Wow, It sure has been hot for the last few days. It makes it hard to remember that it is only the middle of April. The good thing is that the fishing is well ahead of schedule on many things also. If we could just do something about regulating the wind to just a nice cooling breeze, everything would be all right.
Red drum are moving around in most of the marshes and creeks along the entire NC coast. The water is warming rapidly and starting to hold some sediment and get cloudy. There are still some places that are very clear and the drum can be really spooky there. Be careful as you move about and especially as you approach fish you have seen. Most days they have been responding fairly well to a wide selection of soft plastics and gold spoons, but occasionally they seem to ignore almost any bait.
Some speckled trout are being caught along much of the coast. They are not generally large trout, but there are some larger ones mixed in. Some are also moving about in the creeks just off the Pamlico Sound, Pamlico River, and Neuse River.
The striper activity continues to be very strong at Manns Harbor. This is a special management area, with its own season and limits, so verify everything before you go. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries Web Site is at www.ncdmf.net and the striper regulations are on a sub-page. Other striper hotspots include the Neuse River, near New Bern, the Pamlico/Tar River, near Washington and the Roanoke River, near Plymouth. There have also been a few stripers caught well up the Roanoke River, near Weldon. It is about time for this to get going strong and it should continue building until early May. The river is low so be careful! The inshore regulations vary in different areas. Check the current striper regulations before you head out fishing.
Surf and Pier
The ocean piers have opened for the season. The current pier action is mostly blowfish, mixed size bluefish, sea mullet, gray trout, a few Spanish mackerel. There are also some black drum moving along the beaches.
Good numbers of large drum have been caught in the Outer Banks surf. The drum are mainly at Cape Point.
The biggest pier news of this early season came Monday and Tuesday, April 15 and 16. Early on the morning of April 15, Bird Perkins hooked and landed the first pier king of the year. He was fishing at Yaupon Beach Pier, on Oak Island, and the big king weighed 40 pounds and 12 ounces. Later that afternoon another king, that weighed 50 pounds even was also landed on Yaupon Beach Pier. The next day, with a larger group of anglers a 61 pound cobia hit the decks. The action has slowed since then, but the crowds are still optimistic. This is very early for this kind of action.
There have been some occasional good catches of smaller speckled trout, black drum, and red drum along the jetty at Cape Lookout. Captain Dave Dietzler has reported some schools of large drum along Shackleford Banks.
Some sea mullet (whiting), and gray trout are being caught all along the coast. I have seen a few pictures of some really impressive catches. There were both some good numbers and some large fish. Remember there are mixed limits for gray trout. It is 10 fish, if they are all over 14 inches long. If you have one between 12 and 14 inches, you can only keep 4. You can't keep any less than 12 inches.
Some Spanish mackerel are also showing up along the beaches. There is an article in the May Carolina Adventure that shows how to have a lot of fun catching Spanish on light tackle.
Atlantic bonito and a few false albacore are being caught along much of the coast. Small spoons, cast, trolled, or jigged; seem to be the hot ticket.
Sea Bass and a few grouper are biting well from around 60 feet of water on out. The grouper are typically in just a little deeper water.
With the extra warm weather and water, the schools of spring kings have moved closer to the beach. There are many reports of them being as close as 60 feet of water. Some are even closer as evidenced by the 2 smokers off Yaupon Beach Pier. There are even some larger ones mixed in.
When the weather has allowed, there have been some good catches of yellowfin tuna around the Steeples, Same Ole, Blackjack Hole, Swansboro Hole, Big Rock, Diamond Shoals Tower, and at The Point. There have been some larger tuna (70 to 100 pounds) in the catch. Some wahoo, dolphin, and even some kings are also in the mix. This week, especially off the southern NC coast, the dolphin have been rather large for this early in the year. There have been a good number over 20 pounds. There has even been a good scattering of billfish throughout the entire area. Typically, this action should continue to improve until about Mother's Day.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver