May 24, 2016
Outer Banks Angling: Cobia Madness
By ROB ALDERMAN
start by apologizing for a lack of reports lately. I had some medical
issues that needed attention, but I am on the mend and moving forward.
that said, I did have a fair amount of time to monitor websites and
social media for all things cobia, because it is that time of year --
and because, as I discussed in my last article, the cobia regulation
debate continues to rage on.
debate centers on how North Carolina should address a federal request
to impose both a new creel limit and a season closure for cobia, and
the proposals have recreational and professional fishermen in an uproar.
waters greater than three miles from the beach are set to close
completely to cobia fishing by June 20, and the feds are hoping the
states will do the same in their waters. From Georgia to New York, the
feds expect anglers and professionals to give up a lot.
are good to eat and hard fighters that are generally caught sight
casting. Seeing your prey and throwing lures at it in the hopes of
getting it to bite – well, is very appealing to many anglers and cobia
season is big money on the Outer Banks.
The majority of anglers thought there should be no changes to the current laws for a few reasons.
many anglers think that the data being used is sloppy at best. No hard
data exists to prove that the cobia numbers have suffered from what was
said to be an overtake of the stock last year. Once again, the data for
an overtake couldn’t be accurately determined. It’s all guess work at
best -- not to mention that the last full stock assessment was done in
many are very upset about the fact that a closure or new limits are not
being forced on the Gulf states or Florida, where a considerable number
of cobia are caught. This means that North Carolina and Virginia make
concessions to take fewer fish, while the Gulf states and Florida have
business as usual. Cobia are big business, and if you are going to hit
a handful of mid-Atlantic states, then you also need to hit the other
waters where these fish dominate. In some instances, cobia migrate to
North Carolina and Virginia waters from as far away from South America.
Our fish are Florida’s fish.
many find these forced changes to the regulations by the South Atlantic
Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) and NOAA to be breaking federal
law. The Magnuson Stevenson Act fisheries legislation requires that for
this type of closure all parties involved be represented and a common
goal be set down and voted on. All the states should have had private
and professional fishermen present, along with representation from
a few meetings throughout the states -- where the common theme
among the attendees was for North Carolina not to comply with the law –
the North Carolina Marine Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF)
handed down its regulations in the hopes of being found in
compliance by the federal council.
The laws, which became effective on Monday, May 23, include:
hopes that these changes will be enough to completely circumvent what
NOAA plans, which is a full closure of the cobia harvest by June 20.
- All cobia are to be 37 inches to the fork in length for harvesting.
- For-hire charter boats may fish seven days a week and keep four fish per boat.
- Surf and pier fishermen may fish seven days a week and possess one fish per person.
- Recreational boaters may possess fish on Monday, Wednesday and Saturdays with only a two fish per boat limit.
Everyone is waiting to hear what the answer is because we may find some changes to the rules you just read.
yes, the recreational angler takes a serious blow with this current
plan and the rec guys bring a lot of money into our local economy
chasing this species.
charter boats take a fair hit dropping from a possible 12 fish per day
to four, but at least they can possess the fish seven days a week --
unlike the recreational boaters, who can possess fish only three days a
and surf anglers aren’t even phased by this, because it’s rare you hear
of an angler from either venue catching more than one cobia in a day.
In reality, NCDMF caved, and by doing so, basically validated the weak and outdated science used to force this.
NCDMF should have stood up to this by simply saying, "We are not going
to comply," which is exactly what three congressman from Virginia are
asking the Virginia Marine Resource Council (VMRC) to do.
Reps. Randy Forbes, Robert Wittman, and Scott Rigell have sent a formal
letter to the VMRC asking them not to comply. The congressmen believe
that NOAA and SAFMC have no science to back their claims, along with
believing that they broke federal law and they do not want the science
North Carolina didn’t have a letter like that, U.S. Rep. Walter B.
Jones has sent a letter to the SAFMC asking for relief from the cobia
regulations, citing basically the same issues as the Virginia
This entire situation is a mess, and it’s all politics.
an already crazy election year, we have enough to deal with when it
comes to crazy politics. The last thing anglers want is politics
staring them in the face while they are trying to enjoy a pastime or
trying to make their living.
for the Outer Banks and other parts of North Carolina, the crazy
politics and fishing seem to be the norm any more. If it’s not cobia,
it’s beach access or another species of fish. It doesn’t seem to quit.
spoke with a buddy, French, or better known to some as Jonathan French,
who attended the Kitty Hawk SAFMC cobia meeting – French is the one
that made the comment to Gregg Waugh, the executive director of the
SAFMC, “ I wouldn’t trust you if your tongue was notarized.”
(Click here to read an Island Free Press story on the meeting.)
loves to live bait from piers and chase cobia when he can make it down
from his home in Falls Church, Va. He is known by many on the North
Beach pier circuit. A great and smart guy, French has taken a serious
interest in this subject and led an online fight as hard as he can and
participated in every meeting he could, by any means he could.
asked him how he felt about North Carolina caving to a new policy, and
he simply said, “I think it’s BS – solving a problem that doesn’t
exist. No cut should’ve been necessary beyond the cut to one fish per
person (per day), because the feds violated their own rules for making
fisheries management policy decisions.”
This discussion is far from over.
Everyone is waiting to see the position Virginia takes and whether or not our waters will close June 20.
If this subject is anything like other local fishing issues, I am sure it will get worse, before it gets better.
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.)