February 25, 2016

Outer Banks Angling: Wow!.....WITH VIDEO


I can honestly say I would not try to describe this column with any other headline. It has been quite the end to the month of February.

New fishing regulations on a popular species and two hard-hit local boats are making up most of the fishing chatter.

Yes, bluefin tuna have shown up, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

To start things off, cobia have been the talk of the Internet for the past couple of weeks. One or two random posts on social media pertaining to concerns of a possible closure on the harvest of the species led to an unbelievable response.

At first, it didn’t seem real, as there wasn’t much information on the subject coming from anywhere other than hearsay. But, it took only a few more days before the reality became clear.

Just over 1.5 million pounds of cobia were harvested by recreational fisherman in 2015 and that more than doubles what the annual catch limit should be, which is 630,000 pounds. Many states are instituting new regulations for 2016 and North Carolina is one of them.

The daily two fish per person bag limit is being reduced to one fish per person per day starting this Saturday. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries hopes to limit the impact of the harvest this year and to even extend the season by a few days.

Extend the season by a few days?

Yeah, that’s the next whammy in this one.

It has been proposed to close the cobia to harvest as of June 15 for the remainder of 2016 to also help protect the stock. So, your guess will be as good as the rest of us as to how many extra days the one fish per person per day will buy us.

Probably not many.

The 1.5 million estimated pounds is figured out in quite the peculiar manner.

The South Atlantic Fishery Council basically takes some data acquired from boat ramps, piers, surf and even by counting the number of trucks and trailers at a ramp -- I kid you not -- to come up with this rough figure.

And, this is where I get "Wow!" -- because there is not much more to say to that.

Cobia are great fish to eat and also put up one heck of a fight. They are typically caught by sight-casting, which is a ton of fun. And all of this leads to a big draw.

Some anglers are just fanatical about these fish, and they pay big bucks to hunt them with local captains or by dragging their own boats to our ramps. This is serious business, so no one wants this species to go the way of the striped bass, which cost the area's economy a lot of dollars  when they up and disappeared.

The frustration lies in the council’s witchcraft estimate of over 1.5 million pounds to make this declaration seem legit.

If you want to come to any area that makes a lot of money in the recreational fishing industry and change the rules on a money fish—well then—it needs to be with a little more than we counted 27 Fords, 18 Chevys and 29 Toyotas at a ramp and multiplied that by 14 people we interviewed on a pier and divided that by 76 we interviewed at the ramp and took that figure and multiplied it by the square root of the world.

Captains, anglers, and local business owners are upset and rightfully so. Hard data and science go a lot further than witchcraft.

We can only hope that this satisfies the council, because if it doesn’t and there is another crazy take by the end of 2016, then we’ll probably be looking at a full closure in 2017.

This is a tough pill to swallow and will be talked about for most of the year I am sure.

Well, the bluefin tuna are here and the dash for the cash has begun.

Bluefin are the largest of the tuna family and the most sought after in all of the markets. Commercial fishermen can make big bucks catching them, and they are sought-after table fare by many. They fight like Zeus himself, and many recreational anglers love to chase these fish also.

In recent years, the Outer Banks even got its own spinoff show on National Geographic Channel's  "Wicked Tuna" series.

I’ve seen some nice fish recently on social media and in the reports. They are definitely here a touch bit earlier in the year than we’ve seen in recent past, but no one’s complaining.

But some local watermen have had troubles chasing the bluefin.

The Waste Knot out of Pirates Cove sunk after striking something in the ocean east of Oregon Inlet. I’ve heard it was a whale or wood, but I am personally not sure.

Days later, the Risky Business literally got hit by a couple rogue waves that were described as larger than the boat as the crew crossed over the east bar of Oregon Inlet. The flying bridge was ripped off the boat.

Luckily, in both incidents, everyone made it back safely.

And, there have been a couple of other incidents that have led to another sunken boat and another being towed in after it started taking on water.

Both the Waste Knot and Risky Business had very knowledgeable and skilled local captains who got into trouble quickly. If you are the person that reads the reports and thinks to yourself about dragging your boat down here and making a run for it, make sure you fully understand what you are getting into.

Oregon and Hatteras inlets change overnight, and some of the best captains on the Outer Banks have hard times navigating those waters some days and they do it more than most.

There are some nice blackfin tuna running around out there in the deep to go along with the blues. If you like tuna, then now would be a good time to call a local captain and give it a whirl.

There are some puppy drum being caught from the surf around Buxton and a little farther south, with some days better than others.

Water temps do not look all that bad from Buxton south, and after there were a couple big drum caught during the last warm spell,  there is a good chance a few warm days and southwest winds could get the drum party started.

For now, it’s almost March, and the weather during this time could do just about anything.

But, you can sit at home reading reports, or you can go out and try to make one.

Go fishing and play hard.

(Rob Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 16 years and has worked in the recreational fishing industry the entire time. A former variety fishing TV show host, beach fishing guide, tackle shop and pier employee, Rob currently owns and operates Outer Banks Kayak Fishing. He is on the Pro-Staff of Bending Branches LLC, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Release Reels, Yakattack and is an ambassador for Ugly Stik. You can follow his adventures at www.FishMilitia.com or OuterBanksKayakFishing.com.)


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