Dang that groundhog. Why couldn't he have slept in and not crawled out to see his shadow. It looks like we're going to slip back into some more winter weather. The weathermen are mentioning winter precipitation again, but this time it isn't supposed to make it to the coast.
How about those storms Wednesday night? I must have been pretty near the center as a couple of them passed. The lightning was so sharp it was burning the suddenly lighted image of a dark room into my eyes like a flashbulb had just gone off. Couple that with the wind and rain and it wasn't good at all. I'd be glad to miss displays like that in the future!
From the advance weather forecast, Saturday looks to be the best fishing day of the weekend. The wind will be the lightest, especially earlier in the day, and the sky is supposed to be clear. Unfortunately the high is only forecast for the mid-50s, but with a good jacket we can all go fishing.
The wind was a little breezy at times this week, but folks got out on a couple of occasions. One of the best surprises was a pretty good offshore bite. It was good along the whole coast too. Wahoo and blackfin tuna were the catch around the Big Rock and Swansboro Hole, plus down south around the Steeples. A few yellowfin were also caught below Swansboro Hole. Off Hatteras the big catch was blackfins, with a few wahoo and one of the Oregon Inlet boats caught a half-dozen or so dolphin.
I received a report this week that the warmer water had moved back inshore and some and the kings had followed it. They had been pushed offshore to about 120-130 feet of water a couple of weeks ago, but were reported in pretty good number back around 100-115 feet this week. Some were caught at the Atlas Tanker and at 210 Rock off Cape Lookout and back within sight of Frying Pan Tower off Cape Fear. The word is they were biting well on dead natural baits, lures and spoons.
There were also good reports this week from the offshore bottom bouncers. I have been invited to head off and try some bottom fishing with jigs and I'm going as soon as our schedules match. I'm an old-time bait fisherman, but I keep hearing about and seeing pictures of all the fish being caught on jigs and I'm looking forward to experiencing it first hand.
The offshore bottom reports this week included good catches of grouper, beeliners and black sea bass. The sea bass have been much closer inshore, sometimes as close as 10-15 miles. The grouper are holding in deeper water, usually 100 feet or more, and that's a 30-40 mile trip from almost any inlet.
That combination of offshore trolling, kings and bottom action is enough to get people wanting to head offshore and go fishing. It might be a good time to make the trip before fuel prices surge again. I've listened to a handful of supposed explanations on why, but I still can't understand how fuel prices (gas and diesel) can be going up when oil prices are dropping. Wherever you go, there are concerns of collusion, conspiracy and gouging.
Like many average fishermen, I have already lost the little bit of money I had in the stock market and my 401K is struggling to stay at 200, so the stock market, bonds and such aren't my economic indicators. My economic indicators are my weekly food bill and the cost of gas--and both are out of control. Heck, I used to think I could always survive on peanut butter, but now I'm afraid to eat it.
I didn't hear as many speck reports this week, but there were a few caught. There was a little more action in the back of some of the creeks along the ICW and there were some fish in the surf. In the Morehead City area, Broad, Gales and Spooners Creeks were all mentioned and the advice was to fish slow and with small baits. At Southport, Wildlife Creek, Dutchman Creek, Davis Canal and the Elizabeth River were mentioned. One fisherman highly recommended using two-inch Gulp shrimp. The Cape Lookout Jetty was the hot spot in the ocean.
Fishermen using pieces of shrimp were catching a mixture of mostly black drum along the jetties at Fort Macon. There were some red drum and a couple of trout caught there also. Black drum are an excellent winter fish and will mix with reds and specks, but often bite better in the cold. Capt. Jeff Cronk reported an excellent catch of them, plus a few red drum, at Swansboro over the weekend.
There are puppy drum in many places, but sometimes it's a problem getting them to bite in the cold. Those pups in the surf seem to generally be more active and feeding. Sometimes in the creeks it takes live bait to get them going. However, unlike many other fish, once you get them biting, you can sometimes switch to soft plastics and they'll keep biting.
Stripers are biting north of Oregon inlet and in many rivers. The boats leaving from Oregon Inlet are returning with good catches of 30-40 pounders, but they are running well to the north.
Other striper action is in the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern, 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 river stripers are smaller and there are some specific regulations by the body of water. For the latest striper regulations, visit the Division of Marine Fisheries website at www.ncdmf.net.
The shad run has started in the Neuse River above New Bern. There are boats scattered at many popular spots along the river and its tributaries, but the most noticeable sign to the general public is the crowd at the boat ramp beside U.S. 70 in Kinston.
In addition to the many boats launched at that Kinston ramp, fishermen line the banks for quite a ways in both directions. If the parking lot there is full and you don't see many trailers, the bite is going off under the bridge. Shad darts, 000 size Nunguesser Spoons and Tony Acetta Pet Spoons in size 13 are all favorites for shad.
I haven't yet heard of a shad bite in the Cape Fear River, but it should be beginning. They have usually arrived in the big pool just below Lock and Dam Number 1, near Riegelwood, by early March and that is only a little more than a week away.
The Carolina Power and Sail Boat Show opens Friday, February 20, at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. The show will continue through Sunday. For more information visit www.ncboatshows.com.
This Saturday, February 21, Morehead Marine in Morehead City will be hosting their annual fishing school/customer appreciation day. It is a full day of inshore and ocean fishing information complete with a hot dog lunch. For more information or to register, visit www.moreheadmarine.com.
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.