We haven't seen the temperature extremes (hot and freeze) over the past week, but we have seen many variables between the two. It's cold for a day or so and them warms to shirtsleeve temps the next day and then changes again. If you think this weather is confusing to you, think about how the fish have to be reacting. That is why we haven't been seeing getting into a set pattern over the past few weeks.
The pattern won't gel this weekend either as we are looking at an infusion of lighter southerly winds and mild temperatures following Wednesday night, Thursday and Thursday night's cold shot. The good news is the southerly breezes should be light and there should be good fishing opportunities regardless of what kind of fishing you want to try.
As has become the theme for our prolonged drought, there is still no forecast of anything but light spotted rain in the forecast.
The front creeping in on Wednesday triggered an excellent bluefin tuna bite. The hot location was off Morehead City, along the west edge of Cape Lookout Shoals and the fish turned on. I haven't yet received a report of if it is continuing, but I can promise there will be a small armada chasing them over the weekend.
Wednesday's bite was the strongest of the year so far and will probably make it a good Christmas for many of the commercial fishermen. The fish were healthy and larger than many expected. Usually the early fish are thin, but many of Wednesday's catch surpassed 300 pounds and several approached the 400 pound mark. Let's hope it continues into the weekend.
The other big news from Cape Lookout is the trout bite. Most of the reports are coming from the Cape Lookout Jetty, but there are still trout in the creeks, marshes, Morehead City Turning Basin and in the surf. Both speckled and gray trout are being caught. Several area trout experts said the intensity of this trout bite has them believing the trout will be around through at least Christmas.
One day the trout news is about speckled trout and the next it is about gray trout. I like both, but some fishermen lean heavily toward one or the other and the majority typically holds speckled trout in a little higher esteem. While there have been several days in the last week there were large speckled trout caught, the big numbers of them are smaller. Several fishermen said by working the deeper end of the jetty there were some larger gray trout and they often would hit the same baits. Live shrimp and smoke/metalflake soft plastics have been in high demand this week.
I am hearing good speckled trout reports from Hatteras to Little River, so it looks like another good fall for specks. I'm hoping to get out and catch a few in this good weather and you should too.
Capt. Dave Dietzler said there were also plenty of false albacore and not many fishermen were chasing them. He suggested the area between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout as a prime place to look for false albacore. Some fat Alberts are also coming through the inlets and surprising unsuspecting trout fishermen. They are exciting, but don't make many friends when they abscond with a brand new $5 MirrOlure.
There are also good numbers of hungry drum around. On the inside, Capt. Noah Lynk had several really good days while fishing between North River and Cape Lookout. There are enough boats constantly working Middle Marsh to keep it high on a list of places to check. Many of the pups still holding in the marshes are slot size fish (18 to 27 inches), but there are enough slot busters to be sure your tackle and equipment is in good shape.
Some upper slot and over slot drum are also feeding through the surf. They are sometimes difficult to locate at lower stages of the tide, but from about half tide on the way in to half tide on the way back out, they are often cruising the first slough off the beach looking for an easy meal. Look for the bars and the holes in the bars and fish just on the inshore side. From Fort Fisher to Oregon Inlet, this is shaping up to be a good weekend to bang a few drums.
Don't forget about king mackerel! There are plenty of kings just offshore of the entire N.C. coast. With the cooling water and the baitfish moving offshore, the kings have moved offshore a little also. However, if the weekend's weather is a good as the forecast, it won't be a problem to get to them. The kings begin around 15 miles offshore and move out from there. There are hot local spots everywhere holding lots of small to medium size kings, but some big kings are being caught off Hatteras. The Bad Bottoms and the Smell Wreck are perennial hot spots and look to be good again.
If you go king mackerel fishing, be prepared to have a run you can't stop that is quickly followed with a loud pop as your line breaks. Bluefin tuna are in much of the same water as the kings and they like the same baits. Many are hooked by startled king fishermen this time every year.
This weekend's weather forecast has a long enough window for the offshore waters to calm some and fishermen will take advantage. While the offshore bite along the central and southern coast has slowed over the past few weeks, there has been a growing yellowfin tuna bite form Cape Hatteras to the north. Otherwise the primary offshore fish are wahoo, king mackerel and some scattered tuna of which most are blackfins.
This has been an excellent fall for offshore bottom fishing and it is continuing. Most folks are after grouper, but after they fill their grouper limits, they are enjoying catching snappers, beeliners, porgies, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts. A few kings and tuna are hitting light lines drifted back while grouper fishing. Gags, scamps and reds comprise the bulk of the grouper catch.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament began October 20 and concluded at 6:00 P.M. last Saturday in Emerald Isle. Don Haas was the winner with a 5.590 pound speck.