We are in February now and the weather is still warm for winter. The warm weather helps the water stay a little warmer than usual and fish are biting.
The current forecast includes some chances of rain over the weekend and light east winds on Saturday. East winds usually aren't the best for fishing, but it has been an usual winter so far and this may be a good time to go fishing anyway.
The speckled trout bite continues. Capt Noah Lynk said he fished around Harkers Island and Beaufort several days this week and found specks well back in several creeks. He said he thought they were feeding on mud minnows and they readily hit plastic shrimp.
Specks were also caught in the surf along Bogue Banks and Shackleford Banks and between the tip of the spit and the point at Cape Lookout. MirrOlures in the 52M and TT Series were working well for specks in the surf. Several colors that were mentioned were 11 (red head, white body and silver holographic), 808 (black back, orange belly and gold holographic) and EC (fluorescent hot pink back, chartreuse belly and silver holographic).
Puppy drum are spread many places from the edge of Pamlico Sound to the south. They are in the surf and all the way inshore to the backs of creeks. Calm days are key to finding them in the surf. Some days they are so thick they give the water a copper tint and some days they can be seen swimming through any small waves.
Soft plastic jerk baits and paddle tails have been the top lure for pups in the surf. Many fishermen use a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig head to get extra casting distance. Drum in the surf will hit MirrOlures also, and occasionally snatch one that was intended for a trout, but the single hook of a soft plastic is much easier to remove.
I've said for several weeks that when specks and reds are in the surf, they are usually in the first slough off the beach. This is where any baitfish usually are and this slough also offers some protection from schools of marauding porpoises that would eat the specks and pups. Work your lure all the way from the first sandbar back to the suds. Eventually you will have a strike right at your feet and understand why.
Capt. Jeff Cronk has been doing well with pups in the surf off Bear Island and in the marsh behind it. He says a calm day with light offshore winds is best for fishing in the surf. He said the protected waters in the marsh usually don't hold schools quite as large as in the surf, but there are plenty to catch on days when the wind is from the wrong direction or blowing too strong.
Striper fishing has been good in the rivers and sounds from Albemarle Sound to Wilmington. Artificial Reef AR 392, which is just a half mile down the Neuse River from the Highway 17 Bridge at New Bern has been a hot spot. Stripers are also holding around the Highway 17 Bridge and the railroad bridges just upriver and in the mouth of the Trent River.
There have been good numbers of stripers in the Tar/Pamlico around Washington. Lots of fish are being caught right along the Washington Waterfront from the Highway 17 Business Bridge down to Blounts Bay.
Stripers are biting well in the Roanoke River from Plymouth down into Albemarle Sound at Manns Harbor and in the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers at Wilmington.
Be aware that stripers are managed regionally by the river system and are subject to different regulations including stipulations on hooks and lures. The Cape Fear River system, including all its tributaries, is closed to possession of stripers. If you plan on chasing stripers, it would be wise to check the regulations at www.ncdmf.net or www.ncwildlife.org.
Some boats headed offshore this week, but catches were mixed. Several had good catches of wahoo and blackfin tuna and some resorted to bottom fishing and jigging amberjacks to have some fish in the fish box. The warm water had moved a little and those who found it caught some wahoo and blackfins and those who didn't find it were disappointed.
Offshore bottom fishing is good, but more seasons are closed than are open. The problem isn't a lack of fish; but with being overrun with fish whose seasons are closed and must be released. Red snapper, beeliner (vermilion snapper), grouper and black sea bass seasons are closed. Grunts, triggerfish and porgies can be kept and there are some big grunts to be caught.
Amberjack aren't considered bottom fish, but are found holding around concentrations of bottom fish and are a real challenge to catch. Amberjack bit well this week and saved several fishing trips.
King mackerel are holding around many of the rocks and wrecks in 100 or so feet of water. Kings are spread across a large area, with larger concentrations holding near the end of Diamond Shoals and Frying Pan Shoals. These are mainly 5 to 10 pound kings, but there is an occasional fat mama mixed in. They will readily hit Drone spoons and sea witches rigged with strips. At this time of year, cigar minnows are fancy baits.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) is soliciting comments on Individual Fish Quotas (IFQs), new regulations on king and Spanish mackerel and cobia, limiting commercial effort for black sea bass, eliminating the 240' foot and out bottom fishing closure and changing the wreckfish ACL. For more information on these issues and how to file a comment electronically, by fax or by mail, visit the SAFMC website, www.safmc.net.
A Joint Legislative Marine Fisheries Review Committee public hearing on gamefish status for red drum, speckled trout and striped bass is scheduled for 1:00 to 4:00 on Thursday, Feb. 2 in Raleigh. This meeting is the only one of four scheduled meetings for this committee where public comment will be allowed. I plan to have a review of it next week. For more information on this or the remaining meetings, visit www.ncleg.net and click on the calendar link.
The Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show begins at the Raleigh Convention Center on Thursday (Feb. 2) and will continue through Sunday, February 5. There are lots of boats and related accessories for sale. For more information visit www.raleighconvention.com.
On Saturday, February 18, The Greenville Recreation and Parks Department will host a saltwater fishing school at the River Park North Nature Center. This will be an all-day event focusing on inshore and nearshore fishing, with a session on throwing cast nets at the end of the day. Captain Jimmy Price and I are the featured speakers. For more information call 252-329-4560.
The Johnnie Mercer's Pier Dogfish Tournament was held from 1:00 to 8:00 P.M. on Saturday, Jan. 28. This winter tournament is a fund raiser for the North Caroling Fishing Pier Society (www.ncfrs.com) and the North Carolina Public Access Foundation (www.ncpaf.com).
A record number of 166 fishermen from N.C., Ohio, Pa., Va., N.Y., Md., and N.J. competed in the tournament. This tops the previous high number of 136 by 30 fishermen. If there was a problem with the tournament, it was the weather was too warm and nice. Fishermen caught some puffers and small fish throughout the afternoon, but all 12 of the dogfish caught during the tournament were caught in the final hour. Travis Horn won with an 8.4 pound dogfish. David Raines finished second at 7.3 pounds and Les Weakley placed third with a 7.0 pounder. All are from Wilmington. For more information on the event go to www.ncfps.com.