I hope everyone had a nice Easter Weekend. I have to say I was a little surprised at the size of the crowd that came to the beach. I had thought the combination of gas at $3.25 plus a gallon and a windy weather forecast would have put some folk's travel plans on hold, but that didn't seem to be the case. Even though I knew better, I got trapped in several long lines of traffic and checkout lines while tending some errands I had forgotten Saturday morning. It sure seemed to me the crowds were as large as in past years.
Unfortunately, we've got another blustery forecast for this weekend. The weekend begins at 15-20 knots from the southwest on a warm day for Friday, but then the front rolls through Friday night and the wind switches to the north and speeds up. Then, on Monday as the weekend has ended, it turns back to the south and begins to taper off.
The water temperatures are still a few degrees above normal for this time of year, but have dropped a couple of degrees due to the cold nights and an influx of rainwater moving downstream from upstate. This week I spoke with several folks who said some fish they had been catching for weeks had moved and the water where they had been now had a reddish tint. That's the intrusion of the fresh water from the rain farther upstate.
The water temperature Wednesday at Bogue Inlet Pier was 58 degrees.
Speaking of Bogue Inlet Pier--they reported a pretty interesting and diverse catch for Easter Weekend. Fishermen there landed bluefish, blowfish, sea mullet, some small spots, sharks and skates. Not bad at all for March!
I heard another report of some larger red drum in the surf at Ocracoke and pups at Hatteras, but not much. There were more reports of folks being sandblasted with sand driven by the winds.
There is a call for help on some of the Outer Banks related web sites and someone has reported that Senator Marc Basnight, D-Dare, has entered the conflict on the side of the folks who choose to drive on the beach. The bottom line is the National Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife have sued to close the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to off-road vehicles. The next date noted in the suit is April 4 and it appears the beaches will be closed to off-road vehicles then unless an injunction is granted. For more information, go to http://www.savehatterasandocracoke.com.
Puppy drum and speckled trout continue to be mainstays of inshore coastal fishing. There are a few flounder being caught and fishermen up several rivers are boating a few stripers also.
The striper bite in some of the rivers appears to be improving. One fisherman said it was because they were chasing the shad up the rivers and there is definitely some truth to that. Several good areas for stripers have been the Pamlico/Tar River around Washington, the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern and the Croatan Sound at Manns Harbor.
The shad bite has moved a little farther up the river than the stripers. Several rivers are seeing good shad runs, but the two mentioned most often are the Neuse, between Pitchkettle Creek and Kinston and the Cape Fear, just below Lock and Dam Number 1 at Riegelwood.
Those larger specks were reported again from just above Wrightsville Beach to the Neuse River. They aren't everywhere, but some good reports came from behind Lee Island, the New River and the creeks off the Neuse River between Whortonsville and Fairfield Harbor.
Capt. Noah Lynk reported good numbers of very hungry and aggressive puppy drum around Harkers Island. He said most were slot-size fish, with some over and some under, but they were feeding with abandon.
There were more reports this week of those kings 25-30 miles offshore. West Rock, 210 Rock and 240 Rock were mentioned off Cape Lookout and Frying Pan Tower was mentioned off Cape Fear. Again, the kings were mostly smaller, running from barely legal to teenagers off Cape Lookout and just a little larger off Cape Fear.
Offshore bottom fishing remains good, when the wind allows the trip. The first of the big hump-headed spawning sea bass have arrived and they are hungry. The big sea bass are off the end of Lookout Shoals and in the general area of the Horseshoe off Cape Fear. Grouper and snapper are still there also, but holding a bit farther offshore.
There were more tuna reports this week, but they are still mainly blackfins and bluefins. The blackfins are nice large blackfins, with many weighing in the ballpark of 30 pounds. The bluefins have been mainly juveniles and small schoolies and ranging from 75 to 150 pounds. The hot area has been from the Rock Pile to the Point.
The state record for red grouper has been established at 33 pounds, 8 ounces by Chuck Deeter of Oak Island. He caught the big grouper last fall while fishing with Capt. Anthony Ng out of Atlantic Beach. The process to establish a new record is longer than verifying breaking an existing one, so it took a while to process everything, but it became official last week. Congratulations!
It isn't quite a new ramp, but they will be improving and enlarging an existing one. Last week, the Carteret County Commissioners approved $850,000 to purchase property in Cedar Point, to enlarge the Wildlife Ramp that is already in place between N.C. Highway 24 and the Intracoastal Waterway. The purchase is contingent on some grant funds being award the county for the purchase.