Thanksgiving is next Thursday and, while it has been a rough year and looks like things will be tougher before they improve, we all have things to be thankful for. Several are our families and the fact we live in the U.S., which, despite our ongoing economic problems, is still the best country in the world. It's also nice you are reading this report with hopes and plans to go fishing. Happy Thanksgiving and good fishing.
My amazement with our weather continues for this week. Tuesday afternoon I was driving to Raleigh to speak at the Raleigh Salt Water Sportfishing Club meeting that evening and encountered blizzard snow conditions. The temperature was 45 degrees and it wasn't sticking, but the snow was coming down hard and the wind was blowing it sideways. Seriously, it was so thick it reduced vision across the highway.
Friday and Saturday again look like times to be in very sheltered water or knocking a few more chores off the "Honey-do" list. The forecast is for cold and windy, but with a change coming sometime Saturday night through Sunday. Sunday and Monday will be warmer and with less wind. The high that is moving in will switch the winds to southerly and westerly and slow them down for a few days. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
The weather conditions have been pretty windy and/or cold for most of this week, but there have been a few small windows and some fishermen have taken advantage of them. Several boats headed offshore and reported good catches of wahoo and some blackfin tuna. It was a bit rolly for much bottom fishing, but some grouper and beeliners were caught also. There were a few reports of yellowfin tuna from off Hatteras to the north.
Several Morehead City king mackerel fishermen braved the conditions to cross Lookout Shoals and also found some bluefin tuna. Several of the places mentioned were East Rock, 30 Minute Rock and 1700 Rock. Some big kings were also landed off Ocracoke and Hatteras.
Several bluefins were hooked by king mackerel fishermen, but that's a pretty unequal match. You can keep one hooked up for a while, but rarely (almost never) tire it to the point of getting it to the boat. Some wahoo were also hooked by the king fishermen and they had a much better success rate of landing them.
Speaking of bluefin tuna; a pod was spotted near Frying Pan Tower on Monday. Capt. Tommy Rickman was king fishing and said all of a sudden there was a huge school of big mullet that exploded. He said he had never seen mullet that far offshore before, but the bluefins were herding them and gorging themselves. He estimated the school of bluefin to be 8-12 fish.
Oh yeah, Rickman said the king bite from the Horseshoe to Frying Pan Tower was pretty good until it got nasty rough later in the day.
Several guides are reporting schools of false albacore between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout. They say there are also some around the corner at the cape (Lookout), but the northerly winds have made it tough getting there. The gusty winds are making casting difficult, especially fly casting, but by setting up the boat upwind of the fish spinning tackle can reach them pretty easily. The fat alberts have a definite preference for small flashy lures retrieved quickly.
Every year we get to a couple of weeks before the piers close for the winter and it seems like the pier fishing fires up. That's pretty much what is happening again this year. It's mixed bag fishing at its best, but some occasional concentrations of spots, sea mullets and puffers keep them at the forefront of the pier catch. Other fish being caught from the piers include black drum, red drum, speckled trout, gray trout, flounder and bluefish.
Despite the wind and cold, I've heard about several good catches of speckled trout. They aren't everywhere, but they are in a lot of places. Any place a fish can hide to ambush bait moving by is a potential speck hotspot. Also remember a good speck hole doesn't have to be deep--just a little deeper than the water around it. Live shrimp are as close to a "sure-thing" bait as you can get, but grubs and MirrOlures are producing well also.
Gray trout are biting well also. This is one of the best years in a while for gray trout. They are being caught at many inside locations at Ocracke, Morehead City and Southport. In the ocean, the hot spots for grays have been the nearshore rocks and artificial reefs, plus near the end of the jetties at Cape Lookout and Masonboro Inlet.
Puppy drum are biting well also. The pups are almost everywhere from well up the coastal creeks into the surf. Some of the hottest action has been in the surf. The sloughs along the beaches has been good spots and in the holes of the bars around the inlets has been good too. Drum aren't too particular when they're feeding and have been hitting a variety of grubs and MirrOlures.
Don't overlook the Morehead City Turning Basin if it isn't too choppy or windy. Fishermen are seeing a mixed bag there right now that includes some large pigfish, some spots, sea mullet, gray trout and bluefish. A few flounder are being caught in the channel, near the inlets and along the beaches.
The gray trout bite remains good at night under the bridges in the Morehead City area. Getting a bait down to them through the ever-present bluefish is one of the biggest problems. Some specks are also being caught feeding with the grays.
The Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors Kingfish Tour Championship was held last weekend in Biloxi, Miss. Even it was plagued with bad weather and Saturday's fishing was cancelled. FLW outdoors has announced they will be discontinuing their saltwater tournament trails, so this is the final FLW kingfish Championship.
Of the five boats that competed on the final day, two were from N.C., two were from S.C. and one was from Fla. The Lose Lucy, with Capt. Mike Kaminski of Charleston, S.C. caught a 57 pounder in the opening round and added a 27 pounder on the final day to preserve the win. The K Sea Lake, with Capt. Danny Carter of Morehead City was the top N.C. finisher in third place. Team BP, with Capt. Mike Edwards of Wilmington, finished in fourth.
Some Tar Heel king fishermen are staying over in Biloxi for a second week and others headed down earlier in the week for the 2008 Southern Kingfish Association National Championship, which will be held this weekend. Once again the forecast isn't very good. We wish them safety on the road and water and a big catch.
With the conclusion of these events, tournaments are winding down for the year. The 2008 NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament continues for many species through December 31. For more information, visit www.ncdmf.net. The Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament at Emerald Isle runs through next Saturday, November 29. For more information visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd or call the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department at 252-354-6350.
Captain Kyle's Thanksgiving Inshore Classic will be held from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center on Thanksgiving weekend. Final Registration is Friday, with fishing and awards on Saturday. This is a speckled trout tournament based on a three fish aggregate weight. For more information, call 910-840-7186.
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center has announced a week long king mackerel tournament to be held November 29 through December 6. Fishermen may fish any two days of the time period, but fishing days must be declared before fishing. With the time period allowed for this tournament and knowing there is a good king bite happening off Hatteras, many fishermen are declaring this an unofficial N.C. Championship.
Two sets of scales will be open for participants. One weigh-in will be at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort and the other is at Hatteras Landing Marina in Hatteras. For more information, visit www.oifc.com.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) has announced a series of public hearings regarding proposed changes in fishing (fresh water) and hunting regulations for the 2009-2010 seasons. Some of the proposals are very different from current regulations. The changes involve seasons, limits and manner of taking fish and game.
The closest public hearing to our area will be in New Bern on January 21. The meeting will begin at 7:00 P.M. A complete list of all the meeting dates, times and locations statewide, plus all of the proposed regulations changes can be found on the WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org.