What a difference a week makes!
Last week at this time we were basking in warm sunny weather and planning a weekend fishing trip. That's what we should be doing in July, not January, and this week it looks like the weather finally caught up to the calendar.
During the day Tuesday, that cold weather system we had been watching for a while began to creep into our lives. Wednesday was seasonably cold, but Thursday morning many of us woke to light sleet and freezing rain. Those of us on the immediate coast were barely above freezing, but most schools were either closed or running on a 2-hour delay. We went from sunburn to frostbite in just over a day.
The bad news is this time we are looking at the cold staying with us for a while. The coastal highs over the weekend and early next week will be right around 50, with the night time lows hovering just over freezing. Then, the weathermen are saying it will get cold at the end of next week.
Our wonderful winter is probably gone for a while. The water temperatures have already dropped 3-5 degrees in just a few days. That should be good for the bluefins and stripers, but I was enjoying being comfortable in just shirtsleeves during January.
Maybe this cool blast won't be as cold as predicted and won't last too long.
The weekend looks a little blustery, with winds in the 20 knot range forecast until Sunday. Then some of the coast will get a touch of southerly breeze before swing back to the frigid north on Monday. If you aren't in a big boat or protected waters, this might be a good "honey-do" weekend.
The fishing reports were pretty good through Monday. Many fishermen got out late last week and over the weekend and caught a wide variety of fish. That changed on Tuesday.
The bluefin tuna bite continues to be scattered along the coast, but some knowledgeable fishermen say the cooler water and weather should get the fish moving and feeding better. Most of the bluefin caught during the last week have been larger, with several topping the 600 pound mark.
One school, complete with the accompanying gannet shower, was spotted feeding just outside the surf on the South Beach of Bald Head Island over the weekend and one was hooked at the 390/390, which is just a few miles offshore of Ocean Isle. The majority have been close to Cape Lookout and Frying Pan Shoals.
Dr. Barbara Block's Tag-A-Giant (TAG) team has been working off Cape Lookout for the past few days. They are monitoring the VHF radio and would like to be notified of any large fish in the area that will be released. The TAG team is continuing their research of these fish and need larger adults to fit with electronic tagging devices.
The ocean stripers don't care for the warm water either and had disappeared back towards the Chesapeake Bay. After only a few days of colder weather, fishermen at Oregon Inlet are already reporting better catches, but say the fish are still well to the north. They believe the fish will continue to move south over the next week.
The inshore striper bite has been improving at Manns Harbor, with several ocean size fish caught in the last few days. The bite in the Neuse and Trent Rivers at New Bern has also picked up a little over the past week. Perhaps the cold will really get them turned on.
There were good king mackerel bites off Cape Lookout and Cape Fear over the weekend. The kings were holding a little offshore of the bluefins and several boats caught limits and near limits after fishing for bluefins until mid-day.
One of the questions I heard way too many times at the shows over the weekend was, "What's going to happen to the incredible speckled trout and red drum bite once this cold weather hits us?" Unfortunately the only answer anyone could give was, "I don't know."
The bite on both trout and drum was pretty hot through Monday. Let's hope the cold weather doesn't get cold enough to run them off and then hope that if we have a hard freeze the fish are out of the shallow creeks before they get iced in and trapped there. The forecast is for that bad, but we have seen it happen before on similar long-range forecasts and we don't need another killing freeze.
More flounder catches were reported last week also. They have been in the inland creeks, in the surf and even around some of the ocean structure. One fisherman told of watching another slow-troll mud minnows for them at a rock approximately 12 miles offshore. The troller caught flounder while the bottom bouncer caught black sea bass and a few gray trout.
There were a few more encounters last week with the large false albacore off Cape Lookout, but it appears they have moved a little farther offshore and aren't surprising the trout fishermen at the Cape Lookout Jetty and the Dead Tree Hole any longer.
There weren't many offshore reports last week, but a few wahoo, blackfin and yellowfin tuna were caught from the Swansboro Hole down towards the Steeples. There were yellowfins again off Oregon Inlet, but not many boats were making the trip.
The ocean bottom fish bit well again last week. Many fishermen reported good catches of sea bass, grunts and beeliners, with grouper being just a little more difficult to locate.
There is not a boat or fishing show in N.C. this weekend. The closest are in Myrtle Beach. They are the Grand Strand Boat Show, at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and the Cabin Fever Boat Show at the Myrtle Beach Bass Pro Shop.
Boat shows return to N.C. next week with the Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show, which will be held at 3401 Gresham Lake Road, while construction continues on the convention center. For more information visit www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow.