Releases – April 11, 2019
A year-round recreational striped bass season closure went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, March 29, 2019, in all waters of the Central Southern Management Area where a closure does not already exist. The Cape Fear River and its tributaries are already under a harvest moratorium and are not impacted by this change.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers issued consistent proclamations that result in a year-round closure in all joint fishing waters of the Central Southern Management Area. Further, in light of protective measures already implemented through proclamations issued by Director Murphey that prohibit striped bass harvest and limit commercial gear, the Wildlife Resources Commission proclamation also closed the striped bass season in all remaining inland waters within the Central Southern Management Area. A year-round season closure is already in effect for all coastal waters of the Central Southern Management Area.
The Central Southern Management Area encompasses all waters from just south of Oregon Inlet to the South Carolina line. The major waterbodies and their tributaries impacted include, but are not limited to: the Pamlico and Core sounds; the Tar River downstream of Rocky Mount Mills Dam; the Pamlico River; the Pungo River; the Neuse River downstream of Falls Lake Dam; the White Oak River; and the New River.
The closure does not impact striped bass fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Albemarle Sound Management Area, the Roanoke River Management Area, or the Pee Dee River and tributaries downstream of Blewett Falls Dam.
The regulatory changes finalize implementation of Supplement A to Amendment 1 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, which was adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission in February. The approved supplement contained a no possession measure for striped bass for both commercial and recreational fisheries in coastal and joint waters of the Central Southern Management Area.
The two agencies are currently working on Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, as research has shown that the striped bass populations in the Central Southern Management Area are not self-sustaining. These temporary management measures will ensure the protection of naturally-spawned year classes of striped bass until the amendment is completed.
Fifteen lucky fishermen won $100 each in a recent N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Multi-Species Tagging Program yearly drawing.
The tagging program randomly selected tag numbers from the more than 860 fish tags that were turned in by fishermen in 2018. Three tag numbers were selected from each of the five species that are tagged by the program.
The division tags striped bass, red drum, spotted seatrout, southern flounder, and cobia throughout the estuarine and ocean waters of North Carolina. While all the fish are released in North Carolina waters, due to the migratory nature of many of these species, tags can be returned from North Carolina or from out of state.
The $100 winners who turned in tags in 2018 follow:
Cobia—Chris Dreyfuss of Yorktown, VA, Hunter Watson of Yorktown, VA, and James Baker Jr. of Belvedere.
Red Drum—Tim McCurry of Jacksonville, Jeff Bier of Zebulon, and Jacqueline Barrett of New Bern.
Striped Bass—Robert Norwood of Roanoke Rapids, Toby Cascioli of Grifton, and Megan Smith of Chocowinity.
Southern Flounder—Adam Harris of Atlantic, Robert Harrington of Hampstead, and Billy Jones of Snow Hill.
Spotted Seatrout—James Poole of Merritt, Ray Hautsch of New Bern, and Bill Hill of Winterville.
The Multi-Species Tagging Program began in October 2014 and is funded by a Coastal Recreational Fishing License grant. Staff and volunteers place yellow or red tags on 15,000 fish each year.
Fishermen who catch the tagged fish and return the tags with required information to the division receive a letter and personalized certificate with information about the fish, as well as a reward. Those who return a yellow tag marked with “NCDMF” receive either $5, a tagging program hat, fish towel, or fish pin. Those who return a red tag marked with “NCDMF” and “$100 REWARD” receive a $100 monetary reward.
Fishermen must record the species, tag number, date, location captured, total length of the fish, fate of the fish (released or harvested), and the type of gear used to capture the fish. Yellow tags may be reported by phone, but red tags must be cut-off and returned to the division for the fisherman to receive the reward.
Information gathered from tag returns allows researchers to determine species migration patterns, mortality, population structure, and habitat use. For more information about the Multi-Species Tagging Program, contact Trevor Scheffel at (252) 948-3867.
New requirements for gear configurations for shrimp trawls will go into effect July 1 for areas of Pamlico Sound and portions of the Pamlico and Neuse rivers.
The new gear configurations will be required in all shrimp trawls, except skimmer trawls, used in inside waters where up to 220 feet of combined headrope length is allowed (Pamlico Sound and portions of Pamlico River and Neuse River).
Gear requirements for the remaining internal coastal fishing waters, where up to 90 feet of combined headrope length is allowed, and for the Atlantic Ocean out to three miles remain unchanged.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission approved the new requirements at its May 2018 business meeting as part of Amendment 1 to the N.C. Shrimp Fishery Management Plan after a collaborative study between the Division of Marine Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries, N.C. Sea Grant, and the commercial shrimp trawl industry identified four devices that achieve at least 40-percent reduction in bycatch.
A bycatch reduction device is a fishing gear modification designed to reduce the catch of non-target species.
The new gear configuration requirements for trawl nets in Pamlico Sound and portions of the Neuse and Pamlico rivers: increase the tail bag/cod end minimum mesh length to 1 3/4 inches; specify the use of authorized bycatch reduction devices properly installed and operational in the tail bag/cod end of each net; and specify installation of turtle excluder devices.
The Virgil Potter bycatch reduction device is also approved for fishermen to use in shrimp trawls in these areas.
Try nets are also limited to a maximum of 12-feet headrope length for consistency with federal requirements in all areas. A try net is a smaller net pulled for brief periods just before or during deployment of the primary nets to test for shrimp concentrations or determine fishing conditions.
For specifics on the new shrimp trawl requirements for Pamlico Sound and portions of the Pamlico and Neuse rivers, see Proclamation SH-1-2019. For shrimp trawl requirements in all other areas in coastal fishing waters, see Proclamation SH-2-2019.
For more information, contact Kevin H. Brown, gear specialist with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, at (252) 808-8089, or Chris Stewart, shrimp biologist with the division, at (910) 796-7370.
North Carolina will create a no gill net corridor along the ocean surf zone later this month to reduce bottlenose dolphin interactions.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey issued a proclamation, effective April 22, expanding the current restriction on small mesh gill net use within 100 yards of the ocean surf zone to include large mesh gill nets.
For more specifics on the regulation, see Proclamation M-8-2019.
The intent of prohibiting all gill net use within 100 yards from shore in the Atlantic Ocean is to provide a safe corridor along which bottlenose dolphins are known to travel.
This no gill net corridor is in accord with recommendations provided by a federal Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Team. These recommendations were addressed in a November 2018 letter from National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree.
Crabtree wrote that bycatch from commercial gill nets continues to exceed allowable levels for two North Carolina stocks of dolphins under the Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan, which is required under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. North Carolina estuarine stock dolphins are known to spend significant time in the surf zone foraging and traversing the area, Crabtree wrote.
This proclamation applies to large mesh and small mesh gill nets. Run around, strike, or drop nets that are used to surround a school of fish and are then immediately retrieved are exempt from this restriction. Also, the restriction does not apply to stop nets, which are stationary nets used to trap schooling fish so that they can be harvested with a seine. Stop nets are managed under a different set of proclamations.
For more information, contact Lara Klibansky with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, at (252) 808-8088.