Christmas will arrive before I post here again, so I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I don't want to offend anyone, but I have an aversion to saying "Holiday Greetings". Maybe it's just too PC and I'm not--I don't know. What I do know is I have friends from numerous faiths and all of them tell me they appreciate it when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas and take is as someone wishing them well, not as a knock on their religion. With all that said, I repeat--Merry Christmas!
While there has been some fog, a little residual swell, a few showers and more, if you haven't enjoyed the past week, you're just working too much. I started last Saturday morning in a deer stand just outside of Roanoke Rapids and it was so cold I wondered if I had enough clothes. That was it for the cold though. Sunday was nice and by Monday I had dug out a few pairs of those shorts I put up a couple of weeks ago and was wearing them. It looks like I'll get by with them until Sunday and then we'll get cold again.
Speaking of being in that deer stand last week, I was hoping to come up with a trophy for the EJW Outdoors Big Buck Classic. I was a guest of the Halifax County Tourism folks and spent two days at the Shields Farm near Scotland Neck and then another on a private lease just outside Roanoke Rapids. Like most hunts, I saw a fair number of does and yearlings and almost shot one to put some meat in my freezer, but I did see one buck that got my adrenaline going.
All the places I hunted had an eight point, with inside of the rack wider than the ears, minimum. Friday morning, as the last of that nasty storm was passing and the wind was howling, I had a big 8 pointer step into the edge of a field about 300 yards away. For the longest time, he wouldn't look at me so I could verify his width. Finally a particularly hard gust of wind swung a gate near me and it clunked loud enough the deer heard it. He jerked his head up and looked in my direction just long enough I got a good look and quit breathing.
In the split-second it took me to recover from realizing just how impressive this buck was, he decided that clanking noise wasn't a good thing and disappeared far faster than he appeared. The nothing that was suddenly left in my scope would make pretty thin stew and certainly would never hang on my den wall. As many wise hunters have lamented, "They don't get that big by being stupid." This one made a mistake and almost paid dearly for it. I bet he doesn't do that again any time soon.
Just a bit more about the EJW Outdoors Big Buck Classic--it continues through the end of deer season on January 1. There is an entry fee required before registering a deer and several levels are available. Special categories are in place for bowhunters, muzzleloader hunters, ladies and juniors. Complete details are available at EJW Outdoors on Arendell Street in Morehead City, by visiting www.ejwoutdoors.com, or by calling 252-247-4725.
This looks to be an unusual weekend, with the calmest day being Saturday. If it holds to the forecast, folks should be able to fish about anywhere they would like. Friday looks a little blustery, but with the wind dying out overnight and not coming back up until sometime later in the day Sunday. Once it comes back up Sunday a strong cold front is supposed to push through and drop our temperatures. Hopefully after that push with the front, the winds will lay back out.
With the warmer air temperatures and sunshine this week, the water warmed a few degrees too. That got some fish feeling a little better and they fed pretty well.
There were a couple of days that allowed heading offshore this week and some fish awaited. Most offshore reports included blackfin tuna. They were caught just about everywhere. Some wahoo were scattered along the coast, but not in big numbers like a few weeks ago. Some yellowfin tuna are still being caught off Hatteras and farther north and there was even a good catch of dolphin on Wednesday.
The grouper bite remained good and challenges the opinion of the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) that they are overfished. Those boats that stopped closer inshore had good mixed catches of grunts, black sea bass and beeliners.
There is a little bit of mixed, but possibly good news from the SAFMC this week. After their fall meeting, they had decided on a four month closure for shallow water grouper and seriously reducing the commercial and recreational limits when the season reopened on May 1. Because of some timing issues, they couldn't implement the closure by January 1 without a temporary rule, so they asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to approve an Interim Rule.
Most fishermen thought the Interim Rule and resulting closure was a done deal and it had been advertised as such. However, as of yesterday, Dec 18, NMFS had not approved the Interim Rule. Other federal regulations require an Interim Rule to be approved for 30 days before it can be implemented and, at this time, the earliest that could happen is January 18. It grows a day later every day the Interim Rule isn't approved.
There is also a rumor that the current administration will not approve the Interim Rule. It has to be signed by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and he will be leaving office on January 20. If he doesn't sign it, the incoming administration can't consider it until at least January 20 and then it would be February 20 before it could go into effect. A previously mandated spawning closure would begin on March 1 and several good sources say the Interim Rules most likely won't be approved for the winter and spring of 2009.
This could be interesting! For more information, visit the SAFMC web site at www.safmc.net.
Several more bluefin tuna were caught at Morehead City this week, but the bite remains slow. Perhaps the coming cold weather will spur them to bite. The bite has been east of Cape lookout.
Several king mackerel fishermen said there was still some high 60 to low 70 degree water around the Atlas Tanker and Chicken Rock east of Cape Lookout and just east of Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear. Someone else said the real shame of fishing for kings right now is hooking a bluefin tuna and not having gear to handle it. It seems like the kings and bluefins like the same bait fish and are often in the same area. Kings aren't much of a fight on bluefin tackle and king tackle is no match for bluefins. Saturday might be a really good day to try for both.
The puppy drum are still biting well. With several year classes spread through the area, they are biting from the backs of the creeks to the surf. Pups aren't very particular about their food either. If it looks or smells good, they'll probably eat it. I prefer the single hooks of grubs to the treble hooks of swimming lures for fish I'm planning to release and the pups are feeding heavily enough they'll hit both.
The speckled trout bite also remains good and especially so if you have live bait. Mud minnows have become the mainstay of live bait and the specks are hitting them well. Some of the best action has been near the inlets and in the surf, but there are still specks in the creeks too. The Cape Lookout Jetty has been a consistent spot to catch specks for a few weeks. One successful fisherman said he was catching a few more specks during the day, but larger fish at night. He said they also hit grubs and lures better at night.
One of the unexpected big catches of the past week was a 58.6 pound black drum caught off Morehead City. J. Casey, the trout fisherman who caught it, subdued it on 8 pound test line. Don't you know that was a lengthy tussle?
The 2008 NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament, run by the Division of Marine Fisheries, continues through the end of December. This is a multiple species tournament, with no entry fee. Fish just have to meet minimum weights and be weighed at one of many certified weigh stations along the N.C. coast. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) has announced a series of public hearings regarding proposed changes in fishing (fresh water) and hunting regulations for the 2009-2010 seasons. Some of the proposals are very different from current regulations. The changes involve seasons, limits and manner of taking fish and game.
The meetings will begin at 7:00 P.M. A complete list of all the meeting dates, times and locations statewide, plus all of the proposed regulations changes can be found on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org.