Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you got started off the right way--like by going fishing.
We've worked into a new year and it's a time when the fishing is typically at its slowest for the year, but there are fishing shows, boat shows and all sorts of other fishing related activity to keep us going. Hopefully there will be enough activity over the next few months to keep everyone interested until the fishing picks up steady again in the spring.
It's a bit awkward to be writing this and talking about winter, while the windows are open and a fan is blowing. We have seen a few cold snaps so far this winter but it has warmed back up. After enjoying another weekend with daytime highs in the 70's, we are forecast to drop to more seasonable temperatures next week.
Dropping our temperatures to more seasonable levels is a double-edged sword. I hope you have been enjoying the shirtsleeve and even T-shirt days, but it has kept some of the winter fishing a little in limbo. Hopefully as the temperatures fall, some of our winter fish will move into the area and give us the winter variations we all appreciate so much. We don't want it to get cold, just seasonably cool.
While it will be warm, the winds this weekend will make most of the coast more suitable for staying home or visiting the Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo at the Greensboro Coliseum. Around Cape Fear looks a little better, but the winds at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras will only be below 20 knots on Sunday and then they will be pushing it. There is also a fair chance of rain on Friday and Sunday.
In literal terms, bluefin tuna continue to be the big news. There has been a scattered bite off Cape Lookout, but with some larger fish. Over the last week, that bite has moved closer to shore. The bite off Cape Fear has been a little more consistent and those fish moved in as close as Lighthouse Rocks and McGlammery Reef. The general feeling is the bluefin bite will become more consistent when the water cools a few more degrees.
Unfortunately the stripers weren't around Cape Lookout Shoals last Saturday for the Reel Screamin' Striper Shootout. There were a few caught the day before, but none during the tournament. Many knowledgeable striper fishermen say the weather is too warm and nice for the stripers and they should return and be feeding aggressively once the weather gets a little cooler and nastier.
The striper bite has been pretty good in the Outer Banks Surf and at Manns Harbor. More striper reports are coming from the Neuse and Trent Rivers at New Bern and the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers at Wilmington. Stripers like vertical structure and the bridges are great places to try in all of these areas. In Wilmington the stripers are also biting along the downtown docks, behind the battleship and around the State Ports facilities.
King mackerel are biting in Raleigh Bay from the 1700 Rock to the Smell Wreck. Live bait is not required. They are hungry and readily feed once you locate them. There is also a hot bite of slightly smaller kings going on near Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear.
The good speckled trout bite continues all along the coast. The warm temperatures have kept the water temperatures in the high 50's and the trout have been feeding. The trout are in inside waters and in the surf when it is clean.
The red drum are biting well also. They are scattered from the brackish waters back in the creeks out to some of the nearshore artificial reefs in the ocean. Drum fishermen have been doing well and several stunned bass fishermen and black sea bass fishermen have also reported catching them.
Even a few flounder catches have been reported since last week. Both Capt. Jeff Cronk (Swansboro area) and Capt. Gary Dubiel (Oriental area) have reported catching inshore slams (Speckled trout, red drum and flounder on the same trip) during the last week. That is very impressive for this time of year.
A surprise visit by large false albacore had many Cape Lookout fishermen smiling. The big Alberts appeared near Cape Lookout Shoals last weekend and have been stretching lines all week.
There is a little offshore activity, but few fishermen have ventured there. Off Cape Lookout there are wahoo, with a few yellowfin and blackfin tuna mixed in. Off Cape Fear it has been a scattered wahoo and blackfin tuna bite. The hot yellowfin tuna bite has been from Cape Hatteras to Oregon Inlet.
Offshore bottom fishing remains good all along the coast. Good catches of black sea bass are possible within 5 to 10 miles off the inlets, while the grouper, grunts and beeliners are holding in deeper water.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center's $500 bounty for the first bluefin of the week was claimed early this week by Al Morris and his Sea Drag'n crew. Several Brunswick County Realtors and the Fishing Center have posted a $500 bounty on the first bluefin weighed there each week. The contest week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. Call 910-575-3474 or visit www.oifishingcenter.com for more information.
The Bass and Saltwater Expo will be at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex this Friday through Sunday. Several area fishermen, including myself, will be presenting seminars on fresh and salt water fishing. There will be lots of fishing supplies and boat on display and for sale. For more information visit www.ncboatshows.com or call 336-855-0208.