Wow, our winter weather sure has included lots of changes so far this year, hasn't it? We started at frigid, then warmed to surprisingly nice and now are looking to fall back into the freezer for a while. I'm not wishing anything bad on the folks that live inland, but I sure hope the ice and snow that is predicted for them on Saturday stays inland. Currently, the weathermen are holding the freeze line a little inland of the coast and that is good news.
Thursday was the nicest day this week and I had to spend it trying to make words appear on a computer screen. That was made doubly difficult from how badly I wanted to be out enjoying it. The phone calls from my friends that were out fishing really pushed me over the edge though. I'm glad you guys had fun and caught fish, but you could have waited a day or so to tell me.
The first report was on pups and specks in the surf. Capt. Noah Lynk called to tell me he had specks and pups swimming around his legs as he waded along Shackleford Banks, while fishing in the surf. He said the pups were biting fairly well, but you really had to tease the specks into biting. Maybe this cold snap won't be long enough to run them off?
Several other captains called to say they were eased up to the beach and fishing from the surf in towards the beach. All of them said they were running down the beach and saw the fish in the waves as they passed. These reports only came from the islands that aren't inhabited. Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Browns Island, Lea Island and Masonboro Islands were all mentioned.
If you ever had any doubts about what Flipper ate; it was fish. Porpoises learn pretty quickly and pods of them were working up and down the beaches just beyond the first bar in water deep enough they could maneuver easily. They weren't taking pups off the hook, but after fighting a few and the porpoises getting excited, the bite shut down. I guess you don't worry too much about eating when you're worried about being eaten.
The striper bite off the northern Outer Banks has picked up, but it hasn't moved farther south. The cold front for this weekend may push some stripers farther south, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Stripers are biting pretty well in several rivers. There have been good reports in the past week from the Neuse, Tar/Pamlico, Cape Fear and Albemarle. Most of the river stripers are smaller and there are different limits in different areas. It would be wise to check the striper regulations for each river before deciding to keep one. The regulations can be found at www.ncdmf.net.
It might be a while before the winds slow enough to get back out, but the offshore bite has been hot for more than three weeks. Wahoo have led the catches in both size and number. While there haven't been many reports of double digit catches, there have been numerous boats that make it more than half way there. The other good news is that most of the wahoo have been heavier than the minimum citation size of 40 pounds.
Blackfin tuna are also biting well along the entire state. These smaller, white meat tunas respond well to trolled baits and are showing a definite fondness for jigs fished through the water column. Several fishermen have reported catching most of their blackfins while jigging.
With the bluefin tuna commercial season slated to end at midnight Sunday, many Tar Heel fishermen are looking back at a 2009-2010 season that began with some promise, but never really got going and ended on a down note. There is concern for this species and worldwide quotas were reduced for the coming year. The recreational season remains open and recreational boats may retain one bluefin per day that measures between 27 and 73 inches (curved fork length) and one per year that measures longer than 73 inches.
The N.C. Fishing Expos are over for the year, but there are more boat shows and fishing schools on tap for the coming weeks. If the weekend weather allows, The Fly Fishing Show will be at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart in Charlotte. Several area fishermen are scheduled to lead seminars on saltwater fishing. For more information, visit www.flyfishingshow.com.
For other fishing enthusiasts, Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be giving some all-day fishing schools across North Carolina at the end of January and through February. The first of these schools, which are sponsored by Sea Striker and Star Rods, will be this Saturday at the Oak Island Moose Lodge. The remaining two will be February 20 at River Park North in Greenville and February 27 at Libby Hill Seafood in Greensboro.
The schools are all on Saturdays and will begin at 8:30 A.M. and last until approximately 4:30 P.M. Call Capt. Price at 910-443-1211 or me at 910-279-6760 for more details or to purchase tickets.
Don't forget the "United We Fish" fishermen's march on Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24. The cause and promotion for the march has been enjoined by numerous organizations including the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA, www.fishska.com), Frying Pan Tower Dot Com (www.fryingpantower.com) and the Recreational Fishing Association (RFA, www.joinrfa.com). RFA director Jim Donofrio has heralded this as an event that will unite recreational and commercial fishermen in a common cause.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center is planning to sponsor a bus so fishermen can travel at reasonable rates. For more information, visit the website at www.oifc.com. If others have news of busses or caravans, please let me know so I can help spread the word.
The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament that began Oct. 1 will end this Sunday, Jan. 31. The current leader is Tom Holland, with an 8.32 pound speck and it will be a tall order to top that, but it can be done. There is also a special prize for the trout weighing closest to 3.42 pounds that was caught during January. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
Another special winter tournament will be held this Saturday, Jan. 30, at Johnnie Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach. The 2010 JMP Dogfish Tournament will be held from 2 to 8 P.M. and will be sponsored by the N.C. Fishing Pier Society (NCFPS). Tournament entry fee is $5 and a pier pass for the day. For more information, visit www.ncfps.com.