We had a couple of decent days this past week, but the cold is coming. Part of N.C. is under a severe weather alert for cold weather. The forecast said Friday night and Saturday morning would be the coldest temperatures along the southern coast in several years. You might want to bring the dogs in and either leave the outside faucets dripping or turn off the water supply to them. Highs in the 40's and very low 50's don't sound like much fun.
Friday is going to be windy, with everywhere approaching gale force winds, but once the front passes it is supposed to begin laying out and be down around 10 knots for most of the coast on Saturday. That's something to be thankful for, because temps in the teens and gusty winds make for miserable outside conditions.
There is still a lot of dirty and fresh water coming down many of the rivers. This has forced the trout and drum to move to cleaner water. Along much of the coast they have moved into the ocean and along some of the rivers they have just moved well back into the creeks to escape the runoff.
The water temps this week went down into the 50's almost everywhere and they will drop some more before stabilizing. We are forecast to have some sunny days in the 60's next week, so maybe it will warm back up a few degrees.
Bluefin tuna provided a good bit of excitement again this week. There appear to be two small concentrations. One is around the Trawler Buoy and Big 10 Rock off Cape Lookout and the other is around the slough that crosses Frying Pan Shoals between the Fairway Buoy (east side) and the Knuckle Buoy (west side).
The intensity of theses bites changes daily, with the most difficult thing being finding where the tuna moved overnight.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center has gotten several local businesses to chip in and has posted a $500 bounty on the first bluefin weighed there each week. Their contest week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. Call 910-575-3474 or visit www.oifishingcenter.com for more information.
The true offshore bite has been slow this week, but a lot of boats haven't gone there. They have stayed closer in to fish the bluefins. There are still some wahoo below the Big Rock and above the Steeples. A pretty good concentration of yellowfin tuna is holding from off Diamond Shoals up towards Oregon Inlet. There are also a few bigeyes mixed in around The Point. Surprise catches of late dolphin came from the Hatteras area and Frying Pan Shoals Tower, off Southport.
There have been some kings mixed in the offshore catch all along the coast. The best concentrations of kings this week were from the East Rock to the Smell Wreck, in Raleigh Bay and from the Horseshoe out to Frying Pan Tower in Long Bay.
For those who went, the offshore bottom bite was good again this week. As the water cools, even the bottom fish are creeping offshore, but there are good catches being recorded regularly. In the deeper water the catch included gag, scamp and red grouper, plus beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts. Beginning at about 5 to 10 miles offshore the black sea bass are fat and hungry.
The size and number limits for black sea bass changed recently. The minimum size increased from 10 to 11 inches and the retention number decreased from 20 to 15. Some of the other grouper and snapper limits changed also. You can verify them at www.ncdmf.net.
A few folks caught some false albacore this week. Some of the guides found good schools several days and some trout fishermen found fat Alberts they weren't looking for.
As I noted earlier, the dirty and fresh rainwater runoff has pushed speckled trout and drum into the ocean along much of the coast. I had one Morehead city guide tell me he was having better luck boating to the inland side of Shackleford Banks and then hiking across to fish in the slough just off the ocean beach. There were also some good catches of trout and drum from the Cape Lookout and Masonboro Inlet Jetties, but they were awful crowded at times.
Even with lots of fresh water moving down the Neuse River, the guides around Oriental are reporting excellent catches. The trout are holding well back in the creeks, out of the dirty and fresh water moving down the river.
I only had one report of many flounder this week and that was from Capt. Noah Lynk, who said they were catching a few mixed with the flounder and drum in the surf.
Most of the N.C. piers are closed for the winter. Season ticket holders can still fish on several of them and have been catching a mixed bag. The last pilings of Sportsmans Pier were pulled last weekend and all that remains is a little scrap in the parking lot.
Congratulations to Bruce Nutter, of Emerald Isle, for catching a 4.185 pound speckled trout to win the Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament. Nutter caught his winning fish in late October and was one of the earliest entries in the six week long tournament.