Billy Thorpe

Releases – May 11, 2017

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Anglers can soon be recognized for releasing large bluefish.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Saltwater Fishing Tournament, known commonly as the Citation Program, will add a bluefish release category beginning May 15. Anglers can receive a citation (certificate) for the release of a bluefish that measures 34 inches or longer.

Currently, citations are given only to anglers who catch and keep a bluefish that weighs at least 15 pounds.

The new release category brings the total number of release species in the program to 20. The release category is meant to encourage anglers to practice catch and release.

The Saltwater Fishing Tournament recognizes exceptional catches of North Carolina’s most popular sport fish.

The tournament runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 each year and is open to any angler, except those who captain or work on a for-hire vessel or those who sell their fish.

To qualify for a citation, the fish must be caught on hook and line, landed without the use of electric or hydraulic equipment, and meet the program size requirements. Landed fish must be weighed at an official weigh station and then recorded on an official application form.

For released fish, the angler or mate must touch the fish or the leader, measure the fish, and release it, then the angler and a witness must fill out and sign an application at an official weigh station.

Visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-tournaments for more information on the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament.

 

Anglers who fish on North Carolina’s artificial reefs can still get the new North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Artificial Reef Guide, published this past August.

Artificial reef guides are still available for free on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Headquarters in Morehead City and at other division offices in Wilmington, Washington, Elizabeth City, and Manteo.

Individuals may pick a book up in-person between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). The division limits distribution of the guide to one book per person.

The 131-page, full-color guide is printed on waterproof paper and provides detailed information about each of the state’s 62 reefs. It includes diagrams of each site showing all reef material, GPS coordinates, and material deployment dates.

As a supplement to the paper guide, the division has posted an online interactive reef guide. This web application offers all the features of the paper guide, with the addition of side-scan sonar imagery, which creates a picture of the ocean floor for each reef. The web guide also includes mapping tools for measuring distance, searching, and custom printing.

Artificial reefs are manmade underwater structures, built to promote marine life in areas with otherwise featureless bottom. North Carolina builds reefs to support healthy fish populations, create accessible fishing and diving opportunities, and in some places, restore degraded habitat for oysters.

The reef guide and web application were funded by a $176,000 award from the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program.

For more information, contact Amy Comer, with the division’s Artificial Reef Program, at (252) 808-8054 or Amy.Comer@ncdenr.gov.

 

Gill net fishermen are no longer obliged to keep up with a folded sheet of paper to show proof that they obtained an Estuarine Gill Net Permit.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ License Program is now issuing wallet-sized Estuarine Gill Net Permits on heavier, laminate-back, clean release cards for the 2017-2018 license season.

These permits are the same size as the Standard Commercial Fishing License, making them easier for fishermen to keep with them while fishing than the permits printed on 8.5-by-11-inch standard printer paper that were issued in prior years. They also should be more water resistant.

The Division of Marine Fisheries requires fishermen to obtain an Estuarine Gill Net Permit to use any anchored small or large mesh gill net in internal coastal waters. The permit is a requirement of federal incidental take permits for sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon.

A condition of the incidental take permits is to maintain certain levels of observer coverage statewide. The Estuarine Gill Net Permit requires fishermen to provide an active phone number where they can be reached to schedule observer trips so that the division can maintain the observer coverage needed to stay in compliance with the incidental take permits. If the required coverage is not maintained, large and small mesh anchored gill nets could be prohibited in all internal coastal waters.

The permit is free, and fishermen can obtain or renew their annual permit when they renew their license at division offices or via mail. Customers who renewed their permit for the 2017-2018 license season before the clean release cards were implemented will receive a new clean release card in the mail soon.

 

Last year, 17 boaters lost their lives on North Carolina waters. None of them were wearing a life jacket. The seconds that it takes to put on a life preserver may well have been the difference between life and death.

Wearing a life jacket is a simple safety precaution that can prevent tragedy from happening in the event of an accident. To increase boating safety awareness this season, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission introduces the new “Preserve Your Life” campaign.

As part of the Preserve Your Life campaign, wildlife enforcement officers will hand out coupons that can be redeemed for discounts on life jackets at selected retailers throughout the boating season. Also, as in years past, wildlife officers will conduct pre-launch safety checks at boating access areas across the state.

In an effort to promote life jacket usage, the Commission urges boaters to join in the “Ready, Set, Wear It!” event on May 20. The event aims to break last year’s world record of 6,784 participants wearing a life jacket in one day. If you’d like to participate, visit www.readysetwearit.com.

Finally, boaters should be on the lookout for the “Life Jacket Zone” at boat ramps throughout the state. The Life Jacket Zone is a reminder to you and your passengers to put on a life jacket whenever you’re on the water.

“It’s important to put on your life jacket before heading out on the water,” said Maj. Chris Huebner of the Wildlife Resources Commission. “Even the strongest of swimmers can be incapacitated during an accident. In dire situations, there often isn’t time to grab a life vest and put it on properly. It can save your life and can help you assist others who may be in danger.”

Life jackets have seen drastic design improvements over the years. Newer models are not the bulky, hot floatation devices that some boaters remember. In fact, many life jackets are designed for specific activities such as fishing, water sports, and even hunting. These specialized floatation devices grant the user the freedom to enjoy their day on the water in comfort.

Both North Carolina and federal regulations state that a personal floatation device in good condition and of appropriate size should be accessible for each person onboard a recreational vehicle. North Carolina requires anyone younger than 13 to wear an appropriate life vest when on a recreational vessel. Anyone riding a personal watercraft or being towed by one must also wear an appropriate life vest.

There’s no reason to not wear a life jacket. In the end, your life may literally depend on it.

For more information on safe recreational boating or to enroll in a free boating education course by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, go to www.ncwildlife.org/Boating.aspx or call (919) 707-0030.