I believe this week we moved from fall into winter. What did you folks do? I go south for a few days of fishing and return to monsoon rains and cold temperatures. If this had been a tropical system, it would have been named.
I'm sure that Monday night I saw some snowflakes mixed in the driving rain. I always thought of the beach season as being from Easter to Thanksgiving and this weather has pretty much ended the beach season for the year. Sorry tourists, but it's time to give it back to us to enjoy the solitude over the winter.
The weather is forecast to warm and the wind drop out fairly well for the weekend, but I'm not sure it will be enough to save the holiday. I hope everyone visited with family and gave thanks for a good year on Thanksgiving.
The wind forecast has the wind dropping to 15-20 knots from the north on Friday and falling to somewhere between 10 and 20 for Saturday and Sunday, depending on exactly where you are. Monday looks a little nicer and you can bet the roads to the marinas and ramps will be less crowded then.
The water is cooling too. I saw temperatures in the high 50's at several spots and the reading from Bogue Inlet Pier was only 62 degrees. It's fall fishing and the water is cooling quickly. The bite is on, so you might want to plan at least one more trip before you winterize the boat.
With the cold windy weather, fishermen haven't been venturing far and the hot catch has again been speckled trout and red drum. There are enough of these fish in sheltered water to have a good day and stay out of most of the wind. So far this has been one of the best falls I can remember.
The drum and trout are still holding at most of their favorite haunts in the marshes and creeks and had moved into the surf. The drum remained in the surf as the waves built, but the trout moved to cleaner water. The drum are moving through the nearshore ocean sloughs and feeding between the bars at the inlets and around the capes.
Once the sea calms down a bit and the water clears, the trout should be back along the beaches. They show a definite preference for feeding around jetties, but will stage in the deeper sloughs along the ocean beaches. The guides and area fishermen say the trout and drum bite is also very good in the Neuse River as far up as New Bern and in the creeks and marshes surrounding Pamlico Sound.
King mackerel were a hot topic again this week, but the wind and seas prevented the smaller boats from reaching them. Some larger kings showed late last week and over the weekend at East Rock, 1700 Rock and several other favorite hotspots east of Cape Lookout. The Hatteras charter boats have been catching citation kings (30 pounds and up) every trip. There have also been good numbers of small to medium kings at many rocks and wrecks in 60 feet of water and deeper all along the coast.
Many local fishermen made the trip over last weekend to the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship Tournament in Fort Pierce, Florida. They represented the area well, but were not quite as dominating as in past years and as they were at the Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors Kingfish Tour Championship a few weeks ago. The top N.C. finisher in the Open Class (24 feet and longer) was Emerald Marine of Cape Carteret, with Captain Chesson O'Briant and crew in 8th place.
The 23 Feet and Under Class had been even more dominated by boats from N.C. and they almost pulled it off again. Capt Chad Saunders, with his brother Chip and nephew Hunter, finished in 2nd place in the smaller boat class. Congratulations are in order for them and all the N.C. fishermen who made the trip and competed. This tournament was held in Morehead City in 2001 and in Wilmington in 1997. It sure would be nice for it to return to local waters.
With the cooling water, the flounder catch is diminishing. There weren't many flounder fishermen out this week, but they caught some along the edges of the channels, in the inlets and at the nearshore artificial reefs.
Gray trout continue to be caught in the Morehead City Turning Basin, Beaufort Inlet and Dead Tree Hole off Morehead, just off New River Inlet and along Onslow Beach at Sneads Ferry, at Johns Creek rock and the rocks off Fort Fisher at Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches and at the WOFES, Yaupon Reef and McGlammery Reef off Southport. Speck rigs, Stingsilvers and Jig Fish are good choices for baits. There are enough fish below keeper length to be prepared to release a few. I find changing the standard treble hook to a J-hook makes it easier to release them in good health.
Some sea mullet are also mixed in with the gray trout. They are also in the surf along most of the coast. Sea mullet will be in the first slough and on the first bar when they are feeding in the surf. I like to use a speck rig for sea mullet and find they usually prefer a little taste of fresh shrimp, bloodworm, or one of the synthetic bloodworms for bait.
There may be a few spot still around, but the spot run is over. According to who you talk with and when or where they were fishing, the spot run was somewhere between poor and fair. There were good catches at times, but it never got really consistent.
This is the last weekend for most of the ocean piers a few will be staying open for another week or so, but they are just about through for the season. Let's hope we don't lose any piers over the winter.
Until this blow stirred up the water, the piers are reporting pretty good catches for mid-to-late November. It seems like a shame they are about to close. This week's pier catches included bluefish, flounder, sea mullet, red drum, black drum, puffers, croakers, gray trout and speckled trout.
Some nice stripers were reported in the Outer Banks Surf, north of Buxton to the Virginia Line. This is a nice early start for them.
There were some false albacore caught this week, but the schools are scattered over a large area. Off Morehead City, they are west of Cape Lookout one day and across the shoals the next. Off Wrightsville they were moving from the Liberty Ship to off Masonboro Inlet Jetties and around the area. The fishermen said the fat Alberts showed a noticeable preference for small shiny lures that were being retrieved quickly.
A bonus over last weekend was the arrival of a few early bluefin tuna. Several small schools were seen busting near the Beaufort Inlet Sea Buoy and a few were caught. Several fishermen also reported seeing a few schools near Frying Pan Tower and the Horseshoe. Let's hope there are more of them than visited last year.
A few offshore boats fished over the weekend, but the winds have kept them in most of the week. Most of the offshore catches included a wahoo, plus a few kings and tuna.
The offshore bottom bite was wide open before this blow. The reports included good numbers of gag, scamp and red grouper, plus beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts. Let's hope it returns quickly once the sea settles down a bit.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament (252-354-6350, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd) continues through next Saturday (December 2) in Emerald Isle. The Thanksgiving Flounder and Trout Classic (910-575-3474, www.oifishingcenter.com) will be held Saturday in Ocean Isle.