Last week I was mentioning our second snow of the New Year and this week we enjoyed near-record high temperatures. Welcome to eastern North Carolina! The temperatures are supposed to begin falling again by the weekend and we might see some near-freezing nights by the middle of next week. The daytime highs will barely make the 50s for a few days and possibly even dip into the 40s by next weekend.
If you think this weather is confusing to you, imagine how it affects the plants, animals and fish. Their metabolisms and everything are affected by temperatures and sunlight and often are fooled into budding or moving early, only to be caught by a late cold snap. Let's hope the weather moderates out some before any damage is done.
Saturday is Valentines Day and some periods of rain are forecast. The wind forecast isn't too bad, but with the rain, it might not be the best day to be on the water. Perhaps you might consider a Valentines trip of some sort?
For those of you fortunate enough to enjoy the company of ladies that like to fish, Crocker Marine in Wrightsville Beach is holding their annual Fishing School/Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday. The day begins with coffee and doughnuts, then a morning of seminars, a hotdog lunch and a short afternoon of more seminars. After the seminars would be a great time for a visit to your favorite (seafood) restaurant and maybe some dancing or even an overnight at the beach. If played right, this could be a romantic fishing weekend!
I will be presenting in the morning on the inshore trio of specks, pups and flounder, then another session on catching kings and dolphin. The afternoon will feature Joe Seegars, former mate from the Citation in Hatteras Village, speaking on offshore trolling and bottom fishing. There will also be sessions on electronics and the newest tackle interspersed throughout the day. For more information and to register or get directions, visit www.crockersmarine.com or call 910-256-3661.
With the nice weather this week, more folks have been fishing and the catches have been a little better than the past few weeks. Speckled trout were caught from the backs of many creeks to the ocean surf. The catch varied from lots of shorts and barely legal fish to some of citation (5 pounds) size.
Night fishing at the Cape Lookout Jetty was productive again this week, even though it was pretty bright with all the light from the full moon. Some nights were better than others, but the best time seemed to be as the current slowed near the end of the falling tide.
In several places the coastal water temperature climbed back above the 50 degree mark and the puppy drum became a little more active. They still aren't feeding or fighting like they do when the water reaches 60 degrees and warmer, but they were biting fairly well. Several times the same school bit better later in the day after the sun had shone on the water for several hours. The pups are in many of the coastal creeks and in the surf.
I keep mentioning black drum and they are important as they save many fishing trips during the winter. They taste pretty good too. Many times black drum are mixed in with the pups and specks and will bite even when the others won't. Most of the time black drum do not care for grubs and lures, but they rarely turn down live mud minnows or pieces of shrimp.
Striper reports from around the state continue to be fair to good, but there haven't been any ocean reports below Cape Hatteras. At Oregon Inlet, the big bodies of stripers are still well to the north or offshore beyond state waters and they can't be kept outside of state waters (3 miles).
While they aren't the big 30 pound plus bruisers of the ocean, there are stripers being caught in many rivers. The closest striper action is in the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern. Beyond that, they are also being caught in the Tar/Pamlico River around Washington, the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers around Wilmington and in the Albemarle River and Sound around Manns Harbor.
The Tag-A Giant researchers have posted a video of the second largest of more than 850 bluefin they have tagged off N.C. on their blogspot. This catch was on the Sensation, with Capt. Dale Britt and took place out of Morehead City a few weeks ago. You can view it at http://tagagiant.blogspot.com/.
I received another excellent report on king mackerel this week. The cold water had moved them offshore to about 120-130 feet of water, but they were supposed to be numerous and hungry once located. The kings weren't picky and were hitting spoons, lures and dead natural baits. Some reports came from offshore of all three N.C. capes.
Numerous fishermen took advantage of the good conditions over the weekend and during the week to head offshore for some bottom fishing. A growing number are bragging about their catches using jigs rather than bait, but most had good catches of grouper, beeliners and black sea bass. The sea bass have been as close as 15 miles off the beach, while the grouper require a 30-40 mile trip to deeper water.
As noted earlier, this Saturday, February 14, Crocker's Marine in Wrightsville Beach will be hosting their annual fishing school/customer appreciation day. Morehead Marine in Morehead City will be hosting a similar event next Saturday on February 21. Visit www.crockersmarine.com or www.moreheadmarine.com for more details.
The Fisherman's Post Morehead City Fishing School will be held February 28 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. More information can be found at www.fishermanspost.com.
Other fishing schools scheduled for N.C. this spring include the N.C. Aquarium Fishing School in Pine Knoll Shore on March 14 and the North Carolina Sportsman Saltwater Fishing School in Sanford on March 21. For more information visit www.ncaquariums.com and www.northcarolinasportsman.com respectively.