I didn't know how true my words would be last week when I spoke about the upcoming changes in the weather. The nastiness began falling about the time the paper hit the news stands and many inland folks are still reeling from it--and not in the preferred way either. I'm writing this on Thursday and many of the inland school systems are either still out or running on late starting days. It warm enough to melt some during the day, but refreezes every night and there is black ice and secondary roads that haven't been cleared.
We were much more fortunate along the coast. We saw mainly rain, but with some freezing rain and sleet. It was very windy too, with lots of gusts that blew the rain sideways. Unfortunately this weekend isn't shaping up to be much better. There may not be any frozen precipitation, but there may be plenty of opportunities for black ice Friday and Saturday night.
There is a strange little low trapped with the approaching fronts and the folks around Wilmington might see temperatures rise to the high 60s or low 70s Friday afternoon before they plummet. With that strong of a change, there is increased probability of thunderstorms and such. Of course, if the fronts push a little offshore, we won't record that warm low over land. Several weathermen have suggested a possible 30 degree difference between the coast and I-95. I guess we'll see.
There were a couple of days this week when it was possible to get out on the water in relative comfort. Monday was a little breezier than Wednesday, but I jumped at the chance when it was offered. Capt. Jeff Wolfe (www.seahawkinshorefishingcharters.com) of Carolina Beach Called Monday morning and asked if I wanted to go see if we could find some puppy drum that afternoon and by 12:30 we were on his boat and headed out.
We fished the end of the falling tide in the creeks and bays between Carolina Beach and Bald Head Island and had a good afternoon. The fish were cold, but feeding and we caught 12 to 15 that ranged from lower slot to just over slot size. It was obvious the fish were cold from how they were, or actually weren't, fighting. Many of these fish would have taken 5 minutes to land in warm water, but only one made much of a run and took lots of line. Still, it was good to know they were there and feeding. Capt. Wolfe said that along that stretch of beach there weren't pups in the surf like at Shackleford Banks and Bear Island. Fortunately, he knew where to look in the creeks and bays and we found them.
I haven't heard much in the Cape Lookout area this week. There should still be some specks and reds in the surf and around the jetty. There should also be some reds in the surf along Bear and Browns Islands. These fish will usually hit smaller grubs and jerkbaits, especially one of the scented ones.
Another good possibility would be some sheepshead and black drum. These fish will hit small pieces of shrimp and clams. They could be along the wall at the State Ports or along any jetty in the area. Heck, you might even get lucky and catch a tautog.
We've got some gusty winds in the forecast for the next few days and they aren't nice, especially when paired with cold and rain. The reports were the offshore bite had slowed last week and I don't have any other news. Perhaps it will pick back up after this round of storm fronts pass.
There were also good reports of blackfin tuna prior to last week's cold. Maybe they will still be there, plus some of their yellowfin cousins when the weather settles again. Blackfins have been being caught by trolling and by jigging.
Even with the continuing cold, no stripers have made it to Cape Lookout Shoals. The striper bite off the northern Outer Banks had gotten better a week or so ago, but doesn't seem to have made it to wide open yet. They are catching some nice stripers most days, but are still running a ways from Oregon Inlet to find them.
Considering the fishing conditions, the striper reports from the rivers are pretty good. The weather has kept many fishermen inside except for a few days. There are good reports from the Neuse, Tar/Pamlico, Cape Fear and Albemarle Rivers. As striper populations are managed by the rivers and are subject to change on short notice, it would be wise to check the striper regulations for where you plan to fish shortly before each trip. The regulations can be found at www.ncdmf.net.
The Fisherman's Post Wilmington Fishing School will be held this Saturday at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington. Several well-known area captains are scheduled to speak. The registration fee is $100 for this all-day event. For more information, visit www.fishermanspost.com.
For other fishing enthusiasts, Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be giving some all-day fishing schools across North Carolina during February. These schools, which are sponsored by Sea Striker and Star Rods, will be February 20 at River Park North in Greenville and February 27 at Libby Hill Seafood Restaurant in Greensboro.
The schools will begin at 8:30 A.M. and last until approximately 4:30 P.M. There is a registration fee of $50 in advance or $60 at the door. Call Capt. Price at 910-443-1211 or me at 910-279-6760 for more details or to purchase tickets. You can also reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Feb. 18 in New Bern to discuss issues related to a proposed gill net closure. The meeting is set for 1:00 P.M. at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.
The commission will take public comments regarding a proposed May 15-Dec 15 closure of large-mesh gill net fishing in most inshore waters of the state south of Oregon Inlet. The division has proposed the closure to address a notification from the National Marine Fisheries Service of unauthorized takes of threatened and endangered sea turtles that have been observed in the large mesh gill net fishery in state waters.
The letter outlining these proposals can be viewed at http://www.ncdmf.net/Gill Net Closure/DMF to RoyCrabtree-Turtles.pdf.
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.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center is planning to sponsor a bus so fishermen can travel at reasonable rates. For more information, visit the website at www.oifc.com. If others have news of busses or caravans, please let me know so I can help spread the word.
The second annual Cape Fear River Watch Striped Bass Tournament was held from downtown Wilmington on Saturday, January 16th. This tournament is a project of Cape Fear Riverwatch (www.cfrw.us) and is held to raise awareness of the situation of striped bass and other fish that once swam well up the Cape Fear River to native spawning grounds. It also allows for tagging Cape Fear River stripers for studies on their migration patterns and other factors that could help with rebuilding their numbers within the Cape Fear River system.
Capt. Jamie Rushing, and fishermen Robert Bungard and Kevin Bloom won the Most Tagged Fish category by catching and tagging 10 stripers. The Largest Fish category was won by a 27.5-inch striped bass caught by Duane Auman, who was fishing with Capt. Jot Owens. Auman and Todd Byrd, who was also fishing with Capt. Owens, added a 26-inch striped bass to Auman's to win the Aggregate Length category at 53.5 inches.
He had to wait a long time, but on January 31, Tom Holland was announced as the winner of the Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament that began Oct. 1. Holland's winning fish weighed 8.32 pounds. There was also a special prize for the trout weighing closest to 3.42 pounds that was caught during January. Unfortunately, no trout were weighed during January, so this prize went unclaimed.
Cold, rainy weather didn't deter 66 fishermen from competing in the 2010 Johnny Mercer's Pier Dogfish, held in the wind, rain and sleet of Saturday, January 30 from Johnny Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach. Every fish was released alive after being weighed.
Dedicated pier and dogfish anglers traveled from as far as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Columbia, SC and west of Ashville in North Carolina to fish the event. The winner was Jeffery McLaughlin, who landed a 12 pound spiny dogfish that established a new JMP Dogfish Tournament record. Justin Trujillo, who caught 16 of the 66 fish caught during the tournament, had to settle for second place with a 10-pound, 13-ounce fish.
The North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpaf.com) donated the trophies as they have done for the last 3 years and the Silver Gull Motel offered discounted rooms for the event. The North Carolina Fishing Pier Society (www.ncfps.com) has hosted the event the past 2 years.