There are a few things that are happening that are very positive signs. Even though the ocean is still on the cool side, a few fish have been showing up and biting. In spite of the weather, there have been enough good days recently to go fishing and guys have been heading out. The fishing should improve over the next few weeks, but it won't necessarily be very consistent. There have been some excellent early catches, but we are still a month or so away from the best part of spring fishing.
While the count is increasing slowly and steadily, there are still not a lot of boats out fishing on any given day. With the reduced amount of boats that are out fishing, it becomes even more important that someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. The weather has not yet settled out and bad weather and exposure can ruin a fishing trip very quickly. The odds of someone happening by and helping you out of a jam is seriously reduced. The Coast Guard refers to making sure someone knows your plans as filing a Float Plan. This is a good idea at all times and can be a life saver. With a little luck, this will be like an insurance policy and you will never need to use it.
The odds on bet was that the bluefin tuna fishing for this season had ended. However, in the past week there have been some caught off Hatteras.
Yellowfin tuna have been caught around the Steeples, the Big Rock, and off Hatteras. It is fairly consistent fishing but the best is still several weeks away. You may go out and catch a few or you could just as easily go fishless. A bait trailed behind a planer or heavy trolling sinker might just get the attention of a wahoo and add some spice to the trip.
Congratulations to Wally Trayah, of Oak Island, on his new NC State Record Blackfin Tuna, caught Saturday, March 24 out of Southport . Wally's 34.15 pound catch surpassed the existing record by .15 pounds. The new record tuna, which was weighed and certified at Southport Bait & Tackle, was 35-3/4" long, with a girth of 26". The tuna was caught at The Steeples, while fishing on the "Excaliber", with Captain Scooter Aman. The tuna hit a blue & white Zuker, rigged with a ballyhoo.
There are some king mackerel around, but it will require a long run to warmer water to find them. Even though the surface temperatures are still a little low, there have been some pretty consistent reports of school kings from approximately 100 feet of water. There are locations off Morehead City (210 Rock and 240 Rock) and Hatteras (Diamond Shoals Light Tower to the Smell Wreck) that are usually fairly productive, but the area just offshore of Frying Pan Light Tower, off Southport, has been amazingly consistent and given up a few very impressive catches. Spoons, sea witches with strips, swimming plugs, and cigar minnows have all been catching these smaller kings. These are smaller fish, but there are lots of them and they are hungry.
A run of large kings began off Hatteras on March 16. There have been several kings over 50 pounds and good numbers of 30's and 40's. This is the place to be for large kings over the next few weeks.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER: This is the time of year (end of February to middle of April) when the current NC State Record king mackerel and the last several king mackerel over 75 pounds were caught. All were caught in Raleigh Bay, between the Atlas Tanker and the Smell Wreck.
The fishing for ocean stripers has been sporadically good all winter. There have been a few good catches lately but that should be over for the year.
The smaller stripers, in the 2 to 7 pound range, have been hitting extremely well along the Manns Harbor Bridge. This is the Highway 64 and 264 bridge between the mainland and Manteo. The Albemarle Sound "Keeper" season is currently open with possession of 2 stripers of over 18 inches allowed on certain days.
There has been some good striper fishing in the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern. The numbers seem to be greater in the Neuse, but some larger fish have been coming from the Trent. In the Neuse, there has been good action from AR 392 up to the railroad bridge to Bridgeton. The support pilings for the Highway 17 bridge are a good place to start. The bridges in the Trent are holding some fish, but the larger ones have been in the deeper sections, up the river towards Pollocksville.
The shad have been running in most rivers and especially in the Roanoke. At the end of this run, the stripers are not usually far behind. It shouldn't be very much longer before the stripers start moving up the Roanoke River and put on their annual spring showing there
This is a very closely monitored fishery that is subject to regulation changes made by proclamation. North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries managers post the regulations, with the dates, size limits, number limits, and any other pertinent information, on their Web Site at www.ncdmf.net. You can also call toll free at 1-800-338-7805 or 1-800-682-2632. It would be wise to check the up-to-date postings before you went fishing
The puppy drum have been the inshore bright spot for the past month or so. With the changing weather they have been biting well one day and overcome with lockjaw the next. There have been some caught with cut bait around the inlets, but the upper reaches of the coastal creeks all across the state have been the hotspots.
In most cases this is sight casting to a feeding school of fish. Shallow water access is a must. Being quiet is also a must. A "clunk" in a boat resonates far across a shallow water flat or creek. Try some soft plastics in yellow, brown, or gold. Cast past the fish and retrieve your bait back past them. This is catch and release fishing at its finest. NC regulations do allow you to keep 1 red drum per day, between 18 and 27 inches in length.
Speckled trout fishing has not been as strong as last year, but there are some specks around to be caught. This has been mostly larger trout for the past few weeks, but some smaller ones are beginning to mix in. The best reports have come from the creeks off the Neuse River between Oriental and New Bern and a few fish around the edges of Pamlico Sound.
Sea mullet (whiting, Va. mullet, kingfish) should begin to show along the coast in the next few weeks. A little later, they will move into the surf and inlets. Fresh shrimp will go a long way towards enticing them to bite. Some have been caught off Emerald Isle and Carolina Beach, so maybe they are on their way.
There have been some good catches of black drum around the jetty at Fort Macon and from the surf and piers of Bogue Banks. Some are being targeted directly, while some are being caught incidental to fishing for sea mullet. Fresh shrimp have been the bait of choice.
To put it bluntly-----The sea bass are biting! For the past month or so there have been some great catches in around 70 to 100 feet of water. These are large and jumbo size sea bass. There are even some of the big "humpheads" being caught. A morning or afternoon over a rock filled with hungry sea bass can go a long way towards curing the "fishing fever". Almost any cut bait, squid, and a surprising number of lures will draw some serious strikes from hungry sea bass.
There have been some reports of good false albacore fishing off Atlantic Beach. At times they have gotten almost close enough to catch from the surf and piers. The best action has been from several miles off, out to the Gulf Stream.
Fishermen off Wrightsville Beach are looking hard for these tasty little tunas but they haven't arrived yet. The time is about right------maybe in the next week or so.