If you haven't gotten out and gone fishing in the nice weather of the past two weeks, shame on you. We've got a slightly windy weekend coming up that will be a few degrees cooler than the nice weather of this week, but the weatherman I watched last night said he thought this could be the last real hurrah of winter. I sure hope so.
I'm sort of surprised, but I didn't get a bunch of reports from last weekend and this week. However, those I got were generally pretty good. They should continue getting better.
After Friday and Saturday close out the week with daytime highs in the 60's, it will be a few degrees cooler from Sunday through the mid-week. A fairly strong cool front should drive through on Thursday and then hopefully we will warm back up for next weekend.
Wind-wise, Monday looks to be the best of the next few. Unfortunately, the fronts are moving so quickly right now, the lighter northwest winds forecast for then could come earlier or be absorbed in a faster cold front. This is a time of year when you will get more fishing done by being prepared to go when the weather allows, rather than hoping the weather fits your schedule. Unfortunately that is tough unless you live at the coast and are retired or self-employed.
There were excellent reports from offshore all along the NC coast on Saturday and again Monday. The big catch was yellowfin tuna. Usually these early tuna are smaller, but most were running 30 to 50 pounds. There were also some wahoo, a few scattered king mackerel, and some very lost gaffer dolphin--especially around the Big Rock.
I didn't get a report of a bluefin tuna this week. The water is still cool enough and there is plenty of forage for them. I believe the reports of yellowfin and wahoo offshore had most of the folks who would have been bluefin fishing headed farther offshore.
There also wasn't quite as much buzz on the ocean stripers off the upper Outer Banks this week either. Again, the water is still cool enough for them, but they are scattered and in small schools. The good news is a good number of the stripers being caught are larger fish. The primary area has been from Oregon Inlet to the north.
There were some good inshore striper reports, with the better areas being at Manns Harbor and around the junction of the Trent and Neuse Rivers at New Bern. A few are also still being caught at Washington, but the reports have really slowed around Wilmington.
Some good inshore reports are coming from the shad fishermen. Some began their day as striper fishermen, who saw the shad moving by in big schools and switched tactics and some are up the rivers and creeks specifically for the shad. I expect there is good activity in several areas, but the most consistent reports were from the Neuse River above New Bern, and the creeks off it. One of the more frequently mentioned was Pitchkettle Creek. There are also reports from just below Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River saying the shad fishing there is improving almost daily.
Offshore bottom fishing remains the most consistent fishing along the entire N.C. coast. The catch varies from grouper and pinkies (red porgy) off Cape Fear to triggerfish and big tilefish off Cape Hatteras. Grouper and beeliners (vermilion snapper) are prominent off Cape Lookout. Sea bass are around in good numbers over the entire area.
The water stayed a little cool for the trout to bite very well, but the red drum were active in several places. Two of the spots with good action were just outside the surf along Shackleford Banks and Bear Island. Several large schools were also spotted off Fort Fisher, but they weren't interested in feeding.
A couple of interesting things are happening this weekend. The Greenville Boat Show (252-355-5783) will be at Overton's Friday through Sunday. For those who enjoy hunting also, the Dixie Deer Classic (919-782-5333 or www.dixiedeerclassic.org) will be at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh through Sunday.
The 5th Annual North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School (1-800-538-4355 or www.northcarolinssportsman.com) is fast approaching. The 2007 event will be in Raleigh on Saturday March 17. This annual event features over 20 different instructors speaking on most saltwater and freshwater fishing subjects, plus many related topics.
Participants will receive manufacturers samples, a year subscription or renewal to North Carolina Sportsman Magazine, a North Carolina Sportsman T-shirt, many opportunities for door prizes, lunch and entry into the drawing for the Grand Door Prize--a Triumph 190 Bay Boat, with a Mercury 115 HP, 4-stroke outboard and an EZ Loader Trailer. If that date doesn't fit your schedule, there is also a similar event in Columbia, S.C. on March 31. Call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com to register.