We had those couple of very cold days over this past weekend, but the warmth rebounded quickly. Several coastal areas set new record lows on Friday and Saturday, but quickly warmed back to the point that some weathermen are saying highs in the low 70's may be possible in some places. Once again we get to use my favorite weather saying for this area--"If you don't like the weather we're having right now, just wait a little and it will change."
This weekend is shaping up to be nice. There may be some clouds on Friday, but it will be mostly sunny after that. Even better, the winds are forecast to be below 15 knots, except for some possible gusts north of Cape Lookout on Saturday. Sunday and Monday are currently predicted to be 10 knots or less. The direction will be southerly on Sunday and northerly on Monday.
While there is still some rainwater runoff coming down the rivers, the trout and drum bite is excellent. Division of Marine Fisheries certified weigh stations are reporting far more citation trout than in any recent year. There are specks in the surf from Corolla to Sunset Beach, with some red drum there and still holding in the creeks. There are also good numbers of trout in many coastal creeks from Cedar Island to Calabash.
The inside water temperature dipped into the 50's almost everywhere over the weekend and some places even reported a little skim ice in smaller creeks. With the sunny days this week and the forecast for them to continue into next week, the water may well climb back into the higher 50's but we should have seen the last 60 degree days until spring.
The guides around New Bern and Oriental continue to report good catches of specks well up the Neuse River. They said they are also seeing a few red drum.
There were reports of stripers in the surf along the Outer Banks and at Cape Lookout Shoals. The inshore striper reports were good near the bridges at Manns Harbor, along the Wilmington Waterfront, and fair at New Bern.
The nearshore ocean temperatures are holding pretty well around 56 to 58 degrees. This is excellent for bluefin tuna and they didn't disappoint anyone.
The bluefin bite was hot over the weekend around Big 10 Rock, Little 10 Rock and Northwest Places off Cape Lookout. It slowed some off Cape Fear, but there were a few bluefins caught there around the Fairway Buoy and the Shark Hole. The bite doesn't happen strongly every day, but these general areas have been pretty consistent over the past couple of weeks.
It's not really that the offshore bite has been slow for this time of year, but many boats from Cape Lookout to the south have been staying closer to shore and chasing bluefins. Last Sunday there was a hot sailfish bite off Wrightsville Beach at the temperature breaks just inshore of the Steeples and Same Ole. This is very unusual for this time of year, but I was in Wilmington Wednesday and found several fishermen sprucing up their sailfish tackle and preparing to make that trip in the good weather this weekend.
Off Cape Lookout there are still some wahoo below the Big Rock and above the Steeples and a few tuna are mixed in. A good concentration of yellowfin tuna has been holding from just above the Rock Pile to around The Point. There have also been some bigeye tunas in the catch from around The Point.
There have been some kings mixed in the offshore catch all along the coast. Once again, this week's best reports of kings came from the East Rock to the Smell Wreck, in Raleigh Bay and from the Horseshoe out to Frying Pan Tower in Long Bay.
Offshore bottom fishing remains good. With the cooling water many of the fish are slowly moving offshore. Good catches of black sea bass are beginning as close as 5 miles offshore. Many times this close inshore there are lots of shorts mixed in the catch, but working through them to limits of legal fish isn't particularly difficult. In the deeper water, gag, scamp and red grouper join the catch, plus some beeliners, triggerfish and grunts.
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.
I heard just a few mentions of false albacore this week. Several of the guides I spoke with said they were probably gone from the nearshore waters for the year.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center has spearheaded a drive gathering several local businesses to chip in and post a $500 bounty on the first bluefin weighed there each week. The winner for last week was Brett Yauger on the Monkey Jon. This contest week begins each week on Monday and ends on Sunday. Call 910-575-3474 or visit www.oifishingcenter.com for more information.