For the most part, the weather continues to be pretty nice, but it would be even better if the winds would lay out. Those people who were willing to take a rougher ride, or who could break free to go fishing during a calm day of the week, have been getting out and catching some fish. Unfortunately not all of us can plan around mid-week weather windows, so we will have to wait for times when the winds are a little more settled.
That time of lighter winds may be coming as early as this weekend. After flirting with Small Craft Advisory conditions into Saturday morning, the winds should fall below the 15 knot level until Monday morning. The Small Craft Advisory was for swell, not for wind, so things might shape up pretty quickly. Some scattered showers are also in the forecast, so it would be wise to carry your foul weather gear, but it isn't forecast to be a rainout.
It was pretty windy most of this past week, but I still received several really good reports. Most were from inshore waters, but several were offshore reports. As the weather and water keep warming, and the winds subside, we should begin having some really good reports.
One thing we all need to do is remember to set our clocks forward Saturday night. We are experimenting with adding three weeks of Daylight Savings Time this year and it begins at 2:00 A.M. Sunday morning, March 11. This is two weeks earlier than usual and a week will be added in the fall. We have been told most cell phones will automatically make the change, but computers and electronic personal assistant devices will not. Check them out to be sure and change the batteries in your smoke alarms.
The few offshore reports I received this week were all good. The prime species everyone was happy with was yellowfin tuna. There were also some blackfin tuna, wahoo and even a few early dolphin, but the fresh yellowfin steaks were what had everyone talking.
There were a couple of bluefin tuna caught by the Oregon Inlet boats this week, so I made a quick check with the Tag-A-Giant folks. There had been noting new posted on their report in several weeks. It appears they feel the bluefins are about gone for the year.
Some really good king mackerel reports came from the general area of Frying Pan Tower. Most said the water temperature was only in the lower 60's right around the tower, but some kings were holding there anyway. The water warmed about five degrees a couple of miles farther offshore and the report is the action here was hot and heavy. It also wasn't just the typical early snake kings, but most in the teens and about 1 in 4 making it into the 20's.
The Oregon Inlet striper report wasn't great this week either. There were some stripers caught, but not in the numbers of past weeks and they were well north of the inlet. The suspicions are the water is warming quickly enough the stripers are returning to the Chesapeake Bay and farther north.
The inshore striper reports remain good. Manns Harbor had the best reports, with New Bern trailing a bit behind. An increasing number of stripers were reported this week in the lower Roanoke River and just below Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River near Riegelwood.
There were good reports of red drum and speckled trout this week. The water has warmed into the mid-50's in most marshes and the trout have decided to feed. Capt. Mike Taylor came by my booth at the Dixie Deer Classic on Sunday and reported he had caught 31 specks on Saturday. He said they ranged to about 5 pounds.
There are drum mixed in the same areas as the trout, plus some big schools of drum are working the surf line. Most are puppy drum, but the big drum bit well in the Ocracoke surf Saturday and Sunday. The locals said the surf temperature spiked to around 60 degrees during the bite and then dropped back to the mid-50's.
Shad reports picked up big time this week. More people are getting out and discovering just how much fun catching these acrobatic little fish on light tackle can be. The best reports were from the Neuse River above New Bern. The bite is hot enough at Kinston that bank fishermen are lined up under the Highway 70 Bridge. Other good reports are coming from Pitchkettle Creek, Grinnel Creek and the crossing at Maple-Cypress. The Roanoke River shad run is picking up too. Good catches have been reported from Jamesville to well upstream.
The shad are thick just below Lock and Dam Number 1 on the Cape Fear River and are attracting their own predators. As mentioned above, the stripers are there and feasting on the shad and the catfish are enjoying it also. If you fish in this area, a light outfit for the shad and a heavier one for the stripers and catfish is a good combination.
Offshore bottom fishing remains the most consistent ocean fishing along the entire N.C. coast. The catch varies from grouper and pinkies (red porgy) off Cape Fear to triggerfish and big tilefish off Cape Hatteras. Grouper and beeliners (vermilion snapper) are prominent off Cape Lookout. Sea bass are around in good numbers over the entire area and I saw the first of the big hump-headed spawners this week.
For the first time in a while there isn't a boat or outdoor show this weekend. It might be a good time to stretch your string. There are lots of possibilities.
The 5th Annual North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School (1-800-538-4355 or http://www.northcarolinasportsman.com/) will be in Raleigh on Saturday March 17. This annual event features over 20 different instructors speaking on most saltwater and freshwater fishing subjects, plus many related topics.
Participants will receive manufacturers samples, a year subscription or renewal to North Carolina Sportsman Magazine, a North Carolina Sportsman T-shirt, many opportunities for door prizes, lunch and entry into the drawing for the Grand Door Prize--a Triumph 190 Bay Boat, with a Mercury 115 HP, 4-stroke outboard and an EZ Loader Trailer. There is also a similar event in Columbia, S.C. on March 31. Call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com to register.