A Word from Marine Patrol The spring and summer recreational fishing season will be kicking off with shallow water grouper species and cobia seasons opening May 1st and spotted seatrout season opening June 15th, and there are a few things to be mindful of while getting ready to go fishing. First, this is the best time to check the validity of your fishing licenses and renew them if they have or will soon expire. Charter captains should renew their For-Hire Licenses before July 1. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the current size and bag limits. While reviewing the recreational size and creel limit chart, you will notice that some species have a TL, FL, LJFL or Curved FL beside the size of the fish which indicates where to take the measurement for that species. Total length (TL) is measured from the tip of the snout with the mouth closed to the top of the compressed tail. Fork length (FL) is measured from the tip of the snout to the middle of the fork in the tail. Lower jaw fork length (LJFL) is measured from the lower jaw to the middle of the fork in the tail. Curved fork length (CFL) is measured along a line tracing the contour of the body from the tip of the upper jaw to the fork of the tail. Having the right measuring device is extremely important to ensure that you are getting an accurate measurement. Any device that will assist you with closing the fish’s mouth and help you control the fish will help you obtain the correct measurement. A common mistake made by some anglers is relying on measurements indicated on top of fish cooler lids. Many of these rulers are not accurate and should be checked with a tape measure to ensure they are correct. Another common mistake anglers make is in identifying mackerel species. Spanish mackerel and juvenile king mackerel both have gold spots making identification difficult. The best ways to differentiate between a Spanish mackerel and king mackerel is that a Spanish mackerel has a black spot at the beginning of its first dorsal fin and a king mackerel does not. King mackerel have a pronounced dip in the lateral line below the second dorsal fin while Spanish mackerel have a lateral line that gently curves to the tail. This diagram will help you identify the difference between a king and Spanish mackerel. Just as the recreational fishing season is kicking off, so are recreational and commercial shrimping. There are several things to keep in mind. Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses and Commercial Fishing Vessel Registrations will expire on June 30 so please remember to renew those on time. Recreational Commercial Gear Licenses expire one year from their dates of purchase so be sure to check their validity before you go fishing. Be sure to know what areas are opened and closed to shrimping by reading the current shrimping proclamations. It is important that fishermen have the required bycatch reduction devices installed in their shrimp trawls. In 2015, proclamation SH-2-2015 was issued requiring two bycatch reduction devices be placed in shrimp trawl nets. For approved bycatch reduction devices and their proper placement, see proclamation SH-2-2015. Please feel free to call the N.C. Marine Patrol at 800-682-2632 or 252-726-7021 to schedule a courtesy trawl net inspection before you start shrimping this season to make sure your bycatch reduction devices are legal, properly installed and that your shrimp trawl meets proper mesh size and headrope restrictions.