OK wind, go away. If it only were that easy to get the wind to stop! However, it looks like we will have at least a minor break this weekend. I have spoken to numerous folks who have been waiting for the opportunity and are planning to take advantage of it. The expectations are for a really good and varied catch this weekend, so I hope the reports will bear them out next week.
Earlier in the week, when the forecast first began shaping up as warm with lighter winds for the weekend, many folks began getting excited and now plans are in place to be executed. Depending on exactly where your beginning point is along the coast, the winds Friday and Saturday are forecast as generally southerly and holding somewhere between 5 and 15 knots. After dealing with an average wind velocity that has been above 20 knits for 6 weeks, this is almost calm. Sunday looks almost as good and the velocity stays low on Monday, but with the winds switching to being from the northeast.
The extra sunshine this week has warmed the water a little more and we are approaching some of those good temperatures. Most inland bays and creeks have reached the mid-60's at any time, with daytime low water temps almost reaching 70. The surf temperature remains in the low to mid-60's.
Some of the best fishing action in the state this week has been well up the rivers. While it has been beyond the saltwater line, it is well worth reporting. The striper bite is going off right now. There are some in most rivers, but the spring migration in the Roanoke River is good and getting better. The stripers in the Roanoke are spread from the sound to the dam at Weldon.
After coordinating the North Carolina Sportsman Fishing Seminar at Halifax Community College on Tuesday night, I was invited to stay over and fish Wednesday as the guests of Christina Gordon, of the Halifax County Tourism Authority, John Simeon, of the Roanoke Rapids Recreation Department and guide Mike Shearin. I did and it was a great choice. We weren't fishing real seriously and easily caught a hundred fish. Most were just short of keeper size, but they were all excellent fighters and catching (and releasing) them made for a fun day.
There were also a few shad still biting, but that action is trailing off here and in most of the other rivers.
Closer to the coast, many fishermen headed for sheltered water to stay out of the wind. Speckled trout have been biting well in the marshes and coastal creeks, with a surprising bunch of citation size (5 pounds or heavier) trout being caught.
Red drum and a few flounder are also biting in inside waters. This week the drum were often difficult to find, but usually could be persuaded to bite when located. The flounder were mostly caught incidental to catching specks and reds.
There was a good sea mullet bite in Beaufort Inlet and in to the Morehead City Turning Basin early in the week. This could crank up again at any time. Many old-timers say tax day, April 15, is when it should start every year. While they will hit other things, speck rigs, tipped with as fresh of shrimp as possible, are a longtime favorite for sea mullet. Other fish find this a temptation they can't pass up also.
Puppy drum were caught in the surf again this week, with the better action being from Cape Lookout to Ocracoke. A few larger drum made surprise appearances, but they are probably still a week or two away.
Last week I mentioned the suit regarding ORV access to the National Park Service beaches at Ocracoke and Hatteras. A settlement has been reached, but it is very restrictive. As I was writing this, the details had not yet been released. For more information, visit http://www.savehatterasandocracoke.com.
It isn't hot, but the pier catch is varied enough to keep someone's interest. The pier catch includes sea mullet, bluefish, blowfish, spots, skates and sharks.
Just off the beaches there were catches of bonito this week. There were also some false albacore, but it is very worthwhile to learn to tell the differences between these football-size tunas. Bonito are excellent to eat, while false albacore are too strong for most folks.
The king fishermen go out in the couple of calmer days in the past week and had some excellent catches. The kings were still holding at many of the rocks and wrecks 25-30 miles offshore, as they had been several weeks earlier. This was the 210 Rock and 240 Rock areas off Cape Lookout and around Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear. Most were smaller fish, but Randy Horne, principal of Southport Elementary School, took advantage of a day of spring break to catch a 41.1 pounder near Frying Pan Tower.
There are also offshore bottom fish around the same rocks and wrecks as the kings. There are some of the big hump-headed sea bass, plus lots of beeliners and grunts. Some snapper and grouper are being caught a few miles farther offshore in water just deeper than 100 feet.
When the winds calmed enough for the king mackerel fishermen to head offshore, the blue water fishermen headed out also. They had decent, but not spectacular, catches, but the catch should improve as the fishermen get to spend more days offshore. While seawater thermal images help find fish, there is no substitute for spending time on the water and seeing exactly what food and conditions are attracting them.
I have mentioned several times about the stepped up enforcement of the laws regarding towing trailers (and boats). Some of these laws are being reviewed and appear headed for changes during the next legislative session, but many are federal in nature and cannot be changed significantly.
In an effort to explain the regulations and curb the violations, the Highway Patrol is holding their first-ever public forum at the Warwick Center at UNC Wilmington this Monday, April 21. In addition to the Highway Patrol, members of the N.C. Department of Transportation, federal Department of Transportation, state and federal legislators or their staff, representatives from the boating industry and tourism industry will be in attendance. The forum will begin at 6:00 P.M.
For those fishermen wanting to learn more about catching fresh water stripers and saltwater inshore species, the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department, Carolina Boat Center and North Carolina Sportsman Magazine will be hosting a fishing seminar at the Salisbury Civic Center on Tuesday, April 22. For more information, visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.