Report Cold Stunned Trout

MOREHEAD CITY – Dec 21, 2020

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is reminding the public to report any cold stunned spotted seatrout they may see in North Carolina coastal waters.

During the winter, spotted seatrout move to relatively shallow creeks and rivers, where they can be vulnerable to cold stun events. Cold stun events have the potential to occur when there is a sudden drop in temperature or during prolonged periods of cold weather, making fish so sluggish that they can be harvested by hand.

Many fish that are stunned die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant negative impact on spotted seatrout populations.

No cold stun events have been reported so far this winter, but if there are concerning weather conditions in the upcoming weeks as described above then a cold stun event could occur in coastal rivers and creeks.

Spotted seatrout cold stun events can be reported at any time to the N.C. Marine Patrol at 1-800-682-2632 or during regular business hours to the division spotted seatrout biologist Tracey Bauer at 252-808-8159 or Tracey.Bauer@ncdenr.gov. If reporting a spotted seatrout cold stun event, please provide where (the specific location) and when (date and time) the cold stun was observed, along with your contact information.

Under the N.C. Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold stun event occurs, the Division of Marine Fisheries will close all spotted seatrout harvest within a management area until the following spring. A significant cold stun event within a management area is determined by 1) assessing the size and scope, and 2) evaluating water temperatures to determine if triggers of 5 C (41 F) at eight consecutive days and 3 C (37.4 F) during a consecutive 24-hour period are met.  Data loggers are deployed statewide to continuously measure water temperatures in the coastal rivers and creeks prone to cold stuns. Closing harvest allows fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest reopens. Peak spotted seatrout spawning occurs from May to June.

Under N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules, the spotted seatrout season automatically closes in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Can They See You

Most angler’s use the old game of hide and seek when fishing from a shore line or bridge. Most times without even recognizing that they are doing it.

Hide and seek is a popular kids game where they attempt to conceal themselves from being seen or heard. The goal of the game is to be the last player found.

Anglers frequently use the same skills of hide and seek. An angler who stands out on a bridge or shoreline with bright clothing, erratic movements or makes noise not natural to the area is sure to spook an already skittish target. So being stealth is the ticket for improved success.

Most targeted fish have tremendous eyesight and other senses that will warn them that danger is close. Anglers should keep this in mind when planning their next fishing trip, selecting a location or even what prey they plan to target.

Clothing is the first line of hide and seek. Wearing a contrasting shirt color against either a bright or cloudy day can warn the fish that some type of danger is present. So anglers should try to avoid standing out from the background.

A good rule is “If the sky is a bright blue, your shirt color should blue”. Similarly, if there is an overcast day, your shirt color should match as close to the background as possible. In this case, your clothing could be pale or light grey.

But what about partly sunny or clouds, colors should be neutral or natural. The best rule to follow is use only colors that are not bright or result in the angler to standing out.

Erratic angler movement can also influence a targeted prey to flee. When fishing on a bank or other structure, the angler’s movement is probably just as important as camouflage clothing. Trees or other vertical structures do not move erratically unless there is wind or significant weather condition.

Fish can sense the surrounding weather conditions including wave action, wind and other environmental influences, so they will know what is unnatural. Anglers should limit their movement to a minimum.

Unnatural sounds are also a component of stealth. Noise and unusual sounds that are not typically found in a specific location, such as loud voices, dropping gear, banging rods against railings or other such noises put up a warning. Unusual noise, banging of gear or even some levels of voices can be heard and possibly felt for some distance under the water.

Being stealth and using good camouflaging techniques will give you a significant advantage. Smart anglers consider these techniques as well as many others when trying to avoid being detected.

So next time you visit your neighborhood tackle shop, look a little closer in the camouflage section.

You might just find the color that can help improve your catches.

Until next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony

Pier Fishing Basics

Fishing on one of the seven Outer Banks Piers is safe and enjoyable for the entire family. Most piers have ample parking, tackle supplies and food and beverage concessions. They will also rent you equipment and supply you with everything you need to fish.

There are four things I recommend you do after you arrive at the pier but before you start fishing. The four things are: “Homework”, “Observe”, “Ask” and “Try”.

“Homework” is researching the most recent fishing activity. Your findings will include, what has been caught recently and using what bait. Where is the best action? Do you have the proper gear and rigging? What are the tides and other weather conditions? There are many other considerations that both the pier staff and tackle shop professionals can help with.

“OBSERVE” is the next thing – once on the pier try to watch what other anglers are doing. Are they casting or just dropping the baits.  What type of equipment or gear are they using? What type rig or bait are they using and are they successful with that method. Spending several minutes can save much time and help avoiding that learning curve.

“ASK” is the next thing I do. Ask the other anglers what they are catching. What type of bait or rig works best? Your best bet for success is to copy what the others are doing.

“TRY” is the final step. Try out the information you received.  Work the pier is some type of order. I start on one side and typically close in. I work my way out to the deeper water. Each time I move, I watch the other anglers.  I follow the end of the pier. I then will either switch over the other side or just move close in and begin my journey from close in to the end of the pier.

Keys to success on the pier is moving around to find fish. If you don’t catch something right away or after a short period – Move. I will move many times both out and back and switching sides occasionally. 

There are many reasons you will not be successful on a fishing pier. But none is more damaging than using “DEAD BAIT”. What do I mean about using dead bait – its’ bait that is days old or allowed to sit in the sun and “cook”. Air dried and stale bait will turn off the fish quickly Keep your bait in the shade or better yet, in a cooler. Remember – Fresh bait has a natural scent and catches more fish.

When using fresh bait, always buy the best whether it’s shrimp, squid or blood worms.

Using the proper gear and equipment for the various seasons can mean the difference between success and failure. Medium to heavy gear in spring and fall and lighter gear in summer.

Sharp hooks and good rigging make for quick hook ups. A variety of sinkers will hold the bottom during different conditions.

Angler safety is also imperative. Dress for the conditions. Sun screen is needed year round. Bringing plenty of fluids and snacks make for an enjoyable day.

A cooler with plenty of ice will keep any fish you plan to harvest. Also, try to practice “CPR” – that is Catch, Photo and Release!!

So keep it simple and pier fishing will help create memories that last a lifetime.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Fishing the Wash. Baum Bridge

There are many places to fish on the Outer Banks but none better than the pier under the Washington Baum Bridge. This dock is a favorite for both locals and visitors. Most days throughout the summer and fall, you will find scores of anglers lining the railings.

The pier is located on U.S. Hwy 64 just under the western end of the bridge. The pier along with one of the finest small boat ramps can be easily accessed at the light past the western end of the bridge and just across from the entrance of the Pirates Cove Marina.

Anglers use the side road that parallels with the highway to access the area and then follow this road toward the ramp. The pier is located on the left. In addition to the easy access, there are more than 50 parking spots, toilet facilities and sloped ramp that help those with limited mobility to access the pier.

The pier is several hundred feet long with plenty of benches and the best “fish railings”. The entire area is family friendly and a great place to spend the day either catching dinner or just enjoying the outdoors.

Fishing is very good here with many species seeking safety under and around the pilings. Anglers frequently catch croakers, spot, and black drum and keeper flounder, speckled trout, and occasional puppy drum. It is not unusual to catch under-slot stripers all year but the best catches of keeper Stripe Bass are in the cooler fall months.

Anglers will typically use light tackle 6-7 foot rods with either two hook bottom rigs or a Carolina rig with cut bait, blood worms, fresh shrimp or Fish Bites. Don’t oversize your hooks especially in summer. Squid is an effective bait for flounder but it also seems to attract crabs.

There is a deep slough just north of the pier that holds plenty of fish. But only a strong cast can reach those holes. It’s best to focus under the pier and just a dozen yards out.

You should avoid the south side unless you are fishing the water surface. During the bridge construction much of the rubble and left over debris was stacked on that side. So unless using a popping cork or jigging, it’s smart to stay on the north side.

Another favorite fishing spot is at the eastern most end. Anglers who cast toward the huge bridge bumpers can catch larger species that travel along the faster currents.

Overall this pier has been a favorite spot to fish for both novice and seasoned anglers for years. It’s the go-to-place when anglers need a change of pace or to get away from the hot summer sun.

Fishing licenses are required to fish on this pier so check with your tackle shop before you go. Also, follow the bag and creel limits. Only harvest what you can use.

So if you are looking for a place to spend the day, discover this pier for your next outing. You won’t be disappointed.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony