After a couple of cold and windy weeks, we are getting a small break at the first of this week. The temperature is forecast to get back into the 60's and the wind drop to 10 knots or less. Unfortunately, that will all be gone way too soon as we have another front arriving on Wednesday. This front is forecast to be warmer initially, with winds from the south, but will shift to the north and get cold before the weekend.
The big news, both figuratively and literally along the central NC coast is that the bluefin tuna have arrived. The General Category (commercial) bluefin tuna season reopened on Monday December 1. The Angling Category (recreational) bluefin season remains closed, but the NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Director, Preston Pate, has requested that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reopen it also. The bite started up around Drum Inlet early last week, but had moved across Cape Lookout Shoals to the area between the Trawler Wreck and Northwest Places by the weekend. While many of these fish may not have their total winter fat just yet and therefore are not bringing top prices, these are large fish with many dressing out at over 300 pounds.
The NC DMF has also requested that the NMFS temporarily close the commercial season at least a couple of weeks to allow the bluefins to add some winter fat. This had not occurred as of writing this, but the NCDMF is expecting it at any time. The higher content of winter fat contributes to the bluefins tasting better and bringing a better price per fish. The closure would also move the catch closer to the Christmas and New Year Holidays, when the demand and base price is higher on the Asian markets.
While it got going a little late, the false albacore fishing has been really hot for several weeks now. These small tuna have been hitting a large variety of flies, grubs, and an assortment of smaller metal lures. The best action comes from locating a feeding school, casting the lures in, and retrieving them quickly. A flock of feeding seagulls is a good indicator of feeding Alberts. While there are Alberts along much of the coast, the hotbed has been between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout.
With this latest blast of cold air, the inshore and nearshore catch has slowed, but there are still some good catches by fishermen willing to brave the cold. Most of the reports are of speckled trout, gray trout, bluefish, croakers, sea mullet, red drum, and stripers.
At Manns Harbor the stripers have been biting well almost daily. The first of the big winter stripers are also showing at Oregon Inlet and along the Outer Banks surf. There haven't been any reports of 40 pound stripers yet, but with the catches of 30 pounders increasing daily they can't be far behind. Striper fishing is also improving at New Bern, Washington, and Wilmington.
The cold weather has cooled the nearshore ocean and moved the 70 degree water farther offshore. This is now at about 30 miles and 80 feet of water or deeper. The reports are that the kings are biting well, whenever the weather allows you to get there.
The wind also dictates whether or not the trip to the Gulf Stream is feasible. The offshore bite remains hot. When the weather allows the trip the boats have been returning with good catches. There are tuna from the Big Rock to the north, with lots of wahoo still to the south.
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver