The warmer temperatures we've been having for the past several weeks have been nice, but it looks like they will be taking a break for the next few days. The good thing is we will be easing back to around 60 degree daytime temperatures by early next week. I don't know about you, but I enjoy being outside in shirtsleeves during late December and early January.
There is a cold spell, with a low pressure cell, forecast to begin Friday and there is even a chance of some limited coastal freezing precipitation, but we should shrug it off pretty well. The northerly winds will gust up some over the weekend, but we can expect them to fall out again beginning Monday and maybe even see some southerly wind flow as the temperatures rise again.
To continue our unusual storm pattern this year, Tropical Storm Zeta formed well out in the Atlantic Ocean last week and almost reached hurricane strength before beginning to weaken. The 2005 Hurricane season officially ended on November 30, but Zeta became the 27th named storm of the year.
Fishermen are crediting the warmer weather with keeping some of our fall fishing going later than usual and blaming it for keeping the winter fishing from taking off quite as expected. I guess we have to take the bad with the good, but winter will be here soon enough and I have been enjoying the fair days.
The warmer weather has allowed the speckled trout to stay reasonably active up in the marshes and fishermen willing to put in some time to locate them have been catching them fairly well. There still are a lot of smaller trout being caught, but a few lunkers are in the mix also.
The puppy drum are still in the marshes and biting well. Some will bite even early in the day, but they have been moving to shallower water during mid-day and the afternoons to sun and usually bite well if you can find them without spooking them.
I had a great inside trip last Friday. We saw some trout, but couldn't get them interested in anything we threw. This was a little frustrating, but we made up for it with drum. We found a school of about 80 drum warming up in the sunshine on a shallow ledge next to a deep channel and caught seven before they spooked and moved enough we couldn't find them again.
There are also some speckled trout and drum in the surf along most of the N.C. coast and especially at the Cape Lookout jetty. The trout seem to prefer grubs and MirroLures with some green on them, while the drum like white grubs. Both must be fished very slowly for the best results.
Striper fishing has been hot from Ocracoke Inlet to the north, both from the surf and from boats. A few stripers have been being caught around Barden, Beaufort and Drum Inlets and the Cape Lookout Shoals, but they have been very hit and miss. The Inaugural Offish Striper Shootout was held out of Cedar Point over the weekend and congratulations are in order for Capt. Jeff Cronk & Mike Taylor on the Fishin 4 Life, who won the event with a 45.14 pound striper. Unfortunately the disparity in size and numbers of the Cape Lookout area stripers was shown when the second place fish barely eclipsed 19 pounds.
Speaking of stripers, a new state record striper was caught last Friday off Avon. Capt. David Bronson, of Apex, and his friend David Hiebert, of Scotts Michigan, combined to put a 62 pound striper in Bronson's boat the Triple Crown. Congratulations to the angler and captain.
Another note for striper fishermen is to remember there is no striper season in federal waters. Stripers may only be kept if caught within three miles of the beach. It is also illegal to catch a striper in state waters and then head offshore, beyond the three mile state waters limit, to continue fishing.
The big news right now should be a hot bluefin tuna bite, but it just isn't happening. There are some bluefin around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and a few are being caught most days, but the numbers are lower than they should be at this time of year. The more consistent location has been in the rough triangle between Big 10 Rock, the Knuckle and 14 Buoy, off Cape lookout, but there have also been a few caught off Drum, Ocracoke and Hatteras Inlets.
Many fishermen are blaming the warm weather for the lack of the large schools of menhaden that are usually in the area by now and attract the bluefins and stripers. It makes sense that without good food supplies those fish won't be here. While the forecast is pretty mild through next weekend, our weather should begin cooling off at any time and hopefully the bait and fish will arrive shortly after.
There was a red hot king mackerel bite off Hatteras over the weekend. Several fishermen I spoke with took advantage of the excellent sea conditions and made the roughly 70 mile trip from Morehead City. They reported catching (and releasing) 30 to 50 kings each and said most of the kings were larger than 30 pounds.
This is boat and fishing show season and they are beginning this weekend. The annual Henry's Tackle Company Dealer Show is in Greenville, S.C. this week and attracts tackle retailers from all over the eastern U.S.
Next weekend, the Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo will be at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. This show will feature many booths with the latest in fishing tackle and equipment and numerous lines of fishing boats, plus many free seminars.