Out and About in North Carolina's Woods and Waters

Some of the most fun I ever had in the outdoors didn’t involve a shotgun, a deer rifle or a fishing rod. It was sitting near a boat ramp, watching folks launch and retrieve their vessels. I have seen things that I have no doubt would have won the big money on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” if I had just had a movie camera at the right time. I can’t poke too much fun, though, because I have had a few little mishaps of my own while putting in or taking out.

Like most people who have messed around in boats for an extended length of time, I have forgotten to put the drain plug in the transom before sliding a craft in. The usual sequence is: The boater notices an awful lot of water accumulating in the bottom of the hull; he realizes what he’s done and shouts something like, “Oh, #%*!”; then he sprints for his tow vehicle and frantically tries to back the empty trailer down the ramp so he can pull the boat out before it sinks right there at the dock. Most of the time, he makes it and then spends the next ten minutes berating whoever is with him – wife, son, fishing partner, etc. – for neglecting to check the plug. Like I said, it’s all very humorous – if you’re not the one doing the scrambling and shouting.

My misadventures can’t compare, however, to some I’ve been a witness to. For example, there was the fellow who came flying up to a ramp in Swansboro late one afternoon just as a couple of friends and I were taking our boat out. He wheeled his car around, backed his small skiff down the ramp and started jerking straps loose. As he was doing this, he asked over his shoulder, “Which way to Bear Island?” I started trying to describe the route, pointing out that he needed to be careful because of shoals. It was obvious the guy was only half listening and he finally interrupted to explain that some of his friends were already on the island having a party and he was late. As he said that, I noticed a distinct odor of alcohol on his breath. Apparently his party had already started.

The eager partier/boater jumped in his car and went revving up the ramp with his empty trailer. Unfortunately, his boat followed. In his haste, he had failed to notice that the bow rope was caught on the trailer. Before we could stop him, he dragged the boat all the way up the concrete ramp and onto the gravel parking lot with slivers of fiberglass flying as she went. All of us working together were able to pull it back down the ramp, doing who-knows-what to the bottom of the hull, and into the water. The last we saw of the fellow, he was speeding off across the Intercoastal Waterway toward the island. We didn’t read about him in the newspaper the next day so we assumed he made it to the party.

Others in my Boat Ramp Hall of Fame would include a number of wanna-be sailors who tried to launch their craft without removing the winch cable first. The look on their faces when they finally figured out why their boats wouldn’t slide off the trailer, even with them revving the engine and cussing, was always priceless.

And, of course, I’ll never forget the fellow who couldn’t understand why his big, luxury automobile wouldn’t pull his brand new boat up the ramp on Harkers Island. He ranted, raged, cussed and even suggested to his buddy, who was standing by helpless, that maybe he and some of the folks who had gathered by this time could push the rig out. Finally the man who owned the marina, who was not known for his good humor, came out and stood beside the car’s open window. After watching for a few moments, he asked, “You want to get your boat out of the water and off my ramp?”

“Hell yeah, what’d you think I’m doing?” the frustrated boater barked back.

The marina owner reached through the car’s window, pulled something that went “whump,” then turned without a word and headed back inside. The “whump” was the sound the car’s parking brake made when it was disengaged.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has some suggestions for boaters at ramps. They remind everyone to practice proper ramp etiquette, be patient and obey regulations set for public access areas. Their recommendations include:

Pre-Launch at Home:

  • File a float plan with a responsible person.
  • Make sure you have all required safety equipment onboard.
  • Check that the boat’s registration and decal are up to date and the registration card is onboard.

Pre-Launch at the Staging Area:

  • Remove covers and straps before getting in line.
  • Have gear and equipment already stowed onboard.
  • Disconnect any wiring between your trailer and boat.
  • Make sure the ignition key is in the boat.
  • Check the boat’s drain plug.
  • Connect your bow line.

Launching:

  • Wait your turn. Get in line without blocking or cutting off others.
  • Ease your boat into the water and be watchful of the dock or pier and other boats.
  • If possible, park your vehicle while someone else moves the boat away from the ramp.
  • Observe no-wake zones and be cautious of other boats and swimmers.

Recovery:

  • Loading onto trailers is in order of tow vehicles in line, not waiting boats.
  • Carefully back the trailer into the water.
  • Move the boat onto the trailer, hook the winch line and tighten it up.
  • Steadily accelerate and slowly pull the trailer forward; be watchful of vehicles and people.
  • Move away from the ramp area to transfer gear, secure straps and reconnect trailer wires.

Although it’s not one of the NCWRC’s recommendations, it’s a good idea for new boaters to practice launching and loading their vessels at ramps on days when the sites are not very busy. Of course, if they don’t, that’s OK too. They, along with boaters with little patience or common sense, can provide a lot of entertainment for those of us looking on.

Launching and loading a boat is not a difficult process for those who pay attention to the 3 Ps: patience, practice and polite to others.

Outdoor Notes

2021 Recreational Flounder Season Announced

The N. C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) has announced that the 2021 recreational flounder season will open Aug. 16 and close Sept. 30 for internal and ocean waters of the state, as prescribed by Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 3 is currently underway and could impact the open season. When the season opens, the minimum size limit will be 15 inches total length, and the creel limit will be four fish per person per day.

The NCDMF is currently developing Amendment 3 and is scheduled to seek public comment on the draft amendment this spring. The draft amendment will address things such as options for commercial and recreational quotas; accountability measures for both sectors; commercial trip limits; regulations on the recreational use of commercial gear to harvest flounder, and other issues. Final adoption of draft Amendment 3 is scheduled for August 2021.

Striped Bass Seasons on Roanoke River

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) has issued a proclamation outlining significant changes to the 2021 striped bass harvest season in the Roanoke River Management Area. Striped bass open harvest dates will be:

  • April 10-16 in the lower river zone (downstream of the U.S. Hwy. 258 bridge at Scotland Neck to the mouth at Albemarle Sound.
  • April 24-30 in the upper river zone (upstream of the Hwy. 258 bridge at Scotland Neck to the base of Roanoke Rapids Dam).

Changes to the season framework became necessary when the harvest quota in the Roanoke River was reduced from 68,750 lb. to 12,800 lb. The reduction was deemed a necessary conservation action intended to rebuild the striped bass population. A 2020 stock assessment indicated that the stock was has been overfished and overfishing continues The separate weeks selected in each river zone coincide with the highest average weekly harvest totals observed by Wildlife Commission fisheries staff over the last nine years.

Size limits and daily creel limits will remain the same. During the two separate harvest periods, the minimum length is 18 inches and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches (the protective slot) may be possessed at any time. The daily creel limit is two fish, only one of which may be larger than 27 inches.

Virtual Turkey Hunting Seminars To Be Offered

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) will offer free, online turkey hunting seminars in coming weeks. Topics will include biology, species habits, habitats, scouting, essential equipment, setup, effective shot placement and much more. Each class will be held from 7-8 p.m. and will conclude with an interactive question-and-answer session.

“The seminars are intended to be taken as a consecutive three-night workshop, however the virtual format allows for flexibility. Students may take one or more classes in the order they choose,” said Walter ‘Deet’ Dames of the NCWRC. “Although open to all skill levels, the seminars are especially intended for those that have never hunted (turkeys) and lack access to a hunting mentor.”

The 2021 Turkey Hunting Seminar schedule is:

  • Mar. 9 – Biology for Hunters, Regulations, Where to Hunt and Scouting
  • Mar. 10 – Firearms, Ammo, Clothing and Miscellaneous Equipment
  • Mar. 11 – Hunting Techniques and Strategies

Space is limited and pre-registration is required on the Wildlife Commission’s website (www.ncwildlife.org). Classes will be held via Zoom and participants will receive their link after registering. The seminars will be held prior to the wild turkey seasons which are April 3-9 for youth under 18, and April 10 – May 8 statewide.The season limit is two bearded turkeys per hunter.

Hatchery Supported Mountain Trout Waters Closed For Stocking

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission have closed approximately 1,000 miles of Hatchery Supported Trout Waters in the state’s mountain counties to fishing and will reopen them at 7 a.m. on April 3. This year, Wildlife Commission personnel will stock approximately 960,000 trout – 96% of which will average 10 inches in length, with the other 4% exceeding 14 inches in length.

Hatchery Supported Trout Waters are stocked at frequent intervals in the spring and early summer every year and are marked by green-and-white signs at the fishing locations. Anglers can harvest a maximum of seven trout per day in those streams,with no minimum size limit or bait restriction.

Hunting Seasons

Shooting Preserves: (quail, chukars, pheasant) through Mar. 31

Wild Turkey: Youth Season (under age 18) – Apr. 3-9; Open Season – Apr. 10 – May 8

Coyotes: no closed season

Book Cover - 1

Cane poles and coffee cans full of red worms; early morning in a hunting camp with gentle rain drumming on the tin roof; a bird dog, floating ghost-like through a stand of long leaf pines; tales and saddle sores, missteps and milestones you love to recall. Those and other topics comprise “When the Bobber Jiggles,” a new collection of tales and reflections of life in the outdoors by award-winning author, Ed Wall.

Reading “When the Bobber Jiggles” is akin to sitting by a campfire with an old friend recollecting how things used to be and ought to be. And, on occasion, stretching the veracity of a story to the breaking point. “Hunting With Henry,” “Bear Hunting’s ‘Other’ Challenges,” “Old Fishermen May Be an Endangered Species” – these are a few of the chapters that make up the 142-page, soft-bound book. They will take the reader back to places close to his heart in some instances and tickle his funny bone in others. Whether he is a hunter, fisherman, boater, camper, or just someone who enjoys messing around in the back forty or on a secluded waterway, there are situations to which he can relate.

Published by River City Publishers, “When the Bobber Jiggles” is written in a format that allows the reader to enjoy a chapter or two, put it aside, then pick it back up and not miss a beat. He will undoubtedly want to go back and revisit some short stories and reflections. Copies (personalized if requested) are available for $12.95 (plus $3 shipping and handling if mailed) from the author at 3045 Red Fox Rd., New Bern, NCĀ  28562. Ed Wall can be contacted for more information or special orders at 252-671-3207 or by email at edwall@embarqmail.com.

 

Ed Wall has a Master of Arts degree from East Carolina University with a specialty in Recreational Geography. His Master’s thesis was a study of licensed, commercial shooting preserves in eastern North Carolina. That topic was selected because it would satisfy the university’s requirements and also allow the author to spend a lot of time messing around with bird dogs and quail hunters, two groups for which he has great affection.

For thirty years, Ed taught Science while coaching football, track and cross country at the high school level. During that same time, he was writing for various outdoor publications, beginning as a gun dog columnist with the Carolina Adventure magazine. Ed is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) and produced the weekly outdoor page for Freedom Press, Halifax Media and Gatehouse newspapers in eastern North Carolina for 23 years. Other periodical credits include Wildlife in North Carolina, Southern Sporting Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, Field Trial Magazine, Fly Fisherman, North Carolina Sportsman, American Field and Ducks Unlimited Quarterly. He is the author of “Getting Started: A Workbook for Started Retrievers,” published by Atlantic Publishing Co. in 1998 and “When the Bobber Jiggles – Tales and Reflections of Life in the Outdoors.” Recognitions include SEOPA Excellence in Craft awards in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Married with two children (one a Wildlife Commission technician, the other a dolphin/sea lion trainer), Ed is a native of Johnston County, NC and a long-time resident of New Bern, NC. He is a product of eastern North Carolina’s tobacco fields, back roads, black water streams and pork barbecue. When not writing or playing golf (very poorly), he can generally be found hunting, fishing, boating or romping with his dogs. Visitors to this site are invited to come along as Ed explores the backwoods and byways of the southeast and occasionally other areas. The express purpose of many trips will be to bag a whitetail deer, trick a tom turkey, catch a mess of bluegills or do battle with a bragging-size red drum. In some cases, though, it will simply be to consider the merits of a really neat sunset, remember an old friend who shared his love of the outdoors, or maybe spin a tale or two. Come on aboard. Stow your gear, grab something refreshing out of the cooler and let’s head downstream.

Ed Wall - 2014

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