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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for June 2022
Another hot month with temps above average through the month of June. No wonder the surf fishing and pier action is slow. Surf temps for May were ranged from a low of 76 to a high of 84 averaging 79.7 +/- 2.0, 8-degrees above May. Bogue Sound was had a low of 76° with a high of 85°, averaging 81.2 +/- 2.2, about 7-degrees above May. Check out the graph with its big undulating swings, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for May 2022
What a wild month with big swings ending with surf temp at 81…mid July territory. Surf temps for May were ranged from a low of 66 to a high of 81 averaging 71.7 +/-3.7, over 7-degrees above April. Bogue Sound was had a low of 62° with a high of 86°, averaging 75.1 +/- 6.2, 9-degrees above April. Check out the graph with its big undulating swings, not unlike April blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.






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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for April 2022
First of all surf temperatures from New Years Day through the end of April averaged a whopping +3° above my average since 1995. Surf temps for April were ranged from a low of 60 to a high of 69 averaging 64.4 +/-2.0. Bogue Sound was had a low of 55° with a high of 73°, averaging 66.2 +/- 4.5, Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Sheepshead Tagging Research, Lewis Naisbett-Jones (UNC/IMS)

We’ve had on this show many times research being done with fish particularly focusing on tagging studies, speckled trout, gray trout, cobia and this one has to do with tagging sheepshead. Good morning Lewis. Before we get into the study itself what are some of the things that we DO know about sheepshead, then we can figure out what we need to learn.

LNJ (10:07): I think the inshore aspects of sheepshead behavior is really well studied. When they are accessible in the summertime, when they are inshore and around peoples’ docks and various other habitats we know a lot about that part of their life history. We know that the juveniles prefer sea grass, shallow water kind of a vegetive habitat.

Before they go to the hard stuff.

LNJ (10:36): Exactly, they grow as adults and that’s when you find them near the wrecks, reefs and rocks, we know a lot about that in particular.

What do the juveniles feed on?

LNJ (10:47): Lots of small crustaceans, they are not super picky they will eat kind of whatever they can get a hold of in the sea grass habitat.

So where are we going from there? So what are some of the questions, if you start a tagging study you obviously start off with some kind of idea of what questions you want to try to answer? What’s your list of questions?

LNJ (11:08): So really there are two main areas that we are interested in, in our study and it’s all centered around the offshore aspect of sheepshead behavior. So we want to know where do they go when they leave inshore areas…so where do they spend their winter times. And more importantly where do they go to spawn. So where do they reproduce.

So how are we going to do that?

LNJ (11:38): Well, they are a hard species to study because they are hard to catch as I know that many people are aware.

People that catch them, it’s sort of like flounder, it’s the people that target them, you don’t get a lot of people that catch them that aren’t targeting them.

LNJ (11:55): Exactly, when you first get into sheepshead fishing it’s a very frustrating sport, but you soon pick-up little tricks along the way that helps with that process. So we’re interested in that offshore component where they go and we are getting at that by using a series of different tracking methods. We are using three different types of tags to track the movements of the sheepshead.

And what are those three alternatives?

LNJ (12:30):  So we’re using conventional spaghetti tags, which are just these little plastic numbered tags the same ones everyone uses, the red and the yellow tags, and they are out there with a contact number for me and if any anglers catch a fish that we’ve released with these tags, there is a reward. We work with local fishing shops like Chasin’ Tails and Neuse and we give out gift certificates if the information is returned from those fish. We also use a type of tag called an acoustic tag, which is implanted inside of the fish which sends out little pings of sound. And we have underwater hydrophones so these kind…hear and identify the pings.

How many hydrophones are out there, because obviously these are used for a number of different studies? They are shared.

LNJ (13:16): I don’t know they exact number but probably somewhere between 50 and 100. There is a good number out there and all the different research groups kind of work together on this. So we have a number, NC State has a number of those receivers out there so we kind of share that data which is really nice.

MM: How much time do you have with the fish when you are tagging it?

LNJ (13:39): It’s pretty short, so we’ll get it on the boat and we’ll try to do for the acoustic tags surgeries, we try to do them within 10-minutes. The fish is under anesthesia it’s on a table on the boat. It’s a hard situation to do surgery because the platform is moving, but we aim for 10-minutes and the quicker you can do it the less stress is caused for the fish and the higher likelihood they’re going to swim off happy and healthy.

The trickier one is the archival PSAT tag. What are they and we’ve seen them on sharks and others, but they are awfully big.

LNJ (14:17): Yes, in my opinion this is the coolest aspect of our study. These are “besasolite” tags, this is a special type of satellite tag that we’re using and it’s called a pop-off satellite tag or PSAT. What that means is that we attach these large satellite tags to the fish and we program them to detach or pop-off from the fish after a certain period of time.  And the way people will put these on sea turtles and things like that, they work quite well because the antenna is always at the surface and  so they can communicate with the satellite but with a fish you can’t do that because they are deep underwater for a large part of their time. And so these tags store data as the fish are moving and when they surface, on the day that we program it to do that, that’s when the antenna communicated with the satellite and sends us all that stored data. But you’re right, these are really large tags…

And the sheepshead aren’t…

LNJ (15:17): And the sheepshead are not! No, historically they have been used on sharks, tuna and billfish and cobia and fish like that. So we are really pushing the limits of the size of the fish that can carry these tags. And what’s helped is they have reduced in size slightly within the last 10-years so that the tags that we are using are maybe 30-percent smaller than the original satellite tags that came onto the market. But it’s still a big tag for a small fish.

MM: How big is the tag?

LNJ (15:51): It’s 40 grams, about one and a half ounces, but it’s 4.5-5-inches long and that doesn’t include the antenna, so when you have the antenna it’s almost half the length of the fish  but the antenna is pretty low profile.

You’re putting these on the bigger fish that you are catching.

LNJ (16:13): Exactly, so we target largest sheepshead we can get.

How do you catch your fish?

LNJ (16:20): Hook and line! We do work a little bit with pound net fishermen, but because of the restrictions to the flounder season it’s been harder to get sheepshead from them and they are typically a by-catch of the flounder pound nets. So a lot of the fish that we have tagged over the last two years all been caught by hook and line.

What’s your favorite bait?

LNJ (16:41): Great question. So we’ve gone through different baits over the last two years. I think my personal…if I had to choose just one bait I would probably stick to mud crabs or fiddler crabs. We’ve also had great success with sea urchins and mussels as well.

In the different groups of fish you’ve tagged how many fish have you tagged with the spaghetti tags, the acoustic and the satellite tags?

LNJ (17:10): So we’ve done just over 600 fish with the spaghetti tags, at two years, a lots of days fishing on the boat fishing for sheepshead. We’ve done approximately 50 fish with the acoustic tags and again another 50 with the satellite tags.

Are you getting good returns?

LNJ (17:26): Well yes, for the spaghetti tags we’ve had about 68 anglers call in fish that they’re recaptured in the last year or so, which has been really valuable information. And we’ve been getting good detections from our acoustic tags and a good success rate from our initial deployment of the satellite tags.

From the acoustic tags you know daily where the fish are, what they are doing, where they are hanging out, where they are feeding where they are wandering on a general basis. Do they move around very much?

LNJ (18:01): They do. It’s hard to say for sure because a large part of it relates how much coverage you have with the (hydrophone) receivers, and we don’t have them everywhere but we do have good coverage inshore and especially around the Morehead City area. So we do have good data that suggest that at least a small number of sheepshead, the mature adults, actually remain inshore within the inlets year round. Obviously another proportion of that population does leave and migrate offshore to spawn as well. It’s been very interesting data to look at.

Whatcha got Lewis , what do you know so far?

LNJ (19:22): We’re halfway through the study so the data is still kind of rolling in. But our early findings have been really interesting. We’ve identified a number of adult sheepshead leaving the inlets to migrate offshore and that started late October and continued right up into early December we had detections of fish leaving and making their way offshore. Satellite tagging data from our first year of our project identified a bunch of locations, most of them relatively close to the inlets.

How close?

LNJ (19:56): Like within five miles of the inlet for the most part. Fish hanging around artificial reefs AR-315 and some of the live bottom areas close to Beaufort Inlet.

So  you’re guessing that those are possibly the spawning grounds for those fish, or where do you think that’s occurring?

LNJ (20:16): Yes, I would love to say where the spawning grounds are, but it’s a little too early to say but certainly these locations that we’re getting are within the window that we anticipate the fish are spawning so that spawning grounds probably are within these areas or very close to these areas.

What time of year?

LNJ (20:36): April is the time when our tags pop-off and give us the locations of the fish, and we think spawning/reproduction is April/May time.

That’s just before they start to come back in then.

LNJ (20:47): Exactly.

We start seeing them staging just outside the inlets early spring and April they start coming back to the piers and inside.

LNJ (20:58): Exactly. We did have one fish with a tag which came off slightly earlier in December and that fish was about 22-miles south off the coast from Beaufort Inlet.

Where do you go from here?

LNJ (21:11): We have to wait for April until we get the tags to pop-off. It’s a waiting game here, but it will be really interesting to compare this year’s data to last year’s data and see if there is a common pattern between years.

Do you get a feel that these fish survive pretty well? When they did the studies with the gray trout they lost a lot of trout. These are pretty good surviving and coming back and forth?

LNJ (21:39): Oh yes, we realized pretty early on that sheepshead are really hardy fish, especially compared to gray trout and some other species. So we have really high survival rates post-surgery and post tagging procedures. And a fact that a large number or our tags made it to April suggest that those fish were alive and well.

Can we get you back next spring??

LNJ (22:09): Yah! Love to.



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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for February 2022
Surf temps for February were in the 40s early in the month rising to the mid 50s. This is unusual where Feb. temps are nearly flat averaging 50 at the beginning and 51 by the end of the month. This year the surf started in the upper 40s (48°) and peaked at 56°, don’t see that very often for February, with and average of 52.1 +/- 2.3°. Bogue Sound was even more dramatic starting at a low of 45° with a high of 61°, averaging 52.4 +/- 4.8, surprisingly the same average as the surf, just more variation. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for January 2022
Surf temps for December were up high early in the month and downed rapidly by the end of the month with the surf dropping from a high of 62° to low of 46° (-16°) with a linear slope of 0.47°/day (R^2 0.911). Don’t see that often. Bogue sound was even more dramatic with a high of 64° and a low of 39° a change of -25°. So the surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 62°, low of 46° with an average of 59.3° +/- 4.5°. Bogue Sound had a high of 64° and a low of 39°, with an average 47.5° +/-6.7°. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.


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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for December 2021
Surf temps for December were up and down but relatively flat but with a surprising rise of the surf and sound into the 60s towards the end of the month. Surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 60°, low of 55° (only 5° difference) with an average of 57.2° +/- 1.5°. Bogue Sound had a high of 63° and a low of 49°, with somewhat of a large 14° difference, and an average 56.2° +/-4.3°. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for November 2021
Surf temps for November started high and dropped rapidly at a rate (slope of the line) of -0.4°/day. Surf at Bogue Pier had a High of 68°, low of 55° (13° difference) with an average of 61.8° +/- 3.8°. Normally November has a 6° range, 65°-59° (average 62°) in the surf. Bogue Sound had a high of 66° and a low of 47°, a large 19° difference, and an average 56.8° +/-5.4°. Check out the graph, blue diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures.

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Emerald Isle Water Temperatures for September 2021
Surf temps for September were pretty tight for August, especially in the surf which had only a 5-degree range whereas the sound was 11-degrees. Surf at Bogue Pier had a Low of 77°, high of 82°with an average of 79.8° +/- 1.7°. The surf curve had a very slight negative slope of only -0.1°/day. Bogue Sound had a low of 73° and a high of 84° and an average 78.8° +/-3.3. Both surf and sound averaged under 80°. Check out the graph, diamonds are the surf, red squares are the sound temperatures. Our first mullet blow for this season was on 9/4/21 with surf temps 79°, sound at 78°. October is here and is the month where temps really start to take a plunge.

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Oyster Restoration Program WTKF Radio Show 9/20/21: Jason Peters (NCDMF) Mike McHugh Host and Dr. Bogus

Dr. Bogus: We have coming back to us Jason Peters from Marine Fisheries. First Jason, give people an idea on your background.

Jason Peters: Sure, thanks Dr. Bogus. As you said I’m Jason Peters, really glad to be back here today, I think this is my second visit, hope to be invited back again. We’ll see how today goes. I work at the Division of Marine Fisheries, I work for their habitat enhancement section. My title is officially Enhancement Program Supervisor, so what that means for me is that I oversee all the reef enhancement work that we do.

Dr. Bogus: Which is a very busy part of the duties on Marine Fisheries.

Jason Peters: It really is, but I like to say it’s more of a feel-good side of Fisheries. We give something back and so I oversee the Artificial Reef Program, the cultch planting program, which is the program we will be talking about today, and then the Oyster Sanctuary Program.

Dr. Bogus: We’re going to talk about the Oyster Restoration, that’s part of the restoration of things but why don’t you give people a little basic biology of oysters, because it plays an important role in restoring these reefs it’s an important consideration.

Jason Peters: Absolutely, so I’m an ecologist by training which means I’ve studied how organisms interact with their environment. Oysters start out essentially as larvae. So oysters will spawn in the water column, males and females put their seeds in the water column, they will fertilize, the larvae will travel through the water for about 2-weeks then after that point they will develop to a point settle on “suitable” habitat, hard rock substrate or other oyster reefs and then they will live there for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Bogus: Which is how long?

Jason Peters: It depends on where they are but in North Carolina we see 3, 4-years maybe max.

Dr. Bogus: That’s the life cycle!

Jason Peters: Yes about 3 or 4-years.

Dr. Bogus: So how long has the restoration project been going on? I remember a few years ago when you were requesting people dropping off shells I know that’s been around for a while.

Jason Peters: Sure, quite a bit of time actually. So we’ve got two main programs at the Division, one is the cultch planting program; the other is the oyster sanctuary. The cultch planting really is where restoration started with the division and with the state and that’s been around in some form or fashion since about 1915. So we’re over a hundred years now doing restoration in the state.

Dr. Bogus: What is the health of our oysters here in North Carolina at this point? I know we’re trying to restore things but what is it now compared to the historical background of the oyster habitat and the economics? 

Jason Peters: Sure absolutely, so in the 1800’s, really mid to late 1800’s I would say we were at the peak for our oyster populations and at that point the harvests didn’t increase substantially and we haven’t rebounded from that. So we’re about 10% or historical max from the 1800’s.

Dr. Bogus: And that’s been for quite some time, I went back and looked at Marine Fisheries website on the oyster harvests over the past 20 or 25-years, there are ups and downs obviously but there really hasn’t been a big change even from 20-years ago it didn’t seem.

Jason Peters: Right, there are quite a few pressures that we are seeing on oysters now that can affect their populations. Of course we’re seeing higher frequencies of hurricanes, which affect the salinity in the sounds more intensive agriculture and land development and all of those things, and harvest of course, all of those factors really can affect oysters and hence the need for restoration and restoration efforts to maintain populations at a harvestable level.

Dr. Bogus: In North Carolina geographically speaking what is the distribution…is it generally through the whole state north to south, what does that look like?

Jason Peters: Oysters of course they exist all the way from the Gulf Coast on up to Maine. We’ve got them throughout coastal North Carolina anywhere salinities are greater that about 12-parts per-thousand, maybe from the mouth of the Neuse eastward can support oysters. (Ocean salinity about 3.5-ppt)

Dr. Bogus: A big part of this program is collection and distributing the oyster shells on the reefs. Oyster shells and what other materials are good substrates for the larvae to affix to?

Jason Peters: Oyster shells are obviously the natural substrate, that’s what oysters settle on, so we know that that works, but they are not always available to us and of course they are quite expensive so we look to alternatives, the main that we use is actually a fossil type of shell, it’s fossil limestone and we get quite a bit of it, marine limestone marl, it is mined in New Bern. So it’s sourced in New Bern and we spread throughout the sound as our primary alternative.

Dr. Bogus: We know the size of the oyster shells, what is the size of stuff that you distribute, that’s probably a critical part too.

Jason Peters: I mentioned our two different programs cultch planting program is intended really to support a wild harvest and so we use smaller materials that can be picked up in tongs or dredges or things of that nature or hand harvested, so much smaller maybe 2-inches. Of course the method that we distribute them is via our fleet of 5-vessels with water monitors so we blast them off the side so that means that we need to have a little bit smaller material. In the sanctuary program we’re building much higher relief, these are big mountains for more of a long term insurance policy on our oyster population. And we’re building with much larger 12, 14-inch even larger pieces of limestone marl or concrete in some cases to build those because they are closed to harvest, people don’t need to go in there and excavate or anything like that.

Dr. Bogus: I saw a story in one of the publications recently and it was pretty impressive, there was a big boat which liked like tons of oyster shells, can you describe a typical day when you are dumping tons of oyster shells? (

Jason Peters: I think in that article that image that you saw was an image for our oyster sanctuary program and we build about 10-acres a year. What you were seeing there was a barge…we partner up with North Carolina Coastal Federation, or we have for the last several years and we’ve got a contractor that come in and takes about 1,500-tons of that material in a single barge load to the reef site. In a given year we’ll do maybe 12 to 15-of those barge loads for a 10-acre site.

Dr. Bogus: That seems like a thankless job, it seems like you have to put a lot of stuff down to make an impact on the situation with the oysters. We’ve obviously taken up over the years a lot of the oyster shells out and now we’re trying to get it back where it belongs.

Jason Peters: So we’ve got a bin at Marine Fisheries, anybody that has oyster shells we certainly collect them, and they go a long way to helping our cultch planting program and restoring the oyster populations.

Mike McHugh: I can ask a question, Jason, you talk about the economic impact that oysters have on the economy as far as harvesting and people consume it, but speak from a point of the ecology and the environment. How much water does one oyster filter in a day.

Jason Peters: Great question! So there is a lot of controversy over that number it reports up to about 50-gallons a day, really incredible. We were talking on one of the breaks about scaling that up. So we sample on a per-meter squared one-meter-by-one-meter, and we can see 200, 300-oysters in the single meter, and then you talk about acres of that times 50-gallons. It’s a lot of water that we’re filtering and that means a lot economically, clean water better fisheries, that brings people here.

Dr. Bogus: The habitat that you are generating can be determined where it is since it’s published on the NCDMF (

Jason Peters: It sure is and I would like to point folks to the trusty Google, just to Google NCDMF, you can type “oyster sanctuary” or “cultch planting” or “oysters” and you’ll find our main page and on that page there is a link to an interactive map. You can see all of the habitat that we’ve got out there, cutch planting and oyster sanctuaries and artificial reefs for that matter.

Dr. Bogus: It’s really good for the artificial reefs as well. What are some of your recent accomplishments? I know you’ve done a lot of work around the Cedar Island area, near the bombing range and all.

Jason Peters: So that’s where our crowning achievement is. In the last year we finished up a 60-acre site at what we call Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary, again that was in partnership with the Coastal Federation…

Dr. Bogus: I’ve fished there!

Jason Peters: And really a great spot for old drum fishing, you mentioned that in your report earlier. All of those reefs hold big drum. So that was our big one and then of course we’ve started our next sanctuary site at Cedar Island and we built about 10-acres this past year.

Dr. Bogus: What does that look like going forward? Do you have stable funding to do this and what is your plan for the next 5 to 10-years?

Jason Peters: We plan to continue our partnership with the Coastal Federation, we’ve been able to leverage a 50/50, we pay half, they pay half. Every year it’s doubled the amount of habitat we’ve been able to build. We’ve been really fortunate; our funding comes from the General Assembly almost exclusively at least our portion in the Division and we’ve been really fortunate to have strong funding for the last previous 5-years and we’ve hopeful to continue that strong funding.

Dr. Bogus: These reefs, some of those are sanctuaries; does that mean that those are off limits as far as harvesting goes? But there are other areas that you can harvest where you are creating these reefs?

Jason Peters: Correct, so our oyster sanctuary program I mentioned before they are much more complex larger areas, but they are closed to harvest, we build them as sort of an insurance policy to provide those larvae we talked about to the rest of the system and then the cultch reefs are open harvest smaller materials so that they can be collected.

Dr. Bogus: And then as a fisherman I know those reefs are very productive. I was just fishing over the weekend at a place called Emerald Isle Woods and right off the end of the pier there is big oyster reef and when I was able to fish at the high tide I can fish right over the top of the reef looking for red drum. So what other fish tend to accumulate around the reefs?

Jason Peters: Of course we know that trout, spotted sea trout, but weakfish also love these sites. We see sheepshead quite frequently. Seasonally, maybe not so much of a fishery, but we do see groupers and sea bass using that habitat for refuge…juveniles, and then red drum and black drum.