06/18/06 — Familiar menhaden vessel scheduled for sinking

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Familiar menhaden vessel scheduled for sinking

By Gene Price
Published in Sports on June 18, 2006 2:17 AM

The Coastal Mariner, a menhaden ship operating out of Beaufort for many years, is scheduled to be sunk today to become part of the Frying Pan Tower Artificial Reef (AR 400). The reef is located at the end of Frying Pan Shoals -- the junction of the Long and Onslow Bay areas.

Before beginning its last trip, the 166-foot ship was re-christened "Captain Greg MicKey," who lost in his life while diving in that same area a year ago.

Private associations worked with the Marine Fisheries Division's Reef Group to purchase the vessel to be used to enlarge the artificial reef.

The Coastal Mariner was familiar to many who fished and vacationed along the central North Carolina coast as it harvested menhaden for the Beaufort Fisheries plant at Beaufort. It was constructed in 1970 as a supply vessel for oil drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was converted to a menhaden ship in the 1980's and acquired by Beaufort Fisheries in 1992.

The Division of Marine Fisheries maintains some 50 artificial reefs in coastal and ocean waters of our state.

They are popular among divers and recreational fishermen. And what's "down there" is fascinating. For instance, AR 330, south of Atlantic Beach has, among other things, a 320 foot ship, two C-130 aircraft, an F-4 Phantom fighter plane, 90 concrete hollow reef balls, 600 tons of concrete pipe and other salvaged debris.

The reefs provide hiding places for various marine life, along with food sources such as barnacles. Marine Fisheries scientists monitor the structures and find different species are more likely to be found at various structures. I accompanied them on a monitoring "catch and release" trip.

The big hollow concrete balls on the reef had holes in several places. When we dropped hooks near them, huge black sea bass and grouper hiding in the balls would dart out and grab the bait!

Different species of fish were caught around other types of structures. All the data was recorded and is used in planning and expanding other reefs.

Tall Ships answers

Of interest to motorists and boaters planning to enjoy the Tall Ships event at Morehead City and Beaufort:

1. Highways to and from those towns will not be blocked to traffic.

2. Waterways in the area will not be closed.

Although the highways will remain open, elaborate arrangements have been made to provide free parking and shuttle service from points outside the towns to reduce traffic.

One hundred buses and vans equipped to accommodate the disabled will be available. They will be located on US 70 and on N.C. 101 at places marked by signs.

A couple of blocks near downtown Beaufort will be closed to limit congestion.

Contrary to some concerns, the Coast Guard and local authorities will not close the waterways to private boat traffic.

But officials said private boats will not be allowed to operate across the course in which sail boats will be racing or across the parade route of the vessels taking part in the program.

But we can be assured that Coast Guard and local law enforcement people will be in abundance so we should make sure we have the proper equipment and obey the rules of safe boating.

The Pepsi Americas' Sail 2006 begins with a parade of sails Saturday, July 1, as the tall ships enter Beaufort Inlet. A 15-mile sail boat race will be held along the shores of Atlantic Beach on Monday, July 3.

Events are planned throughout the week at Morehead and Beaufort, climaxed by the largest fireworks display in Carteret County history" on July 4.

Herring meeting

The Marine Fisheries Commission river herring advisory committee will meet Monday at 6 p.m. in Edenton. The public will be allowed to offer comments on a management plan for the herring whose stocks have dwindled precipitously in recent years.

The meeting will be held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hatchery located at 1104 W. Queen St.

Ronnie Smith of he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a presentation and the committee will discuss a draft plan for forwarding to the Marine Fisheries Commission.

The Wildlife Resources Commission earlier this year adopted a rule establishing a virtual moratorium on the taking or possession of adult river in waters it controls.

The Marine Fisheries Commission declined a Wildlife Commission request that a moratorium also be imposed in commercial fishing waters, but did impose a more limited harvest quota.

In recent years, commercial fishermen have been unable event to reach the harvest quotas allowed by the MFC.

In earlier years, the river herring was a significant fishery in the state. Herring also have been regarded as an important food source for important game fish such as the striped bass.

Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops coming?

Four Oaks on I-95 in Johnston County is one of two North Carolina sites reportedly being considered as a location of a Cabela's sporting goods store. One of the biggest names in outdoor-gear retailing, Cabela's announced in March that it would open its first retail in the Southeast in Adairsville, Ga. That's 60 miles north of Atlanta.

James Powell, spokesman for Cabela's, said North Carolina was being considered for a retail outlet.

Bass Pro Shops reportedly is also considering an outlet in the I-40/I-95 area of Smithfield.

These speculations were reported in The Business Journal of the Triad Area.