Well, we have weathered the first strong winter storm of 2002 and are warming up again. The snow along the central and northern NC coast and the ice and snow on the southern NC coast were pretty, but I'm rather glad they're gone. The water temperatures dropped some and it has affected fishing.
Some red drum are still holding in the marshes and creeks for those who are willing to take the time to find them. A few speckled trout are being caught in Davis Canal and Wildlife Creek at Southport and Oak Island, along with a few from the Banks Channel bridges and Masonboro Inlet jetties at Wrightsville Beach. Farther north, they are mainly in the nearshore ocean The striper activity continues to be very strong at Manns Harbor. Catching 50 to 100 fish in a morning is happening pretty regularly. This is a special management area, with its own season and limits, so verify everything before you go. At Oregon Inlet, everything inshore of the bridge is inshore waters, while everything outside of the bridge is ocean waters. Good numbers and some really big stripers are being caught in this area, but different regulations apply. Know the regulations before you go. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries Web Site is at www.ncdmf.net and the striper regulations are on a sub-page. Other striper hotspots include the Neuse River, near New Bern, and the Pamlico/Tar River, near Washington. These areas have much less restrictive regulations and limits. Check the current striper regulations at www.ncdmf.net before you head out fishing.
Surf and Pier
Most of the ocean piers have closed for the season. It would be wise to call ahead before making plans.
A few large drum and pretty good numbers of stripers have been caught in the Outer Banks surf. The heavier concentration of drum is from Avon to Cape Point, while the stripers are thickest farther north, around Oregon Inlet.
Bluefin tuna fishing is hot. There has been excellent bluefin action between Morehead City and Hatteras. The fish are mainly in Raleigh Bay, but some have crossed to the west side of Lookout Shoals. Live bait, chunking, and trolling are all producing numerous hookups.
There have been some good catches of smaller speckled trout along the jetty at Cape Lookout. Just before this last cold front, some larger specks had been caught for a day or two. Maybe they will return.
Large stripers (over 20 pounds) are being caught at Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, and along the beaches of the Outer Banks. Captain Dave Deitzler reports that there are also some stripers on the Cape Lookout Shoals.
Sea Bass and grouper are biting well from around 80 feet of water on out. Along the offshore edges, some kings are also still being caught. The most productive areas are off Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear.
When the weather allowed, there were some scattered yellowfin tuna and wahoo being caught around the Steeples, Big Rock, and at The Point. Bluefin tuna have been scattered all the way from just off the beaches to the inshore edges of the Gulf Stream.
Potential Record Catches
On New Year's Eve, Captain Bruce Pollock and Barry Heller landed a potential State Record Thresher Shark on the Wave Runner, out of Morehead City. They were bluefin fishing and the big shark (Est. 400 pounds) dumped the spool on a 130 class International. Unfortunately for the fishermen, they didn't take the time to weigh it. They were more worried about cleaning it properly to make the most of its excellent meat. There is a picture at the Wave Runner web site at www.waverunnerfishing.com and it is pretty obvious that this shark would have easily surpassed Jack Cagle's current 145 pound State Record.