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Recent headlines from Marine Fisheries: “NC Recreational Salt Water Landings Down”. NCDMF has reported that although the fishing effort is up, that is there were 16% more fishing trips in 2016 compared to 2015, anglers caught 18% fewer fish. But as always the devil is in the details! One bright spot is last year’s great statistics for speckled trout which were nearly five fold above 2015 levels, but provided some of the best trout catches in recent years. We can even see the spillover into this spring and summer, where catches of big trout is notably better than we normally experience this time of year. And this is in the face of frequent winter trout kills in the last few years. I’m sure bag and size limits have helped rebuild these stocks along with season closures. So in 2016 if you didn’t routinely get your limit of trout, you just weren’t trying.

What are other notable pluses and minuses that contributed to this report? Offshore pelagics, one of the most targeted species, the dolphin (mahi-mahi) dropped nearly 40 percent but yellowfin tuna catches tripled and was the highest in the last 5-years and wahoo catches were up modestly. Wahoo catches have actually been very strong for the last year or so. Yellowfin catch has been low here along the crystal Coast, but numbers must reflect much better catch numbers farther north in the state.

Inshore and nearshore catches had a mix of good and bad news. Red drum and southern flounder had modest increases as had bluefish but the bottom panfish catches were considerably lower and that includes spots, croaker and sea mullet (a.k.a. kingfish). By just checking the local fishing piers and you could have predicted that.

The mackerels are still going strong both from the surf, piers and boats trolling along the beaches although the Spanish catches were down from 2012 and 2013 numbers. On the other hand, and I can attest to this, summer flounder catches continue to drop dramatically with more and more of the catch coming from nearshore reefs wrecks and ledges and fewer from the beach, piers and inlets. In 2016, the summer flounder catch is less than 30 percent compared to 2012. The last few years I can only find short throw-backs and never come close to a bag limit of four fish.

One interesting success has to do with black drum. As you remember North Carolina finally instituted size and bag limits on this species. People often were keeping juvenile spot-sized fish well before maturity. The year that a 10-inch minimum length and a 10-fish bag limit was instituted, the catches of the black drum plummeted. Since then, the numbers have steadily increased and the average size of the fish has also increased each year from under two-pounds prior to the new limits to well over three-pounds per fish since the new limits were instituted. Exactly what one would hope, let the babies live and get bigger and reproduce and you get more fish and bigger fish. Seems like some other species might benefit from similar regulations.  So how did you do in 2016? So far in 2017?  For details on the commercial and recreational catch data check out: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/marine-fisheries-catch-statistics.

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 72-degrees to a high of 80-degrees with an average of 77.1-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 68-degrees a high of 85-degrees with an average of 79.4-degrees (red squares).  May temps fluctuated a bit but increased steadily increased about 0.2-degrees/day and we continue to be above normal compared with my 20+ years of data. We hit 80 degrees in the surf by the end of June. Normally we see that in early July. This year the water temps continue to be above normal. Watch out for an active hurricane season.

 

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Noisy baits, Part 1 popping corks and rattles: by Dr. Bogus with Brian Cope

 

I’m (Dr. Bogus) a scientist so I always like to look at things from the scientific viewpoint, so when I saw the article by South Carolina fishing and outdoors writer Brian Cope on noise and designing noisy baits I thought that was a really interesting article. One of the things about that is we know that fish hear, how DO fish hear and how do we use that to create useful baits?

According to Cope, fish can hear in two ways, first high frequency sounds through their ear stones called otoliths inside their heads and secondly they “hear” low frequency vibrations through their lateral line, which you can clearly see in most fish, it’s just a line running down the center of their body lengthwise along each of their sides.

So what do they hear?

“You know sounds like fish pumping, fish opening their gills, inflating their bladders and deflating their bladders,” explained Cope, “lot of noises we can’t hear, but that fish do hear.”

There is something we need to know about sound in the air and water…the scientist in me of course.  If we have a thunder storm and, we’ve had some lately, if you see a lightning strike somewhere, the thunder and other noises travel about five seconds/mile in the air. On the other hand in water, sound travels really fast, about one-second/mile. Some of the early baits, some of the early things we were trying to make noise with are corks. And also, I know when I fished as a kid, popping plugs, those were some of the first ones. Brian, where did you start trying to use baits that make noise and mimic fishy sounds?

“Popping corks were the first that I remember ever intentionally making noise,” said Cope, “ to try and attract fish and that really was the only thing that I ever used or saw anyone else use for saltwater anyway for a very long time until Rat-L-Traps came along certainly for bass in freshwater. Interestingly they are not really popular in the saltwater world even though they do now make Rat-L-Traps that are for saltwater use, that have the corrosion resistant hooks.”

It’s interesting, you brought up the Rat-L-Traps Brian, here’s one right now (rattle sounds), and that was one of the first…Bill Lewis came up with Rat-L-Traps for freshwater  bass fishing back in the 1960s. And you were absolutely right, it took people a long time to put hooks that didn’t dissolve after one use in saltwater, because they really are an excellent bait. As far as noisy baits, this was probably the first one, and is still great.

So Brian, what is the difference between a noise that attracts fish and a noise that scatters them?

“As we all learned when we were kids,” said Cope, “you don’t want to make a lot of noise in the boat, your feet banging on the boat, or the paddle hitting the side of the boat, things like that are going to alarm the fish and send them scattering, but they are going to be attracted noises that sound more natural to them, like bait fish normally make.”

These days there are many baits with rattle noise makers, what are some good examples Brian?

“MirrOlures and YoZuris and even some of the Super Spooks have noise makers in them, those are definitely good ones that are really similar in what the Rat-L-Trap does,” explained Cope.”

“There are also soft baits now that can make noise with small rattles, said Cope,. “like the Vudu rattling shrimp.  You know the Vudu shrimp has been around for a few years now; it’s a really effective bait. They make one know that has a little chamber in it that you can slip a rattle or weight into, and those are similar to what the bass world started using years ago that bass anglers would just cut a slit in the soft plastic and insert a little rattle. But they fell out and it was hard to do with slippery hands, but now the Vudu shrimp just has an actual chamber that the rattle that comes with it slides into.”

 For those who are not familiar, shrimp are noisy critters, snapping and popping as they move through the water feeding or escaping the jaws of a predator looking for a snack.

“You can definitely hear the shrimp making noise” said Cope, “if you are around at the right time and I’m sure it sounds different to the fish but they certainly do make noise especially when they “pop” their tails to move.”

 

Noisy baits, Part 2 Surface baits, spinners and the new electronic baits: by Dr. Bogus with Brian Cope

 

Brian, I use a lot of top-water baits and I assume you do too, some of those baits emit different frequencies.  Have you found that either the high pitch or low pitch clickers are more effective?

“Well, yes certainly are on different days,” explained Cope. “I‘ve never found one that absolutely works under certain conditions, but I’ve found that if you have a variety of them on board with you, you can usually find one that works from one day to the next, and if I had the scientific background I maybe would be able to tell you why that is, but I do know that is certainly makes a difference from one day to the next. The obvious thing is to try the different ones until you get success.”

We talked about the Rat-L-Trap which didn’t get used in saltwater until more recently, but another bait that was really popular in freshwater was the spinner baits, the bass buzz baits and we are finally getting to realize that they are effective saltwater too. They also make a lot of noise and vibrations.

“Yes,” smirked Cope,  “and you know they’re still, at least in the circles that I run in not used as often as I think they should be.” “A lot of them are people that bass fish and they go to the beach a couple of times a year and they don’t want to buy a bunch of new tackle so they just take their bass gear with them. But certainly spinner baits and buzz baits early in the morning can be extremely effective on redfish and trout and just as effective as they are with bass.”

Like with any of the other baits there is a lot of variation, long skinny leafy blades, big round ones, they all work at a different level at the fish.  Do you have any preferences Brian?

“Well the Redfish Magic is a saltwater spinner bait which is a little different than most freshwater spinner baits,” said Cope “mainly because of it being made for saltwater and having the corrosion resistance, that’s my favorite.”

Anything new and exciting out there, high tech maybe, Brian?

“One of the most unique ones I think out there is made by Livingston Lures,” said Cope. “These lures have electronic circuit boards in them that make noise and unlike just plain rattling noises they have recordings of actual bait fish sounds that are turned on when the lure gets wet.”

Wow, have you used those baits and have you found them to be effective, Brian?

“Yes I have used those baits,” said Cope excitingly. “I really love those baits and in some circumstances they can really make your day when nothing else is biting and like any other bait I’ve ever used I’ve also had days when I really didn’t have a lot of luck with them.” “It’s just another case of having a variety of lures on board with you and going through then to find something that works.”

Do you think those Livingston baits as they become more popular; the price will come down on them?

“Hopefully so groaned,” Cope. “I think they are $15-$20 right now. Those baits actually have adjustable sounds in them. You can shut them off or select from several different sounds.”

Have you find a sound that works best for you or do you just try them all?

“Yes,” said Cope, “so I just try them all, that’s the way I’ve done it and I’ve never found that a specific one that works any better than the other except on some days one will work better than the others.”

Thanks Brian, hopefully we now have a better feeling on noisy baits. Good noise, bad noise, now smart chips, so let’s go catch some fish!

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For the best results, try live ‘n’ kickin’ bait, By Dr. Bogus (from 2006)

 

If you like to fish, almost any bait will do, if you really want to catch fish, most people go with live bait. Here is what you need to know about catching and using the real thing for bait.

Although I mostly stick to metal, plastic and sometimes wood as baits, even I must admit that live baits, more often than not, will out fish metal, plastic and wooden artificial baits. However, the key questions to live baits are where and how. As an answer to where and how, Capt. Jeff Cronk (Fishin’ 4 Life Charters, Swansboro), often jokes, “the easiest way to get bait is find a marina that sells them!”

But for many of us, hunting and gathering our own bait is just part of the lure, the process, yes the ritual of fishing. For the inshore and nearshore angler, the list of natural baits is seemingly endless, but the main targets include crunchy baits such as fiddler crabs, and shrimp and small finfish like finger mullet, killifish, and menhaden or pogies as they are often referred to.

Fiddler crabs are favorites foods of the munchers and crunchers, specifically sheepshead and black drum are the prime targets for these baits. “I use a lot of fiddler crabs,” said Cronk, but he warns, “they’re easy to find, easy to see, and hard to get.  You’ll find fiddler crabs anywhere there is shoreline. At low tide they tend to come away from the marsh grass to avoid the heat. They leave their little holes and come down to the water’s edge in large colonies from dozens to hundreds to thousands. You can pick them up along the shoreline like that, on the lower part of the tide, especially if there is a good amount of sun out.”

What do you mean, pick them up? With your hands?

“Well,” smiled Cronk, “you’ve got to feel comfortable with that big claw, those one-arm bandits they are called with that big claw, and I’ve seen some claws as big as two and one-half inches long.” But actually,  I don’t usually pick them up by hand if I don’t have to,” explained Cronk, “I’ll take a regular dip-net that you use in your live-well…one that has a flat surface so I can lay it down flat on the ground, and I like to hop on the shoreline about 30-yards down from where the crab colony is and kind of surprise attack them over the marsh.”

You herd them in?

“That’s it, I herd them to the water’s edge back and forth, said Cronk, “you know there are thousands going by me or hundreds going by me, so if I can corner 50 to a 100 along the water’s edge, I can sweep them up with that little net and I’ve got plenty. If not, you’ve got to pick them up one-by-one, which can be time consuming!”

As far as rigging a fiddler, it’s pretty straight forward, explains Cronk; “you can hook them just about anywhere. They are not very big so there isn’t a corner or this or that side that is best, so I come up the back side of the fiddler crab from the bottom to the top, staying close to one side of the crab. It doesn’t necessarily have to be alive, as long as he’s fresh. I’m using a live bait hook, a short shank, wide gap hook, usually a strong stout hook, because I’ve had this year again I’ve had big sheepshead snap a hook in two or bite a hook in two!” “As far as black drum, said Cronk, “I use the same type of hook a live bait hook usually on a slip cork rig around a shallow oyster bed and letting it float just above the depth of the bottom.”

How shallow?

“Most of the places I’m catching my black drum are between one and three-foot of water, said Cronk, and I tend to fish them on the falling tide when the black drum would have to come off the oyster rocks and hang in the eddies just off the rocks.”

Now shrimp, there is nothing in the water that won’t eat shrimp.

“Right, agrees Cronk, “he is THE best bait, I have caught every inshore species and believe it or not, I’ve caught a king mackerel on live shrimp. But then again it’s the toughest to fish with because something will bite on your hook within seconds to a minute or so from when it hits the water. And if you are trying to target certain species it can be irritating.”

Rigging is a little more complicated than some other baits, especially if you want to keep your shrimp alive, so we asked Greg Dennis, owner of The Reel Outdoors Tackle shop in Emerald Isle, for some help. “There are three ways that I know of,” said Dennis, “the first is to place the hook into the base of the horn, which is that sharp point that comes out of the shrimp’s head. Below the horn is a dark spot in the shrimp’s head, that’s the brain, if you hook him there you will kill them, so you hook it in the clear area below the dark spot. Finally some hook the shrimp in the tail, not in the end of the tail but a ¼ or ½ inch above the tail.”

As Cronk pointed out, shrimp will catch anything, but the prime targets are speckled trout, black drum, sheepshead and red drum too. “I’ve have seen times when they (red drum) won’t eat a mullet minnow,” said Cronk, “but they’ll take a live shrimp, which is very odd to me.”

Floating them on a cork at the Cape Lookout rock jetty for specks or on a Carolina rig are the standard methods of fishing shrimp. Carolina rigs can come in several flavors, a true Carolina rig, where your egg sinker is placed on your main line, above your leader material, or a modified Carolina rig as Cronk uses, in which your egg (or slip sinker) weight is placed on your leader material between your swivel and hook. Leader material is typically 15 to 40-pound fluorocarbon and the hooks are usually gold Kahle (wide gap) hooks from No. 2 to a 3/0 in size.

We’ve talked the crunchy baits, now for the live minnow baits. What are the favorites? “The tiger-side (striped killifish) minnows are actually my favorite,” explained Cronk, “when you start off in the season when you can’t get those finger mullets in April and early May when trying to catch flounder, you can catch those tiger-side minnows along the (ocean) beach and so I start off every season with the tiger-side minnows and slowly move into the finger mullets threadfin herring.”

Like many baits, live minnows are caught with a cast net. “I actually stand on the sand ankle deep in the water, said Cronk, and five or ten feet in front of me and you’ll see these little wakes leaving the sand. You’ve got to hit then right then with the net, because they will leave before you can get on of top them. So you cast up ahead of yourself.”

Another member of the killifish family is the common killifish or mud minnow. “Yes, mud minnows are another good bait,” said Dennis, “I trap them in minnow traps, using canned dog food or cat food for bait. You can find the mud minnows up in the creeks and ditches and around docks too.” 

“Although most baits like shrimp and mullet require a live well or aerator,” explained Dennis, “mud minnows (and tiger-minnows too) are very hearty, and can sit in a bucket all day and still be fine.”

Although Cronk’s favorite bait may be the tiger-minnow, Dennis prefers finger mullet. “They are the all around bait for just about everything,” said Dennis, “drum, trout and flounder, and the pinfish don’t peck at it like they do shrimp either.”

 The Tiger-minnows are an early season bait, the finger mullet come later. “Usually by the first of May we start seeing the mullet minnows,” said Cronk, “they are still small then, within two weeks from when we see them they are an inch or two long, within several weeks after that they are good size, and they were late this year. They grew slowly but now they are everywhere.”

So where can you catch them? “You can find them along the shoreline and the canals and creeks,” said Dennis, “and the best time is on the falling tide. When the tide is high the mullet and other bait (like shrimp) are up in the marsh grass and hard to get.”

Rigging is straightforward according to Cronk. “I’m lip hooking them,” said Cronk, “on my Carolina rigs or my modified Carolina rigs I’m casting out and doing a slow retrieve, so I’m dragging the minnow, and I’m putting in under it’s chin and through the top of it’s lips and I’m trying to not pierce it’s brain and stay away from it’s eyes. If I work them on a float cork, I’ll hook them at the anal fin on the underside of the body or on top, on the dorsal fin.”

“I don’t do that with menhaden a lot,” said Cronk, “because the menhaden will circle around and tangle your rig up. Menhaden are strictly nose hooked through the nostrils sideways. If you close his mouth, he will die within seconds if he can’t breathe.” So what about menhaden? Well, according to Cronk, “menhaden are the most abundant and easiest fish for most folks to catch. The menhaden we’re targeting, I use them when it’s hard to get the mullet minnows, and we are targeting flounder. Quite often I use the peanut pogies, and they may be two to four or five inches long and I use them on the Carolina rig. When they start getting about five-inches long or so, and all the way up to nine to 12-inches long, we’ll be targeting Spanish and king mackerel usually using a live bait rig with a treble hook.”

We mentioned using a cast net for catching shrimp, and our finfish baits, but what are the best sizes for these inshore baits? “The best all around cast nets,” said Dennis, “are 5 or 6-feet in radius (10 to 12-feet in diameter) with a mesh size of 3/8-inch. If you are trying to catch the smaller glass minnows you need a net with a ¼-inch mesh size or they will just go through the net.”

Now throwing a cast net is an art in itself, and is as individualized as each thrower. But that’s another article.

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 68-degrees to a high of 76-degrees with an average of 72.0-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 64-degrees a high of 82-degrees with an average of 73.9-degrees (red squares).  May temps fluctuated a bit but increased steadily increased about 0.18-degrees/day and we continue to be above normal compared with my 20+ years of data. We got into the mid 70s by the middle of May, more like mid-June temps. This year the water temps continue to be above normal. Watch out for an active hurricane season.

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 57-degrees to a unbelievable high of 68-degrees with an average of 63.4-degrees (blue diamonds), an average of 8-degrees higher than March. Bogue Sound had a low of 57-degrees a high of 76-degrees with an average of 67.5-degrees (red squares) 12.6-degrees higher than March.  April temps steadily increased about 0.33-degrees/day. And we were above normal compared with my 20+ years of data. We normally don’t get to 68-degrees in the surf until two weeks into May. All this has brought in fish a couple weeks early and we have also had a banner month of Hatteras blues, at numbers we haven’t seen in 5-years.

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 50-degrees to a unbelievable high of 62-degrees with an average of 55.4-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 41-degrees a high of 65-degrees with an average of 54.9-degrees (red squares).  March temps we truly rollercoasterish (see plot) with huge variations and the monthly averages for surf and sound only very ever so slightly above February’s averages. Strangely a straight line drawn through the the data was basically a horizontal flat line slope of nearly zero. Crazy month.

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from Low of 48-degrees to a unbelievable high of 66-degrees with an average of 54.7-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a low of 44-degrees a high of 65-degrees with an average of 54.1-degrees (red squares).  Temperatures in late February were way above normal, being more like late April or early May. Average surf for February is about 50-degrees. I’ve never seen 60s in February, and my data goes back to 1995. Remember 2015 when we had high spring temps (not this high) we had year of the shark attacks. North going sharks and south going bathers collided…ouch!

This is a plot of water temps by week, with an average curve drawn through the data. Notice the black square with the “X”, that was the temperature for Saturday February 25, 2017. Just a tad above normal!

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Jason Peters NC Artificial Reef  program coordinator, The NC Artificial Reef Program and the New AR Guide from an interview I did on the radio on 9/26/16

Today I’m talking to Jason Peters, Coordinator of North Carolina’s Artificial Reef Program.  Welcome Jason can you give us a brief history of NCs AR program, then we will talk about the new AR Reef Guide.

“So, I guess back in the 1940s and 1950s there was a lot of interest in fishing hard bottom but one of the major issues was the hard bottom habitat was so far offshore,” explained Peters,  “so grass roots effort began to put material a little bit closer to shore.” “It was fairly disorganized and there was no real standard of what types of materials to use.” “There were bath tubs, washing machines and things like that,” chuckled Peters, “and so and they worked for a couple of years they would rust away and be gone.”

“Then in the mid-1980s” said Peters, “the state took over from the individual permits that existed out there and set a standard on how we would build artificial reefs.” “One of the things that we do preserve is the idea that we want to improve access so we try to build reefs that people can get to that they can fish. Since the 1980s we’ve been chugging along we’ve been building lots of reefs we’ve got 62 now including the estuarine reefs and we try to enhance anywhere from two to four a year by sinking ships of putting concrete pipe and things like that.”

One of the reefs that has been enhanced recently was AR-330 when you sank the a ship renamed the James J. Francesconi in honor of Jim* the former coordinator of the AR Program.  So how did that sinking go Jason?

 

“Well it’s always stressful,” sighed Peters, “when you sink a ship; there are so many things that can go wrong.” “Even a potential for people to get hurt, but everything went off without a hitch, very-very well, sank right to the bottom, didn’t roll or anything. We actually sank two vessels, they are both upright right in line as we planned, clearance is about 17-feet so we meet all out permitting requirements and from what we hear there are tons of fish on them and the visibility is great.”

 

 

Now to the NEW Artificial Reef Guide. If you go to NCDMF website or stop in their offices in Morehead City, they have available their new AR Guide. I’m holding in my hands the original AR guide, done by Stephen Murphey back in 1995! It has nice hand drawn pictures of boats and rubble and concrete pipes and LORAN numbers which have to be translated into some other language for us to understand them right now. So Jason, the new reef guide which was paid for by our Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) fees by the way, can you give us an idea of what it looks like, how it’s organized, then we can get into the interactive reef guide on the NCDMF web site.

“I’ll start off by saying we’re really proud of this,” exclaimed Peters, “it’s been over 20-years since the last publication and there are a lot of people that put in a lot of time into this particularly Amy Comer-Flowers, and Rachel Love-Adrick, that really created this and edited it.” “What you will get when you pick this book up is…so it’s a spiral bound book and it’s got water-proof pages. Essentially we have every single artificial reef in North Carolina, so all 62 reefs. It’s broken down into sections by bays in the ocean. All the reefs in the Outer Banks is in one section, Raleigh Bay which is from Cape Hatteras to Cape Lookout, Onslow Bay, Long Bay and then our estuarine reefs.”

“And if you go to any particular reef,” said Peters, “you get a table and you get a map.” “So the map is outlined reef patches that are based off of side-scan sonar imagery that was collected in the last 5- or 6-years, and an identifier. And that identifier number will link you back to the table where you can read about the material type, when it was deployed, and get GPS coordinates for each one of those patches. On top of that for each reef, you get provided the magnetic direction and distance from nearby inlets. 

I noticed in the guide book that you can write in your own notes.

“Absolutely,” said Peters, “we got a little note section so that as your fishing it as you decide which patches you like best or what you’re catching or different conditions you can write down your notes and go back and hopefully recreate the scenario the next time you fish.”

Now on these reefs you have “patches” of stuff, how were those generated where you have clusters of the pipes or the ships or whatever?

Sure, so as I mentioned, each reef was side scanned or has been side scanned in the last 5- or 6- years,” said Peters, and “CRFL funds actually funded a staff member to outline each one of the patches in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) or a geographic mapping program, and that’s how we got those. What you see is actually what’s on the bottom.”

I noticed that it was really up-to-date since you even have the boats you recently sank this spring there at AR-330. You ran out there and touched up, did the final touchups before this got printed.

“Yes,” smiled Peters, “we wanted it to be the most up-to-date, the most accurate version that we could provide.”  “I think the plan is every few years, maybe 5- or 6-years we’ll try to come up with and update.”

Not 20-years!

“No not 20-years,” said Peters, “we’ll try to be a little quicker than that.”

Another really big advantage, if you go to the Marine Fisheries web site portal is that the new guide has a user friendly interactive web site, with simple to follow short tutorials. Can you explain how that is set up and how the sonar side-scan data is represented?

“We’re trying to keep up with the times,” explained Peters, “so we’ve gone digital with our reef guide.” “There’s an on-line version, an interactive version that you can find on our web site (http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/artificial-reefs-program). Essentially you get all the information that you can get in the printed guide and then in addition to that there are some mapping tools that help you determine distances for example, and distances between patches. You can also create personalized maps of certain areas on reefs that you can print out.”

I noticed that you can create like a polygon or something around a particular area, mark that or print it out or preserve it.

“That’s exactly right,” said Peters, “ if there’s a certain portion of a reef you really like or you want to zoom in on you can zoom in on that and print it right out.”

It’s like a Google Maps, like going in and looking at neighborhoods.

“That’s a good description,” agreed Peters, “that’s actually the description that I use to explain it to people, it’s a lot like Google Maps where you can zoom in.”

I also noticed that when I was running a cursor over something you get the GPS locations of any one of those spots.

“That’s correct,” said Peters, “if you find a patch you like you can click on it and there will be a little pop-up window that will give you GPS information, material information and actually in some cases with the vessels there are links to the history of the vessel that was sunk there so it you are a history buff you can get a little background information on that vessel. Also with the zooming tool, you can see individual pipes and reef balls and things like that, it’s real neat.”

So Jason, what are the plans of the artificial reef program, what can we look forward in the future?

 “We’re very-very active”, spirited Peters, “we have a lot going on. “Particularly this year we’re planning on sinking two vessels at AR-320, that’s the Novelty ship site off Atlantic Beach, so hopefully if all goes well we’ll get that done sometime this late fall or winter or early part of 2017 depending on how the cleaning process goes with the vessels.” “We’re also looking at two brand new artificial reefs that will be estuarine artificial reefs in Carteret County in Bogue Sound. One potentially in Cedar Point and one in Atlantic Beach, so we’re in the very early stages of planning that out. We’ve got an enhancement project down at AR-430 down off Oak Island, that will be about 4,000 tons of concrete pipe and we’ve also got some work proposed at AR-372, that’s down off Wrightsville Beach, that’s again a concrete pipe project.”

Concrete, that’s a great reef material.

“It really is,” exclaimed Peters, “it provides great habitat, lots of nooks and crannies. And we’re also looking into a brand new artificial reef site in the ocean off the Outer Banks.”

Would that be from the Bonner Bridge material?

“Actually no,” corrected Peters, “ this would be completely new and pending a CRFL application that’s in right now and depending on whether or not that gets funded there might be a new reef up there.”

So what will be the status of the Bonner Bridge remains as they tear down the old bridge for the new span?

“For the Bonner Bridge material,” said Peters, “we’re looking at some time in 2018.” “Once the new bridge is constructed they will demolish the old one and we’ll and we’ll take that material and distribute among the four reefs on the Outer Banks.”

That will make a lot of material!

“Yes,” exclaimed Peters, “80,000 tons!”

“That beats tires,” I said!

“Don’t even speak those words around here,” shouted Peters.

Sorry Jason!

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*Jim Francesconi who was the former coordinator of the AR Program for 14-years (2000-2014), passed away from a long bout with leukemia In July 2014. Jim was the heart and soul of the program during that time, and particularly loved AR 330.  The ship was renamed the James J. Francesconi and sunk in his honor. A plate acknowledging that is permanently affixed to the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Surf at Bogue Pier ranged from high of 56-degrees to a low of 44-degrees with an average of 51.9-degrees (blue diamonds). Bogue Sound had a high of 57-degrees but a low of 32-degrees with an average of 49.8-degrees (red squares).  Temperatures in January were near or slightly above normal except for the dive they took January 7-10, 2017 and resulted in minor trout kills most notably in the North River. Slope was nearly flat showing a very slight but not significant rise.