That doggone wind just won't stop blowing and now it seems to have recruited some cold rain to muddle the fishing too. In addition to chopping up the water and creating a rough to potentially unsafe ride, the wind can make waves which stir up the bottom and create muddy or dirty conditions which hamper fishing. This affects the conditions most along the ocean beaches, but can also affect the rivers, creeks and even areas like Buzzard Bay that are generally considered protected.
Now, in addition to dealing with dirty water conditions, we are also encountering a deluge of fresh water from rainwater runoff. Amazingly enough, there are places where the fish are biting well; it just sometimes takes working through a series of spots where they "used to be" before finding the spots where the combination of dirty and fresh water have relocated the fish.
I got in a day between rains last week and was beginning to think it might be a tough day. Let me rephrase that, it was a tough day but we kept looking and finally found a spot that was holding some decent speckled trout. I was a guest of Capt. Jot Owens, www.captainjot.com and we were after some of the nice speckled trout he has been catching for a few weeks around Wrightsville Beach.
As I headed up to Wrightsville Beach Friday morning, he reminded me the reason he had this day open was because someone had cancelled due to the weather. We were plugging in a trip between the heavy rains of Wednesday and the heavy rains coming on Friday night and Saturday and he was concerned the fishing might be tough, but he needed to go look and I was available for company.
We looked long and hard before finally finding some fish along one of the Masonboro Inlet Jetties near the end of the falling tide. These were nice specks too, with most running about two to two and a half pounds. We didn't catch any citation size fish (five pounds) but we had several at three to three and a half pounds and they pulled well.
Catching those fish made it worth checking all the other spots and then having to deal with the bluefish. We caught a few small specks at several other spots and once we found the specks the bluefish were patrolling beside them to attack any wayward lure or bait. The bite slowed and we got back in just in time to clean the fish and boat before the rain started.
The piers are closed for the season so those reports are gone, but I heard a little about some bluefish, black drum, whiting and a few small trout in the surf. The hot spot was at The Point at Lockwood Folly Inlet.
This week, NOAA Fisheries announced the closure of all red snapper fishing for 180 days beginning January 4, 2010. This is an emergency Interim Rule closure and was requested by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council many months ago. The provisions of an Interim Rule allow it to be renewed for 186 days if an appropriate management plan has not been adopted.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) believes this rule was made inappropriately from data generated by the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) that has been noted as inappropriate for this use. The RFA has filed a suit in Federal District Court in Jacksonville, Florida requesting an injunction to prevent this closure from beginning and have the action overturned.
Our water temperature has finally begun to cool, but it is still warmer than normal for the second week of December. The nearshore ocean temperature is finally dipping below 60 and the inshore waters into the mid to high 50s.
This becomes especially important as the first bluefins have been spotted off Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. There have been some juvenile fish mixed with yellowfin and bigeye tuna off Oregon Inlet and the first commercial fish, an 80 incher, was caught Friday off Cape Lookout. There have been several more caught since then, so maybe the bluefin bite is beginning. There is also a rumor I was unable to substantiate that another was caught off Cape Fear.
The bluefins seem to prefer nearshore ocean temperatures of 56 to 57 degrees, which we are finally reaching. With a little luck, we could have a good bluefin bite before Christmas.
I have been asked by several fishermen's wives and girlfriends to give some ideas for Christmas presents for fishermen. Let me start with a little advice. When I buy for my sportsman buddies, or try to help their families find that special item and nothing is really standing out, I buy/suggest something that is new, looks exciting and I think his other friends and I will have fun helping him use or learning how to use. It really is amazing how well this gift philosophy works. Following are a few items grouped by price range for you to consider:
Less Than $10
This category is real simple'lures! Lure choices can range from old favorites to the latest new offerings. For inshore fishermen, they can never have enough MirrOlures, D.O.A. shrimp and jerkbaits, Betts Shrimp, Spinner baits and floats, Saltwater Assassin grubs and Sea Striker rigs and floats.
MirrOlure, www.mirrolure.com, has some new offerings throughout their established lure lines and added several varieties of softbaits. One of my personal favorites is the new 10 MR. This is a body like the 27 MR, but made as a floating propeller bait. The 17 MR and 27 MR suspending twitchbaits are only a couple of years old, but have quickly become favorites. They have the welcome knack of turning fair fishermen into great fishermen.
Sea Striker, www.seastriker.com, has a little bit of everything in their line. While they have a good line of soft plastics, they are probably best known for their Got-cha jigs and rigs (bottom rigs, flounder rigs, king rigs, offshore rigs and more).
D.O.A., www.doalures.com, has added some new colors to their soft plastics, especially shrimp with chartreuse tails. While testing the lures extensively, D.O.A. founder Mark Nichols stays outside a lot and pays attention to protection from the sun. In their clothing and accessories, D.O.A. also offers some floppy hats and long-bill caps that provide extra sun protection.
Betts Tackle, www.bettstackle.net, is offering some new models and colors of their Halo shrimp baits, plus have added a line of soft spinner baits to target redfish and specks. The Betts Adjustable Depth Aggravator Float is a real tool for fishermen who like to fish baits suspended under a popping cork.
Saltwater Assassin, www.bassassassin.com, is the company that introduced the electric chicken color many years ago. They haven't rested and now have the Blurp series of scented soft baits that don't shrivel up and dry out when exposed to air for long periods of time. A new very popular color is Chicken on a Chain.
South Chatham Tackle, www.southchathamtackle.com, Pirate Plugs have become very popular with king mackerel and offshore fishermen. They are available in several weights and many colors.
Up to $25
One of the best and easiest gifts to give is a subscription or renewal to the State Port Pilot newspaper, www.stateportpilot.com. There are home deliver and on-line versions available. Subscription terms begin with a year and offer increasing discounts for multiple years. This brings all the local news and this outdoor column from roughly Easter to Christmas.
Sunscreen is a must for all outdoorsmen. There are numerous product lines and most are pretty good. However, I recommend using products that don't get on your hands and transfer the sunscreen smell to you bait or lures. I may be wrong, but I don't think many puppy drum are attracted to Hawaiian Tropic. There are only a few companies that make sunscreens in sticks or other applicators that allow them to be hands free. One of my favorites is Hands Free Sunscreen, www.handsfreesunscreen.com. They even make an SPF 30 that includes bug repellant.
Good socks and gloves are a must for outdoorsmen to stay warm, dry and comfortable. Many of the outdoor retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com, and Gander Mountain, www.gandermountain.com, offer a wide selection of lightweight, insulated, wicking socks for all kinds of outdoor activities.
Up to $50
There are numerous gadgets and clothing that fit into this price range. A good digital scale is a must for many fishermen and there are numerous ones available from Berkley, www.berkley-fishing.com, and Rapala, www.rapala.com, and more. The weight maximums vary and some will weigh in both ounces and tenths.
For fishermen headed offshore bottom fishing, a dehooker is required. South Chatham Tackle, www.southchathamtackle.com, makes several models and has the ability to make something special if you would like. While venting is not currently required, I believe that done properly it helps fish survive and I like the convenience and utility of the South Chatham dehooker that stores a venting tool in the handle.
There are a multitude of specialty shirts and other clothing designed for the active outdoorsman. One of my favorite fishing and general outdoor shirts is a Gillzshirt, www.breathelikeafish.com. While it can be finished in several ways, this shirt begins with a microfiber body to wick moisture. The options include vent panels inside the arms and down the sides to help with keeping your cool. My favorite is a vented long-sleeve shirt with an attached sun hood. The shirt body is UPF 30, the hood is UPF 50 and they provide sun protection while staying cool. The sun mask, which is also available separately, is vented over the nose and mouth and this allows breathing without fogging glasses or sunglasses. The sun mask is available separately.
A special gift for fishermen is a ticket to the Capt. Jimmy Price and Capt. Jerry Dilsaver fishing school. While several other dates will soon be announced in other areas of the state, the first of these 2010 events will be held at the Southport Moose Lodge on Saturday, January 30. This school will last all day, with multiple sessions from both of the featured captains. There will also be goody bags of samples and door prizes. For more information check the Fishing School link at www.captainjimmyprice.com or www.captjerry.com.
A unique new product for outdoorsmen (and outdoorswomen) is the DryCASE, www.DryCase.com. This unique waterproof will hold a cell phone, camera, MP3 player or other electronic device of similar size. The case has a waterproof seal and will accept waterproof headphones for use in wet conditions. There is a neck lanyard and a Velcro arm strap that also serves as a float. I am able to use my phone in the security of the DryCASE, which is especially nice while fishing and kayaking. I have not yet tried using a camera without removing it, but the outer cover is a medical grade membrane that should not distort the image.
Up to $100
Stick It Anchor Pins, www.stickitanchorpins.com, are an inexpensive and durable (guaranteed unbreakable) alternative to noisy and cumbersome anchors for anchoring in shallow water. They come in seven and eight foot lengths for boats and a special shorter version for kayaks. The T-handle also allows Stick It Pins to be inverted and used as light push poles.
High tech underwear often makes staying outside in adverse conditions, not just possible, but comfortable. Under Armour, www.underarmour.com, is one of the leading brands. There are other options and the Redhead brand from Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com, has several. Many of the high-tech underwear versions also have some scent blocking capabilities for hunters.
Gaffs are a necessity for lifting many fish into the boat. Sea Striker, www.seastriker.com, has an assortment of gaffs that runs from a wooden handle shorty to a 12 foot long model with an anodized aluminum handle. South Chatham Tackle, www.southchathamtackle.com makes specialty gaffs, flying gaffs and even a swimming hook designed especially for bluefin tuna.
Landing nets are also a necessity for many inshore and inland fishing opportunities. Frabill, www.frabill.com, Beckman, www.beckmannet.com, and Stowmaster, www.stowmaster.net, are three of the leading manufacturers and should have something to suit your needs.
More than $100
Once you get in this price range, there are numerous excellent Christmas gifts. Rods and reels are always good, but draw from much personal preference. On another vein, there are numerous electric motors available for sneaking up on fish and even several versions that are specifically designed for kayaks.
A kayak is a great gift too. Nothing allows for sneaking up on fish like a kayak. Heck, there are even paddles designed just for kayak fishermen.
Polarized eyewear is an excellent gift. There are versions of polarized eyewear for various situations Wiley-X, www.wileyx.com, eyewear is made to military standards and should easily withstand the demands of civilian outdoorsmen.
Marine electronics range from personal GPS and portable fishfinder units to ornate multiple station rigs for the ultimate Sportfishing yacht. There are even some GPS models that are portable and will switch between marine navigation (point-to-point) and highway navigation (turn-by-turn). Lowrance has several models you can check out at www.lowrance.com.
A Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchoring System, www.power-pole.com, is an excellent gift for most inshore fishermen. This allows anchoring in water up to eight feet deep by simply pushing a toggle switch.
One optimum Christmas gift is a guided fishing or hunting trip. If someone receives a great trip for two or more, I might just be available to go along and record it in pictures.
Tournaments have all but ended for the year. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. The current leader is Danny Rimmer's 7.62 pound speck. The special weight for December is 2.97 pounds. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, December 10), The Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department will host a fishing seminar at the Oak Island Recreation Center. The seminar will feature Capt. Jimmy Price discussing flounder and other inshore species, then, after a short break, I will discuss king mackerel fishing. The seminar will begin at 7:00 and run until 10:00. There is a fee of $20 advance and $25 at the door for the seminar. For more information call 910-278-4747.