Posted by & filed under Articles.

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


Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.

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

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot



Oregon Inlet has shoaled to a depth of about 2 feet and is too shallow for dredging.

The channel under the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge connecting Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks will be left to the elements, according to a news release from the Army Corps of Engineers. The side-casting dredge Merritt was unable to operate…


Click on the above link for the rest of the article

Engineers: Oregon Inlet too shallow to dredge

Posted to: News North Carolina

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.

Spring/summer commercial red drum season will not open

MOREHEAD CITY – The spring/summer commercial fishing season for red drum will not open this year because the annual harvest limit was exceeded in the fall/winter season.

Preliminary calculations of commercial red drum landings between Sept. 1 and Nov. 23 totaled 260,866 pounds, exceeding the annual harvest limit by 10,866 pounds.

“While this was a very strong year for red drum, the extraordinary level of harvest during this short period was unexpected,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “We are currently analyzing the fisheries data to determine what management changes may be needed to avoid this occurrence in the future.”

Fishery management plans adopted by both the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission require the commercial fishery to close once the annual harvest limit is exceeded. Overages in the 250,000-pound harvest limit must be deducted from the subsequent year’s harvest limit.

The state’s Red Drum plan splits the state’s commercial red drum harvest into two seasons. A Sept. 1- April 30 season is allocated 150,000 pounds of the annual harvest limit, and a May 1-Aug. 31 season is allocated 100,000 pounds.

The division closed the 2013 fall/winter season Nov. 23 after calculations just from electronically-submitted trip tickets showed fishermen had caught 144,258 pounds of the 150,000-pound harvest limit. Later calculations included landings reported on paper trip tickets and showed the fall fishery had exceeded the entire annual harvest limit.

The commercial red drum fishery will re-open Sept. 1 with an adjusted harvest limit. The Marine Fisheries Commission will discuss how to deduct the overages from the 2014-2015 seasons at its May meeting.

For more information, contact division biologist Lee Paramore at 252-473-5734252-473-5734, extension 222 or

Patricia Smith
Public Information Officer
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
3441 Arendell St.
Morehead City, N.C. 28557
(252) 808-8025(252) 808-8025 (Office)
(252) 342-0642(252) 342-0642 (Mobile)

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Reports category.

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from a high of 55 to a low of 45  with a frigid average of 49.5, again below 50-degrees for the month (blue diamonds). For the month we had a positive slope of the temps at the pier: y=0.23x + 45.7. Bogue Sound had a high of 60 and amazingly a low of 40-degrees with an average of just over 50 at 50.3-degrees.


Posted by & filed under Articles.

Bogus on Birds

          We all know the importance of watching birds when we fish. It’s even a fisherman’s commandment: “Thy Must Watch the Birds”. Which of course is immediately followed by a second sub-commandment: “Thy Must Follow those Watched Birds”. We watch birds because THEY know where the bait is. Right? Right! But, what we really want to know is where the citation sized predators that feed on the bait that the birds found. Right? Right! Let’s say you’re on the beach, and the surf is full of bait as far as the eye could see. Tingling water and showers of shiny bait everywhere. Sound familiar? And birds are putting on aerial displays of epic proportions, up the beach, down the beach, “in my lady’s chamber”, as far as the eye could see!
What do you do now? Let’s consider how different birds feed. Some birds dive (gannets) and scoop (pelicans), some dive and hunt one on one (terns), others (the most fowl) swim, dive and hunt under water (cormorants, loons). On the other hand some birds don’t scoop, or dive very effectively, and never ever swim under water, but they eat just as well. The gulls!! So, if all the birds, answer the question “where’s the bait”, how do we find the FISH?
The gulls, lacking some of the awesome fishing skills of the other more “noble” birds are more opportunistic in their eating habits, hey, they’ll even eat potato chips when offered. If you watch the gulls when predatory fish are surface feeding, they fly around looking for a predator. Once found, a flock gathers, and hovers, waiting for the fish, say a bluefish or albacore, to surface and attack. Just as the fish surfaces, driving the bait to the top, the gulls dive right on top of the foraging bluefish to pick up scattering minnows, injured or killed minnows, gorfed minnows, and the favored flavored minnow bits. As we all know, blues are notoriously messy eaters. This method, although opportunistic is not without its risks, remember those gulls with only one leg?IMG_2824
By watching birds, you can also get a good idea on the bait size the birds are feeding on and therefore the predatory piscatores that may lie beneath. Gannets, diving like missiles from dizzying heights snack on bigger baits, like menhaden (i.e. pogies), pelicans have more variety in their diets, fish big and small alike, but their dives are different for large or small baits. They dive almost directly vertical like the gannets for bigger fish and more towards the horizontal for smaller fish, or even just float and scoop for little baits. When these bigger birds are feeding, you can expect bigger predatory fish, tuna, king mackerel, Hatteras blues, stripers and such. Terns, feast mostly on smaller fish, the bigger terns will eat finger mullet and peanut pogies as well as glass minnows (Atlantic silversides and bay anchovies), whereas the tiny least terns feed on the glass minnows as well as the least of all the fish, newly hatched fry, one-by-one. Hiding beneath the terns you can often expect false albacore and Atlantic bonito, small blues and of course by May, the prized Spanish mackerel. But in a pinch, when bait and birds abound, follow the lowly gull. There’s citation fish beneath them gulls!

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Reports category.

Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from a high of 51 to a low of 41 (same as January) with an average of 45.9 for the month (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound  data were incomplete while I was out of town. Only 50days in February were temps were in the 50s, that is only 50 and 51 though. Again a very and unusually cold month of water temperatures. In 2013, average of surf temperatures for the months of January and February was 51.6 degrees.


Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News.

By Lee Tolliver
The Virginian-Pilot

Anglers throughout the lower Chesapeake Bay have voiced concern for weeks about dead or dying speckled trout.

Suffering from frequent and substantial dips in water temperature caused by colder-than-normal air this winter, thousands of fish have been seen dead in the shallows or swimming lethargically just under the surface in Middle Peninsula creeks, and inside Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets.

To help save potential spawning fish from being taken, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday issued an emergency order closing recreational fishing for speckled trout, other than catch-and-release, effective Saturday.

The move comes several weeks after North Carolina fisheries managers closed their trout fishery for the same reason.

But unlike in North Carolina, Virginia’s closure – which came at the urging of the recreational angling community – does not include commercial interests, a decision that has angered many…

For the full article click below.

Posted by & filed under Fishing, Fishing News, Uncategorized.

Marine Fisheries Commission tackles Observer Program funding, spotted seatrout, shrimp issues

MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will submit a report to the legislature that proposes to fund the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Observer Program through commercial fishing license fee increases.

The commission endorsed the plan, which was brought forward by the commercial fishing industry and has the support of the Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at its meeting last week.

“I’m happy that the industry came forward with a proposal that not only provides the funding needed for the Observer Program, but allows the industry to work together to solve other commercial fishing funding issues that may arise in the future,” said Louis Daniel, division director.

Jerry Schill, interim executive director of the N.C. Fisheries Association, presented a proposal to establish a Commercial Fishing Resource Fund to receive revenues from a 100-percent increase in fees for several commercial fishing licenses. The Commercial Fishing Resources Fund would provide money for the Observer Program and other projects to develop sustainable commercial fishing, as approved by the commission and a proposed board of directors made up of representatives of several commercial fishing organizations.

The Observer Program collects information about commercial and recreational catches by observing fishing, either onboard fishermen’s vessels or from a division vessel operated in the vicinity of fishing activity. Observer coverage is required by the state’s sea turtle incidental take permit for the inshore gill net fisheries. Without this coverage, the fishery must close.

In 2013, the N.C. legislature appropriated $1.1 million for the Observer Program for fiscal year 2013-2014, and approved a 25-percent increase in commercial fishing license fees beginning in fiscal year 2014-2015 to fund the program in the future. The legislature instructed the division to seek public input and develop a plan for additional funding for the program.

The proposed 100-percent increase is based on the current license fees, not the upcoming 25-percent increase in fee. For instance, a resident Standard Commercial Fishing License now costs $200 per year, but the cost will increase to $250 in 2014-2015. The proposed 100-percent increase would bring the cost of a Standard Commercial Fishing License to $400 per year.

The commission  also adopted a supplement to the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan that will keep the 14-inch minimum size limit, four-fish recreational bag limit, 75-fish commercial trip limit and weekend commercial closure in waters managed jointly by the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission (except in Albemarle and Currituck sounds). These regulations were in place prior to the Feb. 5 season closure that was implemented due to cold stun events. The regulations will go back into place when the season reopens June 15.

In other business, the commission:

·         Selected preferred management options for draft amendments to the state’s Shrimp, River Herring and Bay Scallop fishery management plans and voted to send the draft amendments to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the state legislature for review. The commission’s final approval of the draft plans is scheduled for November 2014. The commission’s preferred management options include:

–   For the draft shrimp plan, convene a stakeholder group to initiate a three-year study to test bycatch reduction devices to reduce bycatch to the extent practicable, with a 40-percent target reduction. The commission did not include language from an earlier proposal that indicated there would be consequences to not meeting a 40-percent bycatch reduction, and made it clear the 40-percent target reduction is a goal, not a mandate.

–   For the draft river herring plan, eliminate the discretionary harvest season and implement a rule in joint and coastal waters to prohibit the possession of river herring greater than six inches while fishing or boating, as well as remove alewife and blueback herring from the mutilated finfish rule.

–   For the draft bay scallop plan, manage waters south of Bogue Sound as a separate unit from Bogue Sound (currently waters south of Bogue Sound open based on sampling in Bogue Sound) and manage the southern waters based on the Division of Marine Fisheries’ judgment from field sampling; allow dredges to operate at a lower opening trigger than current management allows; allow harvest of bay scallops on aquaculture operations during closed public seasons and at greater daily quantities (this is currently allowed for clams and oysters on leases); and increase recreational harvest to seven days per week, but at a lower daily harvest limit.

Modified the dates of the commercial American shad season in the Albemarle Sound Management Area. The season had been scheduled to be shortened to March 18 – April 14 this year to meet harvest reduction requirements of the N.C. Sustainable Fishery Plan for American Shad. Several fishermen who spoke during the public comment period asked for the season to open earlier in the March instead. The commission modified the season dates to March 3-24, which will still meet the harvest reduction requirement.