The nasty front is supposed to clear out sometime Friday, but the strong winds it brought are expected to linger through Saturday. In the extended forecast, Sunday looks to be the best day to do some fishing, but the forecast isnít great for then. Of course, the weather may change several times by then.
While I donít particularly relish the thought of cold weather, I really just would like for the weather to stabilize and if it needs to be cold to do that, then so be it. However, if it could stabilize with a majority of the days being sunny with highs approaching 70, that sure would be nice. Tuesday and Wednesday were good examples of how my ideal winter would be.
The constantly changing weather has the fish disoriented and off their normal winter pattern. They are still feeding fairly well at times. The trick is to be in the right spot and fishing, when feeding time comes around. Warm water is a key and the water is usually the warmest in the early to mid afternoon, especially if this coincides with a low tide.
As it has been for several weeks now, the fishing action has been hot and cold. Fishing can be really slow, but when you find the right pod of fish, the action fires up like they havenít eaten in weeks. The primary inshore fish have been speckled trout and red drum.
In addition to the specks and pups, winter fishermen are also catching some black drum, sheepshead, tautog and an occasional flounder. Some sea mullet are being caught in the surf, plus around the Dead Tree Hole at Morehead City and just off the beach at Fort Caswell at Southport. Stripers are fairly active in the rivers and are being reported in the Neuse and Trent Rivers at New Bern, the Pamlico/Tar River at Washington and the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers around Wilmington.
I have received several reports that the trout have been biting surprisingly well for water that begins the day around 49 degrees and may warm to above 50 by afternoon. The word is that the trout deeper in the creeks are in water a little warmer and a little more active. A tip was the trout in the warmer water near the back of creeks will bite earlier in the day and once the sun shines and warms the water elsewhere, they might also bite farther out in the creeks.
Some fishermen said they were seeing trout in shallow water and some said they were in deeper spots. Almost everyone mentioned the MirrOdine Series of MirrOlures to catch them. In shallow water the MR17s work better as they sink a foot or so and suspend there. In deeper water the MR18s work better as they sink pretty quickly. Trout will also usually hit soft plastics, especially the scented ones. Fishing slowly is important too. The fish are moving slow and a bait moving fast typically wonít be chased.
Several fishermen said they found puppy drum in the surf again. While the pups may be off inhabited beaches, they seem to be found most often off beaches with no houses. Pups in the surf are easiest to spot when the ocean is calm, with just the slightest bit of wave action. A little wind wonít run them away, but will make them more difficult to locate.
The best way to find pups in the surf is to walk the beach or ride just beyond the breakers and look for them in the waves as the waves roll in. If on a poling platform or elevated platform, a big school may give the water a reddish tint. Some fishermen carry ladders in their boats to stand up to help spot schooling reds.
Most fishermen will do better using soft plastics in the surf, but the reds and any specks that might be there will also hit hard baits. I like to use a 1/2 ounce jig head in the surf. It will add at least 10 yards to your casting range and in the surge of the surf, the lure will move even with the heavier head. A slow steady retrieve, with an occasional pause, should draw strikes if the fish are there.
Puppy drum have also moved to the back of creeks and into the marshes. Warmer water and bait are the keys to look for. Either is worth checking out and if you find water a degree or two warmer with bait, you will usually find fish. Remember that dark bottoms warm quicker with any sunlight.
Tautog, black drum and sheepshead will be found around structure. A few togs have been reported around Wrightsville, but most have been from Morehead City and north. Jetties, bridge pilings and the Wall at the Morehead City State Ports all have potential to be holding togs, uglies and sheep at any time. They will hit pieces of shrimp and clams. One fisherman said to take the time to gather some green crabs from around a dock and see how they like them.
There was some bluefin tuna action this week off Cape Hatteras. The bluefins are still moving around and havenít settled in a specific area yet, but last weekend and earlier this week had the best action so far this year.
The weather has been a little iffy for heading offshore for the past week, but there were some reports of blackfin tuna and even a few yellowfins off Cape Hatteras. Wahoo and blackfins have been the offshore targets off Cape Lookout and Cape Fear and while I didnít hear any reports this week, they should still be there when the wind lays out. A few king mackerel were reported around the rocks and wrecks at approximately 100 Ė 125 feet deep.
It takes running offshore to around 100 feet or deeper, but there is some ongoing bottom fish action. Unfortunately, grouper, red snapper, beeliner and black sea bass seasons are closed, so they have to be released. For those with a bottom fishing Jones, if you wait for the right weather window, grunts, porgies and triggerfish are also biting and can be kept.
The travels of great white sharks Mary Lee and Genie continue to be rather subdued this week. Genie hasnít sent a locating ping since January 19 and that was from about 30 mikes offshore of the entrance to Port Royal Sound on the north end of Hilton Head in S.C. She seems to be fairly enamored with the waters between Charleston, S.C. and Brunswick, Ga., but there are weeks at a time her tracker doesnít transmit and her location isnít known.
Mary Lee had moved back to the north off Cape Cod, Mass. Last week, but has turned south again in the last day or so. She isnít moving quickly right now, but we have already seen how quickly she can cover miles when the mood strikes.
This has been one of the more interesting stories of the late fall and early winter and hopefully it will continue for a while. Chris Fischer and some of the Ocearch people were on the CBS Morning Show on Wednesday morning and they readily admitted Mary Lee has been moving in ways they had not imagined. Check out the travels of Mary Lee and Genie by using the shark tracker at www.ocearch.org.
The word from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Workshop held February 4 to 6 by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) in North Charleston, S.C. is that more MPAs may be in the making for N.C. offshore waters between 25 and 100 fathoms. There was discussion of adding several off Cape Lookout in the general area of the Big Rock and expanding or rearranging several of the others, including the Snowy Grouper MPA off Cape Fear. A report should be available soon on the SAFMC website at www.safmc.net
This weekend there are four fishing, boat and wildlife shows in North Carolina. The closest is the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival at the Washington Civic Center in Washington on February 9 and 10. This event will also include the N.C. Decoy Carving Championships. For more information visit www.ecwguild.com.
The Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show began on February 7 and runs through February 10 at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh. For more information visit www.raleighconvention.com.
The Mid-Atlantic Boat Show began on February 7 and runs through February 10 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte. There will be fishing seminars at this show and I will be giving kayak fishing seminars on Saturday and Sunday, February 9 and 10. For more information, including a seminar schedule, visit www.ncboatshows.com.
The Flyfishing Show will be held at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem on February 9 and 10. There will also be seminars at this show. For more information visit www.flyfishingshow.com.
The Wilmington edition of the Fishermanís Post Saltwater Fishing School will be held on Sunday, February 10 at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington. There will also be Morehead City (Feb. 23) and Greenville (March 9) dates for this. For more information visit www.fishermanspost.com.
The Cape Lookout Fly Fishers Club will be holding a Fly Casting Clinic on Saturday, February 16, at the Morehead City Recreation Center from 10:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. The public is invited and there will be multiple instructors and loaner fly rods available. Men, ladies and kids are all welcome and there is no charge. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last of the four Basic Flyfishing Schools offered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville will be on Saturday, February 16. The day includes several classroom sessions and an opportunity to try your new skills for mountain trout in the ponds at the adjacent hatchery. The reviews from the first three schools were good enough I will be attending this one. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org.
The North Carolina Marine Recreational Fishing Forum will be held at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh on Saturday, February 16. Multiple topics related to recreational fishing will be presented. For more information or to register, call 910-962-2490 or 910-962-2492.
If you are wanting to get out of town or looking for a unique Valentines get-away, consider the South East Wildlife Expo in Charleston, S.C., February 15 to 17. The Expo includes everything from wildlife art to retriever demonstrations and has locations all around downtown Charleston with shuttle service included in the admission. For more information visit www.sewe.com.