Except for being really windy Tuesday and Wednesday, this has been an exceptionally nice mid-winter week. There were some really foggy morning, that took long hours to burn off, but the daytime highs have been doggone near summer-like. I believe there were a couple of record highs set and several days were definitely near records.
I had hoped to get out fishing on Sunday, but had it deferred to Monday. I don't know how good it might have been on Sunday, but Monday was excellent. I was with Capt. Tommy Rickman at Southport and looking for some pictures to fill out an upcoming article and got them in spades.
The drum were biting well and in two different locations I caught one on my first cast. These were nice drum too. All were mid to upper slot size and one was around 30-31 inches. A couple fought like they were cold, but several, including the largest one had attitudes and didn't want any part of getting near the boat.
We caught some specks too. None were huge, but it was February 4, not November 4. Most were right around 15 inches and would have been good pan fish, but we were fishing to fish, not fishing to eat, and after posing for a few pictures they were released to swim away. Maybe next year?
Last week I was commiserating on why the fish can't decide what to do and after a week like this they are even more confused. I am too. I rode my bike several afternoons in shorts and a T-shirt. Let me remove any doubt and say I like this!
Unfortunately, the groundhog saw his shadow on Saturday and we have some more winter coming. In fact, it looks like it might be coming quickly. There is a cold front forecast to roll through this weekend and by Sunday the temperatures will be cooling and the winds will be northerly again. Hopefully this front doesn't spawn any tornadoes as it zeroes in on us. Please keep those who were ambushed by the wild twisters of this week in your thoughts and prayers.
I looked for a while to find a super-size fish like the last couple of weeks and found it as a 61 pound striper weighed at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. That's a hog in anybody's book. The state record is only a pound heavier at 62 pounds.
With the warm weather, I didn't get many reports of bluefins this week. The commercial season has closed, but the Tag-A-Giant crew is still around trying to implant their 1,000th tag in an Atlantic bluefin. Maybe it will be this week?
While the pods are scattered and the catches seem a little hit-or-miss, there have been some red drum and speckled trout catches scattered along the ocean beaches from Drum Inlet to the S.C. Line. One of the favorite places for this is along Bear and Browns Islands between Bogue and New River Inlets. The drum usually prefer soft plastic baits, while the trout show a definite preference for MirrOlures. Many reports have the surf warming to at least 55 degrees over the past week, so this might last through the upcoming cold front.
Even with the warmer weather, the striper fishing around Oregon Inlet was pretty good this week. There are a few stripers being caught at Buxton and Hatteras, but the better action has been around Oregon Inlet. Unfortunately the bite hasn't yet gotten consistent. The fish are to the south one day and to the north the next.
There have been some very good catches of smaller stripers in most of the N.C. rivers this winter. The Albemarle and Croatan Sound areas near Manns Harbor have been very productive, with the Pamlico/Tar River at Washington and the Trent and Neuse Rivers at New Bern running a close second. The Cape Fear River at Wilmington has been good at times and those fish appear to be moving upriver right now. One of the best things about these fish is they have been hungry and haven't been too picky about baits.
In addition to the speckled trout in the surf, there are still some trout in the interior waters. The creeks around Oriental have been producing well as have the marshes off the Newport and North Rivers. There are also trout being caught around the Cape Lookout Jetties, a few at the Fort Macon Jetties and some along the Masonboro Inlet Jetties.
Red drum also bit well in the marshes in several locations. Even though it warmed up this week, they were holding in areas where sunlight shines on mud bottoms in shallow water. They may bite well at any time, but low tides after lunch and before 4:00 are a good time to target them.
I spoke with several folks this week who are scheduled to haul their larger boats in the next few weeks to do maintenance, repairs and generally get ready for spring. They wait until the commercial bluefin season ends and schedule it to be completed before the main yellowfin run arrives. Those who are ready should begin prospecting for a few yellowfins by later in the month.
With the nice weather last weekend and early this week, some folks headed offshore and reported good catches of bottom fish. Most were either heading well offshore for grouper or staying fairly close for black sea bass. The bite for both was pretty good, but with the recent minimum size increase for sea bass there were a higher than usual number of shorts. The other offshore bottom catches were beeliners, porgies, triggerfish, grunts and more.
Charter Lakes Marine Insurance is offering a free charter liability seminar in Wilmington on Wednesday, February 20. All full and part-time charter operators are invited. Call Adam or Liz at 910-256-4148 for more details.
The N.C. boat shows return this weekend with the Mid-Atlantic Boat Show at the Charlotte Convention Center. If you like to travel, the Southeast Wildlife Expo is in Charleston and it is impressive.
If you are looking for a reason to visit Charleston, the 2008 South Carolina Sportsman Saltwater Fishing School will be there on Saturday, February 23. You can take the missus to do some shopping, enjoy a romantic weekend getaway in the historic city and learn a little about catching your favorite saltwater fish. For more information call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.southcarolinasportsman.com