I'm writing this on New Years Day, so my first order of business is wishing everyone a Happy New Year. May you have the best of health, a generous touch of wealth and an abundance of happiness in 2009 and for many years to come.
That warm sunny weather we had been having for the past 10 days or so got a little sidetracked yesterday. It was a bit chilly yesterday and got downright cold overnight. We should warm back up some over the weekend, but we probably have seen our last 70 degree days for a while. It was nice while it lasted and I hope you were able to enjoy it as much as I did.
A series of rapid fronts will be moving through this weekend and keep the weather changing. Gusty southwesterly winds Friday should give way to lighter northerly breezes on Saturday, with another southwesterly and westerly push moving through Sunday and early Monday. The nights will get stay chilly, but the daytime highs should make the low 60s again on Sunday and Monday.
Make the best of it as you can--almost everyone will be back at the grind by Monday.
On the inshore end of things, the speckled trout and puppy drum are still biting well. There have even been a couple of reports of late-season flounder. Fishermen on the Neuse River and its tributaries around New Bern are also catching stripers.
Speckled trout are scattered through many of the inside creeks and marshes, through the surf and out to the few jetties along the N.C. coast. On the inside, deeper water next to a flat holding any kind of bait has been consistently productive. The first slough along the ocean beaches has also been holding specks at many beaches.
Even when there isn't much food around, specks can sometimes be so picky about what they'll eat it seems they aren't there. Don't give up without trying several baits or lures as finding the right one can be like flipping a light switch. If you can find some live shrimp, it seems like the bite is always on, but be prepared to search the back of the creeks to find a few dozen or pay a premium for them--if you find them at all. Live mud minnows are a fairly good second choice, with a variety of soft plastic grubs and shrimp shapes, and MirrOlures being the better choices for artificials.
Puppy drum generally aren't anywhere near as particular about their food. Several fishermen, who said trout were refusing mud minnows, said the pups would quickly feast on them if you allowed them to settle near the bottom. Pups will also readily hit MirrOlures and a variety of soft plastics. Even knowing how good they are, I only throw MirrOlures for pups when nothing else is working. I release most of the pups I catch and they seem to manage to get every hook on a MirrOlure in them, which makes them difficult to release.
I like a lot of MirrOlures, but this year have developed a real fondness for the MR 17 and 27 MirrOdyne suspending twitchbaits. They suspend about a foot or so under the surface and work for specks, pups and stripers.
Several folks said the sea mullet and a few gray trout are still biting in the Morehead City Turning Basin and along the channel out to and through Beaufort Inlet. They are also scattered in 25 to 40 feet of water up Shackleford Banks through the Dead Tree Hole and to the holes off the end of the Cape Lookout Jetty.
Black drum are also a possible catch while jigging for grays and sea mullet or casting live baits for specks and pups. Don't overlook black drum. They are a lot of fun to catch and the smaller ones taste excellent.
While it's a bit offshore, the king mackerel bite is hot. All you need is weather to get to them. The Atlas Tanker has been a hot spot east of Cape Lookout, while 240 Rock has been the hot spot west of that cape. The general area around the Smell Wreck has been productive off Cape Hatteras and the hradbottom east of Frying Pan Tower has been the hot spot off Cape Fear. Having a king bait stolen by a bluefin, blackfin or wahoo is always a possibility. The blackfins are fun and easily landed, the wahoos are a bit harder and the sensible thing to do with a bluefin hooked on king tackle is to cut it off and save the aggravation and frustration.
Some of the bluefin fishermen are seeing large schools of false albacore along the Cape Lookout Shoals. They are hoping the bluefins are feeding on them, but it hasn't always been the case. When they aren't being chased for dinner, the fat Alberts are fun to catch on light tackle.
This week was the best so far this season for bluefins. Off Cape Lookout, a few were caught Monday and then another dozen or so were caught Tuesday. A similar bite happened off Cape Fear on Monday and Tuesday. One boat landed one of a triple hookup on Monday and several boats accounted for ten more on Tuesday. This was the best day yet this winter.
The wind has blown strongly since then, but looks to be slowing some for Saturday. Hopefully the bite will continue then.
A few boats took advantage of the good weather to head offshore and caught some blackfin tunas, a few wahoo and some kings. There were a few yellowfin tunas caught, but the best yellowfin reports were well to the north, off Cape Hatteras and farther.
The best offshore bite was grouper and it remained very good. Some beeliners, black sea bass, grunts and a few red snappers were also caught.
Grouper fishermen can continue fishing. The Interim Rule to close grouper season beginning January 1 was not approved by NMFS, so grouper season is open. The limits have not changed yet either. For more information on the current grouper regulations and proposed changes, visit the SAFMC web site at www.safmc.net.
The 2009 NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament, run by the Division of Marine Fisheries, began on January 1. If you catch a gator speck or a hog in another species, be sure to have it weighed at one of many certified weigh stations along the N.C. coast. This is a multiple species tournament, with no entry fee. Fish just have to meet minimum weights and be weighed at a certified weigh station. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net.
January brings a series of boat and fishing shows across the area. The first is the Bass and Saltwater Expo at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on January 9 to 11. This show includes boats and tackle for sale, plus numerous fishing seminars. Similar shows will be held in Richmond, Va., at the Richmond Raceway Complex, on January 16 to 18 and in Greensboro, at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, on January 23 to 25. For more information, visit www.ncboatshows.com.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) has announced a series of public hearings regarding proposed changes in fishing (fresh water) and hunting regulations for the 2009-2010 seasons. Some of the proposals are very different from current regulations. The changes involve seasons, limits and manner of taking fish and game. The series of hearings begin on January 5 and continue through January 28. A complete list of all the meeting dates, times and locations statewide, plus all of the proposed regulations changes can be found on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org.