I would like to begin this week's column by wishing each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
If you haven't already read it, I invite you to read my parody of the story, "T'was the Night Before Christmas." I believe you will find it entertaining. You can return to my home page at www.captjerry.com and click on the Christmas link just below the main picture.
There was a little excitement earlier in the week and a lot of folks got real enthusiastic about fishing, but the weather this weekend lends its far better to staying home and spending time with your friends and family. We'll start off Friday with that nasty storm approaching, bringing some scattered rain and turning the increasing wind towards the south. The southerly wind will keep us warm, although possibly wet, through Saturday, before dropping out a little for Christmas Eve and turning northerly.
By Christmas Day the wind will be back to the northeast at 15-20 and the highs will be down in the 50's. We may also see more showers from the second front. It will begin to moderate, but we'll probably see more seasonable highs in the 50's through most of the week.
Once the weather settles out, the northerly winds should have cleaned the ocean back up and there might be a surprising variety of fish for New Years Weekend. Depending on the actual amount of rain we receive, there could be some good inshore fishing as well.
Bluefin tuna are the big news right now and there were some really big ones caught earlier in the week. Several were brought in over 100 inches and a 111 inch fish, caught on the Sea Wolf by Denns Meinhart and Capt. Marston Jones was being proclaimed as a possible new state record.
The weight I was told on Meinhart's fish was 875 pounds, which would have set a new state record, but the fish was caught commercially and spokesmen at the Division of Marine Fisheries said state records are only for recreationally caught fish. The current state record for bluefin tuna is the 744 pounder, Thomas Bailey caught off Oregon Inlet in 1995.
A few more fishermen caught stripers on the Cape Lookout Shoals this week, plus a few along Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks. The Reel Screamin' Striper Shootout is scheduled for next Friday and Saturday (December 29 and 30) in Morehead City and the timing might be right. Many knowledgeable fishermen say this little cold spell should intensify both the striper and bluefin bite. For more information call 910-376-0970 or visit www.reelscreamin.com.
The striper bite is also good in the Outer Banks Surf and around the bridges at Manns Harbor. The Neuse River striper bite is picking up and the bridges are great places to try. In Wilmington the stripers are biting along the downtown docks, behind the battleship and around the State Ports facilities.
The king mackerel bite was wide open all week at the Atlas Tanker. Some of the other nearby spots also were hot, but right over the Atlas was the prime spot. Many fish in the 30's were caught, along with a fair number in the 40's and even a couple in the 50's.
There was also a good king bite around the Smell Wreck off Cape Hatteras and near Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear.
Along most of the coast the inside water temperature has slipped to the lower 50's and the nearshore ocean temperature is a little warmer at 56 to 58 degrees. There are good catches of trout and drum being reported almost daily.
This has been the best fall and early winter speckled trout bite that most people can remember. There are lots of 1 1/2 to 3 pound trout and enough citation size fish (4 pounds) being caught to think you might get one on the next cast. Sunny days seem to help with the trout and red drum.
Off Cape Lookout there are still some wahoo below the Big Rock and above the Steeples, with a few tuna are mixed in. The hot tuna bite has been from just above the Rock Pile to around The Point. On several days, the boats from Hatteras Village and Oregon Inlet have limited out and returned to the dock early.
If you have a hankering for grouper or sea bass, you're in luck. The offshore bottom fishing remains good all along the coast. Good catches of black sea bass are possible within 5 to 10 miles off the inlets, while the grouper, grunts and beeliners are holding in deeper water.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center's $500 bounty for the first bluefin of the week was claimed early this week by Bryan Strickland with a 72 inch fish. The new week begins Christmas Day. Several Brunswick County Realtors and the Fishing Center have posted a $500 bounty on the first bluefin weighed there each week. The contest week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. Call 910-575-3474 or visit www.oifishingcenter.com for more information.