The cold returned and the forecast shows this to be the coldest weather yet this winter. There are possibilities and probabilities of winter precipitation in the forecast through early next week, so be prepared. The good weather news is temperatures will warm next week with 60s being predicted in many places.
The wind, cold, rain, and flooding of the past week has not been conducive to going fishing. I talked with friends and received pictures of everything from the ocean breaching the dunes along the Outer Banks, to Core Sound flooding across Highway 12 between Atlantic and Cedar Island and nasty flooding of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers. Take my word; It was bad.
My fishery concern with this weekend's forecast is hard freezes and fish kills. There was light ice in several of the brackish creeks Thursday morning and the forecast for the weekend is almost 10 degrees colder. There have been a lot of mostly short trout in the creeks and sometimes they try and stay rather than moving to deeper water. Hopefully they heeded the warning on Thursday.
Thankfully, there is good news on the horizon with serious warming next week. Many years winter breaks in eastern N.C. during the last two weeks of February and I'm hoping next week is when this winter breaks.
The primary catch this week has been stripers. They tolerate the cold better than most other species. Stripers are being caught in most of the coastal rivers. While they can be picky at times, stripers will usually hit a mixture of soft plastics and diving hard lures. Stripers like vertical structure and some fishermen troll the bridges to locate them and then stop and cast.
Speckled trout and red drum reports were almost nil this week. There are a few being caught but fishing is slow in the cold. One successful fisherman said his secret for catching winter specks and pups is fishing slow - in fact, so slow that he actually stops the lure occasionally and lets the scent spread in the water. He uses Berkley Gulp scented baits and said he has been doing best using shrimp shapes for trout and crab shapes for drum. He likes smaller baits in the cold and uses 3 inch shrimp and 1 inch crabs.
I'll add that I believe scent is very important to convince fish to feed in the cold. They are moving slowly and aren't burning much energy. Natural bait will sometimes produce when artificials won't. Everything likes a piece of shrimp and drum, both red and black, will pick up cut menhaden and mullet. I prefer mullet and use small steaks from finger mullet rather than fillets. I don't know what the difference is, but think it has something to do with the backbone. Whatever it is, steaks seem to attract fish better.
Surf fishing has been slow and I didn't hear a single report this week. Of course, with the nor'easter passing the ocean was pretty stirred up and it wasn't a fun time to be on the beach either. By the time the temperature begins warming the ocean should have settled and conditions will be more inviting for fish and fishermen.
The wind made certain there wasn't any offshore fishing this week. It began near hurricane force and only slowed into the 20s by Friday. There is a small window in the weekend forecast when the wind drops below 15 knots for 24 hours, but the seas aren't expected to fall out as quickly. Fishermen may be waiting another week to have comfortable conditions to head offshore.
The good news is that offshore fish had been biting well before this cold snap and are expected to be in the same locations once sea conditions allow returning. Offshore bottom fishing was wide open and king mackerel fishing excellent before this windy, cold weather moved in. Those fish were in depths ranging from roughly 100 to 125 feet, with surface temperatures of the mid 60s or warmer. The key was finding a rock or wreck that was holding bait.
The winter Gulf Stream trolling wasn't as hot as the bottom fishing and kings just inshore, but there were wahoo and blackfin tuna the last time fishermen were able to get out. The wahoo bite was a little better from Cape Lookout to the south and the blackfin tuna action was better from Cape Hatteras to the north. The key was finding a temperature break with the warm side reaching 70 or so degrees and both were feeding on the warm side of the break.
Pechmann Center Offers Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic
Participants in the Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic must have completed a Basic Fly-Fishing Clinic or Discovery Course offered in 2015, or the Basic Fly-fishing clinic in 2016. The clinic is limited to 30 people and there is a registration fee of $5, payable on the day of the event. For more information on the fly-fishing clinic or other programs offered at the Pechmann Center, visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the "Learning" tab.
Cape Lookout Fly Fishers to Host Fly Casting Clinic
WRC and NWTF Offer Free Turkey Hunting Seminars
The introductory seminars are designed for novice turkey hunters or those who have never hunted turkey and topics will include biology, hunting methods, calls and decoys, firearms and ammo selection, camouflage clothing, and turkey cleaning and cooking techniques. The advanced seminars are for experienced turkey hunters and will focus on advanced biology, more complex hunting tactics, calls and decoys. Advanced seminars will include tips and strategies for dealing with stubborn, hard-to-hunt gobblers and will include cleaning and cooking techniques.
The closest seminars to Carteret County will be March 9 (Intro) and March 10 (Advanced) at the Pitt County Extension Center in Greenville and March 21 (Intro) and March 22 (Advanced) at the Onslow County Extension Center in Jacksonville. A list of other dates and locations is available on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org.
Pre-registration for the turkey hunting seminars is required and participants must register online at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/SkillsBasedSeminars.aspx. For additional information contact Walter “Deet” James, WRC Hunting Heritage Biologist at 919-707-0059, 984-202-1387, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cape Lookout Off-Road Vehicle Plan Under Review
The proposed rule would require that ORV users complete a short educational program and purchase a permit at a fee to be determined by the superintendent. Permits have not been previously required. Fishermen and others who use ORVs at Cape Lookout were critical of the proposal during the first public hearings after a draft of the proposed rule was released last year. The plans for a permit system have not been dropped, but the National Park System said a number of changes were made to reflect public input during the planning process. A permit will allow driving ORVs along designated routes during designated times.
The initial plan was to cap the number of permits issued each year at around 3,000, but the new proposal raises that number to 5,500 permits initially issued. ORV use will be monitored for the first five years and then be based on a five-year average rather than a three-year average as was initially proposed. Any year during which there is a significant ORV closure of 14 or more days will not be counted in the average. The new rule would also change seven miles of existing pedestrian-only areas from all year closures to seasonal closures from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The rule would create a designated route for ORVs in front of the Long Point and Great Island cabin camps and there would be an additional four ramps on North Core Banks and five ramps on South Core Banks to allow for crossing between the beach route and the back route. Restrictions on night driving were lessened from the draft plan. Under the new plan, beach ORV routes would be closed from 9:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. during sea turtle nesting season, which is May 1 to September 14. Driving on the back of the island routes will be allowed from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. and around the clock in the Great Island and Long Point Cabin Camps.
Comments may be submitted through the federal eRulemaking Portal at Http://www.regulations.gov. Enter the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE24 when commenting on the proposed rule. Comments or copies of electronic comments may also be mailed to the Cape Lookout Park Superintendent at: Superintendent - Cape Lookout National Seashore - 131 Charles St. - Harkers Island, NC 28531.
NOAA Fisheries Proposes Expansion to Monitor Marine Sanctuary
public meetings to support the expansion have already been held across N.C. and
two public meetings will be held next week. The meeting times and places are:
NOAA Accepting Applications for Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program
For full details about these objectives and the application process, visit the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/fisheries_eco/bycatch/brep.html). You can download the application package and apply directly at www.grants.gov or contact Derek Orner, National Bycatch Program Coordinator, email@example.com.
March 7-11: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Spring Quarterly Meeting, Westin Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island, GA., www.safmc.net.
March 23: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board, 10:30 A.M., N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Wilmington Regional Office, Wilmington, Contact Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at 910-796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon @ncdenr.gov.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
February 13: Dogfish Pier Fishing Tournament, Carolina Beach Fishing Pier-Northern Extension, Carolina Beach, 910-458-5518.
February 13: Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.
February 20: Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Crystal Coast Convention Center, Morehead City, www.fishermanspost.com.
February 20 and 21: International Custom Rod Building Exposition, Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, www.icrbe.com.
February 26 to 28: Eastern NC Boat Sale, Greenville Convention Center, Greenville, www.encboatsale.com.
February 26 to 28: Central Carolina Boat and Fishing Expo, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, www.ncboatshows.com.
February 27: Cape Lookout Fly Fishers Casting Clinic, Morehead City Recreation Center, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.
February 27: Team Mack Attack Dogfish Tournament, Seaview Fishing Pier, North Topsail Beach, www.seaviewfishingpier.com.
March 4 to 6: Dixie Deer Classic, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, www.dixiedeerclassic.com.