Warm, cold, warm cold and so it goes, but the good news is it will be warm this weekend. Get out and enjoy it Saturday and Sunday as the rain returns on Monday and may last several days. Then, once the rain ends we're back to the mid 50s for daytime highs for a while.
This week wasn't the best for fishing. The cold front rushing up the coast brought nasty weather early in the week that included a tornado in Down East Carteret County. The rain was torrential in places and there were high sustained winds along most of the N.C. Coast.
The overnight temperature dropped into the 20s or lower along must of the N.C. Coast several nights last weekend, but I didn't hear of any fish kill or stun events. I was worried about this heading into last weekend and this is far better than I expected. My concern was shared by the Division of Marine Fisheries, who sent out a news release last week requesting fishermen take and submit pictures of any fish kills or stuns they saw.
Once again the primary inshore fish has been stripers. They are being caught in most coastal rivers. Oddly enough, they aren't in the New River other than incidentally, but fishermen there are finding a few specks and reds.
Stripers are usually willing biters, but can develop lockjaw at times. Many fishermen feel cloudy days are better than sunny days and we've certainly had a bunch of them. Stripers are attracted to vertical structure and bridges headline their list, with docks second and stump fields third
Fishermen found a few chilly speckled trout and red drum that were willing to bite this week. Fishing is slow, but a few were caught and with the warming sunny weather forecast for the weekend expectations are that fishing will pick up.
Specks and pups are moving slow and are not feeding heavily, but are biting. Drum are a little more mobile and usually move onto shallow flats to warm and feed in the sunshine. Trout have been holding in water a few feet deeper as it doesn't cool as much overnight.
Drum are the least particular and will hit pieces of shrimp, cut baits, live baits, soft plastics and hard plastics. Trout occasionally will pick up a piece of shrimp or cut bait, but prefer live baits, soft plastics and hard plastics.
A big key is to success using artificials is the patience to fish them slowly. Fish are cold and are reluctant to spend a lot of energy chasing food. They are more likely to chase minnows, shrimp and crabs that are moving slowly and may appear injured.
Many guides believe scent is very important to convince fish to feed in the colder water and I agree. There are scented baits and scents that can be added to any lures. Of course, natural baits have their own scent.
Surf fishing was slow again this week. There were a few drum, trout and sea mullet caught, but it wasn't a great week. Some of the best action was with drum and trout near the inlets at Wrightsville Beach up to Topsail.
There wasn't much for offshore fishing this week, but some folks got in a quick bottom fishing trip or two and the fishing was pretty good. Black sea bass are ravenous and are on most bottom structure from the nearshore artificial reefs to hard bottom areas deeper than 100 feet. There are a lot of shorts, but there are also some nice fat ones. Grunts and porgys join the catch beginning at about 80 feet, with triggerfish and beeliners being added at approximately 100 feet.
It has been several weeks since there were long enough weather windows to head offshore king mackerel fishing or offshore trolling. The run offshore is shorter from Hatteras and fishermen there have been doing really well jigging blackfin tuna. The last time fishermen on the middle and southern coasts made it out they caught kings well and had fair catches of blackfin tuna and wahoo. While there have been a few severe weather systems pass and stir the water up since then, hopefully those fish will be there when the weather calms out again.
Cobia Restrictions Coming
There is a date of June 15 being discussed as the date the recreational cobia season will close along the Atlantic Coast from Georgia northward. This date isn't firm yet, but the closure will happen and current calculations place it close to mid June. South Carolina is already working a regulatory change to reduce the cobia limit from 2 fish to 1 through their channels and something similar was brought up during the public comments of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission earlier this week. There was also a suggestion to raise the minimum size for cobia. These regulation changes would not be enough to prevent the closure, but could extend the season.
Unfortunately, this discussion is scheduled for later in today's sessions of the MFC meeting, so I don't know what will be decided. The MFC decision and S.C. actions, along with recommendations from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, can't make, but will influence the decision. The decision will be made by NOAA Fisheries and is scheduled to be made after the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in early March. I'll have it here as soon as the decision is made.
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.
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 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.
March 5: CCA fishing School, Doubletree by Hilton New Bern Riverfront, New Bern, www.ccanc.com.
March 12: Fisherman's Post Fishing School, Overton's Warehouse, Greenville, www.fishermanspost.com.
March 19: Triad Saltwater Anglers Fishing School, Village Inn Event Center, Clemmons, www.triadsaltwateranglers.com.