It has only been a couple of weeks since we were in the deep freeze, but it is already amazing the way some of the inshore fish that felt the cold so badly are rebounding. They're not biting like it was still October, but they are beginning to feed again and are responding to lures and mud minnows.
With many days like this, they'll soon think spring has arrived. I thought I was a bit of a wuss when it was real cold, but these sunny 60 plus degree days are making me think it's time to go fishing again. Fishermen are already back out and many of them have reported good catches. Thankfully Mother Nature is amazingly resilient.
The inshore action has been with pups and specks--although there have been a couple of reports from folks who caught a few hungry flounders. I don't want to sound like the bite is on fire, but there have been some fish nibbling along in different areas. If the good weather holds and the water temperature rises back above 50, we might see a pretty good bite on sunny days. After where the water temps dropped to, that is warm enough to get the fish surprisingly active.
Several charter captains have reported very good action with puppy drum in the surf from Shackleford Banks to Masonboro Island. The feeling is the cold pushed the pups out the inlet to keep from being stunned and they probably won't go back in until the water warms some. The numbers are in the thousands in places.
Capt. Dave Dietzler said this week they were fishing the surf at Shackleford Banks and had drum swimming around their feet as they waded. Last week Doug Leister said he was seeing speckled trout swim along the beach at Atlantic Beach, but they weren't feeding. I've always heard these fish often gather in the first slough off the beach and this lends a whole lot of credence to that idea.
The striper bite is going pretty well in many rivers and has fired up sporadically in the ocean at the Outer Banks. One report has a few fish making it all the way to Diamond Shoals and Hatteras Inlet and then the next has the Oregon Inlet fishermen still heading north. I was in Virginia over the weekend at the Richmond Fishing Expo and many Virginia fishermen said they were running south to beyond the N.C./Va. Line. Maybe the fish will persist in moving south and our fishing will continue to improve.
The offshore bite that began during the freeze is still just as hot as the weather was cold. The big catch is wahoo and most boats are landing several every day the weather allows going. Blackfin tuna are also biting well, plus a surprising number of sailfish have been caught (and released).
Many fishermen are becoming frustrated with the lack of or abundance of bluefin tuna. Generally the bluefin bite has been slow, but several days have produced double-digit catches between the boats at Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. When this happens, the fishermen get excited and ready for the fishing to take off, but it hasn't. There is only a little time left in the commercial season, so if it is going to happen this year, it needs to begin pretty quickly.
I was in Richmond at the Richmond Fishing Expo, but heard there was a large crowd at the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series in New Bern on Saturday. We had a surprisingly large crowd at the Fishing Expo.
The Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo will be at Greensboro Coliseum this weekend. The Expo opens Friday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon. One of the highlights is the fresh and salt water seminars hosted by many noted fishermen, including myself. More details, including a seminar schedule, are available at www.ncboatshows.com.
Don't forget the "United We Fish" fishermen's march on Washington, D.C., on 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 all of these websites. 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, please let me know so I can help spread the word.
If you received some cash for Christmas, one of the best ways you can invest some of it is to attend a fishing school, and there will be several opportunities during the next few months. 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 8:30 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.
We are beginning a new year in the NC Division of Marine Fisheries Annual Saltwater Tournament. There are citations for fish exceeding minimum weights or for releases of fish of minimum lengths. There are also awards for the largest fish of each species for the year and the most releases for the year. More information on this great program is available at www.ncdmf.net.
The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began Oct. 1 and is about to end. The final day is Sunday, Jan. 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish.
Don't think it's over because it isn't. In past years there has been a late surge in the trout bite and the winner has been caught in the last two weeks of the tournament. The current leader is Tom Holland, with an 8.32 pound speck and it will be a tall order to top that, but it can be done. There is also a special prize for the trout weighing closest to 3.42 pounds that was caught during January. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
A special winter tournament will be held Saturday, Jan. 30, at Johnnie Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach. 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 (NCPFS). Tournament entry fee is $5 and a pier pass for the day.
Al Baird of the NCPFS said there are usually some large dogfish caught during the tournament, which is purposely scheduled for the afternoon and early evening to take advantage of the better bite, which typically occurs around sunset. For more information, visit www.ncfps.com.