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May we fish

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

 We couldn’t ask for better weather. The warm temperatures have brought life back into our surrounding waters. Small flounder have been working into our inlets for a few weeks now, but still few keepers have been reported. The bigger fish should show up any day. May is usually one of the best times to catch a doormat. Redfish are really starting to make a move and trying to find their comfort zone. Crabs are molting and that now will be the key food source for redfish. Redfish will be scattered in shallow water areas seeking out small crabs for a quick easy meal. Redfish will start to get in tighter schools and head for deeper water once the water temperatures get higher than 80 degrees. Speckled trout have been harder to find this week with only a few small ones biting on soft plastics. Shane Britt, of Holden Beach, reported catching and releasing a 24-inch trout last week. We should be seeing more of that action, but something just isn’t quite right yet. Speckled trout are closed for harvest until June 15.

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The hottest news is the Spanish mackerel and king mackerel bite has fired off along the area beaches. Just a few days ago, three king mackerel were caught off of Ocean Crest Pier with the largest weighing 35 pounds. That will get those king mackerel fishermen fired up. Spanish mackerel, bluefish and a few bonito have been biting from just off the beach to just a few miles around underwater structures. Trolling Clark spoons in silver and gold colors around 6 to 7 miles per hour will usually load the boat with great eating Spanish mackerel. If you get off the beach into deeper water, you might just get lucky and catch an Atlantic bonito. A true Atlantic Bonito is a great eating fish, but don’t be fooled by a false albacore. The easiest way to tell the difference is teeth. If your fish has teeth, then he is good to eat. You catch them the same way you do Spanish mackerel by trolling Clark spoons. The Ocean Isle Fishing Center has an awesome selection of Clark spoons and can get you hooked up on the right technique to catch these tasty critters.

Fishing news has been coming from all directions lately. Earlier last week, NOAA released several reports on stock assessments and economic impacts that our fisheries have seen over the last few years. NOAA reports that overall both commercial and recreational fishing has seen about a 7 percent growth financially but only gaining about 3 percent on new employment. Several fish stocks have been removed from the overfished category and are now considered viable fisheries again. The fish mostly affected in our area are deep water species like black sea bass, red porgy and red grouper. Those species are a bit out of the reach of backwater fishermen and really has very little impact on our backwater fishery.

The NCDMF, headed by Dr. Daniel Louis, has made some decisions that will greatly impact our backwater fishery. Just a few weeks ago red drum were closed for commercial harvest because the quota was overshot by about 13,000 pounds. Red drum are not a target species for commercial harvest, but commercial guys are allowed to keep a certain number as bycatch when targeting other species. Complaints on both sides of this issue have been heated for several years. Some commercial guys hate to throw back dead red drum and recreational guys hate to see red drum netted — period.

How do you solve this issue? Well, commercial guys scream, “Let us keep them cause they are dead any way.” Recreational guys scream, “Get rid of the gill nets all together.” The NCDMF has a dynamic task of managing our fishery to sustainable levels for commercial and recreational fishermen. However, the NCDMF, by law, must keep the red drum fishery closed to commercial harvest until Sept. 1 and to further protect this species from any more damage. The NCDMF made the decision to remove large mesh gill nets from our coastal waters until at least June 1.

The NCDMF will be discussing more about this during its May 21 meetings. Contact Dr. Louis’ office to voice your concerns and ideas to help better manage our backwater species. Call (252) 808-8013 or (800) 682-2632. Or you email Cindi.Hamilton@ncdenr.gov

Capt. Jacob Frick, who has 10 years of knowledge and experience in guiding family, friends, and clients in the backwater surrounding Ocean Isle Beach, is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at (803) 315-3310 or jacob@oifc.com for additional information or questions about his columns.