It was a pretty wicked cold front that blanketed the NC Coast this past weekend. Not only did the temperatures drop drastically, but the winds really gusted. This time we got our first freeze warning for the coast. The temperatures haven't gotten back up into shirtsleeve weather and it looks like they may not for a while. The forecast for the next few days continues to be for cool days, cold nights, and more northerly wind than we need.
This past weekend was the last of the year for most of the ocean fishing piers. For those fishermen that would still like to try their luck, a few are open and a few leave a gate around the pierhouse open over the winter.
The bluefin tuna General Category or commercial season reopened on Monday, December 1. Currently there are no provisions to reopen the Angling Category or recreational season.
This was not a particularly good year for bluefin fishing in the Northeast and the NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has requested that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) transfer some of the unused bluefin allocation to both the General and Angling Categories. These transfers are possible as on November 17, they transferred 150 metric tons from the General Category to the Reserve Category. Bluefin tuna are a political hot potato right now and only time will tell what will happen.
In monitoring the marine weather, at Frying Pan Shoals, the slight discrepancy is still present between the weather buoy (NDBC Station 41013) that was recently placed there and the weather station on top of the tower (FPSN7). Everything matches or is only very slightly different except for the wind velocity and direction. The buoy station typically reports less wind and sometimes as much as a 45 degree direction variance from the tower. Undoubtedly these differences are because the buoy is floating and the measurements are taken just a few yards above the water and sometimes between swells, while the instruments on the tower are roughly 150 feet above the water.
With this latest blast of cold air, the inshore catch has slowed, but still maintains a pretty good mix. These reports will slow even more as we approach the Christmas Holidays and there will be far less fishermen on the water. There are still reports of speckled trout, gray trout, bluefish, croakers, sea mullet, red drum, and the last of the flounder. Many fishermen feel that some fish are still around, but the weather has been preventing getting to them.
The striper bite at Manns Harbor has been red hot at times. Striper fishing continues to improve at New Bern, Washington, and Wilmington, plus in the surf from the Virginia State Line down to around Cape Hatteras. This cold weather should push some more down from the Chesapeake Bay and the ocean striper fishing will begin improving rapidly.
The false albacore fishing has been really hot for several weeks now. While there are some along much of the coast, the hotbed has been between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout.
The fall king mackerel bite has been excellent when you can get there. The kings are holding over bait, from about 60 to 100 feet deep.
While the weather dictates whether or not the trip is makeable, the offshore bite remains hot. There are tuna around the Big Rock and north, with lots of wahoo still to the south. The tuna bite out of Oregon Inlet has been particularly hot, when the weather allows the longer run. The yellowfin aren't particularly big, but the occasional bigeye will really make you work.
Congratulations to all the NC king fishermen that did well at the 2003 Southern Kingfish Association National Championship Tournament in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver