This Saturday may be April Fools Day, but it looks like Mother Nature might be getting serious again about sending us some good weather. After being frigid at night, with several freeze warnings, for the past three weeks, the weather has been warming to more seasonal this week and looks to be on a track to stay that way.
Unfortunately the winds aren't going to be the lightest to go with the warm temperatures. Today (Friday) looks to be good, but the southerly breeze will begin picking up during the afternoon and into the evening. Unless the weather man missed the call, which can happen pretty frequently this time of year, the winds may be a little too strong for the smaller boats on Saturday and Sunday, then backing off again on Monday as the weekend ends. The winds are forecast to be a little lighter along the southern coast, but you should pay close attention to actual conditions.
Those cooler days hung around long enough to drop the water temps, but hopefully we will be back near where we were before too long. I had seen inshore water temps in the low 60's several weeks ago, but that had dropped to the mid-50's over last weekend.
There is some good news though. Bait is showing back up. I had heard a few folks say they had seen some mullet minnows and peanut pogies last week, but had remained skeptical. I was fishing near Southport last weekend and didn't catch any mullet minnows on Saturday, but found plenty of the peanut pogies. What I didn't have much luck finding was something that wanted to eat them.
Once again the offshore fishing is the highlight of the week and there were a couple of days when good numbers of boats headed offshore. There were good catches of tuna, wahoo and kings. One fishermen suggested rigging with wire to avoid the bite offs from the numbers of kings and wahoo near the Big Rock. He said there was a bit of competition between the tuna, wahoo and kings for the baits and they didn't see a noticeable slowdown in the tuna bite after switching to wire leaders.
The tuna were a mixture of yellowfins, blackfins and even a few smaller bluefins. It's hard to think of an 80 to 140 pound fish as being small, but compared to the 200 to 600 pounders we usually see during the winter, they are mere pipsqueaks. Try to remember that as one is dumping your 50-Wide for the third time!
The king bite just keeps on getting better. Most people don't head to the Gulf Stream after kings, but the king bite near the Big Rock has been red hot this week. Several fishermen reported having to switch to wire leaders to prevent the kings biting off their tuna baits and losing expensive lures. There are also some kings closer in. One productive area off Cape Lookout is around the 210 and 240 Rocks. The bite is still red hot around Frying Pan Tower and around the wrecks off Hatteras.
The big schools of red drum that had been in the Emerald Isle and Hammocks Beach State Park surf have moved on. There are still some drum in the surf in this area, but the numbers have declined dramatically. There are some drum in the surf, especially near inlets, along the entire coast.
There are good numbers of puppy drum in many of the creeks and marshes from Pamlico Sound to the S.C. state line. While the cooler weather of the past few weeks has slowed them some, they are still around and should be getting hungry as the water begins to warm again. Finger mullet and peanut pogies are showing up and the hungry fish shouldn't be too far away from them.
The cooler nights slowed the speckled trout bite also. The numbers haven't been quite as impressive as a few weeks ago, but there are specks to be caught. We should see one more good push from the specks as the water warms over the next few weeks.
There were some great reports (numbers wise) from Pelletier, Spooners, Broad and Gales Creek this week. Unfortunately, even though the numbers are up the trout there are small. I heard several reports of fishermen catching 25 plus trout and not having a limit of legal ones. The minimum size is 12 inches and the limit is 10.
Even though they have only been open a couple of weekends, there are some good reports from the piers. The fishing wasn't the most consistent, but there were a mid-week sea mullet run that got people excited and talking. The report from the piers includes those sea mullet, speckled trout, gray trout, a few flounder, big blowfish, spots, plus some red and black drum.
The hot early sea mullet bite also continues in the Morehead City Turning Basin. There are fish scattered throughout the area, but several reports say the slope on the Fort Macon side of the channel is better.
A couple of early flounder have also been caught inshore. They aren't aggressive yet, so allow them plenty of time to get your bait.
Good striper and shad reports continue to come from the Neuse River around New Bern, the Pamlico-Tar River around Washington and Greenville, the Roanoke River from Highway 17 inland and the Cape Fear River from Wilmington up to Lock and Dam Number 1.
The first tournament of the year is the spring event in the 2006 Calcutta Wahoo Challenge Series from Morehead City. This tournament is April 20-22, with the fall tournament scheduled for October 19-21. For more information call 252-241-3348 or visit www.calcuttawahoo.com.