That blast of hot air in January was nice, but it is quickly slipping away. It was nice while it lasted, but we all knew it was going to end. Now itís time to slip back into the reality of January and that isnít 70 degrees. Thankfully it appears the coast wonít get as cold as most of inland N.C. and we are out of the snow forecast area.
I donít think our water will freeze, but it has warmed so much in the past two weeks I hope it doesnít cool so quickly any fish are stunned. During the past couple of warm weeks, the inshore water temperature has risen 8 to 12 degrees in places. One swing I saw was from 47 to 59 degrees. That is a major change and it may drop very quickly with the return of winter temperatures.
There was a fish kill last week. It was a school of menhaden at Masonís Inlet at the north end of Wrightsville Beach. Biologists said the menhaden basically swam into a dead end section near the inlet and stayed there until they depleted the oxygen in the water and were too weak to swim away.
Many fish responded well to the warm weather of the past week or so. While I was at the Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo in Raleigh last weekend, several fishermen called or texted pictures to make sure I knew the trout and reds were biting. Thanks fellows, I really appreciate that.
There were good reports of specks and pups from many areas in the past few weeks. They obviously like the warm weather too. I heard of a higher concentration of large specks in the last week than I remember at any time during the fall and early winter.
They were feeding too and hitting a variety of soft plastics and hard lures. Trout were biting in the coastal marshes from Manteo to Calabash.
I like the MirrOlure MirrOdine Series of lures and find some of them will usually work. Last week I had several fishermen tell me the trout were a little deeper than their MirrOlure MR 17s would sink, but not deep enough to need the diving MR 18s. They said they made the MR 17s a little heavier to get them a little deeper. Several went the easy way and added suspendots and suspenstrips to make the lures a few grams heavier. Others switched the original hooks for larger ones or ones made with thicker wire, which made the lures heavier and got them to sink farther.
Both of these are great tips. Just remember that when tinkering with a suspending lure, it is important to retain the balance, so it suspends naturally and level. With the coming colder weather, the trout will move deeper, so you should have a chance to try this real soon.
While trout are holding in some of the deeper water along the coast, puppy drum are moving into the shallows and feeding. The abundance of sun warmed the pups and they were feeding pretty heavily in places. The drum would hit hard baits, but they were hitting soft baits well also and the single hook is so much easier to remove than a treble hook (or two). While there were also reports of pups all along the state, some of the best came from the Swansboro end of Bogue Sound and in the creeks behind Bear and Browns Islands.
Puppy drum are in the surf too. They are being caught in many places, but the better action has been along islands that arenít inhabited. Many fishermen say drum donít like lights shining on the water at night and there must be some truth to it. Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Browns Island, Lea-Hutaff Island, Masonboro Island, the Fort Fisher State Recreational Area, the Bald Head Island State Natural Area and Bird Island are all uninhabited and have had drum in their surf in the past couple of warm weeks.
There has been mixed activity in the ocean this week. I was working early last week and wrote this before I received word of the first bluefin tuna of the year landed in Morehead City. It was caught on the Procrastinator by Capt. John Cawthorn and crew. The big fish was a noteworthy first fish too. It was 100 inches long and cored to 490 pounds. Nice fish captain!
The bluefin bite isnít hot, but several others have been reported since then. Several fishermen said that when the bluefins moved to the beach in Virginia Beach a couple of weeks ago that they would be here in about two weeks. That prediction was spot-on. I hope the action continues and builds.
With the summerlike weather and several days of nice sea conditions, some fishermen headed offshore. They were after wahoo and most caught a couple and several caught more. They also caught some nice blackfin tuna and a few king mackerel that had moved offshore into the warm water. Several large schools of kings were holding just east and northeast of Frying Pan Tower off Southport.
Fishermen looking for a change of pace should consider the stripers in many of the coastal rivers. The bite is pretty good in the Manns Harbor and New Bern areas and strong enough itís worth the trip at Washington and Wilmington. Soft plastics are the recommended baits, but they will hit some hard baits too, especially when trolling along vertical structure. As a bonus, fishermen shouldnít be surprised to hook an occasional trout or puppy drum also.
This weekís Mary Lee watch shows her swimming back up the coast. Last week she was off Fernandina Beach, Fla., Tuesday she was just outside the breakers at Price Inlet near Isle of Palms, S.C. and Thursday the huge great white shark had made it back to near the base of Frying Pan Shoals off Bald Head Island. There were a lot of people who came by during the Bass and Saltwater Expo last weekend and wanted to talk about Mary Lee. My concern is how many of her friends and family that arenít tagged are with her? Check out Mary Leeís travels, plus other tagged sharks around the world, by using the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
Two state records were recognized this week and both were for members of the grouper family. Toby Grantham of Knightdale caught a 27.6 pound scamp grouper while fishing on the Continental Shelf Head Boat off Atlantic Beach on September 25. The big scamp measured 40 inches long and had a 26.25-inch girth. Grantham caught the fish with a Shimano Stella 8000SWPG rod and Black Hole Cape Cod Special 54S 250g reel, using a Blue Water Candy Roscoe Jig on 50-pound line test.
North Carolina previously did not have a state record scamp grouper. To establish a state record fish, the angler must submit an application that is reviewed by Division of Marine Fisheries staff and a N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament Advisory Board. The fish must be exceptionally large for North Carolina waters and within a reasonable range of the world record. The world record scamp weighed 29 pounds, 10 ounces and was caught off the coast of Alabama in 2000.
Tim Gallimore of Ocean Isle Beach broke the recently established state record for gag grouper with a 46 pound fish he caught May 1, 2011 on live bottom in 200 feet of water southeast of Ocean Isle Beach. The fish measured 44 inches long and had a 28.5-inch girth. Gallimore used a live pinfish for bait on 80-pound braid line test with a Shimano TLD 25 reel on a Penn Standup rod.
North Carolinaís gag grouper record was established in July with a 43 pound, 8 ounce fish caught May 12, 2012 off Morehead City by David Abernethy. The world record gag grouper weighed 80 pounds, 6 ounces and was caught off the Florida coast in 1993.
While Gallimoreís fish was caught just more than a year prior to Abernethyís fish, he submitted it for a citation, but wasnít aware he could apply to establish the record. He said he was reading the September 2012 North Carolina Sportsman and saw the story about Abernethyís record and remembered his fish being heavier. Gallimore said his friends convinced him to see if his fish could still be recognized and he was told it could. He submitted the documents and pictures in September and after a thorough examination, his fish was recognized as the record on January 12.
The River Herring Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee will meet Jan. 24 at 6:00 P.M. at the Edenton National Fish Hatchery in Edenton. For more information contact Amy Larimer at email@example.com or 252-264-3911 or Kathy Rawls at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-264-3911 or visit the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has announced a series of public scoping meetings and hearings for the snapper/grouper species, dolphin and wahoo beginning January 22. The SAFMC is considering changes to regulations for fishermen targeting species in the snapper grouper management complex. Measures include changes to crew member limits for dual (for-hire and commercial) permitted vessels, bag limit retentions for captain and crew on for-hire vessels, and requirements to harvest and sell blue runner, a species commonly caught in conjunction with Spanish mackerel and a popular baitfish.
In addition, the Council is seeking public input on measures proposed for both dolphin and wahoo. In February, the Council will hold a Marine Protected Area (MPA) Workgroup meeting and advisory panel meetings. All meetings are open to the public. Additional information, including public scoping/hearing documents, meeting agendas, overviews and briefing book materials will be posted on the SAFMC web site at www.safmc.net as they become available.
The Public Scoping/Hearing Meeting Series will be held January 22 Ė 30, 2013. Meetings will be held from 4:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. The meetings for fishermen in the Carolinas are: January 23, Hilton Garden Inn, North Charleston, SC 29418, 843/308-9330 and January 24, New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, New Bern, NC 28563, 252/637-1551. For more information visit www.safmc.net.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is hosting four Basic Flyfishing Schools at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. The first was January 5, with the second being this Saturday, January 19. Two more will be held on February 2 and 16.
While these schools are presented as being geared to the beginner to intermediate fly fishermen, I spoke with several experienced fly fishermen who attended the first one and all said it was an excellent event and everyone could benefit from attending. After several classroom sessions, the participants get to test their skills in the ponds at the adjacent hatchery in pursuit of mountain trout. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.
The Fifth Annual Cape Fear River Watch Striper Fest and Invitational Striper Tournament will be held January 18 and 19 at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington. Striperfest begins with a banquet and auctions Friday night followed by the tournament and seminars on stripers and the health of the Cape Fear River on Saturday. For more information visit www.cfrw.us.