Just when you think the weather has decided to make a full reprieve for the nasty cold winter, we get jerked back to reality. Sure the weather has been nice for a couple of weeks, but I'm pulling the windows down again as I finish this. Heck, if it gets as cold tonight as the weatherman says, I may even turn the heat back on. After reaching the high seventies several days this week, a cold front is forecast to swoop down on us tonight (Thursday) and hold the highs in the low fifties for Friday. Then it will stay cool with a good chance of showers over the weekend.
There is some good news in the early forecast though. In spite of being cooler, Saturday's wind is supposed to hold below 10 knots along the entire state. This is obviously a lull between fronts, and you should check it again before finalizing plans. It looks like Saturday might be a good day to head offshore if you don't mind taking raingear. The fish won't mind -- they're already wet.
Every degree the water warms, the fish get more active and some more arrive. Most places inside are in the high fifties and the backs of creeks may reach the mid sixties during an afternoon low tide. Several fishermen reported fish hitting topwater lures this week, so the fish must be warming up.
Most of the coastal fishing piers are open and fishermen are catching fish. I saw a picture of a 48 quart cooler almost full of sea mullet from Bogue Inlet Pier. They are biting from the outer banks (where they are Va. mullet) to below Wilmington (where they are whiting).
A few blowfish are biting too, as are some of the first bluefish and some black drum. Red drum have been in the surf in places for a while, so they aren't a surprise when one turns up on the end of a pier line. The sea mullet prefer the freshest shrimp you can find and the others won't turn up their noses at it either.
This week there have been several places trout were the predominant inshore species. One fisherman said in a creek off the Neuse River it seemed like every trout that survived the winter woke up hungry. He said it seemed like they would hit just about any lure, but chartreuse Billy Bay shrimp were rarely reaching the bottom the first time. He said none were huge, but most were trout you would be happy to catch. He said this particular creek was in Inland Waters and the season was open, but he wasn't keeping any.
Fishermen should note that speckled trout season is only closed in Coastal and Joint Waters. It remains open in Inland Waters, but you must stay in Inland Waters or they become illegal. The Wildlife Resources Commission will be holding public hearings next week to discuss changing these regulations to match the Coastal and Joint Waters regulations. Details on the meetings are below.
Puppy drum have also been biting well. They are spread across the inside marshes and creeks with a few roaming the surf. While they will readily hit live or natural baits, puppy drum will also hit soft plastics and stick baits. There were several reports this week of catching pups on topwater lures.
Stripers are moving into the rivers all along the coast. Most fishermen feel the season starts a little later, but the Town of Weldon, which boasts the moniker "Rockfish Capital of the World," is hosting the first Annual Big Rock Fishing Tournament on April 9 and that is only two weeks away. I spoke with one of the guides from there and he said they were already catching a few stripers mixed with the shad and he was expecting a big showing for the tournament. For more information, visit http://www.historicweldonnc.com or call 252-536-4836.
The shad runs are beginning to taper off in places, but there are still plenty of shad in most of the rivers. The Neuse River and the creeks off of it between New Bern and Kinston are always good places to go. The 2011 Grifton Shad Festival is scheduled for April 12 through 17. For more information visit www.griftonshadfestival.com.
There are fish offshore in the ocean and we can catch them when the conditions allow getting there. Wahoo and blackfin tuna are the main offshore fish being caught trolling along the southern and central N.C. coast, with yellowfin and bluefin tuna also from Hatteras to the north.
How many of you have been upset when you were fishing and a larger fish stole the fish you were reeling in. That happened this week to a group of bluefin tuna fishermen off the northern Outer Banks -- and in a big way. The fishermen were having a fun day catching and releasing 250 pound class bluefin tuna when a pod of hungry orcas showed up.
Yep, killer whales. I didn't think we had orcas in the Atlantic, but apparently they are in the colder waters of the North Atlantic and this pod took a trip down south on the Labrador Current.
The orcas chased a hooked 250 pound class tuna around for a few minutes and once it tired, moved in for the kill. They bit it off cleanly, just behind the gills. I was forwarded a video clip and it was pretty awesome. You wouldn't have wanted to fall overboard.
We're getting close to April 1 and beeliner season will open again. At that time there might be enough bottom fish species with open seasons to make some bottom bouncing worthwhile. Meanwhile, there are amberjacks, cobia and some occasional schools of smaller blackfin tuna responding to jigs.
Closer in there have been some reports of king mackerel once offshore enough the water warms to 67 degrees or higher. This seems to be around 100 feet of water. Most are smaller kings and are holding close to structure. Once found, the kings usually bite well on spoons, sea witches with strips, large swimming plugs and frozen cigar minnows.
Last week I had a report of schools of false albacore just out of sight of land from Wrightsville up to Cape Lookout and across Cape Lookout Shoals near AR 285. I didn't hear those reports again this week, but would expect those fish to still be there.
This isn't NC or salt water, but it is adjoining water and the fish is huge, so I thought it was worth a mention. On March 17, Tony Milam of South Boston, Va. was fishing with friends on Kerr Lake (also known as Buggs Island Lake on the Va. side) when he hooked into something out of the ordinary. After about 15 minutes he brought a huge blue catfish to the side of the boat.
The first two sets of scales weren't large enough, but Milam and friends finally found one that would handle the 109 pound fish. Milam's big catfish eclipsed the Va. record by almost 7 pounds and is in the process of being certified as the new Va. state record. The length was 53 inches and the girth 41 inches.
Word of the catch spread while the fishermen were searching for a certified scale with enough capacity and a tanker truck from Bass Pro Shops was sent to meet them. The fish was transported to Bass Pro Shops Headquarters in Springfield, Mo., where it will undergo a 30 day quarantine under the supervision of biologists and a veterinarian. Once judged healthy, it will get a new home in the aquarium at the Richmond Bass Pro Shops store.
House Bill 353, the bill to give gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass, was introduced in the N.C. House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, March 15. It passed its first reading on March 16 and was referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor. It was scheduled for debate and a vote this week, but on March 22 was withdrawn from the subcommittee and redirected to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development.
There has been much fish house, tackle shop, and internet chat board discussion on this bill. Fishermen are urged to contact their local legislators and the members of the committee to tell them how they feel about this bill. A previous gamefish bill died when it was not brought to a vote in committee. The language of the bill, which includes a three year buyout provision for commercial fishermen participating in any of these fisheries, plus a list of state congressmen, their committee assignments and contact information, is available at www.ncleg.net.
The NC Marine Fisheries Commission Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee will meet March 28, at 1:00 P.M. at the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Field Office in Washington. For more information contact Anne Deaton at 1-800-682-2632 or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is seeking input from the for-hire fishing industry about whether to restructure the current permit and license requirements, and if so, how to proceed. DMF scheduled three meetings and the Wilmington and Morehead City meetings were held this week. The final meeting to accept public comment on this issue will be March 29 at 6:00 P.M. at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.
More information on these meetings may be found at the press releases section of the DMF website at www.ncdmf.net or by calling Don Hesselman, DMF License and Statistics Section Chief, at 252-808-8099. For those wishing to comment and unable to attend a meeting, written comments may be sent to Don Hesselman, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 796, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or to Don.Hesselman@ncdenr.gov.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) sets and enforces the regulations on all fish in inland waters, even when those fish are salt water fish. Several differences have been noted in the regulations, specifically that red drum and speckled trout are classified as gamefish and this winter many people realized the minimum size and creel limit were different for speckled trout and speckled trout season remains open in inland waters even while closed in coastal and joint waters.
In seeking to eliminate the inconsistencies, the WRC has scheduled four public hearings next week to gather input on a proposed rule that would standardize regulations for spotted sea trout (speckled trout), flounder, gray trout (weakfish) and red drum taken in inland, joint or coastal fishing waters. The proposed rule would establish the same seasons and size and creel limits for these four saltwater fish species when caught in inland waters by referencing those regulations set by the Marine Fisheries Commission. Adopting this rule would provide consistency for managing these four saltwater fish species and should minimize confusion for anglers fishing in different jurisdictional waters.
The meetings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
* March 28, 2011, Bladen County Courthouse, Elizabethtown;
* March 29, 2011, Craven County Courthouse, New Bern;
* March 30, 2011, Chowan County Agricultural Center, Edenton;
* March 31, 2011, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Headquarters, Raleigh.
All meetings begin at 7:00 P.M.
In addition to the four hearings, the public can provide input by mailing comments to the WRC at 1721 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721 or visiting the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, and clicking on the "Proposed Fishing Rule Changes Submit Comments" link on the right side of the page. The public comment period for this proposed rule ends May 2, 2011.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org/fishing. For more information on fishing in coastal and joint waters, visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries' website at www.ncdmf.net.
Capt. Jimmy Price will hold his Top Dog Fishing School and Comedy Show this Saturday (March 26), at the Oak Island Moose Lodge in Oak Island. In the morning Capt. Ricky Kellum will talk about catching speckled trout, then Capt. Wayne Crisco will talk about catching flounder and I will talk about kayak fishing and catching mackerel. In the afternoon, Capt. Jimmy will give two sessions of comedy fishing. This is a primary fundraiser for Capt. Price's Top Dog Children's Charity. For more information, visit www.topdoginc.org or call Capt. Price at 910-443-1211.