I hope everyone ended 2007 and began 2008 on a positive note. I was fortunate to be with a bunch of friends and enjoyed roasted oysters, blackened tuna, shrimp gumbo and many other tasty dishes. After trying a while just to sample lightly, I finally decided the diet could take a short break and begin again on January 2. My other resolution was to fish more and enjoy it more.
The warm days we had been enjoying began slipping away on New Years Day and by Wednesday, the high temperature never rose above cold. The strong winds made it feel even colder. Fortunately the weekend forecast is for warming temperatures and decreasing winds. If the fish will just cooperate it could be a good time to do some fishing.
The warm temperatures over the weekend had some of us out doing fun things. Friday afternoon I slid the kayak in and paddled up on a few trout. It was a fun afternoon and even though I didn't snare a true gator spec, I managed to find one about 3 to 3-1/2 pounds that pulled the kayak sideways a bit before allowing itself to be led in. After admiring it, I released it to make more little trout and hopefully make someone else's day at a later date.
We received several scattered spritzes of rain over the weekend, but it wasn't enough to subdue the prolonged drought we have been battling. 2007 ended as one of the driest years on record. Several counties have temporarily lifted their burning bans to allow folks to make prescribed burns and use up the fallen undergrowth that will surely become worse by spring if left to accumulate.
Several experienced bluefin tuna fishermen have pointed to the cold weather this week as being the best thing that could happen to get the bluefins fired up. There are bluefins around, but they are scattered and difficult to find. Bluefins are being caught from Oregon Inlet to Southport, but they aren't holding in an area for more than a day or so.
With just a little bit of cold weather and cooler water, the striper reports are picking up farther to the south. There have been several days since last weekend they have been at Hatteras Inlet. Hopefully the next cold blast will push them on down to Cape Lookout.
The speckled trout reports have been mixed up for the past week. Some larger fish were caught at the end of last week and into the weekend, but then they weren't being seen. The trout seem to be on one or two day cycles, but when you hit them there are good numbers. Unfortunately there are also lots of shorts to barely legal fish.
In the Cape Lookout area, the jetties were all mentioned as focal points for speckled trout. There are jetties at Radio Island, behind Shackleford Banks, At Fort Macon and at Cape Lookout. A few specks are being caught in the surf, but the numbers are down from the past few weeks. Mud minnows were mentioned several times as being the best bait.
The puppy drum reports fluctuated with this week's water temperatures. As the water warmed the drum bite improved and when the water started cooling the drum bite slowed. The reports of pups came from the back of many creeks and continued out to the surf.
The king mackerel have moved out to about 30 miles offshore, but there are lots of kings when you find a school. The better reports of kings have been coming from between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, with another large concentration off Frying Pan Tower.
While some folks may lead you to believe the offshore trolling bite is over for the winter, it just isn't so. It may be difficult to get offshore when the winds are calm, but there are some pleasant surprises when the trip is made. Wahoo have been the big offshore dog along the southern and central coast with a few kings and blackfin tuna mixed in. North of Cape Hatteras, more tuna are being caught.
Grouper, snapper and sea bass fishing has been very good for several months and shows no sign of backing off. In addition to groupers, snappers and sea bass the offshore bottom catch contains beeliners, porgies, triggerfish, grunts and more. Most fishermen also drift a light line and catch kings and even an occasional tuna while bottom fishing.
There isn't anything earth shattering, but the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has revamped the Annual Saltwater Tournament and Citation Program for the first time in several years. I plan to discuss these in depth at a later date, but they can be previewed at www.ncdmf.net by clicking on "Recreational Fishing" and then scanning down to the section on the citation program.
The boat and fishing shows have already begun. This weekend the Bass and Saltwater Expo will be at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro from Friday through Sunday. In addition to the boat and tackle booths there will be seminars on all kinds of salt and fresh water fishing.
The Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series will be at the Riverfront Convention Center in New Bern on Saturday. Several local experts will join with the national panel to offer tips for catching more and larger fish.