I hope everyone enjoyed some time off around Christmas and New Years and was able to spend some of it with family and find a little time to go fishing. You could have even gone fishing with family if you get along on a boat. There were several surprisingly nice days to enjoy some time on the water.
Before I go any further, let me warn everyone that the water temperature has dropped and it is cold. The days may be sunny and bright, but the water is cold and this isnít a time to take any chances. Be sure your boat is seaworthy, wear the proper clothing and leave a detailed summary of where you will be fishing with someone responsible. If something happens, it is important to know where to look.
There are some rumblings about bluefin tuna again this week. It seems that beginning late Tuesday some bluefin have moved in just off the beach around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and are wreaking havoc with the striper fishermen. Several fishermen have said in past years these reports came a week or two before the bluefin arrived around Cape Lookout Shoals. Letís hope they come on down and get here pretty quickly. There is a really good accumulation of bait from just off Cape Lookout out to the Knuckle Buoy and it should hold some hungry fish for a while. Maybe I can report the first one next week.
Staying in the ocean, there are a few schools of false albacore roaming from Cape Lookout down to Topsail. There must be lots of bait too as they are attracting lots of birds. There are also drum in the surf zone at Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island and Lea-Hutaff Island. On many days they can be reached by casting from the beach, but when the surf is calm easing a boat into casting range can give hot action.
Farther out there are some king mackerel, wahoo and blackfin tuna. All are hitting trolled baits. It is about time for the blackfins to move deeper in the water column and then they will be ready for jigging. Be sure you have a good weather window and the weather is what was forecast before heading offshore. It is a long trip at any time, but especially so now.
Grouper season closed on January 1. Add them to the "cannot keep" list until May 1. Other bottom fish that currently have closed seasons include black sea bass, beeliners and red snapper. Porgys, triggerfish, and grunts can be kept. Youíll need to combine a bottom fishing trip with something else to make it worthwhile.
The speckled trout bite may be slowing a little, but there are fishermen regularly catching limits and releasing more. Several fishermen have said the trout bite is changing some. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noahís Ark Charters in Harkers Island said he was catching trout way back up in the creeks. Lynk said there were a surprising number of finger and corn cob size mullets in some of the holes well back in the marsh. He said he didnít know why they hadnít left, but they were still there and trout and drum were feeding on them.
Lynk said the mullet were larger and he was having better luck with trout and reds using the larger 27 MR MirrOlure in the 808 color. A few weeks ago, the 17 MR, which is noticeably smaller, was the hot lure. The 18 MR, which is a smaller size sinking MirrOlure is working well in deeper holes. Lynk said the trout were also biting the shrimp baits from Salty Bay Baits.
Lynk said the redfish were also deep in the creeks and feeding on the mullet. He said the same MirrOlures would catch them and they would occasionally hit the soft plastic shrimp too. He said the redfish were frisky enough they were hitting spinnerbaits and he had been having good luck with the redfish burner from Salty Bay Baits.
There are some schooling reds roaming the inside waters around several inlets from Bogue Inlet to the south. Pay attention when entering these areas to look for wakes, nervous water and pushing fish. Occasionally they will give their location away during the lower tides. Most of these marshes are shallow, so be careful and donít get hung out waiting for the tide to rise. The hot ticket for these reds has been soft baits, especially the scented ones. Use the lightest jig head that will carry the bait to the bottom.
Many fishermen get hung up on using live baits and believe nothing works better. Occasionally there is an exception to that rule and one was this past weekend at the speckled trout tournament held from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach. Almost everyone was using live shrimp for bait and most were catching trout.
The winners, Robbie Hughes and Brian Richard, went at it differently. They used Salt Water Assassin Sea Shad on ľ ounce jig heads to catch more than a dozen trout Ė including the largest for the tournament. That is a fact. The question is if it was a lucky break or mere coincidence?
The striper bite is good at New Bern, pretty good around Wilmington and building around Washington. These are smaller river stripers, but they are fun and can be caught trolling, casting or anchored and fishing bait. The big ocean stripers are still around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay if anyone would like to make the trip.
Iíve previously mentioned the travels of the great white sharks that were tagged off Cape Cod in September and have been off N.C. and S.C. for the past five weeks. Everyone else must be getting fascinated with them too. Everywhere I have been over the past couple of weeks, someone asks me about them.
Mary Lee is the entertainer of the group of tagged sharks and usually surfaces several times each day to ping her location. Early last week she had come as far north as Topsail and now she is back off Brunswick, Ga. Who would have thought that a 3,400 pound shark could move so far so quickly? Check out Mary Leeís travels (and other sharks around the world) by using the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
The Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet Jan. 14 at 12:30 P.M. at the NCDMF Central District Office in Morehead City. For more information contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Trish Murphey at 252-808-8091 or email@example.com.
Several fishing events are scheduled during the next ten days. Fishing begins Friday for the Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout in Virginia Beach. The base entry for this tournament is $500 and there are several other options to be considered. Several area fishermen are there testing their luck. Hopefully next week I get to report one was the big winner. For more information visit www.midatlanticrockfishshootout.com.
The Big Rock Sports/Henry's Tackle Show begins Friday at the Raleigh Convention Center. This is a wholesale show for tackle dealers for the eastern U.S. Unfortunately you must be a dealer registered with Big Rock Sports to attend. This is where your favorite tackle dealer will order those special lures you will use to catch so many fish this summer and fall. Ask him plenty of questions when he returns.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will be hosting four Basic Flyfishing Schools at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. These schools are geared to the beginner to intermediate fly fishermen. After several classroom sessions, the participants get to test their skills in the ponds at the adjacent hatchery in pursuit of mountain trout. The dates of the schools are January 5 and 19 and February 2 and 16. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.
The Bass and Saltwater Expo will be held at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh from January 11 to 13. There will be lots of tackle/accessory booths, boats and interesting bass, freshwater and saltwater fishing seminars. For more information visit www.ncboatshows.com.