We couldn't have asked for a week much nicer than this one, especially in the first part of March. Not only was it warm most of the time, the winds cooperated also. The only excuse for not getting out fishing this past week was not having time.
Unfortunately that doesn't look to be the same over the weekend. The National Weather service has posted a Small Craft Advisory for Friday that will escalate into a Gale Warning for Friday night into Saturday morning. When we have weather as nice as it has been for the past week at this time of year, it is bound to eventually come to a screeching halt and this is it.
This weekend's disruption is being caused by a cold front rocketing across the country. After a being in the 60's again today (Friday) and with southerly winds, we are looking at a couple of days of cold northerly winds with nights back down in the 30's and daytime highs only in the mid-50's. The forecast says we will begin pulling out of it Sunday night and should return to the mid-60's on Monday with a lighter southerly wind flow.
How did this first week of Daylight Savings Time go for everyone? Sunday morning when I woke up and it was still a while before daylight, I wasn't too happy. Now, after dealing with it a few days, I like having that extra hour of daylight every afternoon. I just hate that the school kids have to be standing out in the dark waiting for the bus. Of course, they have an extra hour of daylight to play or fish every day also.
There were a good number of offshore reports this week and most were good. Yellowfin tuna is the species everyone is targeting and there are enough around, most fishermen are enjoying some success. There were also some blackfin tuna, wahoo, a few early dolphin, some kings and a surprising run of juvenile bluefin tuna off Oregon Inlet.
The bluefin tuna caught by the Oregon Inlet boats this week were mostly under the 47-inch minimum size. There were a few from 55 to 60-inches, but certainly no giants like during the early winter. This is a good sign for the future though. Many fishermen were saying there were numerous schools, an acre or more in size, busting the bait.
Last week the best king mackerel reports were from the general area of Frying Pan Tower. This week a few fishermen reported them to be almost a nuisance on the Big Rock several days. As quickly as the water is warming, they should begin working their way closer inshore over the next few weeks. The 210 and 240 Rocks, Horseshoe and similar depth locations should be holding kings at any time.
Not much was happening with ocean stripers this week. There were a few caught, but not many and they were well to the north of Oregon Inlet.
There was a pretty good inshore striper catch at Manns Harbor and some reports are already coming from farther up the Roanoke River. The reports from New Bern and Wilmington both were concentrated more upriver and were shad reports. The shad fishing is good, but the water is high and they are spread out.
If you travel U.S. 70 through Kinston, you can get a good indication of how the shad bite is going. The Neuse River narrows where it goes under the highway there and shad fishermen line the bank when the bite is good. If the parking lot at the launching ramp beside the bridge is full of vehicles without trailers, the bite is good.
There were good reports of big red drum from the surf this week. Most were caught at Ocracoke and Cape Hatteras. Red Drum Tackle Shop reported they had filled out more than 30 citation forms. By Thursday it was back to mostly smaller drum at Hatteras, with larger ones still at Ocracoke.
Blowfish and sea mullet are also starting to bite in the surf and from the piers along much of the state.
Red drum are biting pretty well inside the inlets also. There have been good puppy drum reports from Pamlico Sound to Calabash. Several guides reported seeing afternoon water temperatures over 60 degrees and the inshore fish are responding.
The speckled trout warmed up and developed an appetite also. They were still holding in slightly deeper water than the drum, but were usually nearby. The trout were hitting mud minnows, an assortment of grubs and MirrOlures.
This isn't the time of year you usually hear much about flounder, but the warming inside water has apparently awakened some of them also. Clients of Capt. Jeff Cronk caught several last weekend in the waters around Swansboro and they were added to specks and reds to complete inshore slams. This is a rarity this early in the season, but surely is welcome.
The first reports of big spawning black sea bass came in this week. These fish have swollen humps on their head and the humps have some unusual coloring, mostly purple and/or green. They are big too--averaging over 3-pounds each. The offshore bottom catch also includes grouper, red snapper, beeliners, pinkies (red porgy), triggerfish and tilefish.
With the weather breezing up and the temperatures cooling off on Saturday, it should be a good time to attend the 5th Annual North Carolina Sportsman Fishing School in Raleigh, 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, numerous manufacturer's samples, 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.
Advance registration for the Raleigh event has closed, but there are seats remaining and you can register at the door Saturday morning. There is also a similar event in Columbia, S.C. on March 31. For more information, directions or to register for the Columbia event, call 1-800-538-4355 or visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.