Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas--and Merry Fishmas too! I have been doing the parody of "The Night Before Christmas" that is linked from my home page at this time of year for several years. I've been getting a lot of requests to do something similar again, so this year I cranked up the feeble old mind and went back to work. The result is a similar type of parody taken from "The 12 Days of Christmas." It will be at the end of this week's column and I hope it brings smiles to your faces.
I think we finally got a break from the weather. The heavy snow that passed inland of us Friday and into the weekend was originally thought to be going to pass over us. It was shifting some by the end of last week and it looked like it was going to shift inland and it did. I was a little worried Saturday afternoon as I was headed out of Greenville as it was still raining and the temperature was dropping, but we appeared to have dodged this bullet.
I don't have anything against the folks in the upper piedmont and mountains, but I'm glad that front shifted inland instead of unleashing its power on us. I called several of my inland friends and heard reports of nearly a foot of snow in the Winston-Salem area and a foot and a half or more in the Asheville area. Because the rain stated first and froze before the snow began, there was extra strain on the trees and power lines in many areas and there were widespread power outages. I hope they have service restored to everyone.
Sure, it would have been nice to see a white Christmas, but perhaps you can recall when we had one of them about twenty years ago. I was living just outside of New Bern then, and was glad I had a jacked-up four wheel drive. The snow was knee deep and I wouldn't have gotten out of the driveway for a few days without it. While all that snow was very pretty and it was nice to have it at Christmas, it was also pretty disabling and I haven't forgotten--yet.
For those of you hoping to do a little fishing over Christmas, there will be some opportunities. The weathermen can't decide if we may have some rain or not, but the weather isn't currently forecast to be especially harsh.
There are some speckled trout, puppy drum and black drum in the inshore waters and in the surf in several places. The best reports have been from areas that may be a degree or two warmer. These are places like bays, the ends of creeks and such where the tide doesn't flow hard and the water will stay there and warm up.
One of the places fishermen from the southern part of the state look for fish during cold weather is in some of the marinas. The marinas that have their own basin don't have constant water flowing through and the water tends to stay in them and warm up a little. It also helps that some of the larger boats have heat exchanges running for warmth and this helps warm the water also. Several of the southern marinas have excellent reputations for producing specks and pups and a similar situation could exist along the entire coast also. Someone just needs to take time to look and find them.
If you decide to fish in a marina, be respectful of the boats moored there and give way to any boats moving in the marina.
Our trout fishing has basically been good, especially for this late into the year. If there has been a negative, it has been that the larger specks have tended to come and go, but with no apparent pattern. Some larger trout had moved back to the Cape Lookout Jetty and the Masonboro Inlet Jetties earlier last week, but the cold and the swell from the passing storm pushed them away again. They could be returning at any time.
Speckled trout prefer live shrimp over most other baits, but they are getting difficult to find. Mud minnows are about all the live bait still to be easily found, but the specks will hit them. They are also hitting MirrOlures and scented soft baits well also. One of my favorite MirrOlures is the 17MR, which is a suspending bait. It works well out of the box in shallower water, but often needs a weight dot or two for fishing in deeper water.
Some puppy drum are still scattered through the marshes and more are moving to the first slough along the ocean beaches. The drum seem to be thicker along unpopulated beaches where there aren't any lights. All of Core Banks, Shackleford Banks, Bear Island, Browns Island, Lea Island, Masonboro Island and the East Beach of Bald Head Island are good places to try. Several of the Swansboro captains have reported some large schools of several hundred drum in the surf along Bear and Browns Islands, while some of the Wrightsville and Carolina Beach captains are saying the same about Lea and Masonboro Islands.
Last week I reported that soft plastics and MirrOlures had been catching the drum well--and they have. However, this week I received several calls reminding me how difficult it is to remove a pair or three treble hooks from a squirming upper slot or oversize red drum and suggesting I recommend baits with single hooks.
More bluefin tuna are being caught almost every day the weather allows getting out. While a few have been hooked but not landed off Cape Fear, the hot spot continues to be from the Shad Boat out to Northwest Places and the Knuckle Buoy at Cape Lookout.
Not many boats are taking advantage, but the king bite between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras has been excellent. Because of the weather, not many boats are crossing the shoals to head east, but it should be a good idea when the wind and seas allow. It's a much shorter run and directly out the inlet, but the Hatteras charter fleet has been hammering the kings. I saw Capt. Richard Flick today and he said many of the boats fishing for bluefins off Cape Fear are heading over to the Horseshoe in the afternoons and catching a few boxes of kings to help offset the expenses.
The offshore bite has been good, but I didn't get many reports this week. The yellowfin tuna bite continues to be good from Hatteras to Oregon Inlet and there are some blackfins, bigeyes and even some juvenile bluefins mixed in with them.
A "United We Fish" fishermen's march on Washington D.C. is planned for February 24, 2010. The cause and promotion for the march has been enjoined by the Recreational Fishing Association (RFA, www.joinrfa.com), whose director, Jim Donofrio, has heralded this as an event that will unite recreational and commercial fishermen in a common cause. Details can be found at the RFA website. I have already received calls from fishermen as far away as Florida who are planning to attend.
Fishermen feel the closures and many other fisheries issues are caused by incorrect interpretations and applications of the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA). Many congressmen, including N.C.'s Mike McIntyre, have signed onto a bill to clarify the provisions in the MSA. Bills are currently working in both houses. The legislation (HR 1584 and S 1255) is titled the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.
There is also an online petition against having bluefin tuna listed as endangered under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) proposal coming in March 2010. Supporters of the petition believe allowing bluefin to be listed there will mean an end to all bluefin fishing and don't think it is necessary after the catch reductions imposed at the recent International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting. The petition is available for review at www.petitiononline.com/tuna09/petition.html.
If you are still looking for the perfect Christmas present for the fisherman that has everything, or looking for a smart way to spend some of the cash you received as a gift, I may have the answer. Capt. Jimmy Price and I will be giving some all day fishing schools across N.C. at the end of January and through February. These schools are all on Saturdays and will begin at 8:00 and last until approximately 4:30. They are sponsored by Sea Striker and Star Rods. The dates and locations are: January 30 in Southport; February 20 in Greenville and February 27 in Greensboro. Contact Capt. Jimmy Price at 910-443-1211 or me at 910-279-6760 for more details or to purchase tickets.
Tournaments have all but ended for the year. The Chasin' Tails Speckled Trout Tournament began October 1 and will run through January 31. This tournament features overall winners and monthly prizes for specific weight fish. The current leader is Tom Holland with a very nice 8.32 pound gator trout. The special weight for December is 2.97 pounds. For more information, visit www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.
There are a series of Fishing Expos scheduled for N.C. and Va. in January and I will be among the knowledgeable fishermen presenting seminars at these events. The Fishing Expos will be January 8 to 10 at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, January 15 to 17 at the Richmond Raceway Complex in Richmond and January 22 to 24 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro. For more information, visit the show website at www.ncboatshows.com.
Now, as I promised, here is another little ditty to hopefully improve your Fishmas spirit as the holiday approaches. This one is from "The 12 Days of Christmas." Don't worry if you are tone deaf or can't carry a tune in a bucket, this is only for singing aloud in the shower. Hum it to yourself and follow the tune of the original song.
The 12 Days of Fishmas
On the first day of Fishmas, my true love gave to me--A new boat to take me out to sea.
On the second day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Two Power-Poles and -----
On the third day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Three trolling motors -----
On the fourth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Four MirrOlures -----
On the fifth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Five bally-hoos -----
On the sixth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Six spoons a trolling -----
On the seventh day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Seven reels a spinning -----
On the eighth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Eight corks a popping -----
On the ninth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Nine king macks skying -----
On the tenth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Ten sailfish leaping -----
On the eleventh day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Eleven surf rods casting ----
On the twelfth day of Fishmas, My true love gave to me -- Twelve outboards humming -----
Merry Christmas and Good Fishing