There hasn't been a lot to report since last week except the cold. Everyone I have spoken with has commented on it. Then we have a day like Wednesday. Wednesday was so nice I made a few excuses to get out in the sunshine, but didn't get to go fishing.
I guess we're paying for all the nice weather in December and early January. It looks like another cold weekend, with overnight lows in the 20's and 30's with daytime highs in the upper 40's. Maybe we will see a little warming next week.
The water temperatures are cold too. High 40's are the reports from most places with some in the lower 40's and a few places had skim ice earlier in the week.
The wind forecast for the weekend isn't bad at all. Friday will start off a little gusty, but it should drop to 10-15 knots by the late afternoon and stay in that range through Monday. The cold will stick around as the winds will be northerly.
Some of the worst news this week was of a fish kill. It might more correctly be described as a fish stun, as many of them were struggling to keep moving, but were in bad enough shape their swim bladders were not functioning and they were floating at or near the top.
I'm sure there were other areas that were affected, but I was told of several places well up the North River and some of the creeks feeding it. The disabled fish were mostly trout, and included a mixture of small to really nice ones, plus some under-slot size red drum. It was all in brackish water, much with that red tint that comes with an abundance of fresh water, and in shallow places that were protected from the wind. One place mentioned several times was Wards Creek.
For those who have been catching flounder in the ocean, you should know that as of February 8, the minimum size for ocean-caught flounder increased to 14 1/2 inches. Inside the inlets the minimum size remains at 14 inches. The combined possession limit is 8 flounder. This change was necessary to keep N.C. in compliance with new federal regulations.
The cold and windy conditions kept most fishermen off the water during the last week, but a few adventuresome anglers headed out and some returned with nice catches.
Without the commercial boats chasing the bluefin tuna, there weren't a lot of reports, but several boats hooked them just off Shackleford Banks and Atlantic Beach. The best story of the week was of a bluefin, over 100 inches long, caught within a mile of Beaufort Inlet. Estimates say a 100 inch bluefin should weigh 500 to 600 pounds.
For several weeks the bluefin fishermen have been saying the cooler water temperatures would congregate the bluefins and make them feed more aggressively. There haven't yet been reports of better concentrations of them, but maybe they are moving closer to the beach to feed on the schools of shad.
Striper catches are good for boats leaving from Oregon Inlet. The fishermen are finding schools of big stripers and returning most days with lots of fish in the 30's and 40's. There are enough 50 pounders mixed in that everyone is hoping their next fish will be the next one.
The inshore striper bite continues to be pretty good at several places along the N.C. coast. From north to south, these include Manns Harbor, the Tar/Pamlico River around Washington, the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern and the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers around Wilmington.
The Cape Fear River stripers are usually just smaller fish and into the teens, but in the last couple of week there have been a few fish in the 20's and even a report of one in the 30's. There is a free public launching ramp under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and it is right in the middle of all the action.
In spite of the cold and few fishermen venturing out, there were a few surprisingly good reports of red drum and speckled trout. Most of the fishermen agree the bite started slowly in the mornings and improved as the day warmed, with sunny days being the best. For the most part the fish were in protected shallower water that received a lot of sunshine or in deeper pools that didn't have a lot of tidal flow.
The windy weather prevented much offshore fishing, even from the Outer Banks. I didn't hear anything regarding king mackerel this week, but suspect they are still holding in deeper water off Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. Once the winds calm down for a while and we have a few nice days in a row, the king catches should begin again.
Several Oregon Inlet boats made it offshore a couple of times and had good catches of yellowfin tuna. Farther south, between the Big Rock and Swansboro Hole, there was a report of some wahoo and a few blackfin tuna.
Offshore bottom fishing is best when the seas are calm, as rough seas make it hard to keep bait on the bottom and feel strikes. I spoke to a few fishermen who used the small weather windows to get 10 to 15 miles off and catch some black sea bass this week. They also reported a mixture of grunts and sand bass, with one undersize beeliner. They said the groupers, snappers and larger beeliners have moved to water around 100 feet deep or deeper.
The boat show this weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Boat Show (www.ncboatshows.com or 336-855-0208) in Charlotte. Crocker Marine in Wrightsville Beach will be holding their annual fishing school on Saturday, beginning at 8:30. Several knowledgeable area fishermen, including myself, will be speaking on a variety of topics. For more information call 910-256-3661.