The winds blew pretty steady from the middle of last week up until now. Unfortunately, the forecast doesn't have it dropping out until at least the weekend, and that is uncertain. Hopefully we will get lucky and have good fishing conditions for the first weekend in December.
Most of our ocean piers are closed or closing in the next few days. A few remain open, some are locked with season pass holders having keys and on some the pier houses are closed but there is access to the piers. There are still a good number of fish biting from the piers, so you might want to check and see how your favorite pier fits into these possibilities.
In the past few weeks, the inshore and nearshore water temperatures have cooled into the lower 60's and many late fall and early winter fish are biting well.
There are some red drum scattered throughout the sounds and also in the ocean surf. Several charter captains reported seeing schools large enough to give the water a reddish tint. While drum usually gather in schools of similar size/age, the catch has often been mixed, with pups and old drum being caught together.
Beware on some of the nearshore rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs! In the past few weeks, there have been a large number of large red drum caught while fishing for other species. North Carolina has an 18 to 27 inch slot size, but no drum of any size may be kept in federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore).
Speckled trout are still biting in some inside waters and the fall ocean bite is getting better almost daily. Surf fishermen are reporting good luck around jetties and near the ocean stop nets. The speck bite at the Cape Lookout jetty has been excellent whenever the weather allows making it there. Many times, finding a spot to anchor is more of a problem than catching fish.
Gray trout fishing is good also. Along the N.C. coast, Hatteras Inlet, Ocracoke Inlet, the Dead Tree Hole, New River Inlet, Johns Creek Rock and the WOFES have all been consistent spots.
When the weather allows getting to them, the king bite has been hot for a while now. Many boats, all along the coast, have reported catching lots of fish. Some of the premiere spots have included the Bad Bottom, Atlas Tanker, Northwest Places, Jerry's Reef, 23 Mile Rock, Horseshoe, 18 Mile Rock and the Jungle.
The false albacore bite has been hot for several weeks. Off Shackleford Banks, near Cape Lookout has been the hot spot, with an occasional school or two east of the cape.
The sea mullet bite began a few weeks ago and is good and getting better. They are being caught from the piers, in the surf, and from boats along Shackleford Banks.
The offshore action has been good whenever the weather allowed the trip. Wahoo remain the top offshore catches in the middle and southern coast, with tuna reigning supreme along the Outer Banks.
Bluefin tuna season closed on November 19 and is expected to reopen either December 1 or 6. Fishery managers are asking for a split (December/January) season with commercial fishing Monday to Thursday and recreational fishing Friday to Sunday. A meeting on these proposals is taking place as I write this, so pay close attention to the regulations when the season reopens.
I am very proud of our North Carolina fishermen at the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship, held November 17 to 20 in Biloxi, Miss. N.C. boats accounted for 5 of the top 10 in the 24 and Over Class and 2 of the top 10 in the 23 and Under Class. Congratulations to the Line One (2nd), Water Fountain (3rd), Reel Greedy (6th), Carolina Contender (7th) and Sea Drag'n (9th) teams in the larger boat class and the Second Catch (4th) and King's Ransom (10th) teams in the smaller boat class.
North Carolina and especially local fishermen have an excellent history in this event. The Right One Baby crew, with Capt. Jim Davis, from Swansboro won the first championship in 1993. Others have included Capt. Jack Wood, of Rolesville, and the team Laguna crew (1994), Capt. Gary Unger and Elizabeth Dixon, of Beaufort, on In The Red (1997), Capt. Forrest Taylor, of Ocean Isle, and the That's My Dog crew (1998), Capt. Dan Upton, of Greenville, with Jack Wood, on the Team Donzi (2000) and, most recently, myself and crew in 2001.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver