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New Year’s Angling Resolutions for 2015.

As we rapidly approach the New Year on January 1. 2015, or if you are a procrastinator , the Lunar New Year 4712, Year of the Goat, on February 19, 2015, I would like to make some suggestions to make this year of angling that is more fish friendly, eco-friendly, fellow angler friendly and more productive and fun.

So repeat after me, I resolve the following…

Starting with fish friendly, please keep up-to-date with the moving target that are the fishing regulations here in the old North State. Regulations concerning the offshore bottom fish like sea bass, grouper and snapper are constantly in flux, so it’s best to check the NCDMF website from time-to-time, or better, subscribe to their proclamation updates, they are free and convenient. Some other species to watch closely are speckled trout, black drum and flounder; and remember bag limits are per person per day NOT per outing. No doubling or tripling up on your bag limits, and remember my creed for size limits, measure twice, fillet once, like a good carpenter. Also along the lines of fish friendly, I eat plenty of fish but I also catch and release fish with minimal handling and also release alive so called “trash” fish.  If you see violations call the NCDMF at 800.682.2632 for both recreational and commercial infractions.

Aside from fishermen abusing the regs, my next pet peeve is trash; bottles, cans wrappers and of course discarded fishing line. Many marinas and fishing piers have fishing line recycling bins. If you are not close to any, roll your line up and discard it later in a responsible manner. There is so much discarded line out there making a hazard to sea turtles, dolphins, water fowl and other critters, and mono fishing line has a lifetime of around 600-years. Braided line is probably even longer.

Anyone who has fished in close quarters, at the Lookout Jetty, on a fishing pier, along the banks of one of our local creeks or in a fall “trout Line” looking for speckled trout, knows that some people are user friendly and some are not. Respect other fishermen, do unto others; need I say more?

Now it’s time to resolve to be more productive. Remember that 20-percent of the anglers bring home 80-percent of the fish. Do you want to be one of the 20-percent?

Here are some tips. Read my lips…use the freshest or livliest baits only, not re-re-refrozen shrimp or something that has been sun dried and now resembling bait jerky.

Now for artificials, my newest favorite baits are 17-MR MirrOLures, so called Vudu Shrimp and Billy Bay Halo Shad.  If you haven’t tried them it’s time. In the same vein, maybe it’s time to try new lures. By try I don’t mean for a few casts then revert to your tried and true baits. See how they move wiggle and shake in the water at various retrieve speeds. How fast do they sink? By the way the 17-MR baits sink, but slowly. In fact I measured the drop rate at 10-seconds for a drop of 6-feet. Working new baits, learning new baits will lead you to more go-to baits that you have confidence in for catching fish. Remember, if you haven’t used it, it’s new to you! Do you feel comfortable with using corks? Top-water baits? Every year there are many new alluring baits on the market and I know they keep getting more expensive, but many of them really work if you give them an real chance.

How about some hands on action? Try tying your own flies, make your own tandem fly- teaser rigs or even consider building your own fishing rods. Catching with your own handy work makes fishing even more fun.

What are some of the top preventable reasons for LOF, loss of fish! How about dull and/or rusty hooks, old damaged and weak fishing line and the dreaded knot failure from poorly tied knots. Sounds like a resolution in the making here…”I resolve to replace rusty hooks and replace or sharpen dull hooks.” Dull and rusty hooks are one of the prime reasons for poor hook-ups, hook-ups that not secure and pull out and are easily remedied. How do you know if a hook is dull? Take the point of a hook and drag across your thumb nail. If it slides it’s dull, if it grabs and sticks into the nail it’s a sharp  point.

I often get the question, “Doc, I’ve had this line on my reel for several years, but I haven’t used it much, do I need to re-spool with new line?” I replace my line in the spring and fall and another time my spool gets thin, since I retie my leader knots often and cut off frayed line frequently. Remember the line is the only think between you and your trophy fish. I also use line conditioners to preserve my line. So is it time to replace your line?

Knots, you should never lose a fish due to knot failure. You don’t need to know many knots, but the ones you do know and use you need to do well. What do you need knots to do? For the light tackle, inshore or onshore angler you primarily need to tie a length of leader to your main line, make a loop and tie on terminal tackle. When I give my fishing lessons I teach three knots which all have the same origins, the overhand or granny knot.  To tie on my fluorocarbon leader to my braided line I use a surgeon’s knot. It starts with that dreaded over hand knot but if you go through twice, thrice or four times through voila you have a two, three or four turn surgeon’s knot. Twice through is fine with is you are tying the leader to mono, but I use four turns to braided line. It’s a great knot and works with mismatched line diameters. I can readily tie 20- or 25-pound fluorocarbon to 10-pound PowerPro braided line.  Many prefer uni- to uni- combo, but the surgeon’s knot is easier for me.  For making a loop for a sinker or any other loop, I teach the surgeon’s loop. It’s the same as a surgeon’s knot but you fold over your line and make a loop and tie it off with one granny know and another turn to make two  turns. A nice strong loop. Now for tying terminal tackle, I go with a Palomar knot. You start off like a surgeon’s loop but hang your snap, swivel or hook on the loop, make your granny know and then place the loop over the snap, swivel, hook or whatever.  It’s a 95% strength knot and since you put a loop through your tackle, you have double the strength with two lines going through your tackle.

I also use some more specialty knots for making tandem teaser rigs, like the dropper loop, or loop knots to tie on to lures or jigs as well. To see these and other knots Google them for animated versions of the knots or check out You Tube for demos.  Here is one of the animated knot websites,

If 20-percent of the fishermen catch 80-percent of the fish, a corollary is that 80-percent of the people fish in 20-percent of the known fishing holes, so maybe it’s time to break from the madding crowd, time to go off the beaten path and find your own honey holes. It will take some time and persistence, but can pay off is bigger better and less crowded catching. One way to do that is take up kayak fishing, you can go where most others can’t’ even think of going and the fishing pressure is less.

Another way to increasing your catching success, is to resolve to target the fish YOU want to catch. Each time you go out to the pier, the surf, on your boat of kayak, go out with a catch plan. For example, if you want to catch flounder. Pick the location, the structure, the tide, the current, the time of day and the live and artificial baits that will increase your likelihood of finding flounder for dinner. Of course sometimes you may get a redfish or trout as by-catch, but that’s okay. But what you will find is that your catch of your target species for that day will get better. I always go out of the house with a plan. But of course if things aren’t working out feel free to make a new plan for that trip.

Another way of gaining the knowledge of others is to join one of our local fishing clubs, they hold a wealth of knowledge, with friendly anglers willing to share. This year, resolve to join one of the local clubs. They include the Onslow Bay Saltwater Fishing Club, Saltwater Light Tackle Fishing Club and the Cape Lookout Fly Fishers. Similarly, this off season there will be a plethora of fishing seminars to be had and can provide a wealth of local fishing knowledge. Never stop learning. Fishing is more than luck. Lotteries are random dumb luck, not catching fish. To quote Branch Rickey, and John Milton before him, “luck is the residue of preparation”, so in 2015 be better prepared and be prepared to do more catching.

p.s. Time to resolve to be persistent in the New Year, it covers a lot of flaws, I know!

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