Wow, it seems like while I wasn't paying much attention, someone opened the door and let winter in. The temperatures dropped pretty sharply Wednesday night, then moderated some Friday and Saturday, before taking a nosedive on Sunday. There has been plenty of gusty wind associated with this weather also. Right now it looks like a slight calming in the middle of the week, before blowing up again for the end of the week and weekend.
Under the influence of the colder days and freezing nights, the water temperatures are continuing to fall. In an amazing turn around, it has only taken a few weeks to go from water temperatures that were higher than normal to slightly below the normal range. Over the weekend, Both Bogue Inlet Pier and Sportsman Pier reported water temperatures in the mid 50's. The water temperatures were in the low 70's at the beginning of November.
Offshore, the fishing is a bit slow, but can be excellent at times. When the weather allows a comfortable trip, there are some big wahoo, a few dolphin, some yellowfin and blackfin tuna, and some scattered king mackerel.
The pier fishing has slowed some, but much of the slowdown has been because of a lack of fishermen. For the dedicated pier fisherman, there has been a mixed catch that includes sea mullet, gray trout, speckled trout, red drum, black drum, bluefish, and an occasional false albacore. Many of the piers closed for the season this past Sunday afternoon. Most of the rest will close in the next week or so. There will be a few piers that remain open all winter, but the business really slows to a crawl.
The inshore red drum bite slowed a little with the Thanksgiving cold spell, but it will only take a day or two of sun to get them moving again. There have been some excellent catches of big speckled trout in the last week. While there seems to be a pretty good trout bite going on along the entire state, the Cape Lookout Jetty has really been standing out as a great place to be. When the weather allows, fishermen are catching lots of nice size trout and plenty of individuals over the four pound minimum for an outstanding catch citation. Live shrimp and green curltail grubs have been the hot baits.
Gray trout continue to bite well also. There are some in inside waters, such as the inlets at Hatteras and Ocracoke, the Morehead City Turning Basin, and the Pigfish Grounds at Southport. The grays are also thick at several spots in the nearshore ocean, such as off the Cape Lookout Jetty and Dead Tree Hole at Morehead City, Johns Creek between Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches, and the WOFES off Southport. Check out the January North Carolina Sportsman Magazine for an in-depth article on the mystery spot known as the WOFES.
There is no doubt that the bluefin tuna have arrived. Last week, there were quite a few caught at both Morehead City and Hatteras. Typically this first run is of smaller fish, that haven't fattened up for the winter, but there were several bluefins reported over 90 inches long, which equates to roughly 500 pounds. The NC commercial bluefin season opened on December 1, with a 60 metric ton allocation. As thick as the bluefin have been, that will probably be filled well before Christmas.
Some large ocean stripers have already moved into the waters around Oregon Inlet. Limits of fish in the 20's have become common and some individual fish pushing 40 pounds are there also. This fishing should continue to improve for several months as the air and water temperatures fall.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver