While it still hasn't gotten really cold yet, we are getting some winter-like winds. Fortunately there are still some calm days mixed in and we can go fishing comfortably. Last Saturday was one of those days and a bunch of people went fishing. There were a mixture of success stories but folks were fishing and some caught fish, so we'll give it a try again.
We are still calming out from a blow early in the week, but the temperatures didn't drop radically. Unfortunately the forecast isn't for really nice weather this weekend, except for a small window on Saturday. I would check the forecast and prevailing conditions before I went very far, as the next front could be moving quicker or slower than our current forecast.
I read one of the long range forecasts earlier today, which projects February to be more seasonable and rainy. The figures there had January about 8.5 degrees warmer than usual, but still not the warmest on record. If the cold and wet weather is coming, we should get outside and enjoy our current conditions while we can.
The bluefin tuna bite basically fizzled all along the coast. There were a few fish caught in a couple of places, but nothing with any consistency. The commercial bluefin fishery closed at midnight Tuesday, but General category permit holders may still catch and release. The Angling category remains open.
Just to point out how unusual this year has been for bluefin fishing, a new S.C. state record was caught off Hilton Head Island last week. It was certified at 396 pounds and 14 ounces. The previous S.C. record had been caught off N.C., by a boat that left and returned through a S.C. inlet.
While the bluefin bite fizzled, many fishermen took advantage of the great conditions on Saturday to head for the Gulf Stream. Many of them were surprisingly successful with catches of yellowfin tuna, wahoo, king mackerel and even a few dolphin.
I heard of one very unusual catch from Saturday, but I know the folks and it is true. They headed out, thinking bluefin, but carried some bottom fishing gear and decided to use it. They were fishing in approximately 90 feet of water and caught their 3 limits of large sea bass, several grouper and 19 flounder. They said the flounder liked the 3-inch cigar minnows they were jigging.
The striper bite off the Outer Banks moved around some over the past week and some fishermen found it and some didn't. The catches were either slim or lots of big nice fish, with several well over 40 pounds. I didn't hear of any significant catches from the surf. All were by boat fishermen.
There was another striper bite over the weekend around Cape Lookout. Probably the best bite was spread along Shackleford Banks and out to the Dead Tree Hole. A few were also caught along the edges of Cape Lookout Shoals and just out of the surf up Core Banks toward Drum Inlet.
Some respectable striper reports came from the Neuse River near New Bern. There seem to be a good number of stripers around the bridges and even a ways upriver. Many of these are smaller fish, but they hit hard and run well on lighter tackle.
There were continuing speckled trout reports this week from the Cape Lookout jetty. There were also some caught in the surf from Fort Fisher to Hatteras and even a few reports from inside around Wrightsville Beach, Swansboro and Beaufort. Live minnows were the bait of choice for several of the fishermen, while others earned their catches with various MirrOlures and grubs. The live bait does its own thing, but the lures must be fished pretty slowly.
Last week I said the wind and cold temperatures shouldn't have been enough to run the puppy drum out of the area creeks and marshes and they proved me right. Numerous fishermen reported doing well with slot-size drum. Even if the weather cools, the drum should continue biting as long as the days are bright and sunny. They seem to be able to find areas the sunlight warms and it keeps them active and feeding.
For another week there has been a scattered drum bite in the surf at Ocracoke and Cape Hatteras. The windy conditions hampered the fishing, but some drum were caught. Most were smaller fish, but the boats found a school of large drum one day on Diamond Shoals and caught (and released) a lot of big drum.
There are two boat shows in North Carolina this weekend. The Mid-Atlantic Boat Show is at the Convention Center in Downtown Charlotte and has everything from jon boats to large house boats. The Greensboro Bass and Saltwater Expo is more of a fishing show, but features fishing boats also. It will be at the Greensboro Coliseum complex. Several area anglers, including myself, will be hosting seminars on a wide variety of saltwater fishing topics.