We are definitely into the fall and the weather is shifting and changing around very quickly. As we know all too well, weather forecasting is an inexact science, but when systems are rolling and stalling like they do right now, the weather can change drastically or never develop. Last Sunday's winds were one of those times. The early forecast was for 10-15, then on Saturday it went to 15-25, but gusts to above 50 were recorded at Harkers Island Sunday afternoon. The temperature can easily be missed by 10 degrees or more also.
The early forecast for this weekend isn't too bad. After building to possible gale force, late Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the wind will begin laying back out. Friday is forecast to begin with westerly winds from 15-20 knots and 5-8 foot seas, but continues subsiding throughout the day 10-15. Saturday and Sunday should both have northerly winds from 10-15 knots and seas of 2-5 feet. That's fishable in most boats.
The front that comes through Thursday will be cool and drop the daytime temperatures some. The weekend weather will be partly cloudy to sunny with high temperatures in the low 60's Friday and Saturday, then cool into the mid 50's for Sunday and Monday. You better pack a sweatshirt and windbreaker.
This week the talk has been about speckled trout and red drum. The reports and my own experience agree that these fish deserve the attention right now. Both are biting in numbers well above any recent years. Several experts have said the past mild winters have allowed both species, but especially the trout to build their numbers. I was hoping I had become a better fisherman, but it seems I'm just getting my share of the improving stocks.
I was in New Bern to give a presentation at the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association Conference Monday morning and rushed down to Harkers Island to get in a quick trip with Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah's Ark Charters that afternoon. The action was so hot I'm glad we didn't plan a full day. He took me to a few spots around Harkers Island and North River and we caught trout and drum at all but one, but we caught larger drum there. I even caught a flounder at one of them to secure my Inshore Slam.
We caught the fish on several kinds of soft artificials, MirrOlures, plus live shrimp and a few mud minnows. The bite was so good we were experimenting with many different baits and colors. It was a catching trip, not a fishing trip.
The drum and trout are still holding at most of their favorite haunts in the marshes and creeks, plus moving into the surf. There are good reports from Corolla to Fort Fisher. Both also are thick around the inlets with jetties. Good reports are also coming from the guides in the lower Neuse River and Pamlico Sound.
King mackerel are being talked about also. There have been good numbers of small to medium kings at many places along the N.C. coast. Just find a rock, wreck, or reef in 60 to 80 feet of water, that is holding bait, and get ready to catch fish.
The larger fall kings have moved into Raleigh Bay, between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Citations are being issued for kings over 30 pounds every day the weather allows getting there. Several good places to try are the Smell Wreck, Bad Bottom, 1700 Rock, East Rock, and the Atlas Tanker.
I didn't hear about as many flounder this week, but enough are being caught to keep going. One of the better spots has been in the surf, but there are some shorts mixed in.
Gray trout are being caught in the turning basin and through Beaufort Inlet to the Dead Tree Hole at Morehead City. Just out New River, Johns Creek Rock, Sheepshead Rock and the WOFES are also good spots to try. Speck rigs, Stingsilvers and Jig Fish are good choices for baits. There are some shorts, so changing the standard treble hook to a J-hook will make them easier to release in good health.
Some sea mullet are also mixed in and around the gray trout. They are also in the surf from Cape Hatteras to Little River Inlet. Sea mullet usually prefer a little taste of fresh shrimp, bloodworm, or one of the synthetic bloodworms for bait.
With the cooling water, the spot bite is slowing. There are still some fishermen working the inshore locations, but the numbers are down significantly. There was a hot spot bite Monday night from Bogue Inlet Pier and have been a few hot afternoons at several of the southern piers.
The piers are reporting really good catches for mid-November. It seems like a shame they will be closing in just a few weeks. In addition to the spots, this week's pier catches included bluefish, flounder, sea mullet, red drum, black drum, puffers, croakers, gray trout and speckled trout.
Several folks reported good schools of false albacore this week. They said they were finicky about biting, but were there and could usually be coaxed into hitting something. Vertical jigging with small metal lures was probably the most productive. There were schools of fat Alberts on both sides of Cape Lookout Shoals and off Wrightsville Beach.
While the continuous fronts and their accompanying stiff winds have been a hindrance, the larger offshore boats have been bringing back some good catches. Wahoo remain the featured species, with some kings, a few late dolphin and this week a few yellowfin and blackfin tuna.
The report last week of the bluefin tuna that beached itself at Emerald Isle has many fishermen talking about the big bruisers. When the water cools a few more degrees, we should begin seeing some of them. After they moved so far south last year, the question everyone is asking is, "Where will we see them?"
The offshore bottom bite is so strong it might be considered a guarantee. It isn't quite that easy, but it has been very consistent for well over a month. The reports include good numbers of gag, scamp and red grouper, plus beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts.
Congratulations to Ashley Melton and Richard Peterson for their catches in the Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament last weekend. Melton won the Aggregate Category and was second in the Largest Fish Category. Peterson caught the largest trout.
North Carolina king mackerel fishermen represented themselves well at last weekend's Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Four of the top five boats were from N.C. They were led by Capt. Dennis Starke and the Sea Bandit crew from Pine Bluff. Last year's winner, Team Raymarine, led by John Parks of Jacksonville, missed a near repeat and finished second.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament (252-354-6350, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd) continues through December 2 in Emerald Isle. The Thanksgiving Flounder and Trout Classic (910-575-3474, www.oifishingcenter.com) will be held next weekend in Ocean Isle.
The last king mackerel tournament of the year is the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship, this weekend in Fort Pierce, Florida. Many local teams are already there and hope to bring another SKA Championship back to N.C.