NOTE: Fishing will be generally slow and inconsistent over the winter months. During that time this report will be updated infrequently and on no regular schedule. If something noteworthy happens, we will try to let you know.

After some really unique weather around Christmas, the weather forecast is excellent for the New Year's weekend and looks good well into next week. This is a pleasant change for those of us who saw all or part of two episodes of snow and a stretch of really cold windy weather. I really hope the year starting off with a high above 70 is a good sign.

What did you think about 2004? I have talked to folks who thought it was a good year and those who thought it was bad. Personally, my fishing was pretty good until the first hurricane and then was spotty until late September, when the water finally settled out again.

It did certainly seem that beginning in August we had a hurricane pass close enough to mess up the weather almost every week until the end of September. As bad as Hatteras got hit early, Brunswick County later and the Asheville area several times, we were actually pretty fortunate. Over the holidays I was in Pensacola and Perdido Key, Florida and Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama and those places took a real beating. There was still only minimal electricity and phones in Perdido Key and Pensacola looked like the blue tarp capital of the world.

The weather has kept fishing pretty slow for the last couple of weeks, but there are a few bright spots. With the upcoming week of 70 degree sunny weather, the fishing should improve and could even get pretty good.

The commercial bluefin tuna season will open again on Sunday. This will be a short season and only include Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (January 2-4). The bite and size of the bluefins had picked up just before the first season closed on December 20, so maybe this one will be good and give a nice winter boost to the commercial fishermen.

There weren't a lot of fishermen out after kings, but there have been some scattered good reports from the days of good weather. One of the best reports was the 70 pounder that was caught during a bluefin charter on the Dancin' Outlaw. The word is it hit a rigged horse ballyhoo and did a good job of pulling drag on a 130 class International. This fish was caught at the Atlas Tanker and that should be a good place to start now. There have also been reports of good numbers of small to medium kings both NE and SW of Frying Pan Tower.

The offshore action has been fairly good whenever the weather allowed the trip. Yellowfin tuna are biting north of Hatteras, with a few being caught around the Rock Pile, north of the Big Rock and a few also being caught near Swansboro Hole. Some wahoo are also being caught in all of these locations.

The hot inshore/nearshore fish are stripers and they are certainly welcome. They have been in the surf, along the beaches and in the inlets from Cape Lookout north. They are also being caught at Manns Harbor, near Washington, near New Bern and near Wilmington in inside waters.

Tuesday was a great day for stripers at the Dead Tree Hole. There were many limits of large fish caught. Then some pogy boats made a set on the bait in the area and the striper fishing was scattered on Wednesday. Hopefully, both the bait and the stripers will be schooled up again by the weekend.

There are some red drum scattered throughout the coastal creeks and marshes. They got real sluggish during the cold weather, but should become active again as it warms. Look for drum in the surf also.

I believe this last cold spell should have pushed most of the speckled trout out into the ocean. There have been some scattered good reports from the Cape Lookout Jetty and it should be good there this weekend. There have also been some specks in the Outer Banks surf, around the Masonboro Inlet Jetties, and in a few creeks around Southport

The 2005 Bass and Saltwater Expo will be at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh January 7 to 9 and at the Greensboro Coliseum January 21-23. There will be seminars, tackle and boats. If you aren't fishing, you should stop by and check it out. There will also be numerous boat shows across the state during January and February.

Don't forget to register for one of the 2005 North Carolina Sportsman Fishing Schools. They will be all day events with one in Greenville, NC on March 12 and one in Sanford, NC on March 19. These schools will cover saltwater and freshwater fishing, with all sorts of special and general information, and give away numerous door prizes including fishing tackle, fishing trips, and a new boat/motor/trailer outfit. I will be one of many excellent instructors. For more information call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.

Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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