Friday, August 30, 2019

more pre charter action off the dock

Shark bite

That time of year.......I've never had one eaten off the.  Capt. Allen Heath runs my boat for a few days this week and it happens to him twice!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

precharter action off the dock

BIG drum pic from Capt. Will

Double digit days here and there

James sent me a message on the text phone that they had a double digit day with BLUE MARLIN releases on the Dragin Fly yesterday.     He'll be here in a couple of weeks for a double digit day on red drum.   Here are some pics from Chris

Capt. Allen had a bull shark take part in the action yesterday.   It couldn't catch the first drum but put on a good show.  The second drum was not so lucky.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Double digit half days are getting more consistent

Steady action for Capt. Justin the last couple of days: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Capt. Chris pics

from the dock of the guide shack.

Congrats Capt. Matt Deaton for accepting the challenge  and elbowing me out of the way of the first old drum caught off the dock of  The Stallings House this season.   I did get an assist for rigging the rod, baiting the hook and casting it out, but he did install the rod holders.    good times

Monday, August 26, 2019

Told Ya

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Red Wave has arrived

Starting to catch them two at a time.......
.....pic from Capt. Jennings

Now you know what to call them and double digits

Now that you know what to call them, my report from yesterday morning was 3 old drum, a single and a double header while fishing 4 different spots.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped on some bait and caught 1 old drum then I moved to where I caught the double header in the morning.  The wind machine had started and we could not fish more than 4 rods due to the fierce bluefish bite and steady drum action.  We ended up landing 3 puppy drum, 8 yearlings and double digits of the big uns.

What are double digits?
We refer to a catch of ten fish or more as "double digits"
The hope is to keep in perspective the significance and value of catching just one of these big drum.  Some days we catch less and some days we catch a lot more, but catching 10 in a day is a really big deal.  We want to keep expectations in check and not make catching these giants a competition.

What to call a drum?

Officially, NC's state fish is the "red drum" or it may even be technically the "channel bass" which is what the old timers would call them.

The "slot/keeper" sized red drum are called "puppy drum".   (2-3 years old) 
Ones smaller than legal size of 18 inches, we call "pup pups" (less than 1 year old)  
Other places they are called "rat reds" but when we are talking to folks from those other places, we refer to our "rat reds" as anything under 40 inches just to make fun of the little size of their red drum. 

To further confuse things, the over slot sized 27 inchers up to about 40 inches we call "yearlings" even though they are about 3-5 years old.

The big 'uns, over 40 inches and a really big one about 50 inches may be between 5 and 50 years old.  At that size, they are adults and like adults, their age cannot be accurately measured by their height.

Everywhere else in the world they just call them redfish, but if you call them redfish then a local will know that you are from anywhere but here.

cooling off and firing off

Turning around now……much better bite yesterday with this nor’easter.   Cooling off the water and firing off the bite.

Get ready.

Friday, August 23, 2019

some pics from me. Cobia surprise

Did not take me long to maneuver towards the gaff.  Boga Grip was just for weighing.   42 pounder on a drum rig and piece of mullet.
The other half of this double header was a drum

gathering is upon us

They are on the way.   I took a recon mission out and headed a pack of them off at the pass.   Had a double digit afternoon with the big uns.

reports from

Capt. Justin
Capt. Jennings
Capt. Greg's pics: 

Monday, August 19, 2019

From Capt. Greg

from Capt. Jennings

a little slow right now with the drummies......

I was expecting more out of them afte rthis big full moon......the big mass of them will be here soon enough

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Capt. Wade and Capt. Berto

pretty work guys.   You too Trey!   Big deal finishing in one of the most competitive billfish tournaments on the east coast.   Wade continues to be on fire!   Glad that Berto got to be a part of it all.   So proud of you all!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

capt. Jennings today

back to fishing

pics from yesterday

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Southern Flounder North Carolina's Epic Fail.

Southern Flounder North Carolina's Epic Fail.
by Anna Beckwith

In 2016 a lawsuit was filed by the North Carolina Fisheries Association, the Carteret County Fisheries Association and the Counties of Carteret, Dare and Hyde suing the NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) and the NC Division of Fisheries Management (DMF), preventing them from taking management actions that would have prevented the flounder debacle we are now currently experiencing.  

It is important to understand the relationship between the MFC and DMF. The MFC is a nine-member board appointed by the Governor to manage, restore, develop, cultivate, protect and regulate the State's marine and estuary resources. It does this by adopting rules and policies and implementing management measures for state fisheries. DMF is the management, science and enforcement branch of the State's government for marine and estuary resources. They provide the science used by the MFC and implement and enforce management strategies approved via the MFC process.

Although it was clear that Southern Flounder were in trouble, this lawsuit claimed that the new management measures proposed by the 2015 MFC to reduce flounder catches were unnecessary and that data was insufficient. At the time, the MFC felt that 10 years of data and two previous approved stock assessments provided ample basis for taking action to protect southern flounder. In hind sight, it is clear that additional management measures were indeed needed and if they had been fully implemented, would have given southern flounder stocks a real chance at rebuilding.

The range of management measures offered in 2015 by the MFC concentrated on the problems facing southern flounder rather than in spreading the pain among all user groups (Recreation vs. Commercial) and gear types (pound nets, gigging, large mesh nets). While recreational users had achieved some reductions, in multiple instances other commercial gears had increased their catches. This strategy of directing regulations on those who were not meeting the needed reductions was treated as radical and was unpopular among many members of the NC Legislature.

The problem with flounder is simple. Not enough fish are growing up and getting out of the nursery areas and into the ocean where they spawn. They are caught in internal waters by hook and line, gigs and gill nets and as they migrate offshore in the fall they run into a wall of pound nets.

I occasionally hear that I "should have done more" to help Southern Flounder during my time on the NC MFC.  Unfortunately, my "resource first" position and aggressive, vocal support for real action made me an unpopular choice when my term was up for reappointment in 2015. My replacement resigned after two meeting and the seat I had occupied was left without a voice for some time.

In 2005, in order to achieve a sustainable harvest of the southern flounder stock, the required harvest reduction was estimated at 38%. In the absence of real action over the past 15 years we are now faced with a needed reduction of 72% in 2020 to achieve a sustainable harvest.

Despite the 2015 MFC's valiant effort to move forward with real change, we are now facing a near moratorium on harvest with devastating socio economic impacts on all user groups. I wonder if those measures put forth by the 2015 MFC now seem less offensive to those who sued to stop them?

There is a need to restructure the southern flounder fishery in order to achieve a measurable harvest while still providing access to the resource, considering discards, bycatch and protected species interactions.

I am surprised that the current MFC accepted, at the advice of their lawyer, DMF's proposed recommendations in Amendment 2 without any alterations. This current MFC relinquished their opportunity to restructure the fishery by bringing some of the 2015 proposals or developing new ones of their own.

DMF provided management recommendations for the legally required reductions that spread the pain equally across all sectors and gear types.  However, in my opinion, the southern flounder fishery must be restructured, so that  the greatest overall benefit to the state and the highest and best use of this resource is achieved. While the MFC must be fair, they are not required to be equitable and they can treat fishing sectors and gear types differently if they chose.

As a fisheries manager, Southern Flounder has haunted me. I consider the management of this fishery an epic fail and hope that someday there is light at the end of the tunnel.

At my last meeting on the NC MFC I read onto the record the following statement which may be entertaining for those who would like to read a little history.

Anna on the record regarding southern flounder

The following was read into the record in May of 2015 at my final NC MFC meeting, some clarifying notes have been added in italics. 

 “Our purpose as a Commission should be to protect the resource as our primary objective. When the resource can sustain harvest, all the user groups including commercial, recreational, consumers and those who simply like to know the fish are out there should be allowed to utilize the resource.
The problem is that we cannot continue to allow harvest at current levels while ensuring the long term viability of the Southern Flounder stock in NC.
During the initial FMP development in 2005 the indicated reduction required to stop overfishing and achieve a sustainable harvest was approximately 40%.  Instead, the commission opted for an estimated 25% reduction through various management measures.
The recreational sector did achieve some reductions in harvest as compared to the 2005 levels.  Regulations implemented by the 2005 FMP had no impact on commercial landings which continued to increase through 2009. In addition, the commission chose to twice grant exceptions to the pound net fishery and allowed harvest in December in contradiction to the standing FMP.  The management measures chosen by the commission, based on the best science at the time were intended to end overfishing and rebuild the stock but they failed.
In 2009 another stock assessment was completed and accepted for management.  Although that assessment would not pass peer review today due to new information available on Southern Flounder stock structure, it was the best available at the time.
Based on that information there was some cause for hope, even though it was also clear that a reduction in the overall harvest was needed to achieve a sustainable harvest.
Due to the hardships being faced by our commercial large mesh gill net fishery (from interactions with endangered sea turtles and newly required federal management measures), no further restrictions were placed on commercial gear types. The federally required measures appeared to be enough to result in a harvest reduction of about 20% which was assumed to be enough to end overfishing in two years and achieve a sustainable harvest.  
Soon after implementation, exemptions from the “settlement agreement”  (federal rules required to mitigate the endangered species interactions with large mesh anchored gill nets) were granted to areas including Albemarle, Croatan, Roanoke Sounds and an extra day of harvest was allowed south of Beaufort inlet.
A decrease in harvest was seen in 2010 and 2011 across all commercial gears, but analysis of commercial landings suggested lower availability in the Albemarle Sound Management Area as the main reason for the decline, not regulations.
Commercial harvest increased again in 2012 substantially.  This demonstrated that yet again the efforts by the Commission to achieve a consistent harvest reduction across the commercial sector and achieve an overall sustainable harvest level had failed. During this same time recreational regulation did achieve some additional reductions.
Although the 2014 stock assessment was not approved for management, I find the following reasons for concern and need for action:
·        The original FMP was developed to expand the spawning stock biomass. The current biomass (based on 2014 information) is stable meaning that all attempts to manage the fishery have not resulted in an increase in biomass.
·        High fishing mortality on pre spawn fish is occurring which can and apparently has limited the rebuilding of the stock by limiting the reproductive potential.
·        An extremely high portion of the landings consist of Age 0 and Age 1 immature fish. This is not good for the long term sustainability of the stock. (Juvenile Overfishing)
·        The data does not indicate any year classes moving through the population and the age structure is truncated.
·        Signs point to declines in recruitment and abundance as well as availability to recreational fisherman.
·        Even though the 2014 stock assessment was unable to model an open population, tagging studies indicate that our fish head south and no real indication that the opposite is true (Meaning that we do not appear to receive fish from other systems).
·        We also have new information that points toward a substantial amount of fish being retained for personal consumption or donations which are not tracked on trip tickets and therefore not included as a source of removal in the assessments.
The original 2005 FMP includes a statutory requirement to rebuild the stock within 10 years. There is enough information available from the 2014 assessment to indicate that we have NOT rebuilt this stock during that time period.
Many of the decisions made by this Commission over the last 10 years were due to concerns for the fisherman and the devastating socio economic impacts that come from drastic cuts.
While I am highly sympathetic to the concerns and fears of the commercial fishing industry, it is the duty of this Commission to take steps that will rebuild Southern Flounder and ensure the long term viability of the stock.  To achieve this I view the Commission as having two possible courses of action:
1) The first would put the central focus of the Commission on job retention over stock health and require reductions across gear types causing socio economic hardships across the board while likely increasing discards dramatically to achieve reductions in catch BUT retain the appearance of equity.
2) The second route puts the central focus of the Commission on the resource but requires a restructuring of the fishery to achieve a measurable management harvest while still providing access to the resource and consideration to discards, bycatch and protected species interactions.
Regardless of the path forward our purpose at this table is to achieve a sustainable level of harvest and ensure the long term viability of the stock. After 10 years of management I do see a critical need to move forward.”
-----Anna Beckwith --May, 2015

The result of the NC Fisheries Association lawsuit on flounder management:
Below is a quick summary of the management measures that were so incredibly controversial at the time.  There were six proposals put forth at the May 2015 Commission Meeting.  All are worth reading and many good ideas on how to restructure the fishery were provided.  
In the Nov. 2015 meeting the Commission voted to move forward the following management measures:
Commercial size limit increase to 15 in
Minimum mesh size for gill nets increased to 6 in
Escape panels mesh size in pound nets increased to 5.75 in
These recommendations survived the lawsuit/injunction and were implemented.

At this same meeting, the Commission also passed the following management measures but they were stopped by the lawsuit and never implemented:
Southern flounder gill nets prohibited from Oct 16-Dec 31
Recreational southern flounder fishery closed from Oct 16 – Dec 31
Pound net quota corresponding to a 38% reduction
Commercial southern flounder gig fishery closure when pound net quota is reached.

A few thoughts from Anna on large mesh gill nets, pound nets and gigs:
Large Mesh Gillnets
While never approved by the Commission, a controversial management measure was proposed to ban anchored large mesh gill nets in 2016. The proposed measure read as follows:
Large Mesh Anchored Gill Nets: Effective January 1 2016 large mesh anchored gill nets will be a prohibited gear in the taking and possession of flounder in internal waters. (This would still have allowed drop/strike/run around netting and properly deployed drift nets with large mesh gill nets but would have eliminated “set” or anchored nets).

Pound nets are a good gear type.  They allow release of undersized fish, have limited mortality when interacting with protected species and could be managed by quota and monitored reasonably well.  This being said, there is room for additional management consideration. I am not suggesting that all the ideas below are appropriate or needed but that some may be worth discussing as part of the needed restructuring of the fishery via an amendment.   The pound net permit application process is extremely concerning, almost guaranteeing all applications to be approved.  It blows my mind that additional pound net permits continue to be granted given the state of the southern flounder stock.   Further consideration of capacity by area and increasing required gaps between pound nets should be considered to allow increased escapement by flounder to their offshore spawning grounds. 

A few additional management measures for consideration might include:
·        Construction of escape panels including increasing the number or size.    
       Assess if the location, type of webbing or placement can be altered to increase escapement.
·        Assess capacity by area; set max number of pounds allowed per area.
·        Limit number of pound net permits and/or allowed harvest per SCFL.
·        Limit number of pounds harvested per pound net set each year. 
·       Prohibit pound nets in crab spawning areas. (Already delineated near inlets, allowing flounder to escape into the ocean.) 
·        Implement TAC (total allowable catch) by region, recognizing seasonality in Northern, Central and Southern Zones.
·        Require daily reporting as condition of permit.
·        Moratorium on new pound net permits and permit transfers until a sustainable harvest is achieved.

Commercial Gigs: Allow only 4 days per week with a 15 inch size limit and trip limit of 36 flounder per valid SCFL on the boat with a max of 2 limits per boat.

Great day with Greg

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Report from yesterday's mixed bag trip

Greg got the black drum pretty good after the storms and Ray worked on the reds, catching pup pups (sub legal) and a couple of yearlings (oversize) and a couple of the giants on mini rods.

Monday, August 5, 2019

My first customer

I wanted to repost this as I have referenced it in the newsletter and this post was bumped off due to all the Africa pictures.

My first customer.

I show up at the dock, still wearing tennis shoes back then, but the white boots weren’t far to follow.  Just out of college and I am fired up about my first official trip as Down East Guide Service.   As I pull up to the ramp, my one customer is waiting, small igloo cooler at his feet, half a stinky un lit cigar being chewed from the corner of his mouth below a big mustache.   A tent-sized red rain jacket covered up the enormity that was Rick Goines.  

As soon as I swing through the boat landing and wheel around the 60 mph bass boat from which I was guiding in those days, Rick is yelling at me.  

I didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t really yelling at me.  This may have been in the early days of his hearing loss and to compensate for not being able to hear, he would raise his voice.  

Before I get the boat in the water Rick informs me:
“Beckwith, I’ve fished with a lot of guides before and I know how you guys operate”.

I didn’t dare divulge that this was my first for hire trip. 

Rick went on, again, with voice raised loud enough that I and everyone else in the parking lot heard it
“You   guides are all alike.   You go here, you go there, you fish a little here and you fish a little there.  Then at the end of the day, you go to the Glory Hole.   Well, Beckwith, I like action and you can just skip all the looking around and take me to the Glory Hole right now!”

I slipped the boat off the trailer, told Rick to make himself at home and parked the truck, wondering all along if I was cut out for this kind of berating.

We left Lawson Creek Park and caught a livewell full of 3 inch menhaden just a few yards from the dock.   Rick commented on the large amount of bait we were bringing and if I expected to catch a fish on every one of them.   

We blasted off up the Neuse River and across to a huge array of pilings that are now all gone and replaced with a modern marina.   Twenty years ago, the pilings we idled amongst were the remnants of a time long ago.    Perhaps 150 years ago or more these pilings supported a huge loading dock to which ships under power and sail loaded and unloaded their fares.   Now, nothing remained above the mean water line, but below, the centuries old pilings were encased in barnacles and mollusks, all with shells and sharp edges.  

At lower “tides”,  the tops of rows of hundreds of pilings would be revealed, but at times of higher water they would be barely visible if at all.    It was a matrix that ate lower units and gouged the bottoms of boats who got too close, so no one fished there.  But, if you knew how to navigate through the pilings and towards a drop off that went from 12 to 6 feet, then you had a chance of an epic day.   

A drop off and structure, like a lot of barnacle encrusted pilings,  equals striped bass; a lot of striped bass.   They wait in the pilings to ambush baitfish that would swim along the drop off.    The problem for fishermen is that if you cast anywhere near the pilings, a 24 inch striper would pull you back into the shell laden poles and cut your line.    

Rick already had a rod in hand, waiting for a bait to be put on his hook as I explained the plan.    I dipped into the livewell and broadcast a dozen live peanut menhaden into the water.   They were thrilled to have escaped their enclosure, then terrified to be free and all alone.    They made a mad dash for the security of the pilings, unbeknownst to them, behind every pole was a hungry striped bass.

The whole area around the boat erupted with striped bass as they gave pursuit to the baitfish and flushed them out into the open.  For hours Rick and I caught fish and we laughed and caught fish and laughed and caught fish in the Glory Hole. 

Rick was there for me buying fishing trips when he had no business buying fishing trips.   He was my greatest ambassador and anyone who knew him, knew that he loved to fish and he told them about me.   He built me up bigger than I was and made me famous on the radio and with marketing opportunities I never would have considered nor could have ever afforded.

We shared a lot of great fishing and a lot of great fishing trips.   Rick loved the action of a hot bite in the Glory Hole, but he also had the patience to wait for it.   He would keep casting, no matter what.   

The most memorable trips for Rick and for me were the time on the water that he was able to share with his son Rich.   Although Rich’s independence in life may not have led him down the easiest paths, it was that independence that Rick was so proud.    He was proud and confident that no matter what was thrown at him, his son Rich was going to make it.  

 Don’t know what to say, but I’ll miss him.  I imagine he is sitting behind a pile of red hot Jimmy crabs or sitting on the bank of a heavenly stream waiting for the first shad of the year.  

Keep casting.

Chuck Hudson's tarpon

pretty day to be in the middle of the pamlico Sound

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Tarpon Tourney

Each year we have a little pick up tournament since there aren't enough tarpon around to have a 70+ boat event as in year's past.   Just too many sting rays and too few tarpon fishermen killed that event.   So the hard core guys get together and this is how it went down yesterday between the 12 boats fishing the event:  

Greg Voliva jumped one off which would have won the tournament.
Gene Wooster caught one which was the first of 2 fish caught and he won
Chuck Hudson later caught one on the Pamlico River but too little too late.   Pretty work on your tarpon nonetheless, you're still a winner in my book. 

Brynn Thomas jumped off two fish next to us in the Sound.  Whew, that was pretty.  Sorry you blew your chance! 
It was really nice to see a few fish around.   Got to sneak up on them on 3 different occassions and throw a live menhaden in the middle of them, only to have a bluefish snake my bait from the tarpon. 

Couple of drum were caught by the fleet.

Congrats to Gene Wooster on your tarpon tournament win!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Capt. Greg says

It's been so long since I caught a trout this size or a big drum I might want some pics.