Well folks, the wind certainly hasn't stopped blowing, even though it paused and hiccupped a couple of times. As I am writing this, the forecast is showing a brief respite for Friday. I hope you are reading this late and nodding your head in agreement after having been fishing earlier today.
Unfortunately the wind is forecast to breeze back up after Friday and then a little cold front is supposed to work its way into the area sometime late Saturday or early Sunday. They are forecasting overnight lows in the low 40's and one weatherman even mentioned the possibility of frost early next week. It seems like after such a mild winter, we just can't quite completely slip from its grip. Maybe this will be the last of the cold fronts before the weather settles out?
Depending on the time of day and who was supplying the information, the water temperatures rose a degree or two this week. The report from Bogue Inlet Pier was a few days ago and it was for 59 degrees in the surf, so perhaps it will have risen to 60 or 61 before the cold comes in over the weekend. Back in the creeks, the low tide temperatures have maintained in the low 60's.
After the weekend they were fighting wind rather than dodging showers and the fishermen at Bogue Inlet Pier caught a decent enough scattering of fish to keep them trying. The preferred fish in their reports were sea mullet, but bluefish, blowfish and some spots were also mentioned.
More puppy drum were caught in the surf from Cape Lookout to Ocracoke. Most were slot-size fish, but a few were a little over the slot. Last week I mentioned the suit regarding ORV access to the National Park Service beaches at Ocracoke and Hatteras. The National Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife have sued to close many of the more popular fishing areas of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to off-road vehicles and Judge Terrence Boyle was to have ruled on the case last Friday. Judge Boyle granted a delay to allow more time to work out a compromise and no new news has surfaced yet. For more information or to find out where to voice your opinion, go to http://www.savehatterasandocracoke.com.
There were a few more reports of flounder being mixed with the drum and trout. There were also a few flounder caught in the surf and from the piers. Everyone should be aware we have new flounder regulations. In the eastern sounds (Pamlico and Albemarle) and ocean north of Browns Inlet (Between Sneads Ferry and Swansboro) flounder must be 15-1/2 inches to keep. South of Browns Inlet and in the western sounds, the minimum size for flounder is 14 inches. This has to do with the primary distribution of summer and southern flounder and federal requirements for reducing the summer flounder catch. For more information visit www.ncdmf.net. In the proclamation section, proclamation FF-25 has all the information and a link to a map.
The striper bite in many of the rivers had been improving and should continue. Reports from the Roanoke River around Williamston and Jamesville were so good this week they included stories of fishermen going to the ramp and fishing there, rather than launching their boats. Limits were filled and one bystander said there was steadily at least one flopping fish on the dock.
However, recent inland rains have filled several of the managed lakes to full and slightly overfull and they will be scheduling drawdowns or increased water flows, which sometimes negatively affect fishing. You can check on the scheduled water flow and drawdowns by visiting the Wilmington District Corps of Engineers website at www.saw.usace.army.mil and checking the individual dams and projects.
Once again there were mixed reports on the shad bite this week. The best reports I heard were from the Neuse River and the creeks and thoroughfares between New Bern and Kinston. Better reports also came from the Roanoke River at Weldon. The water flow is to be stepped up there for the next few days, but should be settling out by Sunday or Monday.
Fishermen hiding from the wind continued to find speckled trout in many coastal creeks. They are responding well to a mixture of soft plastics and swimming lures. Capt. Gary Dubiel said the trout fishing around Oriental was good and getting better. He said they were catching some small to slot reds and occasional flounder.
I expect there will be reports of kings after the fishermen get in Friday, but the wind has kept most king fishermen at the dock for a while. The kings had been at many of the rocks and wrecks 25-30 miles offshore and should continue to be in that same general area.
The offshore bottom fish should be in the same general area as the kings. Prior to the wind blowing up, the first of the big hump-headed sea bass had arrived and they should still be around in 60-90 feet of water. The snapper and grouper will probably be a little farther offshore in water just deeper than 100 feet.
I heard a few more tuna reports this week from boats at Hatteras. The run to productive water is short enough there that several of the larger boats had willing crews and gave it a try in the breezy conditions. They had decent catches and once the wind settles and the boats are running regularly, there should be good catches of tuna hitting the docks daily.
Beginning late last summer, the Highway Patrol began a rigorous enforcement of the laws regarding towing trailers (and boats). The laws had been on the books for years, but had not been thoroughly enforced. There are many laws the average boat owner wasn't aware of and may be violating, even though thinking they are in full compliance. The laws involve driver's license requirements, license plate requirements, weight capabilities, width regulations and even some folks being considered commercial rather than private.
Some of these laws are being reviewed and may be changed during the next legislative session, but many are federal in nature and cannot be changed significantly. Many of the fines for violations are significant and ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.
In an effort to explain the regulations and curb the violations, the Highway Patrol is holding their first-ever public forum at the Warwick Center at UNC Wilmington on April 21. In addition to the Highway Patrol, members of the N.C. Department of Transportation, federal Department of Transportation, state and federal legislators or their staff, representatives from the boating industry and tourism industry will be in attendance. The forum will begin at 6:00 P.M.
Congratulations to Captains Jeff Cronk and Mike Taylor. They are fishing together on the IFA/Cabela's Redfish Tour and began their season with a third place finish in Charleston, S.C. last weekend. This tournament trail will visit Surf City on June 7.
Redfish, or puppy drum as they are often called locally, are the N.C. state fish and continue to gain in popularity as the stock continues to rebuild. A pair of tournament series will be in the area this year. The Cape Lookout Redfish Challenge, www.redfishaction.com, will be held from Harkers Island and the Crystal Coast Fishing Association Redfish Series, http://crystalcoastfishing.net/index.php, will be held from Swansboro.
For those fishermen wanting to learn more about catching shad and stripers in fresh water, the Roanoke Rapids Recreation Department, Halifax County Tourism Authority and North Carolina Sportsman Magazine will be hosting a seminar at The Centre at Halifax Community College in Weldon on April 15. For more information, visit www.northcarolinasportsman.com.