When the rains moved in last Friday, the weather began changing quickly. I left the coast Friday morning with the temperature at 64 on my windshield thermometer and it had dropped to 43 by the time I arrived in Raleigh at mid-afternoon. The cool-down lasted all day on Saturday, but began moderating a little on Sunday. By Monday we were about back to normal and the weather has been nice since then.
The weather looks real good for Friday and not too bad south of Cape Lookout on Saturday. The temperatures are forecast to be in the 70's, with overnight lows only dipping into the high 50's and southerly breezes around 10 knots on Friday, creeping up to around 15 knots late Saturday.
The winds shouldn't be too strong on Sunday, but they are forecast to move back around to a northerly direction and bring some cooling light rain. That is a long way off and these fast-moving fronts have a way of falling apart. Maybe that will be the case again and we will have another nice weekend.
Spring arrived this week without a lot of fanfare. According to what almanac or calendar you were watching it happened sometime between noon Tuesday and noon Wednesday. The good thing is it came in without a nasty weather event.
After another week, I have decided I like the early Daylight Savings Time. Late yesterday afternoon, on a bike ride I wouldn't have taken without the extra hour of daylight, I crossed a small bridge and spooked a really big red drum that was stalking a school of minnows. Because of other obligations, I won't make it back there for a few days, but as soon as I get a chance, I'm going to see if I have a lure it might find appealing.
There have been pretty good inshore reports on red drum along most of the coast. Sometimes they have been fired up and feeding heavily and at others chose to ignore all baits. Once the water temperature stabilizes over 60 degrees, they should find themselves with consistent appetites.
The speckled trout bite has been seriously improving in some areas. Several fishermen reported releasing good numbers of keeper size trout, just to continue fishing. The trout are generally feeding in slightly deeper water than the drum, but occasionally moved up on the edges of the flats and oyster bars.
Capt. Mike Taylor called to invite me on a speck trip Tuesday, but my schedule wouldn't allow it. He had to rub it in they went anyway and caught several of citation size.
Clients of Capt. Jeff Cronk caught another flounder over the weekend. He said the cold weather Saturday morning bothered his fishermen far more than it did the fish. He said his clients warmed up pretty fast when the fish started biting. They caught specks drum and the flounder.
With the coastal bite improving, I'll probably move away from reporting on the stripers and shad in the rivers. There was another pretty good bite this week--even in the cold and windy weather of the weekend. If your favorite coastal spot gets too windy over the next few weeks, you should still be able to find some inland shad and stripers to keep you busy.
There were mixed reports of red drum from the surf this week. Most of the reports were from Hatteras and Ocracoke. It wasn't the big drum blitz of a week ago, but some pups were scattered along the surf and a few big drum were caught at Cape point and at Ocracoke. With the southerly winds forecast for the next couple of days, the drum could blitz again.
A couple of piers have begun to reopen for the spring season. Along Bogue Banks, the Sheraton Pier has been open all winter and was joined last weekend by Bogue Inlet Pier. Bogue Inlet Pier closed again during the week, but opens full-time this Friday. It hasn't been a hot bite, but a few blowfish and sea mullet are biting in the surf and from the piers. Monday's surf temperature was 58 degrees at Bogue Inlet Pier. Oceana Pier is scheduled to reopen on April 5.
A promising sea mullet bite is trying to get going along the shipping channel and in the turning basin at Morehead City. Some sea mullet are also scattered along Shackleford Banks.
Two weeks ago the best king mackerel reports were from the general area of Frying Pan Tower. Last week the better king reports came from the Big Rock. This week they were thicker off Hatteras and one fisherman told me the water around Frying Pan Tower had cooled back to only 61 degrees. With good days of warm temperatures and sunshine, the water will warm up again and they should return to those same places. Then, if the weather stays warm over the next few weeks, they should begin working their way closer inshore.
While the weekend was windy, some folks headed offshore early in the week and returned with fair catches and good stories of the ones that got away. Off the central and southern coast the catch is mostly yellowfin and blackfin tuna, with wahoo, kings and a few early dolphin mixed in. Off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet there were also excellent catches of small to medium bluefin tuna. It's difficult to keep perspective when referring to a 66-inch fish as a medium, but that is what they are.
More reports of big spawning black sea bass came in this week. If you like sea bass, these are the fish to fill your freezer. They average over 3-pounds and have swollen purple and green humps on their head. Other fish in the offshore bottom catch include grouper, red snapper, beeliners, pinkies (red porgy), triggerfish and tilefish.
Also of note is an upcoming meeting regarding a proposed N.C. Wildlife Launching Ramp adjacent to the B. Cameron Langston Bridge between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle. The meeting will be held in the Swansboro Rotary Civic Center beginning at 7:00 P.M. on March 29. This would be a good time to show your support for this project.