Except for some periods of rain and some early gusty winds, the weather of the past week has been pretty darn good. It would have been good for anytime during the spring or fall, but when you look at temperatures in the 70s during December, it's something special. Since it was this late in the year, the fishing crowds weren't too big - well, except at a few places - and the fishing was pretty good too. I guess we've all behaved this year and this weather and the good weather and fishing are our early Christmas presents.
As great as the weather has been the past week, there may be a second helping after the cold front rolls through this weekend. It's hard to believe that a storm in the Bering Sea off Western Alaska will directly affect our weather, but the weathermen are saying the storm north of Kodiak Island was strong severe enough to alter the Jet Stream across Canada and the U.S. This altered Jet Stream is what is pushing the cold weather down on us this weekend. Thankfully it is supposed to move through in a few days and our temperatures return to their warmer than usual high 60s and low 70s by early next week. The way our long range weather is shaping up. Santa Claus might be wearing shorts and a T-shirt when he comes through here.
You've gotta love it when the water stays warm this far into the fall. It will officially become winter on Tuesday and the water temps are still in the 60s. After the cold snap this weekend, the air temps are supposed to be back in the neighborhood of 70 to welcome winter.
Fishing is pretty darn good, especially when you consider this is the second half of December. The nearshore ocean and sound water temps have been hovering in the low to mid 60s and both the surf and sound were 64 Wednesday about noon. One offshore fisherman told me he saw water temps in the low 70s about 25 miles offshore and in the 80s at the break this week. That's got to be a factor in the good fishing.
Fishermen after larger fish should find bluefin tuna. They have been from just off the beach out to the knuckle at Cape Lookout and the first one of the year was landed at the Horseshoe off Cape Fear on Wednesday. Congratulation to Capt. John Dosher and Mike Reese for their fat 113 incher on Wednesday. It is the largest ever landed in Brunswick County and several friends had to climb aboard to help them pull the beast in the boat.
King mackerel have been as close as 80 feet of water and one boat caught a few dolphin only 15 miles off Carolina beach last weekend. Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin and sailfish are biting at the edge of the Gulf Stream. This will slow at some time, but as long as the weather stays sunny and warm it should continue.
The good offshore bottom fishing begins with black sea bass within sight of the beaches, but many are shorts. At about 30 miles offshore the bottom fishing gets better and adds grouper, beeliners, triggerfish, porgys grunts and more. Remember that grouper season closes for 4 months beginning January 1.
It still has to be approved by the Secretary of Commerce, but last week at their meeting in Atlantic Beach the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council voted to raise the limit on black sea bass from 5 to 7 fish. They said the latest stock survey showed the black sea bass recovery was ahead of projections.
False albacore are biting well from just off the beaches out to about 10 miles off Cape lookout and Wrightsville Beach. These little cousins of the tuna family will really stretch your string and test your resolve on lighter tackle.
There are still a few late flounder, red drum, gray trout and black sea bass being caught on the nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottoms from Cape Lookout to the S.C. state line. Speckled trout, plus some red and black drum are biting at the Cape Lookout Jetty, but most of the specks are shorts.
The action goes and comes, but there have been reports every week for a while of red drum, black drum and speckled trout being caught in the surf along the entire N.C. coast. Bait fishermen are also catching a few sea mullet (aka whiting or Va. mullet). The first slough off the beach and around the inlets have been the hot surf fishing spots.
There has been very good sea mullet/whiting/Va. mullet fishing in the Morehead City Turning Basin and in the channel from it to Beaufort Inlet. Fishermen are also catching a few gray trout, hogfish, croakers and bluefish. There are also nice gray trout being caught around the Radio Island and Atlantic Beach High Rise Bridges, especially at night.
Speckled trout and puppy drum are biting in the inside creeks and bays from Manteo to Calabash. Most of the specks are shorts, but there are enough keepers to pick through and find limits. There are also a few and 3 to 5 pounders mixed in to keep fishermen interested. The drum run the range from shorts to overslot fish. The inshore action also includes black drum and occasionally a few late flounder.
Stripers are biting in many of the coastal rivers. The hot spots seem to be within about 20 miles of where Highway 17 crosses the rivers. There are also specks and pups in many of the rivers and the creeks off them. Soft plastics in shrimp, paddletail and fluke shapes have been catching all of these fish pretty well. Using scented baits or adding a good dose of scent helps too.
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville will offer Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics on January 2, 16 and 30. The Clinics, which are designed for anglers with little to no fly-fishing experience, will begin at 9:00 A.M. and run through 3:00 P.M. The clinics will provide instruction on the Joan Wulff method of fly-casting, as well as instruction on fly-fishing equipment and knot tying. There will be an on-the-water segment of the course where participants will learn how to land a fish using a fly-rod.
Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics are suitable for participants 13 years and older; however, students 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Each clinic is limited to 40 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis. Participants are urged to register in advance and the clinics are popular and fill early. There is a registration fee of $5, payable on the day of the event. For more information visit www.ncwildlife.org and open the "learning" tab.
Wildlife Resources Commission Public Meetings
Information on all of the proposed changes to the state’s wildlife management, game lands and inland fishing regulations, plus hearing dates, times and locations can be found online at the Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org. The public hearings begin on January 5 and continue at areas across the state through January 21. Sportsmen who cannot attend one of the meetings can submit comments about the proposed 2016-2017 fishing, hunting and other wildlife resource management regulations through Jan. 25, 2016. Comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission - Proposed Regulations Comments - 1701 Mail Service Center - Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1701.
The Wildlife Resource Commission will meet on Feb. 11, 2016 to discuss the proposal, the comments and to vote on adopting or rejecting the proposals. Approved proposals will take effect Aug. 1, 2016.
Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other
January 8 to 10: Big Rock Sports Dealer Show, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, Registered retailers only, www.bigrocksports.com.
January 12, 16 and 30: Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics, John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, Fayetteville, www.ncwildlife.org/learning.
January 15 and 16: Striperfest, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.cfrw.us.
January 16: Cape Fear Riverwatch Striperfest Invitational Striper Tournament, Coastline Convention Center, Wilmington, www.cfrw.us.
January 20: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Public Meeting, 7:00 P.M., Craven Community College, New Bern, www.ncwildlife.org.
I'm going to be taking a little time away from the computer over the holidays and enjoy some time fishing and with my family. I'll pick back up here in early January.
Christmas and Happy New Year to all!