The cold front that rolled in on us last weekend seems to be the real thing. It is a bit of a shock, mainly because we have remained so overly warm for so late this year, but we are finally at seasonable temperatures.
The temperatures may have shocked some species of fish a little also, but it appears they are getting over it after a couple of days. The water has cooled drastically and I have some concerns with that. Hopefully the rapid drop will moderate a little with the sunshine and not send the fish packing.
At the middle of last week the surf temperature at Bogue Inlet Pier was 78 degrees. Early this week it had dropped six degrees, a rate of a degree each day, to 72 degrees. A few days later, Capt. Dave Dietzler reported seeing a few pockets of water that had cooled to the mid-60's. I hope this isn't too quick a drop. Unlike us, the warm-water fish can't grab a sweatshirt and hang around. When it gets too cold they have to leave.
While not headed directly at us, we have another issue with the late season formation of Tropical Storm Noel. We already have some gusty northerly winds and they will increase until the storm passes offshore sometime Friday. We are looking at potential gale winds nearshore and the possibility of tropical storm force winds offshore. Until this passes and the winds and waves subside, it is probably a good time to be in protected waters or fishing from the surf or a pier.
The good news is the fishing is good--really good. There is a big variety of species and they all appear to be hungry. Beginning with spots in the rivers, inlets and intracoastal waterway and heading offshore to wahoo and sailfish at the Gulf Stream eddies, there is something for everyone.
Wally from the Sheraton Pier in Atlantic Beach called Wednesday to say the mullet minnows were moving down the beach again. This started over a month ago and then stopped when the weather stayed hot. Many fishermen had been talking about all the bait they were seeing back in the creeks. It appears the migration has resumed and the line of minnows is long and just outside the breaking surf.
With those mullet minnows returning to the surf, many fish have already zeroed in on them again. Wally said the Spanish mackerel and blues were there, plus a slightly increased number of flounder, but the big surprise was a good number of nice speckled trout. Other pier fishermen are catching sea mullet, black drum, pompano and a few king mackerel were caught over the weekend and early this week.
Speaking of kings, they are spread all along the coast. I have gotten reports from Oregon Inlet to Little River Inlet. This surge of cold will probably move them off the beaches a little, but the rocks and wrecks out to about 100 feet of water should see lots of action for a while.
Puppy drum, speckled trout and a few flounder are chasing mullet minnows and the last shrimp of the year in the creeks and marshes. The drum are beginning to form schools and when you find one there are usually more close by. The trout are feeding heavily, especially after this cold surge, and they are about as easy to fool as they will be.
There were a few reports of good catches of specks from the Cape Lookout jetty a few days this week. Those of us who know how the bite at the jetty can get have been waiting on this. The weekdays are better times to go and you still should be early to get a preferred spot.
Schools of yearling drum have moved into the surf zone, particularly so around many inlets. Some of the larger schools will give a red tint to the water. In the beach slough and on the first bar are good places to find them. Beaches without houses, like much of the Outer Banks, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Lee Island, Masonboro Island and the stretch of beach from Fort Fisher to Bald Head Island usually have better drum bites and especially so at night.
Some large drum have also moved out of the sounds and are cruising the beaches. Cape Lookout, Drum Inlet, Ocracoke Inlet and Cape Hatteras have all been reporting sporadic good catches. The action is usually best during the late evening and at night, but a few have been caught during the day. The best bait for these drum is a big chunk of mullet on a circle hook.
The gray trout bite continues to be pretty good. It is an ocean bite in many places, with some strong inside action from the Morehead City Turning Basin out through Beaufort Inlet and along the Beaufort Inlet Channel out a mile or so. Don't overlook fishing at night under the high-rise bridges in this area and the Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet.
There have also been some good catches of sea mullet. The size has varied from barely keepers to approaching 2 pounds, but no one seems to have figured out how to target just the larger ones. They are being caught in the surf and around the inlets along most of the coast.
The spot run appears to have ramped up another notch, but many spot fishermen think the best is still to come. There have been mixed catches of big spots and medium spots and some with those full yellow bellies, but no pattern is apparent. One day it's high tide and the next day it's low tide. If you spend the day fishing, you should catch a good mess.
Wahoo continue to be the best offshore catch, with a few more yellowfin tuna finally showing north of Hatteras. Fishermen are also seeing a good number of sailfish, especially for late October, a few tuna (mostly blackfin south of Cape Hatteras), and some dolphin.
Offshore bottom fishing is really good when the weather allows getting out. Black sea bass are the closest in, with beeliners and grunts starting at about 70 feet deep and grouper starting at about 100 feet. There are also some good catches of snowy grouper and tilefish at about 400 to 600 feet deep. It's a good thing the limits are restrictive, cause that's a lot of reeling.
Congratulations to Scott and Austin Allen and Derek McKee for winning the Fall Brawl King Classic. The story has the trio catching the winning 36.75 pound king from the Allen's bay boat while fishing at the Shallotte Inlet Sea Buoy.
The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament (www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd or 252-354-6350) began October 20 at Emerald Isle and continues through December 1. With the change in the weather, the catches should begin improving.