The past week had been pretty close to seasonable in temperature until the cold front rolled in on Wednesday afternoon. That front had a special wind chill or something, as it felt far colder than the temperature reading that went with it.
Those March winds are tuning up some also. I hope most of you are reading this on Saturday because you took advantage of the lighter winds to go fishing on Friday. The March winds are rolling in a little early and we should take advantage of every weather break to get out. After winds lay out and the weather warms some on Friday, a cool front is supposed to roll through on Saturday and shift the winds again. At least the forecast isn't for heavy winds until Monday.
How about that front that crossed N.C. on Tuesday? I spoke with several fishermen who were caught off guard and got soaked, and almost blown away by the strong wind shear and thunderstorms that were pushing through ahead of the front. With many more of those, we might make some headway with our drought conditions. It sounded like water was being thrown against my house by the bucketfuls.
Once again I really haven't heard much for fishing reports this week. The combination of slightly cooler and windier weather had lots of fishermen holding close to home. With March, and its reputation for winds rolling in this weekend, we might see a few more weeks without a lot of folks venturing very far to go fishing.
I spoke with several guides who said they found red drum during the past week. Unfortunately, their catching results were mixed at best. Some fed and fought like it was warm, some fed slow and never made much of a run and some hit hard and ran like it was late spring.
The common denominator was the fish seemed to be more active, feed more predictably and run harder later in the day. Apparently they needed to warm up a bit before becoming hungry and, once warm, they put up a much more spirited fight.
Last week I mentioned that Capt. Jeff Cronk had reported a catch about a week earlier that was so far back in the creek there were several fresh water fish included. After reading it had happened to someone else, several guides told me they were seeing similar things.
I guess we'll have to come up with a special category of inshore slam for those folks who catch largemouth bass, catfish, redfish and speckled trout on the same trip. How about calling it a backwater or boundary slam? Instead of three fish, like for a regular slam, you would have to have an extra one--two from fresh water and two from saltwater.
The cold mornings and influx of rainwater have dropped the inshore and nearshore temperatures a few degrees. It has affected the daily fishing just by being different, but most guides don't feel it will be a long-term issue. The water temperature in the soundside bays has dipped to the mid 50's, while the surf temperatures have threatened to slip below 50 for the first time in a while. As soon as the days begin staying warm and sunny, those temps will climb back up and even add a few degrees.
Two of the best reports from the past week are actually about fish being caught in fresh water. Stripers and shad are vying for fishermen's attention. The stripers are mainly smaller fish that are migrating up most of the N.C. rivers. Occasionally there is a really big rockfish caught, but most are from about 2 to 8 pounds.
One spot with good numbers overall and a good measure of 3 to 6 pound stripers is the Albemarle and Croatan Sound areas near Manns Harbor. Sometimes they are right up next to the old Manns Harbor Bridge, but most days the birds chasing the feeding fish can be seen from the bridge. They have also been caught fairly consistently in the Pamlico/Tar River at Washington and around New Bern in the Trent and Neuse Rivers.
The inland coastal stripers have big appetites and usually aren't too picky about their next meal. Fishermen are reporting good success with cut bait, an assortment of soft plastics, a few hard swim baits and various combinations of bucktails and worms.
Shad are just beginning to make an appearance in the rivers. They must have come by the lower rivers in the past week or so, but weren't really noticed until they moved above Highway 17. These shad are loads of fun to catch on light tackle. They will hit an assortment of small spoons, small bucktails and shad darts.
Offshore bottom fish are the closest and most reliable fishing action in the ocean. Black sea bass are as close as many of the nearshore rocks, wrecks and artificial reefs. Then, at about 100 feet of water, grouper, snapper and several different species of grunts join the catch. The best thing about catching bottom fish is they are always hungry. When you find them, they are ready to bite.
Some kings are holding over many of the same areas that are holding bottom fish. A key for catching kings is to find an area where the water temperature is at least 66 degrees.
Farther offshore there are some reports of mixed tuna catches. This is primarily from Hatteras northward. There are big schools of bluefin tuna that fit the 47 to less than 73 inch recreational size range. The other tuna are mainly blackfins, but there have been a few yellowfins mixed in.
This weekend the Central Carolina Boat show will be at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Building in Greensboro and the Dixie Deer Classic will be at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
North Carolina Sportsman Magazine will be holding their 2008 Saltwater Fishing School in Raleigh on Saturday, March 8. It will be a full day of interesting sessions on all kinds of saltwater fishing and many closely related topics. The subjects will range from speckled trout to yellowfin tuna, with sessions on knots, basic boating and safety, marine electronics and more intertwined throughout the day. For more information call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.