Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.

Plastic tags meant to head off double safety inspections

MOREHEAD CITY – N.C. Marine Patrol and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission officers will be working together in the coming days on a pilot project designed to help avoid stopping boaters twice for safety inspections and to expedite other vessel stops.

The two enforcement agencies will be attaching plastic tags to vessels after completion of safety inspections on Saturday and Sunday, and again over the July 4 holiday. The tags will serve as a visual cue from one officer to another that the boat has already been checked.

“If I see that tag, I know you’ve already been checked for safety equipment, and I don’t need to stop you to go through that process again,” said Marine Patrol Col. Jim Kelley.

Marine Patrol tested this procedure over the Memorial Day weekend, and people were receptive to it, Kelley said.

“If it continues to be well-received, we will probably use it during all of the summer holiday weekends,” Kelley said.

With a few exceptions, vessels are required to carry on board:

·         An approved fire extinguisher;
·         A personal flotation device (life jacket) for everyone on board;
·         A type IV throwable cushion; and
·         An emergency sound-making device (such as a horn or whistle).

Both Marine Patrol and Wildlife Commission officers stop vessels to check for this equipment in coastal waters. While the agencies typically do not patrol in the same areas at the same time, there have been incidents in the past where vessels have been stopped for safety inspections more than once.

The tags are meant to decrease these types of occurrences; however, the tags will not keep officers from stopping vessels for license and fish size and creel limit checks or if a violation is observed, Kelley said.

The tags also will not keep the U.S. Coast Guard from making safety checks.

For more information on the vessel tagging initiative, contact Marine Patrol Major Dean Nelson at 252-808-8133 or For information on boating safety requirements, go to or call 919-707-0031.

Download a photo of a boat safety inspection tag at

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.




Large Coastal Sharks (LCS)

(non-ridgeback* LCS & tiger)

Small Coastal Sharks (SCS)

Pelagic Sharks


BlacktipBullHammerhead, great**

Hammerhead, scalloped**

Hammerhead, smooth**





Atlantic SharpnoseBlacknoseBonnethead


BlueOceanic whitetip**Porbeagle



Smooth dogfish (smooth hound shark)Spiny dogfish

*Sharks that do not have an interdorsal ridge.

**Unlawful to possess these sharks while in possession of tunas, billfish or swordfish.



Minimum Size (Fork Length) in Inches (“)

Trip Bag Limit/Calendar Day


Atlantic sharpnose


1 per person of each species

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

Bonnet head


Hammerheads (Great, Smooth and Scalloped)


1 per vessel*OR 1 per person  for shore-anglers**

Large Coastal Sharks (LCS), Tiger and Pelagic Sharks


Small Coastal Sharks (SCS)



*For example, the cumulative total recreational catch for a vessel with three (3) fishermen is three (3) Atlantic sharpnose, and (3) bonnethead, and (1) additional shark in the recreationally permitted species list.

**For example, each shore-angler can be in possession of one (1) Atlantic sharpnose, and (1) bonnethead, and (1) additional shark from the recreationally permitted species list.

  1. It is unlawful to possess silky sharks (Carcharhinusfalciformis) and sandbar (Carcharhinusplumbeus) for recreational purposes.
  1. It is unlawful to possess great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead and scalloped hammerhead sharks less than 78 inches (fork length). It is unlawful to possess the rest of the Large Coastal Shark and Pelagic Shark species less than 54 inches long (fork length).
  1. Small Coastal Sharks have no minimum size.
  1. Smooth dogfish (smooth hound shark) are exempt from harvest and size restrictions.
  1. Spiny dogfish are exempt from harvest and size restrictions.
  1. Recreational Shore-Angler Possession Limits:It is unlawful for each angler to possess more than one (1) shark from the recreationally permitted species list per person per calendar day.  One (1) Atlantic sharpnose and one (1) bonnet head may be possessed per person per calendar day, in addition to the one (1) shark from the recreationally permitted species list.

G.   Recreational Vessel-Fishing Possession Limits:It is unlawful for each angler fishing from a vessel to possess more than one (1) Atlantic sharpnose and one (1) bonnet head per person per calendar day. It is unlawful to possess more than one (1) additional shark from the recreationally permitted species list aboard a vessel, per calendar day, regardless of the number of people on board the vessel.

H.    It is unlawful for recreational fishermen to possess any shark without head, tail, and fins intact with the carcass through the point of landing. Anglers may still gut and bleed the carcass as long as the tail is not removed.  Filleting sharks at sea is prohibited.

I.     It is unlawful to fail to return all sharks not meeting harvest requirements (including prohibited species) to the water in a manner that ensures the highest likelihood of survival.


J.    It is unlawful for recreational fishermen to catch sharks by any gear other than rod and reel or handlines.  Handlines are defined as a mainline with no more than two gangions or hooks attached that are retrieved by hand only

K.    It is unlawful to possess a great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead or oceanic whitetip shark while in possession of tunas, billfish or swordfish.


It is unlawful to possess any of the following shark species in state waters:


Atlantic angel (Squatinadumerili)Basking (Cetorhinusmaximus)Bigeye sandtiger (Odontaspisnoronhai)

Bigeyesixgill (Hexanchusnakamurai)

Bigeye thresher (Alopiassuperciliosus)

Bignose (Carcharhinusaltimus)

Caribbean reef (Carcharhinusperezii)

Caribbean sharpnose (Rhizoprionodonporosus)

Dusky (Carcharhinusobscurus)


Galapagos (Carcharhinusgalapagensis)Longfinmako (Isuruspaucus)Narrowtooth (Carcharhinusbrachyurus)

Night (Carcharhinussignatu)

Sandtiger (Carchariastaurus)

Sevengill (Heptranchiasperlo)

Sixgill (Hexanchusgriseus)

Smalltail (Carchahrinusporosus)

Whale (Rhincodontypus)

White (Carcharodoncarcharias)



A.    This proclamation is issued under the authority of N.C.G.S. 113-170.4; 113-170.5; 113-182; 113-221.1; 143B-289.52; and N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules 15A NCAC 03H .0103, 03J .0103, 03J .0202 and 03M .0512.

B.    It is unlawful to violate the provisions of any proclamation issued by the Fisheries Director under his delegated authority pursuant to N.C. Fisheries Commission Rule15A NCAC 03H .0103.

C.    The federal commercial seasons for sharks are based on quotas.  Quota information can be obtained by contacting the NOAA FISHERIES Highly Migratory Species Section at (301)713-2347 or (800)894-5528. The website is the Aggregated Large Coastal and the Small Coastal groups contain several species, the Large Coastal quota is linked to hammerheads and the Small Coastal quota is linked to the blacknose, meaning if those particular species’ quotas are met, the category will close.

D.    Spiny dogfish (Squalusacanthias) commercial seasons and harvest limits are established under the Mid-Atlantic/New England Council Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan or the ASMFC Interstate Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan. NOAA Fisherieschanged the name of smooth dogfish to smooth hound sharks to eliminate confusion that may be caused by having two dogfish species and permits in the future.

E.    The intent of this proclamation is to implement the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Planfor Atlantic Coastal Sharks.  The ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks was adopted in 2008 to complement federal management actions to rebuild depleted stocks and protect healthy stocks from overfishing.

F.    All gill net restrictions in coastal fishing waters pertaining to the sea turtle settlement agreement measures are still in effect.Gill netsfished in Atlantic Ocean and internal waters must adhere to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules 15A NCAC 03J.0202 and 03J .0103, respectively.

G.     From January 1 through July 31, the Mid-Atlantic shark area is closed to the use of bottom longline gear by federally permitted commercial vessels.  The closed area is described as the Atlantic Ocean seaward of the inner boundary of the U.S. EEZ at 35° 41’ N. lat. just south of Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, and connecting by straight lines the following coordinates in the order stated: 35° 41’ N. lat., 75° 25’ W. long. proceeding due east to 35° 41’ N. lat., 74° 51’ W. long.; then proceeding southeast to 35° 30’ N. lat., 74° 46’ W. long.; then proceeding southwest, roughly following the 55 fathom mark, to 33° 51’ N. lat., 76° 24’ W. long.; then proceeding due west to intersect the inner boundary of the U.S. EEZ at 33° 51’ N. lat., 77° 53’ W. long. near Cape Fear, North Carolina.

H.     Contact N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557; 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632 for more information or visit the division website at

I.     This proclamation supersedes ProclamationFF-10-2014, effective February 13, 2014.Smooth hound shark (smooth dogfish) recreational possession limits were removed in order to remain consistent with the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks.



Posted by & filed under Fishing News.

2013 commercial and recreational fish and shellfish harvests released

MOREHEAD CITY – The state’s commercial fishing harvest continued in a three-year decreasing trend in 2013; while the dockside value of that harvest increased for the third straight year.

Commercial fishermen sold 50 million pounds of fish and shellfish at North Carolina docks in 2013, a 12 percent decrease from 2012 and 21 percent less than the five-year average, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Trip Ticket Program. However, the dockside value of the catch rose to $79 million, 9 percent higher than in 2012 and 4 percent higher than the five-year average.

Recreational fishing harvest increased from 2012, but remained about the same as the five-year average and was about 47 percent below what it was 10 years ago.

Recreational fishermen landed approximately 11.6 million fish, weighing about 13.3 million pounds in 2013, a 10 percent increase in pounds over 2012, according to the division’s Coastal Angling Program.


Hard blue crabs continued to top the list of the state’s commercial fishing species, both in pounds harvested and in dockside value. Commercial fishermen landed 21 million pounds of hard blue crabs in 2013, an 18 percent decrease from 2012 and 21 percent lower than the five-year average. But the dockside value of hard blue crabs increased 31 percent to $26.4 million in 2013.

Shrimp remained in the No. 2 spot with landings of 4.9 million pounds and a dockside value of $13 million, followed by spiny dogfish (3 million pounds and $302,248), southern flounder (2.2 million pounds and $5.6 million) and Atlantic croaker (1.9 million pounds and $1.7 million).

Commercial finfish landings were at 22 million pounds in 2013, a 3 percent drop from 2012 and 21 percent lower than the five-year average.

Atlantic croaker landings in large-mesh gill nets were down by 1.2 million pounds, adding to a 38 percent reduction in the fishery from 2012. Summer flounder landings dropped by 50 percent in 2013 due to a drop in flounder trawl landings, likely attributable to navigation issues at Oregon Inlet.

Bluefish landings increased by 53 percent due to increased landings in large- and small-mesh gill nets in the ocean.

Shellfish landings were at 28 million pounds, 17 percent lower than in 2012 and 20 percent below the five-year average. Much of the drop was attributable to the decrease in blue crab and shrimp landings.

Oyster harvests increased by 33 percent, including a notable increase in landings from the Pamlico Sound.


Yellowfin tuna topped the list of recreationally-harvested fish. Anglers reeled in 2 million pounds of yellowfin tuna (62,110 fish) in 2013, a 28 percent increase from 2012.

Dolphin came in second with 2 million pounds (248,987 fish), followed by bluefish at 971,279 pounds (1.2 million fish), red drum, 682,964 pounds (166,608 fish) and spotted seatrout, 652,102 pounds (369,500).

The recreational red drum harvest was the highest on record in 2013 and was a 187 percent increase in pounds landed from 2012.

Recreational spot landings doubled to 462,884 pounds (1.5 million fish) in 2013, but still remained well below historic harvest levels.

Sheepshead harvest increased by 70 percent to 497,616 pounds (272,709 fish), and southern flounder harvest increased 37 percent to 408,642 pounds (177,742 fish).

The number of fish angler’s released back into the water grew to about 21 million in 2013, about a 13 percent increase over 2012.

Recreational harvest trends are closely related to recreational effort. The number of recreational fishing trips in 2013 dropped by 6 percent to about 5 million. This was a 4 percent decrease from the five-year average, and about 28 percent fewer trips than 10 years ago.

For a full landings report, click on the 2013 Annual Fisheries Bulletin link at

For more information, contact division License and Statistics Section Chief Don Hesselman at 252-808-8099 or

Posted by & filed under Articles.

Spanish Tricks, By Dr. Bogus (published in Raleigh N&O)


Sure, North Carolina offers the possibility of year round coastal fishing opportunities, but disappointingly, every fall many anglers pack the fishing gear away until the daffodils return. So, sometime around the Ides of March, depending on the personal severity of winter “cabin fever”, the tackle starts mysteriously reappearing from its winter hibernation with hopes of renewal, a new season and yes, fish. March, the cruelest month of all, now provides us the early season opportunity of sitting huddled in the cold and wind and maybe rain on a beach or pier occasionally dragging in the likes of sharks, rays, skates and maybe a few blowfish and sea mullet. By April, schools of spots start to show, and bluefish show, but by May, when water temperatures are finally approaching 70-degrees, it’s time for Spanish mackerel.

Yes, the cry, “the Spanish are coming, the Spanish are coming” now rises from the piers. Why are the Spanish so anticipated each May?  As pier regular Steve Ellsworth (Swansboro) exclaimed, “Spanish mackerel, my favorite fish is Spanish mackerel, I love fishing for Spanish, I live for that.  It’s an action fish; I my mind they fight better than any other fish. You get screamers. Especially on light tackle.” Ellsworth is joined by many anglers, who are willing to stand side by side from the piers to catch these spunky mackerel.

Typically, the Spanish macks return in a blitz condition in early May and along Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and May Day has been synonymous with the return of the Spanish. This long awaited return of the Spanish, for many is the real start of the new year’s new fishing season.

This is however fairly remarkable, since barely a decade ago, the fishery was on the verge of collapse from over fishing in the 1970s and 1980s, but now is a shining light of successful fisheries management. At this time here in North Carolina the creel limit is now up to 15 Spanish mackerel per day, and the average fish is getting noticeably bigger and bigger every year.

To find out the fool proof methods of catching this prized mackerel, we went to the local piers, which are some of the great places to fill your cooler these smaller of the mackerel. What are the best and most used baits for Spanish? When asked, Ed Parker (Manager, Iron Steamer Pier Pine Knoll Shores) looked at the peg board behind him and said, “ To me the best baits are the ¾-oz. Hopkins spoons and of course the most popular are the Got-cha plugs. Red and white and green and white are by far the best sellers. We also sell red and silver (metal) and the red and chartreuse or red and glow in the dark ones. Some people try the ones with spots or sparkles of the one with the Carolina blue head, but always come back to the red and white or the green and white.”

Got-cha plugs are most popular on the piers due to their front lead weighted design, a must while fishing on the pier, their great action and of course, they simple catch fish. Another feature that shouldn’t be overlooked about the Got-Chas are the hooks, the two sets of extremely sharp gold hooks, a trademark of these baits. As Danny Glover (Emerald Isle) pointed out, “ I think that they (the gold hooks) are a key to the Got-Cha plugs, they provide a lot of flash and another main thing is the sharp points on the hooks…you just won’t hook-up unless they are needle sharp.”

Some creative fisherman like Ellsworth, “field modify” their Got-cha plugs to their own, and hopefully to the fish’s liking. “Ya, I sometime make my own”, said Ellsworth, “40-years of fishing you know. I modify them, sometimes put a lighter head on, cut the slant on it, actually round it off so it stays on top and gives better action too. Other times I may use gold flake or silver flake. I’ll paint the side with a stripe mainly for visibility. And sometimes I use a marking pen and put dots or a wavy line to simulate the scales.” Holding a green and white Got-cha plug with hand marked dots and spots Ellsworth said, “They couldn’t stay off this one last year.”

Two treble hooks, six hooks, needle sharp, now that really comes into play during what is affectionately referred top as a Spanish blitz! If you’ve ever been in one, you know what I mean, if not, here is how Glover describes a recent blitz. “We got in the middle of one this morning”, said Glover, “I’d say there were probably 50-fish pulled over the railings. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes sideways-to-sideways with Got-Cha plugs flying, so it gets pretty hectic. It’s dangerous; everybody’s got to watch everybody. You get some got-Cha plugs bouncing off the deck lot of them are cut off in the water… it’s pretty dangerous especially behind the fisherman.”

So do people get hooked? “Usually if it’s a blitz, said Glover, “you’re real lucky if you don’t get at least one guy with a hook in his hand or shoulder.”

And that’s only the half of it too, what about all the fish debris? It also gets real slick,” laughed Glover,  “the fish are spitting up baits, silversides and stuff, they will be laying there, and soon it’s mush and the slime off the fish, people sliding around… And once in a while you’ll get somebody that decides to change his plug behind another guy on his knees, and there he is with his head with his head right in the road.” Ouch! Get the idea?

As we can see, during a Spanish blitz, the final destinations of the sharp golden hooks are often unintentioned, fingers, shirts, pants, foreheads and other bodily parts and appendages. Ouch #*@%&*!! Don’t get me wrong, Got-Chas are great, Got-Chas are good and we thank Sea Striker for all those fish, but there are alternatives?? Sure!

1) Remove one of the trebles, this way the only hooks are the ones in the fish.

2) Mash the barbs, just keep the pressure on your fish and you capture rate will be nearly the same as with barbs, just your personal bodily release rate will go up dramatically. I firmly believe in the rule of easy in, easy out! Go barbless.

3) Switch to the single hook Got-Cha with a treble up front and a single hook bucktail in the back, again fewer hooks to worry about in the heat of battle.

Although sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, there are other baits that can make quick work of Spanish mackerel. One I call the bare and the baitless, yes the naked gold hook rigs.  Gold hook rigs are analogous to the very effective “Sabiki” bait catcher rigs, popular with the live bait king mackerel crowd. Nani Palmer (Cary) describes how she makes hers. “I usually make them myself with 40-pound test line so I don’t get cut off (at least not too often), said Palmer, and tie five number-2 gold hooks all in a line, about 10-inches apart using a figure-eight knot. For weight, I use a 1.5-oz. gold diamond jig on the bottom end, it gets down and stays down with that weight and casts well too.”

The use is pretty straightforward. “You can cast and retrieve or even easier, just drop it off the pier and jig up and down” said Plamer. “I prefer to use them (over Got-chas), they’re easy to use and I catch lots of Spanish, but not only Spanish, pompano, bluefish and bait like shad too, I’ve even caught spots on them.”

There are lots of other effective artificial baits to use, and the goal is to match the hatch. When shad are around, the pumpkinseed shaped Rat-L-Traps are dyno-mite, mimicking the small grass shad, threadfin or menhaden (a.k.a., peanut bunker), and it is pier friendly, tending to dive and stay in the water, even though you are pulling up on the bait from above.

Spanish just love glass minnows and anchovies…French fries as it were to the Spanish mackerel. Artificials that are great imitators are any of the straight soft plastic grub baits such as Trout-Killer or Fin-S grubs. Stick with the clear or white with or without sparkles and slide them onto a hefty 5/8-oz. white lead jig head. The baits can be “plugged” just like a Got-cha plug and with the heavy 5/8-jig, give the nice enticing darting the Spanish love. One advantage to these soft plastic baits is that they too can be field modified, i.e. shortened if necessary to mimic the actual size of bait in the water. Spanish are notoriously very size picky, and won’t eat baits that are too big or too small.

Finally, some of the biggest Spanish every year are bagged on live-lined baits, but what are the best baits? “Oh I’d say a thread herring, said Ellsworth. On a king rig I use one about a 10-inch, but a regular rig, I just use a single hook and about a 3 or 4-inch shad bait. Silversides or a mullet or little spot are good too.”

“Rigging is pretty simple,” said Ellsworth, “I take a single hook and put it right behind the head of the fish and just let them swim free.” Like Ellsworth, most use a number-2 gold hook with 30 to 40-pound test line, remember these fish have sharp teeth.

There are other live bait rigs used on the pier by some, as Ellsworth explained, “I don’t use it but some use what’s called a slider rig. That’s where they throw a weigh out on the end of a line and slide a little live bait right down the line using a snap swivel and a leader.”  “Personally I like the free swimming better,” said Ellsworth, “I like to watch them eat the fish; I can see them hit it. Seeing the hit, the strike is one of the most fun parts of fishing.”

Glover agreed, describing a hungry Spanish stalking a bait, “They’ll just come right up, a lot of times they will just come up and look,” said Glover “and all at once it’s just a big rip and he’s gone.”

So there it is, Spanish mackerel fishing in a nutshell, metal and plastic, or live bait, it’s your choice, and this year looks like a good one, full of citation Spanish and all.



Know your mackerel or pay the price. Check .


First of all, before you catch some Spanish, you better know your Spanish or you may pay the price. Spanish look-alikes include cero mackerel and most importantly king mackerel, which if you misidentify can co$t you big buck$. To positively ID the Spanish, check the lateral line, which has a gradual drop compared to the sharp drop in the king mackerel. If this sounds too technical, just look for the distinctive black spot on the front of front dorsal fin. It’s easy to see and clearly marks the Spanish mackerel (and cero) and is totally absent in the king mackerel.

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Spanish Tricks, Part 1, Pier fishing, by Dr. Bogus

Typically, the Spanish mackerel return in a blitz condition in early May and along Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and May Day has been synonymous with the return of the Spanish. This is however fairly remarkable, since barely a decade ago, the fishery was on the verge of collapse from over fishing in the 1970s and 1980s, but now is a shining light of successful fisheries management. At this time here in North Carolina the creel limit is now up to 15-Spanish mackerel per day, and the average fish is getting noticeably bigger and bigger every year.

Make no mistake about it; one of the most used and successful baits for Spanish mackerel, especially from the piers, is a lead weighted piece of plastic laced with gold treble hooks, known as the Got-Cha plug. The crank and jerk retrieve works wonders and will land not only Spanish but many other predators as well. Many color combinations are available, but white and chartreuse bodies with day-glo orange, pink, red, blue, green or chartreuse lead heads are most popular.

Walking the pier from Ides of March through November’s turkey day can be a perilous duty indeed. Blues and Spanish flying and flopping Got-Chas chartreuse and white being slung in directions that defy gravity and the most certainly the owner’s intentions to and from locations only Alice and the Mad Hatter can comprehend. Unfortunately a common sight throughout the fishing season. Ever try to grasp a feisty fish with a multi-troubled trebled gold hooked Got-Cha??  Wrestle the fish to the boards, grab the needle nosed pliers and surgically remove as many hooks as are imbedded?? Safely return the fish to the sea or plunk him into the cooler??  This is the ideal of course, but we all know that in the heat of battle like For the typical Spanish blitz, the ideal is somewhere in “Wonderland” with Alice and the crazed Hatter and the final destination of the golden hooks are often intentioned.  And, with all the great darting action of the plug many of the fish are foul hooked. We have all seen the results, fingers, shirts, pants, foreheads and other bodily parts and appendages. Ouch #*@%&*!! Don’t get me wrong, Got-Chas are great, Got-Chas are good and we thank Sea Striker for all those fish, but there are alternatives.

1) Remove one of the trebles-back if Spanish are about, front is blues are about.  Blues bite the tail, Spanish go for the jugular (head). This way the only hooks are the ones in the fish.
2) Mash the barbs, just keep the pressure on and you capture rate will be nearly the same as with barbs, just your personal bodily release rate will go up dramatically. Think, easy in, easy out!
3) Go to the single hook Got-Cha with a treble up front and a single hook bucktail in the back.
4) Dr. Bogus’ favorite; switch to a 5/8 chartreuse or white lead jig head and 4″ clear plastic (with sparkles of course) Fin-S or Trout Killer grub. Looks and tastes just what those finicky Spanish may be eating, especially if they are chopping glass minnows and turn their noses up anything else.


This will last several Spanish, since they shred from the head, and don’t chop from the tail like the blues.  With blues around, they only last about ½ fish. Jig the grub just like a Got-Cha just a bit slower.  With the 5/8 oz. head, the action will be very similar and nearly as effective.  The advantage is mouth hooked fish almost all the time and 5-less hooks to worry about as the fish comes over the railings.  “Fish coming over” will have a new meaning. Fear of the fish coming off prematurely, launching a Got-Cha into friend, neighbors or complete strangers is a thing of the past, and hook removal is a snap.  Yes, you have to change off the shredded mutilated grub every couple of fish but still cheaper than a Got-Cha and they get bitten off too.
5) “The Bare and the Baitless”, the gold hook rigs (we’ve been there before). They simply work!!
6) Some of the biggest Spanish every year are bagged on live-lined shad, or finger mullet free spooled on long shank, No. 2 gold hook, or on a cork or a slider rig. Remember, citation weight for Spanish is 6-pounds, and this year there have been many citations weighed in.

Spanish Tricks Part-2, Boating for Spanish, by Dr. Bogus

A staple of Spanish fishing is trolling along the beaches, around the inlets and over the reefs and rocks of the Crystal Coast and the ubiquitous Clarkspoons work well for Spanish are the workhorses for this fishery.  Both chrome and gold are used, although I prefer gold. The most popular sizes are the small ones which imitate the small anchovies and small silversides that are the favorite forage of the Spanish mackerel, so the small #00 and #0 spoons are the most productive and most used. Spanish are very keen eyed, so you need to use 20 to 40-ft. of 20 to 40-pound test fluorocarbon leader for trolling the Clarkspoons. You can use a trolling weight of 1 to 4-oz., depending on how deep you need to get. If you need to get deeper than you can with a trolling weight, you may need to use a small No. 1-planar to get down. Usually early in the day (sunrise and early morning), Spanish are feeding on the surface but go deeper as the day progresses and therefore you have to fish deeper. They feed most heavily in low-light conditions. In the evening, the fish often return to the top to feed again. Trolling speeds is usually 5 to 7 knots.  Other trolling techniques that are good producers are trolling “birds” with a squid chain behind it and more recently YoZuri-DD (deep divers) have trolled up some big Spanish as well.

If you find Spanish and don’t like the idea of hand-lining many feet of line when you reel up to the trolling weight or planar, you can always stop trolling and cast to the fish. I usually use a small (1/2 oz.) Kastmaster,  Stingsilver (3/8 oz.) or a clear or white Fin-S or Trout Killer grub. I use the 4-in. size with a white grub head and shorten the grub if the Spanish won’t hit. Spanish are notoriously finicky when it comes to matching the hatch size. Another good lure that is often used is a speck rig it’s a perfect size and sparse. And if you are a fly fisherman, sparse flies that are mimics of silversides and bay anchovies are deadly and often out fish conventional baits.

For pics of artificials for Spanish (false albacore, Atlantic bonito and blues) check out:, also include the Big Nic Spanish Candy baits and Yozuri Deep Divers.

As mentioned above, one-way of getting BIG Spanish is to free spool live baits. I usually use a No. 2 gold hook with a long shank and hook a small menhaden (a.k.a., pogy or peanut bunker) grass shad, finger mullet, glass minnow, just free floating without any weights or sometimes on a cork. This year many great catches of citation sized Spanish were landed floating a live pogy hooked through the nose, on a small No. 4 or No. 6 treble hook with a short trace of light 18-pound seven strand wire tied on with a figure-eight knot. And guess what, there are also blues for the taking on these rigs and yes not only Spanish but king mackerel as well, all on light tackle. Your best bet for hooking up with the Spanish and kings is to slow troll or drift the live baits over one of the nearshore artificial reefs like AR 315, 320, 330, 342, and 345 or over one of the rock ledges, with Keypost Rocks being the hot spot so far this season. To really perk things up, try a little “power chumming”. That is chumming with your live bait. Just toss out a few every once in a while and see what comes looking. We have also landed cobia while “power chumming” as well.

Finally, before you catch some Spanish, you better know your “Spanish” or you may pay the price. Spanish look-alikes include cero mackerel and most importantly king mackerel, which if you misidentify can co$t you big buck$. To positively ID the Spanish, check the lateral line, which has a gradual drop compared to the sharp “kinky” drop in the king mackerel. If this sounds too technical, just look for the distinctive black spot on the front of front dorsal fin. It’s easy to see and clearly marks the Spanish mackerel (and cero) and is totally absent in the king mackerel.

Spanish fishing has been great the last couple of years and the fish are getting bigger each season, with the number of citation fish continuing to grow yearly. They usually hit the Crystal Coast the first week of May and stay around well into the fall, exiting out along the Cape Lookout shoals and the along the east side of the shoals as they bid us farewell until next May.


for regulations and identification pictures for king and Spanish mackerel.


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One of our spring visitors showed up in good numbers this past week, the Atlantic bonito, Sarda sarda, which is a large mackerel-like fish of the family Scombridae. It is common in shallow waters of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, where it is an important commercial and game fish. The Atlantic bonito can be distinguished from its relatives by its dark oblique stripes on the back. Atlantic bonito grow up to 30 in. and weigh 10 to 12 pounds at this size, but most three to six pounds. These fish are currently to be found all along the beaches and around the inets and over the usual artificiall reefs like AR 315, 320 and 330. Best baits are small metals, small soft plastics and if you fly fish, Clouser flies that mimic silversides of anchovies are the norm, with chartreuse or olive back, white on the bottom and some flash down the middle. The Atlantic bonito are a great tasting fish cooked and as sashimi. I like to fillet them and loin them out removing the dark center blood line.

Recent springs, have seen catches of bullet mackerel (tuna). The bullet tuna, Auxis rochei rochei, is a subspecies of tuna, in the family Scombridae, are found circumglobally in tropical oceans in open surface waters to depths of 160 ft. Its maximum length is 20-inches. Sometimes called bullet mackerel, the bullet tuna is a comparatively small and slender tuna. Bullet tunas are blue-black on the back with a pattern of zig-zag dark markings on the upper hind body, and silver below. They feed on small fish, squid, planktonic crustaceans, and mantis shrimp larvae. They are often mistaken for juvenile false albacore. They are not considered good table fare so are not usually eaten.

Blackfin TunaBlackfin Tuna made appearance along the beach and on Bogue Pier where Marullio Marquez landed a 21-pounder in April 2012. Blackfin tuna (Thunnus atlanticus) is the smallest tuna species in the Thunnus genus, generally growing to a maximum of 39 in. in length and weighing 46 lbs. Blackfin have oval (football) shaped bodies, black backs with a slight yellow on the finlets, and have yellow on the sides of their body. Blackfin are only found in the western Atlantic from Cape Cod to Brazil. Blackfin feed both on the surface and deeper water on fish and squid. They also eat crustaceans such as shrimps, crabs, amphipods, mantis shrimp and the larva of decapods. They are a short-lived, fast-growing species; a 5 year old fish would be considered old. They reach sexual maturity at two years old, and spawn in the open sea during the summer. Blackfin tuna are a warmer-water fish, preferring water temperatures over 68°F. What they lack in size, they make up for in numbers and willingness to bite. They make great table fare for us humans, often rated better than yellowfin tuna and make good snacks for marlin too.

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from a Low of 53 to a high of 70  with a cool average of 59.1, below 50-degrees for the month (blue diamonds). For the month we had a positive slope of the temps at the pier: y=0.33x + 54. Bogue Sound (red squares) had a low of 54 and a high of 76-degrees with an average of 62.9-degrees.


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Tuna for the rest of us! By Dr. Bogus

(Click on photos for larger image)


When you hear the likes of yellowfin, blackfin, giant bluefin or big eye tuna, visions of big boats, big gear and offshore excursions may dance in your head. But if you don’t have the boat, or the gear or the big bucks to get to the Gulf Stream, there is an alternative to big-gear tuna, that is the Atlantic bonito, and the false albacore, the tuna for the rest of us. Both of these “poor man’s tunas” are nearshore pelagics, they are schooling fish, have similar diets and migrate up and down the Atlantic Coast as far north as the New England States, are accessible to the nearshore boater and often even to the surfcaster, and fight like the devil himself.

False AlbacoreFirst of all, you need to tell these two similar fish apart. False albacore or little tunny (Euthynnus alliteratus) have no real teeth, few scales, wavy-wormy lines all above lateral line and dark spots between pectoral (thoracic) and ventral (abdominal) fins. Most weigh in from six- to 20-pounds. Atlantic BonitoThe Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda) is a real tuna that has biting, grasping teeth, scales and distinct racing-stripe diagonal lines, that go below lateral line. The Atlantic bonito are a somewhat smaller fish that the false albacore, usually in the two- to six-pound range, but don’t be too surprised if you hook into a 10-pounder.

Both fish migrate up our Atlantic coast in the spring following 62 to 68-degree water and typically small baits like sardines, bay anchovies and Atlantic silversides passing North Carolina during April and May, on their way to New Jersey and points north for the summer. Interestingly, on their way south in the fall, the Atlantic bonito remain far offshore, whereas here in North Carolina we have an excellent fall nearshore fishery for the false albacore, turning Cape Lookout and Beaufort, North Carolina into a true fishing destination with Harker’s Island it’s fishing guide-based hub. Some of the famous celebs like former President George H.W. Bush (a.k.a., Bush #41) have made yearly pilgrimages to test the metal of these high intensity fish for instant high intensity fun.

Both of these fish will “test” your gear, your line, your drag your leader, your knots and rod as well. I prefer a seven-foot medium action rod, a 4000-series spinning reel with a reliable drag (I use Shimanos) and spooled with 200- to 250-yards of 10-pound test monofilament line or 10 or 20-pound test braid. You will also need several feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to withstand the toothiness of the bonito and the keen eyesight of both of these wary sharp-eyed fish of the mackerel family.

Of course, the real challenge for tackling both of these speed demons is to catch them on the fly. Most fly fishermen use an eight-weight fly rod with 250- to 400-grain sinking line. The sinking line allows you to work from the surface on down and will also enable you to cast further with fewer false casts. As with spinning gear, make sure you have a drag that can stand up to the blistering runs of up to 20- to 30-miles an hour, a fluorocarbon tippet and again 200-yards of backing to fight the fish with.

The next challenge is finding the schooling fish. You might see surface breaking fish, but more often what you see first is birds, and remember birds means bait and bait means fish! The baits are usually small, so terns and gulls are the usual give-a-way for these smaller baits. Sometimes even pelicans can give away these small baits, the key here is to see pelicans paddling and feeding on the surface scooping up the baits, not diving from heights as is normal for them. Here in North Carolina artificial reefs and rock ledges also mean bait and fish. In general bait balls of bay anchovies or Atlantic silversides (both generically referred to as glass minnows) gather over these structures at a depth from around 20-feet to the surface. And if they are on the surface, it’s usually because the bonito and albies are actively feeding on them, pushing them up to the surface.

Here in central North Carolina the hot-spot locations include the popular nearshore artificial reefs like AR 315, 320 and 330 ( and the inlet areas around Bogue, Barden’s and Beaufort as well of the neighboring Cape Lookout and Lookout Shoals. These are all in sight of the beach and easily reachable by the small-boat tuna angler.

In general, early in the day usually is better, since the bite can often be over before some people finish their first cup of coffee, so think daybreak, first light. They are often around during midday, but they are usually in deeper water and harder to locate.

False AlbacoreBoth Atlantic bonito and false albacore are predominantly, if not exclusively caught with artificial lures and on the fly. For spinning or conventional tackle, small and shiny rules.  So called heavy metals like Stingsilvers, Kastmasters, Maria lures, small diamond jigs, Crippled Herring spoons, Deadly Dicks, and even some swimming plugs that are small and match the hatch will hook-up these aggressive fish. Depending on the wind and sea conditions, 1/8 -ounce up to one-ounce can be used if the conditions are rough or windy or the fish are deep. I prefer the lighter 1/8- to 1/2-ounce and work up from there if I need to. The heavier baits can also be vertically jigged when the fish have sounded or later in the day when they may be feeding deeper. We also use silverside mimics of soft plastic baits on a 1/4-ounce to 1/2-ounce lead jig head. White or clear are the best.

Flies? Clousers are the most popular, anything from an inch in length to three- or four-inches again depending on the hatch. These fish can often be very size fussy. If you have long flies, all it takes is a snip here or there to cut it down to the feeding size of the day. Popular colors white, olive over white, chartreuse or pink with some flash to mimic the shiny stripe of the anchovies or the aptly named silversides.

Fishing the schools, position your boat up wind (or up current) of the school and drift towards them. Rushing the schools will sound the fish to the depths and you will have to start over again. It is also a way to ingratiate you with the other boats in the area, so courtesy first, you’ll get your chance. Bonito and albacore fishing combines periods of waiting and looking, followed by intervals of pure frenzy.

Both albies and bonito are fast swimmers. The albies will hit like a freight train, the bonito have a slight pause before they take off. Make sure your drag is set light enough to take the hit and blistering run, if not you will loose most of your fish by break-off. Both these fish will tend to go out and deep runs of 100-yards are likely. At the boat they also go deep and zig-zag back and forth, which can be a problem if there is more than one fish on. Those crazy double headers! To finally land the tired fish, reach down and grab them by the tail or net them. Sometimes these fish can brought to the point of exhaustion; so if you wish to release your catch, remove the hook and plunge the fish quickly, head first, back into the water. This will give the fish a quick rush of oxygen and help reverse the lactic acid build up in the fish by forcing fresh water through their gills.bonito041004

In many areas from North Carolina up to the New Jersey coast and north, these fish, especially the false albacore, can also be targeted from the surf. Tackle and artificials lures are the same, but landing a 10-pound fat albert from the beach in insane. They hit hard, so don’t set the hook, then they run out from and often streak down the beach stripping line against drag as they go. Green lightning! Some of the most fun I’ve ever had not catching a fish were the times I didn’t land a false albacore from the surf. Sometimes they break the line, sometimes they pull out or even straighten the hooks. From the surf I usually use a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce Kastmaster. On the beach, these fish are hard if not impossible to chase. If they are in the area I wait for them to come to me and cast in front of fish running down the beach.

Finally, to eat or not to eat, that is the question. Most agree that the Atlantic bonito makes excellent table fare, especially loined-out like any of the bigger tunas, to remove the dark red flesh along the lateral line. Its meat is actually noticeably lighter in color than the yellowfin tuna, which has a marked redish color. Unlike the Atlantic bonito or the true albacore, most people don’t find the false albacore particularly haute cuisine, so most are released to swim another day. Personally, I find the flesh of both the bonito and false albacore on my dinner table. Like the bonito and other tunas, you again need to loin-out the fillets, removing all the dark meat yielding four loin strips of some of the nicest tuna meat you can imagine, as suitable raw for sashimi with some wasabi-soy sauce for dipping, as it is fit for blackening too. Bon appétit!


Bonito FilletBonito Fillets Bonito Loins


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It is unlawful to sell or offer for sale vermilion snapper. The season will re-open Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

Please refer to the entire proclamation below for any other changes.


Dr. Louis B. Daniel III, Director, Division of Marine Fisheries, hereby announces that effective at 12:01A.M., Saturday, April 19, 2014, the following restrictions will apply to the fisheries for snapper-grouper:

I. Black Sea Bass, south of Cape Hatteras (35° 15.0321’ N. Latitude)
A. For recreational purposes:
1. It is unlawful to possess black sea bass less than 13 inches total length.
2. It is unlawful to possess more than five (5) black sea bass per person per day.

For the rest of this long proclamation go to NCDMF website and check proclamation: FF-27-2014