Last weekend wasn't as bad as the forecast, but it still wasn't an excellent weekend to be fishing. However, Monday was a day to enjoy on the water and quite a few fishermen extended their weekend to take advantage. That was a good thing too, as the winds started gusting up late Monday and have been blowing strong since then.
Currently the forecast includes some Small Craft Advisories through Friday above Cape Lookout, but it is more for leftover swell than the wind that day. However, the winds should return on Saturday and Sunday, but look to begin falling out again on Monday. Once again, the forecast calls for rain on Friday, with showers following on Saturday and Sunday.
This happens every spring and when it does, it reminds me of one of my favorite riddles. Q--What follows two days of wind and rain? A--Monday. It sure seems to be true, especially when we're waiting for a lull in the weather to go fishing.
Last week I mentioned the shad and striper fishermen were concerned with the negative effects all the runoff from the piedmont rains would have on their fishing for several weeks. I saw it first hand Friday afternoon as I drove to the North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School in Sanford. The Neuse River at Highway 70 at Kinston was swollen and brown as was the Cape Fear River at Highway 42 between Fuquay-Varina and Sanford. There were a few empty trailers at each ramp, but the water was rolling and there weren't any bank fishermen.
Trying to find a silver lining to this cloud--the good news is we are nowhere near as deep in drought as we were this time last year. We're still a little behind in rainfall, but not to the point of drought conditions.
At the risk of belaboring the point, the water temperature rose again this week, though not much. Bogue Inlet Pier reported 54 degrees and I'm hearing readings ranging from 56 to 61 degrees at the back of tidal creeks from the inshore guides.
As the water warms the fish will start biting better. They're nibbling now, but when it hits 60 degrees, there should be a noticeable surge in catches. Currently the best feeding activity is in the creeks that are tidal, but slow moving. There are specks and reds and even an early flounder or two being caught every week. This action runs from the creeks just inside the inlets to those miles upriver. Several good reports of mixed catches came from the creeks off the Neuse River between Oriental and New Bern.
The fish in the creeks are showing a definite preference for series 17 and 27 MR MirrOlures. These are shallow suspending lures that move with the current and fishermen twitch to give additional movement and some sound. The R in the model indicates they contain rattles.
The 17 and 27 MirrOlures resemble small menhaden, with the difference being size. The 17 MR is smaller and narrower than its slightly bigger brother the 27 MR. Many fishermen say they usually catch trout better on the 17 size and drum better on the 27 size. Either size will catch both fish. Stripers also like the 27 size.
There were more reports this week of fish in the Morehead City Turning Basin. The numbers aren't high yet, but some early gray trout, black drum and sea mullet have been caught.
There are some reds in the surf along many of the uninhabited islands. These include much of the Outer Banks, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Browns Island, Lea Island, Masonboro Island and the east beach of Bald Head Island. One fisherman reported the Cape Lookout Jetty was loaded with reds on several days. A few trout are being caught in the surf, but not as many as during the fall.
Bogue Inlet Pier had some action this week too. It wasn't a barnburner, but pier fishermen caught a few black drum, sea mullet and bluefish. It's a good sign!
One again there weren't many days to get offshore, but the fish were there when fishermen could make the trip. The first action is with kings and offshore bottom fish. On the east side of Cape Lookout, the Atlas Tanker and Chicken Rock have been holding both, plus some beeliners and grouper. Headed straight out from Beaufort Inlet, the king action begins around 210 and 240 Rocks, with nice sea bass as close as Northwest Places. Off Cape Fear, the king hotspot has been around Frying Pan Tower. Some scattered grouper may be caught in these areas, but the numbers typically are better a little farther offshore.
Gulf Stream fishermen also had a couple of good days. I didn't get to make the trip, but Monday some friends said there was a good temperature break offshore and south of the Big Rock. The color changed a little, with 76 degree water on the offshore side.
The big catches were wahoo on the cool side and a whole bunch of early dolphin on the offshore side. To add insult to injury, they didn't even offer me any of the fish. Fresh mahi in March sounds almost tropical and I have a grill and some mango sauce I would love to have introduced to a few fillets.
There were also good reports of blackfin tuna, with a few scattered yellowfins. This wind will blow the warm-water eddies around some, but from offshore of the Big Rock down to the Swansboro Hole has been the hot spot for a few weeks.
The bluefin tuna bite off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet continues to be wide open. There are some blackfins and yellowfins in the area, but 100 to 150 pound bluefins are making up the majority of the catch.
Several folks reported good catches of stripers in the Neuse and Trent Rivers and many of the creeks off these rivers around New Bern. Other good striper reports are coming from the Pamlico/Tar River around Washington and in the Roanoke, Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear.
Legislation requesting speckled trout and red drum to be designated gamefish is soon to be forthcoming in the N.C. Legislature. Bills for both the House and Senate were released from drafting late Friday, but were returned Monday for some fine tuning. It was expected they would be re-done and introduced by the time this was posted, but they have not yet. As soon as I receive bill numbers, I will post them.
Everyone should contact their legislators and let them know how they feel. Information to contact the legislators and their constituency areas can be found on the N.C. Legislature website at www.ncleg.net.
Remember, effective April 1, the minimum size for flounder caught north of Browns Inlet will decrease from 15 1/2 inches to 15 inches. South of Browns Inlet, the size remains 14 inches. The possession limit for all N.C. waters will remain eight fish. Browns Inlet is at Camp Lejeune, just south of Swansboro, between Browns Island and West Onslow Beach.