After several months of sometimes contentious debate, fishing guides in coastal North Carolina have organized into two different groups to work for the fisheries and make sure members’ needs are being recognized.

The North Carolina Guides Association (www.ncguidesassociation.com) was officially formed on March 12 as an industry trade association for members of North Carolina’s for-hire fishing industry. A group of charter captains from the Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach areas, originally organized as the Cape Fear Captains Associations after splitting with the NCGA, has officially organized as the N.C. Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (www.joinrfa.org).

At its first meeting, NCGA’s membership elected Tom Roller as president, Jeff Cronk as vice president and Mike Pedersen as secretary/treasurer. Other officers are to be added as regional directors from seven regions along the N.C. Coast.

"The NCGA was founded by an experienced group of captains, representing a wide range of independent small businesses," Roller said. "This is the key group that provides recreational anglers access to the state’s marine fishery resources. North Carolina’s charter-fishing guides are valuable year-round contributors to the diverse coastal economies and are also integral to a thriving tourism industry in many of the state’s small coastal towns. "

Roller said is modeled after successful guide associations in other states and will begin offering trade discounts on insurance and other things necessary in the guide business, plus offering representation on fishery and business matters.

The RFA-NC organization broke off from the NCGA over differences regarding a proposed log book that will be required for guides.

"We were, and continue to be, opposed to the log book in any form," said Robert Schoonmaker, one of the moderators of the CFCA who was elected chair of RFA-NC. "We see this as an invasion of our privacy to reveal our number of days fishing in which locations, plus (it’s) a lot of work, and (we) do not feel anything positive will be done with the gathered information anyway. We already participate in surveys and other means of gathering information and monitoring the fisheries and don't see where that information has been used. We also have issues coming with flounder, which are a very important fish for us." 

Schoonmaker said CFCA looked into incorporating but decided members’ time, energy and limited funding would be better served to work with an organization that already has a presence in Raleigh in the form of lobbyists to get their message across to legislators. Along with Schoonmaker, Mark Cogdell will serve as secretary and Jim Sabella as treasurer. The group will meet on Monday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at American Legion headquarters in Carolina Beach.

The log-book issue is one of the most important facing the recreational for-hire fishing industry. The NCGA believes a federal log book is forthcoming and would rather deal with a state log book they have some input on creating. NCGA members are concerned that putting off or stalling the state log book will wind up with North Carolina guides required to use the federal log book, which they fear will be more invasive and time consuming. RFA-NC members believe their organization can stop the implementation of any log book.