I hope everyone has been enjoying the warmer temperatures of the past week. There have been a few windy days, but overall there were several really nice days to go fishing. The forecast is for the warmer weather to continue through the weekend, with some up and down winds coming from several directions.
We all know this nice spell of weather can't stay around for long, but it sure has been a great way to end the year. You might want to be sure to get in one more trip today or tomorrow and try to end 2005 on a good note. There are a few stripers, some scattered bluefin tuna, speckled trout, red drum, king mackerel, black sea bass, grouper and even some fat Alberts. With a little bit of luck, you should be able to convince something to bite
Speaking of ending 2005, this will be my last fishing forecast of the year and I can't help but think back and remember several of the more newsworthy events--both good and bad.
There is no doubt 2005 will be remembered as the year of the hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and this one used all the time available--and then some. Tropical Storm Arlene formed on June 8 and Hurricane Epsilon was still going a few days into December.
The National Weather Service gave all the names selected from our alphabet and then went five letters into the Greek alphabet. There were 26 named storms in all, with 13 becoming hurricanes, 7 becoming major hurricanes and 3 reaching Category 5 strength. The National Weather Service has indicated this listing may change a little as they review data. Tropical Storm Cindy may be upgraded to a hurricane and Hurricane Emily may be upgraded to a Category 5 storm.
Locally we were fairly lucky. We had several close calls, but were only struck directly by Hurricane Ophelia. At Category 1 strength, Ophelia wasn't a strong storm, but was moving so slow and carrying a high storm surge it caused far more damage than anyone would have imagined. It ravaged the NC Coast from Sunset Beach to Hatteras, with the worst damages being between Carolina Beach and Ocracoke and being caused primarily by the storm surge, not the wind.
Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast, forced several large king mackerel tournaments, most specifically the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) and Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour (FLW) championship tournaments to be relocated and rescheduled. The FLW Championship came to Morehead City, while the SKA Championship went to Fort Pierce, Florida and faced another weather-related postponement.
Hurricane Ophelia forced the postponement and relocation of the Southport stop on the FLW Tour and it was also moved to Morehead City.
In an unusual move for a king mackerel tournament, the relocated Southport FLW event was held October 9 to 11, which was Sunday to Tuesday, with the FLW Championship following on October 12 to 15 (Wednesday to Saturday). Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Jacksonville based Early Riser Fishing Team, captained by John Parks, won the FLW Championship Tournament. Numerous other Carolina fishing teams did well also.
Several other storms forced many N.C. tournaments to reschedule.
While there are numerous quarrels and misgivings about other fishery management plans and tools, most fishermen agree the Red Drum Fishery Management Plan is working. They aren't reaching everywhere just yet, but our red drum numbers are increasing and most fishermen are able to find some if they give a genuine effort. Even better, the numbers are getting to the point there are some pups in many marshes all winter.
A plan is working through the National Marine Fisheries Service to limit the take on gray trout. It has stalled momentarily as more current information is being found, but we should expect stricter regulations in the near future.
Speckled trout have enjoyed a very good year. With the number of smaller specks in the catch, the future looks bright too.
Most fishermen call the new federal grouper and sea bass management plans a disaster. Even worse, it appears we are being managed by information generated elsewhere when our stocks are healthier. Hopefully some reason enters this picture soon.
White marlin escaped a bid by some environmental groups to have them added to the endangered species list. The limit for all U.S. billfish is already 250 for the year and is never anywhere near reached. No recreational fishermen keep white marlin and they are illegal to sell. It is good this attempt was thwarted. The ramifications could have spread widely into all kinds of offshore pelagic fishing.
Bluefin tuna numbers are down this year. Last year we were begging for more quota and this year we are struggling to fill the existing quota. There are a few currently being caught off Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and hopefully this will improve as we move into early 2006.
These aren't all the news breakers of 2005, but some that directly affected us here along the N.C. coast. We are all looking forward to improvements in the upcoming year.
I would like to wish each and every one of you my best for a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. May the weather always be fair, the winds slight and your favorite fish hungry and in good numbers.