OK, time for a refresher course on N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries regs, old and new…yes, some new ones too!
Let’s start with flounder. As you remember from last year, the season was closed with a brief season from mid-August to the end of September. At least the minimum size (15 inches) and bag limits (4 fish per day) were unchanged.
Of course, the brief season last year meant that flounder fishing was fast and furious. Currently, the season is closed, and we will have the short 45-day season again this year, from Aug. 8 through Sept. 30.
Interestingly and unexpectedly, the commercial/recreational quotas are now expected to change, moving to a 50:50 by 2024. So, the commission voted to change the allocation to 70% commercial and 30% recreational in 2021 and 2022, to 60% commercial and 40% recreational in 2023, and 50% commercial and 50% recreational in 2024. This will be worth watching.
I reported some time ago that it was likely that spot and croaker regulations would be instituted for the first time. These are based on historical harvest lows experienced in commercial and recreational catches over the decades. The commercial catch alone dropped to only about 6% of historic levels in the early 1970s. With this in mind, to comply with new requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission/Sciaenid Management Board, the new recreational bag limit will be 50 fish per person per day for each species. It will apply to fishing recreationally with hook-and-line and other gear. And the commercial fishery for spot will close from Dec. 10 through April 4, 2022, while the commercial Atlantic croaker season will close from Dec. 16 through Dec. 31. Check out NCDMF proclamations FF-23-2021 and FF-24-2021 at: http://ncmarinefisheries.net/proclamations.
Bluefish regulations had been stable for a number of years, and then came 2020 where the recreational bag limit was drastically dropped from 15 bluefish per day to 3 per person per day. When fishing on a boat for hire, however, the limit is 5 bluefish per person per day taken for recreational purposes.
This again allows North Carolina to comply with the requirements of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council/Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Bluefish Fishery Management Plan. That fishery management plan requires the coastwide recreational harvest of bluefish from Maine to Florida to be reduced by 28.6% to prevent exceeding the 2020 recreational harvest limit.
Just as a reminder, here are a few “newish” regulations for species you may likely encounter this summer. Formerly unregulated, the black drum now has a slot limit of 14 to 24 inches and a creel limit of 10 per day, while one can be over the 25-inch slot. This was instituted just a few years ago, and we already can see the positive effect in both increased numbers and size of the black drum, which saved many throughout this past winter.
Sheepshead, which were regulated in the reef complex aggregate, are now separated out with a 10-inch minimum length and a creel limit of 10 per day.
For the magnificent tarpon, effective this year, Marine Fisheries Commission rule 15A NCAC 03M.0509, as now amended, prohibits the possession of tarpon and makes it illegal to gaff, spear or puncture tarpon by any method other than hook-and-line. No reason to kill these fish, and remember you can get your citation, suitable for framing for the catch and release of any tarpon.
FYI, remember that striped and white (finger mullet), mostly used for bait, has a limit of 200 per day combined, and also FYI, the cobia season opens Saturday, May 1.
So now that you’ve been updated on the changing scenery of catching regulations, how is the fishing?
Even with the water temperatures going bonkers from day to day, the biological imperative of the fisheries is winning out. Nearshore, the early season predators are emerging onto the scene. That is Atlantic bonito, bluefish, some false albacore, and I even heard of a lost Spanish mackerel landed around the Cape Lookout Jetty. Blues are showing on both sides of the shoals and inward to the beach.
Speaking of bonito, Capt. Jeff Cronk reported a citation-size 30-inch bonito the same day his customers jigged up a 5-pound tautog. Quite a day!
Bottom fishing is producing plenty of sea mullet on weighted speck rigs tipped with shrimp. If you jig a jig, maybe a Thingma Jig, you can get into some gray trout up to 4 pounds from the nearshore artificial reefs on into the port. Favorite locations include deep water around the train trestle and other bridges.
I’m not getting much information on the Bogue Banks surf, but I hope to get there myself this week as the weather finally springs on to spring.
Inside fishing for red and black drum and speckled trout has really fired up.
After a sluggish winter, the Neuse River is back to good spring fishing. The speck action, even on topwater, has fired back up, although I had no topwater success in the local creeks. It’s hard to fish topwater or almost any artificial when the green slimies (algae) fouls your treble hook on almost every cast. I’m having to stick to single-hook, soft-plastic shrimp. Speaking of soft plastic, the Haystacks are heating up for specks on Halo plastic shrimp and Z-Man baits.
If you are working the Haystacks, you might as well mosey up Core Creek, working the docks for reds with artificials or cut bait. Did I mention the Lookout Jetty? It is still yielding not only blues, but black drum and sheepshead. The sheepshead should be getting ready to move back inside from offshore through the shipping channel and Beaufort inlet and to Bogue Sound structure.
So how about the ocean piers?
Oceanana Pier reports good sea mullet, bluefish and black drum action.
Bogue Inlet Pier has been on and off. The daytime fishing is predominately puffers. If you want a cooler of sea mullet, you need to fish in the dark, and don’t forget the stingrays 2 x 2.
Seaview Pier, ditto with BIG mullet, puffers and black drum.
Surf City Pier reports big sea mullet at night, puffers and blues.
Jolly Roger Pier reports sea mullet and puffers but no report of blues yet.
Offshore includes good bottom fishing from the 14 Buoy into the reefs, including sea bass.
If it’s the big fish you want, wahoo action is good from the Big Rock to Swansboro Hole. If it’s some early season king mackerel, they are about 20 miles out currently.
By the way, the beach nourishment around Bogue Inlet Pier is completed, and the sand looks great.
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.