I don't know how everyone else handled it, but the cold front that rolled in on us last week shocked me--and I thought I was prepared. Heck, I even talked about it in this column. I guess I just didn't quite expect what came.
We had it a little easier on the coast too. I spoke with several people who had snow a ways inland. The closest snow I heard reported were some flurries at Greenville, but several folks spoke of striper fishing in falling snow on the Roanoke.
The wind wasn't anyone's friend either. I went fishing one afternoon and got in a section of a creek where the tide and wind were stronger than my trolling motor. It was tough fishing too. The bite was way off, with some smaller fish and lethargic bites. Still, it was better than spending another afternoon staring at the TV or computer.
Unfortunately, we are looking at another series of fronts nailing us again this weekend. We should be easing out of a Small Craft Advisory on Friday morning, but the conditions will probably be pretty tough until later in the day. Right now Saturday appears fishable, but another front is moving in and the timing of its arrival could be crucial. If the front moves slow, Saturday could be pretty nice all day, but if it speeds up, the ride home could be long, slow and bumpy.
Sunday currently looks like a good day to spend with the family and watch NASCAR. They haven't used the G word (gale) in the forecast yet, but it is definitely a possibility. The winds should drop a little on Monday and switch from southerly to northerly, but the water will probably be messed up for at least another day.
The daytime highs are forecast to be in the high 60's through Sunday and then fall to right at 60 with the northerly winds on Monday. At least we don't have any frost/freeze warnings like for last weekend.
While we never got back to the high 70's and low 80's of a couple of weeks ago, the weather did stabilize in the low 70's and give a couple of days of lighter winds during the first of the week and many people headed out fishing. There were mixed reviews, but enough folks caught fish to keep the drive going.
There were more good reports of large red drum from the Outer Banks surf early this week, but most of the action has been pups for the past few days. The surf fishermen also caught sea mullet, a few trout (specks and grays), a few flounder, bluefish, blowfish and sharks.
The reports from the piers are similar to the surf, except for no large drum. The most consistent catches have been sea mullet, puffers and bluefish. Wally, from the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach called to say one of their fishermen had caught a sea mullet that weighed 2 pounds and 6 ounces. That is a hog sea mullet. It wouldn't take many to have a mess of them. There have also been a few reports of red drum, black drum, speckled trout, gray trout, flounder and a few false albacore. On Wednesday, the surf temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier was 61 degrees.
Red drum are still the top catch of the inshore fishermen. They say the schools are scattered, but usually in the same general areas. They just sometimes have lockjaw and won't bite. They are also catching speckled trout, gray trout, sea mullet and flounder. The Haystacks, Broad Creek, Gales Creek and the North River Thorofare are all good places to catch them.
Capt. Noah Lynk called one evening to report catching some big gray trout. If the wind doesn't blow too badly, I hope to know more about them in the next few days. He also said they were still catching enough flounder they weren't surprised to see them.
The sea mullet bite is still pretty strong at the Morehead City Turning Basin, but several days it has gotten rough enough there to be a little uncomfortable. They are also scattered along the edge of the channel out to and in Beaufort Inlet and down Shackleford Banks towards Cape Lookout.
Some gray trout were also being caught in the Turning Basin, but many were small. There have been some larger gray trout just offshore of the Cape Lookout Jetty and in the Dead Tree Hole.
Several flurries of false albacore and Atlantic bonito action were reported this week. Both are members of the tuna family and will hit smaller Clarkspoons and jigs trolled or retrieved quickly. Learning the difference between the two is very important as Atlantic bonito are excellent table fare and false albacore are not. False albacore have a chainlike striping right at the top of their back and usually have a couple of spots just under their pectoral fin. Atlantic Bonito have a series of stripes on the back that may extend all the way to the middle of their side, but not below and no spots.
There were good king mackerel reports again this week. The hot spot off Morehead City is the area that includes the 240 Rock, 210 Rock, West Rock and AR 305. Farther south, the most consistent reports have been in the general area of Frying Pan Tower. The tuna bite has picked up off Hatteras and the king bite there has slowed.
It has been an excellent year for offshore bottom fishing and not having weather to get there has been the only thing that has slowed the bite. Many anglers are targeting grouper, and then switching to beeliners, black sea bass, red snapper, pinkies (red porgy), triggerfish and tilefish after getting their limits. There have also been a surprising number of hogfish, especially off the southern coast.
The yellowfin bite continues to be strong. If Mother Nature would be a little kinder in her selection of weather, the catches would be even better. There are still a good number of wahoo in the offshore catches and the numbers of dolphin are growing almost daily.
There were three sailfish caught and released off Hatteras on Monday. There has been an occasional billfish catch here and there for the past month or so, but this is the first incident of multiples in an area. Hopefully this is an early good omen for the upcoming billfish season.