For a while it looked like winter was trying to end, but we were slapped back to reality over the past few days. Even though a few coastal low temperature records were set, the cold snap didn't last too long and maybe it won't severely affect the fishing. While we should have a bunch of sunny and warm days coming up, you should expect a lot of wind also. Fishing should improve though and those days that we can go should be good ones. The official arrival of spring is March 20. Get ready
Some fairly lethargic red drum are holding in the marshes and creeks for those who are willing to take the time to find them. Some days they will respond fairly well and others they seem to be able to ignore any bait. The warming water should change this. A few speckled trout are being caught in Davis Canal and Wildlife Creek at Southport and Oak Island, along with a few from the Banks Channel bridges and Masonboro Inlet jetties at Wrightsville Beach. Farther north, they are mainly in the nearshore ocean. There have been a few really good days in the Hatteras area.
The striper activity continues to be very strong at Manns Harbor. This is a special management area, with its own season and limits, so verify everything before you go. At Oregon Inlet, everything inshore of the bridge is inshore waters, while everything outside of the bridge is ocean waters. Good numbers and some big stripers are being caught in the ocean both north and south of the inlet. The next few weeks is usually the end of the strong striper run there so get in a trip pretty quickly. Different regulations apply in the ocean and you should know them before you go fishing. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries Web Site is at www.ncdmf.net and the striper regulations are on a sub-page. Other striper hotspots include the Neuse River, near New Bern, the Pamlico/Tar River, near Washington and the Roanoke River, near Plymouth. The inshore regulations vary in different areas. Check the current striper regulations at www.ncdmf.net before you head out fishing.
Surf and Pier
Most of the ocean piers have not yet opened for the season. That generally happens sometime around Easter. It would be wise to call ahead before making plans.
A few large drum and pretty good numbers of stripers have been caught in the Outer Banks surf. The drum are mainly from Avon to Cape Point, while the stripers are thickest farther north, around Oregon Inlet. The disappointment comes from standing on the beach, watching the birds over a feeding school of fish and not quite being able to cast to them. When they move within range, things heat up very quickly.
Bluefin tuna fishing is about over for the year. There are a few still being caught, mainly between Ocracoke and Hatteras, but that should end for the year at any time. The warming water sends them on their way.
There have been some occasional good catches of smaller speckled trout along the jetty at Cape Lookout. Just before this last cold front, some larger specks had been caught for a day or two. Maybe they will return.
Large stripers (over 20 pounds) are being caught at Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, and along the beaches of the Outer Banks. Lots of bird activity in 50 feet of water is a good indicator that stripers are present and feeding. It has been a few weeks since I received a report about stripers around Cape Lookout.
Sea Bass and grouper are biting well from around 60 feet of water on out. Along the offshore edges, some kings are also still being caught. The most productive areas are off Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear. By the end of the month, there should be some schools of spring kings scattered along in 100 feet of water.
When the weather has allowed, there have been some good catches of yellowfin tuna around the Steeples, Swansboro Hole, Big Rock, Diamond Shoals Tower, and at The Point. There have also been some larger tuna (70 to 80 pounds) in the catch. Some wahoo, a few dolphin, and even some kings are also showing in the mix. This action should continue to improve until about Mother's Day.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver