While it hasn't exactly been cold, this week has been a little cooler than the past few and it seems even colder at times. It was a little windier also. Apparently the March winds were having a little practice session to get ready for when they will be a primary component of the weather. Hopefully they won't be too bad.
As I am writing this, I'm listening to more weather forecasts with rain in them. The one for tonight (Thursday) and Friday has another of those wet fronts passing through and our rain predictions vary a little across the area, but with some folks seeing the possibility of more than an inch. We sure can use the rain, but let's hope the front doesn't have a bunch of severe weather associated with it, like some of those the past few weeks.
The weekend is forecast to start with some showers and a little gusty wind, but should lay out and be pretty nice, though not overly warm, especially later Saturday through Monday. It might be a good time to put on a coat and get out to wet a line.
I really haven't heard much for fishing reports this week. I believe a lot of people stayed in to watch all the NASCAR action at Daytona last weekend and then the wind puffed up a little during the week.
The best trip I heard of was last Sunday, when Capt. Jeff Cronk and some friends combined for an inshore slam. It's always nice to catch a red drum, speckled trout and flounder on the same trip, but to do that in mid-February is special. While he didn't say exactly where they were, it was pretty obvious they were well back up one of the rivers or creeks. In addition to the drum, specks and flounder, they caught 2 stripers, 1 largemouth bass and 1 raccoon perch.
On the offshore side there are some reports of mixed tuna catches from Hatteras northward. The tuna include some yellowfins, blackfins and bluefins. Most of the bluefins have been in the "47 to less than 73 inch" recreational size range.
I spoke with Capt. Dave Dietzler earlier in the week and he said the cooler temperatures hadn't dropped the water temperatures. He said he was seeing low to mid 50's in the surf and a few degrees warmer in the sounds and creeks.
The smaller stripers continue to bite pretty well in most of the N.C. rivers. The Albemarle and Croatan Sound areas near Manns Harbor have been producing consistently, with the Pamlico/Tar River at Washington and the Trent and Neuse Rivers at New Bern improving. The inland stripers are usually hungry and tend to bite when you locate them.
While the weather was a little winds and not a lot of folks headed very far offshore, the offshore bottom fishing has been the most consistent action. This activity starts about 10 miles offshore with black sea bass and adds grouper and snapper once you get to roughly 100 feet of water. With the new 12 inch minimum size for black sea bass, be prepared to release a fair number of shorts before filling your 15 fish limit.
At one of the meetings I attended this week, the conversation turned to fly fishing and Alaska. While I am not a fly fisher, I sometimes dabble in it and love to go to Alaska, so I told them about a trip I made with Capt. Jefferson Simmons, out of Drifters Lodge in Cooper Landing, Alaska. Since there wasn't a lot of local fishing action this week, I thought you readers might enjoy it also.
Drifters Lodge (www.drifterslodge.com, 907-595-5555) is located on the bank of the world famous Kenai River, right where the Kenai Lake necks down to become the river and the Russian River joins it. This is as pretty a place as I have seen anywhere and the accommodations range from basic lodge rooms to large elegant chalets. While the very capable staff at Drifters can arrange just about anything, it was a drift trip on the Kenai for me and Capt. Simmons was the man.
We were there in June, so there were roughly 20 hours of daylight and we departed the lodge about 5:00 A.M. Even with this early start, there were boats before us at the launch site near the ferry to the Russian River. The red (sockeye) salmon run was starting and fishermen were already lining the banks of the river to catch those tasty fish. We would try for some reds also, but our primary target was the large rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char that call the Kenai home.
The rainbows were cooperating, but not as well as Capt. Simmons had hoped. We caught several in the 3 to 6 pound range before we entered a little almost-hidden leg of the braided channel to try for some sockeye. After putting dinner in the boat (rainbow trout was catch and release only at this time of year in this section of the river), Capt. Simmons eased us back into the main channel and after more rainbows and dollies.
After several hours we reached a ramp that was just above the Kenai Canyon. Capt. Simmons asked if we had had enough and when we said we were ready for more, he only paused long enough to make arrangements to have his truck and trailer delivered to the next ramp.
The Kenai Canyon run wasn't quite like the run in the movie "A River Runs Through It," but it was class 2 and 3 rapids in 38 degree water and we were in a driftboat, not a whitewater raft. Capt. Simmons handled the raft expertly and after only a little splashing, we arrived below the canyon where the river spread out a little and slowed down.
As soon as the river flow slowed to a manageable pace, Capt. Simmons had us begin fishing and we began catching rainbows again. Unfortunately they weren't any larger and Capt. Simmons was disappointed. We had never caught rainbows larger than about 2 pounds, so we were thrilled with the 5 and 6 pounders. I probably will try another trip though--just to see how those 10 pounders pull.
It was an excellent trip and I would recommend it to anyone. After being on the river and catching fish all day, we were very tired when we finally returned to Drifters Lodge. However, a hot shower, a short nap and then gathering around the evening campfire while some fresh sockeye salmon sizzled on the grill made it all seem just right.
South Carolina Sportsman Magazine is the sister publication of North Carolina Sportsman Magazine and they will be holding their 2008 Saltwater Fishing School in Charleston on Saturday. This could be a good idea to win some points by taking the missus on a little mid-winter getaway and still getting to attend the fishing school. If you can't make it to Charleston, the North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School will be in Raleigh on March 8. For more information call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.southcarolinasportsman.com or www.northcarolinasportsman.com.