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New restrictions on anglers are worth noting

If your weekend isn't already planned or your outdoor recreation has been curbed, you may want to invest a bit of time reading. The material I am suggesting is not an autobiography by some great outdoorsman, nor is it designed to entertain you, at least not in the true sense of the word.

Rest assured, however, that the information you hopefully will digest, should you decide to devote the time, is far from fiction. It is a movement by a few so-called experts who want to curb one of our most precious resources. While my opinion is well-known, I will try not to not make any statement that might sway the reader.

Fishing limits for nine species and a partial closure of deepwater fishing for an additional six species from North Carolina to Florida become effective Monday.

Holly Binns, a project manager with the Pew Environment Group, issued a statement in response to Monday's implementation of Amendment 17B -- a plan to save nine dwindling fish species in the U.S. South Atlantic. The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

"This conservation plan is an important first step toward saving fish species in need of protection," the release read, in part. "This recovery plan is part of a larger effort to help end overfishing, which has taken a toll on many southeast species. Coupled with the recently approved protections for the severely depleted red snapper, the plan is putting us on the right track toward a much healthier ocean ecosystem, robust fishing and recreational opportunities for the future."

A little background:

Amendment 17B sets annual catch limits on nine species (golden tilefish, snowy grouper, speckled hind, warsaw grouper, gag, red grouper, black grouper, black sea bass, and vermilion snapper) as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Catch limits are set at levels that prevent overfishing (when the rate of removals is too high). Accountability measures are management controls established to ensure that catch limits are not exceeded, or they may correct for overages if they are exceeded during a fishing season.

It also closes an ocean area to fishing for six additional species in water deeper than 240 feet, which is meant to protect the critically imperiled warsaw grouper and speckled hind. These fish are frequently caught by accident at these depths, even though fishermen are targeting other species. This closure is east of the 40-fathom line, an area extending from 25 to 100 miles off the coast to 200 miles offshore from central North Carolina to south Florida.

In addition, Amendment 17B allocates 97 percent of the golden tilefish catch limits to the commercial sector and 3 percent to the recreational sector, and specifies management measures intended to address overfishing, including:

  • A prohibition on harvest and retention of speckled hind and warsaw grouper in federal waters of the South Atlantic.
  • A prohibition on harvest and retention of snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper and silk snapper, beyond 240 feet (73 meters) in U.S. federal waters of the South Atlantic. This species prohibition is intended to reduce incidental catch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper.
  • A bag limit reduction for snowy grouper from one fish per person per day, to one fish per vessel per day.
  • I encourage you to go online to find out more, and if you feel inclined, share your comments on the subject.

    FISHING TRENDS

    A good many anglers have contacted me concerning my last column on fishing by a barometer. The response, for the most part, was positive. On the negative side were those who believe any edge given to anglers is taking the challenge out of the sport. These are the same anglers who complained about the use of electronics. Items such as depth finders and GPS units were considered unfair.

    With this, I can only add that I have yet to catch a fish that didn't have an advantage. And none, as I recall, made a formal protest. So to those on the negative track, I wish you luck. You are welcome to your single-action reels and Q-stick rods; take full advantage of your purist intentions and approach. Continue to spend countless hours wasting fuel, as well as time, while you remain fishless, for the most part.

    As for me, and a good many others, we will continue the pursuit, in hopes that we may someday claim to be as good an angler as those who toss the gauntlet.

    BEST BETS FOR THE WEEKEND

    Fishing for spottail bass during the colder months can bring a few surprises. Shallow-water fishing along the breaks and flats has its advantages during this time, as spottail will school tightly around dark, muddy flats and along the deeper creeks. They are in search of warmer waters, which are dominant in these areas.

    Most schools will range from a half-dozen heavyweights to as many as 100 or more. Some of the best fishing of the season can be had now, and baits are simple and easily obtainable. During January and February, your best bait will be mud minnows and scented artificials. Don't overlook the surf, as some nice catches have come from the breaks at Trenchards Inlet and Pritchards Island. Follow the surf breaks, and be rewarded when the winds and tides cooperate.

    January is typically one of the better months for speckled trout. Whenever a break in water temperatures -- a slight rise on the plus side -- occurs, trout become active. The majority of the time, trout will prefer deeper waters along larger feeder creeks and shell rakes.

    Again, artificials should be your first choice. I favor quarter-ounce soft plastics with natural lead heads (no painted heads).

    With slower metabolism in cold water, trout will not expend a lot of energy chasing. They would rather reserve their strength in ambush for an easier meal. Although live shrimp is considered by many as the only bait for trout during any season, availability plays a major role in your choices.

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