It is rather hard to believe that there is slightly less than one week left in the month of May; where has the time gone? Water temperatures are reading in the lower 70s and the fish are biting just about everywhere and in some locations the fishing is only going to get even better. Unfortunately, though, one of the most anticipated fish for this time of year, the cobia, has seen a significant regulation adjustment that anglers need to know about because they’ve already gone into effect. While these regulations are affecting everyone, they will have an impact on the boating fishermen the most.
The regulation change was handed down late last week from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the form of a proclamation that was enacted this past Monday, May 23. The decision to change the state cobia regulations from the federal mandate of no possession of cobia that was going to launch on June 20 was quick and is somewhat confusing as there are several scenarios on what cobia you can keep depending on when and how you are fishing. We’ll cover just the basic recreational changes because the charter and commercial folks normally stay abreast of the ever-changing rules.
For all recreational anglers, the minimum size limit for cobia has increased to 37 inches fork length. That’s pier, surf and boat recreational anglers. If you are fishing from the pier or surf or sound-side pier, basically anything where you are attached to land, then you can legally possess one cobia per day, seven days a week, provided it is at least 37 inches long. For the recreational boating angler, however, things get a bit more complicated. Anglers may possess one cobia a person or two cobia per boat only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; if it’s any other day of the week, then you are not allowed to possess a cobia in state waters. And the fish has to be at least 37 inches in length. This regulation is scheduled to run through the month of September when possession of all cobia will be restricted to none.
Another niche that makes this regulation even more confusing is if you are fishing in state waters (within three miles of land) after the federal regulations go into effect on June 20 and you happen to catch a cobia that is allowed in state waters, you’ll be risking a fine or worse if you decide to later head out into federal waters with that fish. The same goes if you happen to catch a legal cobia in federal waters before June 20, but bring it back to the docks, which would be in state waters, on one of the four days of the week that are not allowed.
One final proverbial wrench in the spokes is that the federal government has not approved this change that the state has decided to implement before the federal regulations go into effect. If the federal government does not think the state’s change meets the current federal fishery management plan, then the state could be required to change or implement additional restrictions or face issues with future federal funding.
Aside from the new cobia regulations that are somewhat puzzling and dominated this week’s report, there are fish to be caught — so get out there and catch some and be safe this Memorial weekend!