Statewide, Matthew Godfrey, PhD, coordinates the North Carolina Sea Turtle Protection Program. Locally, Dale Baquer, who has been affiliated with the program for over a decade, now coordinates efforts at Emerald Isle, with dozens of enthusiastic volunteers working hard, through hurricanes, pandemics and other frontons that present themselves.
My wife, Louise, and I have been affiliated with the program for over 20 years, and I look forward to giving annual updates on my weekly radio show, now also for over 20 years.
This year, after a slow start, nesting activity has really heated up over the past week or so, with 12 nests now documented before the end of June.
Typically, the nearly 13 miles of beach at Emerald Isle is home to an average of 15-20 nests each year with a mind-boggling peak of over 50 nests in 2016. The nesting period typically runs from May to August with around 120 eggs laid per nest. , hatch for 50 to 60 days depending on the weather, i.e. the heat it is during the incubation period.
To give you an idea of ââwhat a typical season looks like across the state, in 2020 there were 1,335 identified loggerhead nests, 44 green turtle nests, and 8 Kemps Ridley nests. There was no leatherback or hawksbill nest, which is rare. Here at Emerald Isle last year we had 15 nests containing about 1,750 eggs and a hatching rate of over 70 percent.
For me, as a scientist, one of the most interesting scientific aspects of the program over the past 10 years has been collecting DNA samples from mothers by taking a single egg from each nest. These studies include nests not only in North Carolina, but in South Carolina, Georgia, and parts of northern Florida. The samples are analyzed at the University of Georgia and in 10 years have provided more information about nesting mother turtles than we thought or assumed we had known for many decades in the past.
What have we learned? We now know that the average egg-laying frequency for a given female turtle is around 4 to 4.5 per year with a range of one nest preseason to super layers laying an incredible 8 nests in one season. . So how long between nests? Usually about 2 weeks. So, does a turtle lay eggs every year? Probably not, but every 2 to 3 years from around 35 years old. Wow, that’s an old turtle!
DNA can also give us insight into the female family tree. Here is a typical analysis: Of 893 potential mothers analyzed, 136 had 3 or more daughters breeding in the area, 7 females have 3 potential daughters – some of them have daughters, and 1 North Carolina breeder has 8 potential daughters. We have also found that some multiple nesters can lay nests a few miles away, others tens of miles or more. This is the kind of detail that can be extracted from the DNA date of mothers.
Finally, there is always the advocacy of the Marine Turtle Protection Program, as these are federally protected species, so don’t disturb the nests. The fines are heavy. Fill in the holes on the beach, which are not only dangerous for sea turtles, but also for night walkers and emergency vehicles.
Lights are a problem not only during nesting season, but also for hatching baby turtles heading for the light, thinking it is coming from the waves of the ocean, where they must begin their long journey to the Gulf. Stream.
Also collect trash and bring your beach shelters, chairs and other items during the day.
Finally, if you see a nesting turtle, injured or stranded turtle, or baby turtles roaming the beach, call the turtle hotline at 252-241-7367 for assistance or to report an incident.
For more information, see www.seaturtle.org, www.seaturtlehospital.org and www.nestonline.org.
Thunk, followed by the curse “# &%!”
No, it wasn’t Nikita Khrushchev’s ghost hitting his shoe at the United Nations, but the NC Marine Fisheries Division dropping his other shoe in the upcoming 2021 flounder season.
Quoting the NCDMF: âThe North Carolina Marine Fisheries Division has adjusted the recreational and commercial fishing seasons for plaice for 2021 to ensure sustainable fishing. In 2019, the Marine Fisheries Division recommended, and the Marine Fisheries Commission approved, substantial reductions in catches in the plaice fishery to rebuild the southern plaice stock. These season adjustments are necessary to achieve this goal.
âThe recreational plaice season will open on September 1 and end on September 14 in inland and ocean waters of North Carolina. The minimum size limit will remain at 15 inches in total length and the creel limit will remain at 4 fish per person per day during the open recreational season. Since all plaice species are managed under the same recreational regulations, the recreational season applies to all recreational plaice fisheries.
There it is. We knew âtweaksâ were coming, and here they are: a 2 week season in the midst of the hurricane season. Set your calendars for the 2021 Flounder Rodeo!
Interestingly, we are currently having a fabulous plaice season. They are everywhere, and they are BIG! Aside from the obvious, there are of course unintended consequences of restricting all fisheries. With the daily bag limit for plaice now zero, bluefish now 3, and red drum 1 for many years, other species are being targeted, be it speckled trout, black drum, sheep’s head or others less restricted. But the pressure of available species is intensifying on the other target species.
Last week the weather dominated again with the rain (I’ve had 11 inches over the past few weeks) the relentless wind, as I write this on Monday, is coming from the east and the sea is rough and dirty.
By the way, the surf and sound temperatures are now solidly in the 80s. If you step out of the coves, the two mackerel (Spanish and King) still dominate within a mile of the beach. Live bait attracts larger fish, but man-made metals also produce limits.
Surf and jetty fishing continues to be disappointingly slow with some groundfish like croakers and small summer spots, and of course, plaice. Where are the red and black drums? Well, they’re not in the waves but still staying behind the island, with good catches of reds and blacks and sheep too. Nowadays, the sheep’s head is not so much a bycatch as it is a species targeted by a growing number of anglers, and of course all of these species have a similar diet and live in a similar habitat.
There are still reports of good early action of surface water for reds and spots. By following our local guides, these varieties of fish are doing well from the Neuse River to the Newport River, through the Swansboro Marshes, and of course, the New River as well. Many local bait shops currently stock violins and prickly sea urchins for these munchers and crunchers.
Speaking of munchers and crunchers, there are still early reports of old drums in old drum locations. Things don’t really start to heat up until July and August, so with a few fish already taking bait on corks, things are shaping up for another good season.
So what about ocean piers?
The big news from Oceanana Pier last week was the big speckled trout bite with fish up to 4 pounds coming out of Newport River / Core Creek I guess. The pier also signals Spaniards, Pompanos, Pigfish and Croakers. Several cobias have been sighted.
Bogue Inlet Pier had a slow week with groundfish like spots, croakers, a few pompano, flounder, spanish and blues when the water was clean. No large fish were hooked, but a large tarpon was seen rolling past the pier.
Seaview Pier reported a great weekend on Monday with sea mullet, Spanish and blues, as well as red and black drum, sheep’s head and something approaching a speckled trout blitz.
Surf City Pier had a slow week dominated by small spots. No big there either!
Jolly Roger Pier reports blues and Spanish at the start, spots and tarpon seen in passing.
The offshore is still very bumpy so I don’t have much to report.
But there have been some good catches of dolphins recently.
1) Check me out at www.Facebook.com/Dr.Bogus.) Log in to my website at www.ncoif.com.
2) âAsk Dr. Bogusâ is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 am WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also rebroadcast on Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. Callers can reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I am located at 118 Conch Ct. In Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is PO Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a check- gift for your favorite fisherman for fishing lessons or my totally fake fishing report subscription. Please drop by at any time and say “Hello” or call 252-354-4905.