy beach. Again, think slime!
Next week, I will write about some finer points like handling your fish, and importantly, hook removal.
Now for the fishing last week, I’ll quote the bard, William Shakespeare:
“Because thou art not seen, although thy breath be rude.”
Wow, has it been windy, and yes, rude.
That is especially through the weekend into Monday with “dune-building” southwesterlies drifting sand into the newly reconstituted dunes and sandblasting our ankles. And yes, the surf was dutifully roiled too, while the wind-surfers were out in force.
That being said, the fishing has been pretty good. Out of Bogue and Beaufort inlets out to the nearshore ledges, artificial reefs and out to Cape Lookout, you had a choice of Spanish mackerel, blues, big grays and still Atlantic bonito hanging around. There are also a good number of snake kings in the mix. Make sure you check for the black flag on the front dorsal fish of the Spanish versus the un-flagged kings to avoid keeping illegal kings. Various jigs and other artificials will do the trick. If you are a bottom and bait angler, the sea mullet bite is still holding up this epic year.
As you move into the inlets, the turning basin and all of its structures, train trestle, port wall, Coast Guard Station, etc., are still great locations for trout, red and black drum, sheepshead, blues and Spanish. Ditto for Bogue Inlet, where there were good catches of blues and Spanish just outside of the White Oak River bridges, and there are some nice sheepshead there at the bridge pilings too. I’ve landed sheepshead to 16 pounds there myself.
If you more up the Newport River and into Core Creek and its feeder creeks, you will find scattered reds in the marsh and on the docks, as the winter schooled fish have broken up. I bet it’s time to try the newest “reef” in the area, the new high-rise bridge over Gallants Channel. It’s been several years, so there must be fish on the pilings by now.
Surf fishing has been geographic with the bite better to the east and not so much toward the central and west end of Bogue Banks, including even Pine Knoll Shores to Emerald Isle. I have noticed the serious lack of small baits like silversides and anchovies, accentuated by the lack of feeding birds along the surf. There are some nice pompano around though, as two monster pomps were weighed in at Chasin’ Tails in the 4- to 5-pound range.
Now that it’s May, we’ve seen the cownose rays, so where are the cobia? Well, over the weekend, a 65-pounder was brought in that was landed around Cape Lookout. Interestingly, there have been a goodly number caught offshore on the Carolina Princess. Might there be the suspected sub-population that overwinters offshore? Supporting this are the current excellent catches outside of Oregon Inlet. Hmmmmm!
So how about ocean piers?
Oceanana Pier reports croakers, sea mullet and pigfish.
Bogue Inlet Pier fishing has had great variety but less numbers, with sea mullet, flounder, pompano, scattered small blues, a Spanish or so, pigfish, some spots and small croaker.
Seaview Pier reports their first king, which weighed in at 12 pounds. They also report sea mullet, croaker, black drum, Spanish and blues.
Surf City Pier reports good Spanish and bluefish action and the excellent mullet bite is holding up.
Jolly Roger Pier had a true Spanish blitz last week, along with small blues, mullet and even some more bonito.
Offshore bottom fishing has been good if you can get there on both the east and west side of the shoals on the ledges and usual state reefs.
If you don’t want to go way out there, AR 330 and the Hutton can provide you some good action, including the reef donkeys if you just want a good pull.
Really offshore, the spring wahoo bite is still on, and mahi are showing as well from the Big Rock to the Swansboro Hole.
2) "Ask Dr. Bogus" is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.