Early on, it appears the long range weather prognosticators may have gotten the February weather forecast correct. They said we would be down to more seasonable temperatures and see more rain. That has been correct so far.
The hard thing to comprehend is that is really hasn't gotten cold, but we have been so warm and so nice, the seasonable weather hits us as much colder than it really is. It definitely has been cooler. I had ice on my windshield, in my dogs' water bowls and a little from the condensation on my deck several mornings this week. I dumped out part of a cooler of ice several days ago and some of it is still there. It sure is different from the shirtsleeve weather we enjoyed for most of December and January. Then, just to add insult to injury, the groundhog said to expect six more weeks of winter.
Some wind also came with the cooler weather. We are trying to calm out from a little blow earlier in the week, but the forecast doesn't have the wind below 15 knots except for a few hours today (Friday), into the evening and then on Monday. If you are headed out fishing, wear some warm clothes, carry your rain gear and head for protected waters. It is also very wise to leave your float plan with someone, especially so during the winter.
Now that the commercial bluefin season has closed, a few were caught out around the Trawler Buoy, Northwest Places and Big 10 Rock, off Cape Lookout, this week. For the recreational fishermen, the bluefin season remains open. If you have a lot of friends who like sushi and sashimi, you can keep 1 bluefin from 47 to 73 inches long per day or 1 over 73 inches each year. One of either size will feed quite a few hungry people.
Remember even recreational caught bluefins must be registered before being removed from the boat. A list of the reporting stations is available from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries at www.ncdmf.net, 1-800-682-2632 or 252-726-7021.
Even though many of the larger boats are out of the water or currently undergoing in-water spring maintenance and renovations, there have been some folks headed offshore, during the small weather windows. There catches have been surprisingly good too. Yellowfin tuna, and wahoo are the primary targets and they have been available. Blackfin tuna, king mackerel and even a few dolphin have also been caught.
Some kings have also been scattered through the water in the high 60's just inshore of the Gulf Stream. Several boats have reported good catches. The king bite has been the best down south, closer to Frying Pan Light Tower.
The good striper bite returned to Oregon Inlet this week. Several reports have the fish within just a few miles of the inlet, rather than the 40 mile plus run up the beach of the past few weeks.
According to your point of view, the Cape Lookout area has been either blessed or cursed with a sporadic striper bite. There aren't enough to guarantee everyone catching, but there are just enough to keep fishermen going. This week has been much the same, with an occasional bite scattered long Shackleford Banks, in the Dead Tree Hole, along the edges of Cape Lookout Shoals and just off the beach up Core Banks toward Drum Inlet. There weren't many stripers caught, but there were several in the mid-30's and that gets your attention.
Some good reports of mostly smaller stripers are coming from the Neuse River near New Bern. Around the bridges and any other vertical structure is a good place to look.
Even with the cold and wind, there were speckled trout reports from the Cape Lookout jetty. There were also some good speck reports from around Bogue Inlet and at the Masonboro Inlet jetty.
Puppy drum continue to save many inshore fishing trips. The Red Drum Fisheries Management Plan must be working as we are seeing juvenile drum in many creeks and marshes where they weren't just a few years ago.
The surf conditions were pretty bad this week, but some boaters found a school of large redfish near Hatteras Inlet and caught (and released) several of citation size.
Believe it or not, there isn't a boat show in North Carolina this weekend. The shows will return next weekend, with the Raleigh Power and Sail Boat Show at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, the Hickory Boat Show at the Hickory Convention Center and the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Downtown Charleston, S.C.
This Saturday will be the annual Open House/Customer Appreciation/Fishing School at Crocker Marine in Wrightsville Beach. This event will move to Morehead Marine, in Morehead City on Saturday, February 18.