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Time to check boat, regulations

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

Mother Nature has been bouncing the weather around like a rubber ball. One day the temperature will be near 70 degrees, but by morning will be in the 20s. The winds have been ruthless the last week, as well. Last Friday the wind was gusting well above 30 knots. The dreary winter days have come too soon this year. It is usually February before we see the frigid temperatures we have already experienced this year. Maybe the weather pattern will settle down once Mother Nature becomes bored with her rubber ball.
Redfish, trout and black drum are all hanging around looking for a meal. Naturally, fishing is going to be tough with the conditions changing so rapidly. Redfish should be up on the shallow mud flats looking for warmth, safety and a possible meal. Trout will be found all over this time of year, mixing in with redfish in the shallows, hanging in little pockets along oyster bars, and swimming in deep water areas up the rivers. Black drum can be found concentrated close to deep structures near the low tide periods. Fresh cut shrimp, clams and blue crab chunks will be the best offerings to catch the black drum. Red drum will eat a variety of things this time of year, including live mud minnows, blue crab, fresh cut shrimp and soft plastics. Trout will eat most of the same things but will readily take lures more willingly than their cousins. Shrimp imitations, soft plastic grubs and MirrOlure lures will all fool trout this time of year. Getting motivated to get out in this weather has been the issue lately.
While the weather keeps many of us at bay, take some time to look over your boat and fishing equipment. When it comes to the boat you can never do enough preventive maintenance. Check hull fittings, make sure bilge pumps and live well pumps are working well. Make sure to put plenty of corrosion resistant grease on battery connections and trolling motor connections. Have your engine serviced before the mad dash this spring. The best thing you can do for your engine is run it.
Be aware of changing regulations this year. There may be some changes coming with creel limits for black drum and speckled trout. Black drum have not been highly regulated in past years, but a slot size 14 to 25 inches and a creel limit of 10 have been proposed for this year. Regulations continue to tighten on recreation trout with a proposed seasonal closure and a three-fish creel limit. Regulations on the commercial side have also been proposed to reduce limits to 25 fish from 75 fish with possible seasonal closures. Check out North Carolina Marine Fisheries website for the most up-to-date information before venturing out on your next fishing trip.
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.