The winter weather that descended on us near the end of last week has lifted a little for a few decent afternoons, but is set to give us one more icy blast before departing. After spitting a little snow and icing up a few spots around the Carolinas last weekend, it tapered off to several nice afternoons during the mid-week, but is forecast to spend a couple of night below freezing again before departing.
Along the coast we didn't get but a tease of the snow/sleet/freezing rain/winter precipitation they did farther inland over the weekend, but it was a sort of wakeup call. Ice on a boat or dock is not a pleasant experience. We're looking at fishable winds from Saturday on for those folks who want to put on a couple of extra layers of clothes and go. The afternoons will be approaching 60 on Sunday and Monday, so maybe it won't be too bad.
Bluntly, there just weren't a lot of good fishing reports this week. I believe this was more from fishermen not going fishing than the fish not biting, but there weren't many reports. In the Morehead city area, speckled trout and red drum are where the better possibilities lie. The bluefin boats are still heading out, but the better catches of the past couple of weeks have come from Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. Several experts say the cold will push the bluefins back down and we sure hope it will.
On the topic of bluefins, the Tag-A-Giant team is hoping to tag their 1,000th Atlantic bluefin this week. They began the week at tag 990 and were hoping to make the 1,000 mark by the weekend. It has been slow so far, but with a push these last couple of days they might make it.
Capt. Noah Lynk had an outstanding catch on Monday when he landed a 56 pound black drum on 8 pound test line. Congratulations!
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 again when this last cold snap arrived. Several experienced trout fishermen said there were some trout around, but with the fishermen staying home, out of the cold, there aren't many being caught.
For those folks willing to get cold and put in the time, the puppy drum continue to bite well. They are holding in smaller schools back in the marshes and in large to huge schools in the surf around many inlets.
With everyone talking about the cold, I thought about many of the friends I have made in Alaska over the years. I checked on-line and saw Fairbanks had seen several days of temperatures above zero, but as the warm front passed they were dropping back to some frigid temperatures. After a high of 11 degrees on Friday they will be dropping to a high of -20 and a low of -38 on Saturday. Thankfully they will warm to -12 on Sunday and on up to -5 on Monday.
It's difficult for me to fully comprehend those temperatures as it is usually 70 to 80 when I am there in the summer. Of course the water is glacial runoff and maintains a balmy 40-45 in the rivers. That is far warmer than the several feet of ice they have at their surfaces now.
When the Alaskan rivers thaw, the water stays cold, but the fishing heats up. Everyone has heard of their salmon and halibut, but arctic grayling are one of my favorites. These feisty little fish are considered big at 15 inches and real big at 20 inches. They resemble a cross between rainbow trout with the large dorsal fin of a sailfish. Their struggles and aerial acrobatics make them a favorite on lighter tackle.
This past summer while in Fairbanks, my wife donna and I went on a grayling trip with Reed Morisky of Arctic Grayling Guide Service and Wilderness Adventures (www.wildernessfishing.com, 907-479-0479). On a previous trip to Fairbanks, we had caught grayling in the Upper Chena River, but that is a catch and release area so we didn't get to sample their delicate flavor. Morisky promised us a few nice ones for dinner and he kept his promise. We drove about an hour south of Fairbanks to the town of Nenana and several creeks off the Tanana River, for fishing in an area where we could keep a few for dinner.
After seeing the boat and motor, I thought we might be in for a special trip and I wasn't mistaken. Morisky's boat is a Wooldridge Alaskan II aluminum tunnel boat with an Evinrude E-TEC outboard jet drive. I wondered just how shallow it might run and he said about 6 inches or so. I believe it might even be shallower as we went over several gravel bars that were barely wet and never touched. I couldn't help but think about how nice this setup would be for getting around in Core Sound at low tide.
Shortly after arriving in our first spot a pair of eagles positioned themselves in a tree beside the creek to monitor our success. The water in this creek was a little off-color and while we managed to catch a few, Morisky soon suggested we check out another spot.
As we motored into the second spot, I got a glimpse of a pretty large school of fish behind a bar and pointed them out to Morisky. He nodded and smiled, then positioned us to take advantage. I believe donna and I both caught one with our first casts. The grayling were obviously hungry. We caught and released them almost non-stop for a couple of hours before taking a break for lunch.
When we paused for lunch, Morisky gave us a quick tour of some cabins he has in the area. He also offers non-guided trips, where folks stay in the cabins and fish the surrounding water. The cabins are basic, but nice, fishing cabins, with bunk beds, plus grills and propane stoves for cooking. Salmon run these same streams later in the summer into the fall and we made a vow that on a future trip we would stay in one of these cabins and grill freshly caught salmon.
I asked about bears and Morisky said he had never been attacked or had a client attacked, but he recommended having a large can of bear mace or a potent gun'just in case. After saying this, he showed us where a bear had inquisitively clawed near the door of one of the cabins.
After lunch, the grayling were still hungry and biting well. While Morisky taught donna how to flyfish, I concentrated on catching dinner. She did well with the fly rod and caught over a dozen grayling of varying sizes. One, of about 20 inches, joined a couple more of similar size on the stringer and they were our guests of honor at dinner that evening. They are a light delicate meat and were delicious simply grilled with a little buttery Pam, salt and pepper. I'd call them the Alaskan version of sea mullet.
There are several boat shows this weekend. The largest is the Convention Center Boat Show in Raleigh. The convention Center is being re-built so it is being held at 1300 Buck Jones Road in Raleigh. The Down East Boat Show is also this weekend at the Martin Agri-Expo Center in Williamston.