Can you believe the difference in the weather between this time last week and now? Unfortunately, the cold lasted way too long and it just ended. I know this is going to sound hard to believe, but several mornings last week our temperature was a few degrees colder than Anchorage, Alaska. I don't know about you, but I'm glad we're getting back closer to normal.
With that cold weather there weren't a lot of folks fishing, but a few hardy folks were hard at it. The water temperature may have been down, but there were some trout and reds biting around the inlets and in the surf. For the most part, the trout were scattered and feeding slow, but there were a few pockets that were surprisingly active. The reds had mostly moved to the surf and there were reports of incredible numbers of them in the surf between Swansboro and Wrightsville Beach.
There was a very good wahoo bite off Cape Fear over the weekend and into this week. One boat reported running completely out of bait. There were also some blackfin tunas, and they hit both rigged baits and jigs.
Several fishermen said the bluefins had become more frustrating than anything else. For sure, they are unpredictable and seem to change habits or move with every wind change.
Several fishermen reported a yellowfin, blackfin and bigeye tuna bite off Cape Hatteras and farther north before all the cold weather. However, they had some problems several mornings after the cold set in and couldn't go fishing. The marina at Oregon Inlet was completely frozen over!
There were some striper reports from this area too and local fishermen expect the fishing to improve if the winter stays cold. Locals hope they will continue down the coast to Cape Lookout. Even during the coldest days, there has been a good striper bite in the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern.
Last week I reported the fish kill in North River, Wards Creek, Jarrett Bay and Smyrna Creek. Fortunately there were only a few other smaller incidents and the weather is finally warming again. The fish kills were primarily trout, but large numbers of small black drum were also found in North River and Wards Creeks, with some croakers and a few fish of other species found in all the affected areas.
The Raleigh Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo and the Henry's Tackle Company Dealer Show were held last weekend in Raleigh and both exceeded the anticipations of the participants. At the Henry's Tackle Dealer Show, tackle shop owners from across the east coast were checking out the latest in fishing tackle and accessories. Even better they were ordering it for their stores so we can have it to fish with this spring. The general feeling was very upbeat.
Some of the dealers were still very cautious, but many were placing large orders. There is widespread anticipation this will be a better spring for tackle dealers.
One thing I found particularly intriguing was the new Knot 2 Kinky fluorocarbon swivels from Aquatek O. They really do almost disappear in water. I bet they disappear completely if you drop one in the boat while tying it on.
Another eye-catching item was the Plasma line of deep jigging spinning rods from Star Rods. These rods are made from volcanic rock fibers, yet weighed mere ounces and included models rated to 80 pounds. Several folks tried to break one, and it was a challenge from the folks in the booth, but no one was able to get them to call "Uncle."
Fish bites has some new colors in their already dynamite Extreme Scented baits and the MirrOlure booth stayed busy with dealers ordering the colors that are exclusive for Henry's Tackle.
On the retail front--I don't know if it was folks getting out after a bout with cabin fever from the cold weather or what, but many of the tackle and accessories dealers at the Raleigh Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo said their sales exceeded their expectations. The Stick-it Anchor Pins booth ran out of product Saturday night and the owner said he brought 10 per cent more than he sold last year. I don't believe the boat sales were as brisk as in past years, but several dealers reported taking deposits and some completed sales on even the more expensive boat lines.
I just got the word on this event and hope you read this in time to change your plans and attend. Thursday evening Dr. Mitch Roffer of Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service (ROFFS) will give a seminar on ocean thermals and locating fish at the West Marine in Wrightsville Beach. Those of you who miss the Thursday evening seminar will get another chance on Saturday as Roffer will be a part of the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series that will be in New Bern on Saturday. More information on this is available at www.saltwatersportsman.com.
Don't forget the "United We Fish" fishermen's march on Washington, D.C., that is planned for Feb. 24. The cause and promotion for the march has been enjoined by numerous organizations including the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA, www.fishska.com), Frying Pan Tower Dot Com (www.fryingpantower.com) and the Recreational Fishing Association (RFA, www.joinrfa.com). RFA director Jim Donofrio has heralded this as an event that will unite recreational and commercial fishermen in a common cause.
Details on the march can be found at the RFA website and at www.fryingpantower.com. Capt. Dave at Frying Pan Tower said he is trying to put together a big group that will be leaving from our area. If others have news of busses or caravans, I will gladly post that information here.
If you received some cash for Christmas, there are numerous great ways to spend it. One is to attend a fishing school, and there will be several opportunities during the next few months.
In addition to the Saltwater Sportsman Seminar Series in New Bern this Saturday, Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be giving some all-day fishing schools across North Carolina at the end of January and through February. These schools, which are sponsored by Sea Striker and Star Rods, are all on Saturdays and will begin at 8 a.m. and last until approximately 4:30 p.m. Dates and locations are Jan. 30 in Southport, Feb. 20 in Greenville and Feb. 27 in Greensboro.
Call Capt. Price at 910-443-1211 or me at 910-279-6760 for more details or to purchase tickets.
While the NC Division of Marine Fisheries Annual Saltwater Tournament is just beginning for 2010, the last remaining tournament from 2009 is about to end. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began Oct. 1 and will close on Sunday, Jan. 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. However, don't be fooled with the short time remaining and think it's over because it isn't.
The history of this tournament shows a surge of fish, including the winner, has been caught during the final two weeks and that is where we are right now. As I was putting this together, there still wasn't a fish entered that was close to the January special weight of 3.42 pounds, so that prize (trout rod) is wide open. The current leader is Tom Holland with a very nice 8.32-pound gator trout. For more information visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
A special winter tournament is coming Saturday, Jan. 30, at Johnny Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach and we may warm up enough to make it lots of fun. The 2010 JMP Dogfish Tournament will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. and will be sponsored by the N.C. Fishing Pier Society. Tournament entry fee is $5 and a pier pass for the day.
There are some nice size feisty dogfish caught during the tournament and it is purposely scheduled min the afternoon and early evening to take advantage of the better bite time around sunset. The 2009 JMP Dogfish Tournament was won by Matt McKinney of Charlotte with a 9-pound, 8-ounce catch. For more information, visit the Web at www.ncfps.com.