Once again it seems like winter may have found our hiding place along the North Carolina Coast. I sure was getting used to light jackets at night and shirtsleeves by afternoon, but this most recent push of weather is both cold and wet. As I've said many times in the past year, I'll gladly handle the wet, but I have to admit I was becoming rather fond of the warm.
We are fortunate along the coast to not have gotten the snow/sleet/freezing rain/winter precipitation they did farther inland on Wednesday night. Most of us didn't really want nor need the mess and, while they may have thought they would enjoy the day off of school, the kids didn't want to have to make up a day anyway
While this latest cold appears to be from a system moving across the country, there isn't an end in close sight. Friday looks to be the warmest day for a while and is only projected to reach the mid-50's. Saturday has another chance of rain and a projected high of 50, with the highs trailing off into the 40's for a few days after that.
Fishermen are saying they believe there are some fish that will volunteer to be caught if the winds will back off enough to allow the fishermen out. Only a few bluefin boats fished in the ocean this week and they held pretty close to shore. We have a weather window in the forecast for Friday, but then a couple of blustery days are set to follow.
There really isn't a bunch to report this week. Some fish were caught, but in segments between fronts and other quickie trips, not a prolonged bite that lasted all week. However, there should be some fish around if the weather will cooperate for a few days.
I've been in boat and fishing shows the past several weekends and the talk has been about bluefin tuna, king mackerel and speckled trout. In the third week of January, Talking about bluefins is expected, but the kings and trout holding on this long is a bit unusual.
The bluefin tuna bite has been rather hit or miss since they arrived, with a few really good days and lots of slow days. There seemed to be more small bluefins (under 73 inch minimum commercial size), in this week's catch. Once again, there were a few bluefins caught, but it wasn't big numbers.
The bluefin bite has surged some after every cold front so far this year and it should again. This may finally be the cold front that brings winter weather that stays around for more than a few days.
Several folks have said there are still some "world-class" kings in the waters around the Atlas Tanker, but I haven't talked to anyone who made the trip last week. Windy weather has a way of keeping boats at the dock or on the trailer. During the last warm and calm spell there were kings biting from Cape Fear to Cape Hatteras and unless the water cools drastically they should still be there after this cold snap.
As the weather and water cools, the reports include more big ocean stripers along the Outer Banks. There haven't been any reports south of Ocracoke, but the striper catch has been slowly improving from Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Inlet. The better action is still from Oregon Inlet to the north, but a few are moving past. Most striper fishermen feel the current cold weather will push them farther south.
There have been some very good catches of smaller stripers in the Trent and Neuse Rivers at New Bern, the Pamlico/Tar at Washington, the Cape Fear at Wilmington and in the Croatan Sound at Manns Harbor.
The speckled trout reports had just really gotten good when this blast of cold air arrived. There had been good numbers of specks around the Cape Lookout Jetty until a net was found there early last week. Trout were also caught in Beaufort Inlet, along the Masonboro Inlet Jetties and even a few from back in the marshes along much of the coast.
One of the most amazing trout bites of last week was in the Cape Fear and Brunswick Rivers and their smaller tributaries at Wilmington. This is no doubt caused by the drought, which allows the salinity to creep up in the rivers. Last Saturday, travelers on Highway 17 could watch the trout being landed as they crossed the Eagle Island Marshes just south of Wilmington.
Puppy drum continue to bite well. They are holding in schools of 5 to 50 back in the marshes and in schools of 50 to several hundred in the surf around many inlets. The stretch along Bear Island and Browns Island is a particularly good spot and is usually holding several schools.
Blue water fishermen are finding a few wahoo and tuna when the weather allows the trip. With the arrival of winter, it is wise to wait for a good weather window and leave your float plan with someone. More wahoo are being caught from Cape Lookout to the South, while a few yellowfin and blackfin tunas are still being caught from Cape Hatteras to the north.
In spite of the federal fisheries managers claims they need stricter regulations, grouper, snapper and sea bass fishing continues to be exceptionally good. In addition to groupers, snappers and sea bass the offshore bottom catch contains beeliners, porgies, triggerfish, grunts and more. This begins at about 8 miles off the beach with black sea bass and extends to beyond 100 fathoms for snowy grouper and tilefish.
This weekend's closest boat show is in Myrtle Beach. If the weather was a little warmer it could serve as a good excuse to go play 18 holes and visit another show. With this weekend's weather, you might just want to visit the show, which is at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. In addition to the boats and tackle booths there will be seminars on saltwater fishing.