My family and friends are getting excited about the upcoming saltwater fishing season. Already we are starting to hear reports from the coast of fish that are willing to bite.
Offshore action has started to heat up.
Fishermen are catching lots of bluefish, and the Spanish mackerel have shown up a couple of weeks earlier than normal, thanks to our mild winter.
There are schools of baitfish migrating to the north, and the blues and Spanish are slicing through them for easy pickings.
We use baits that imitate these small minnows, and the larger fish attack the lures. The strikes can be vicious from these very aggressive fish.
Both Spanish mackerel and bluefish tend to run in schools just past the breakers. We have noticed the first of these fish to show up in spring in North Carolina waters are much larger that the schools that follow. Now is the time to land citation fish.
We have never heard of a blackfin tuna being caught off any of the ocean piers, but it happened last week of the end of the Bogue Inlet Pier. The unusual fish weighed 21 pounds and was 33 inches long.
The tuna struck a standard red and white Gotcha plug, as it sliced through a school of bonita mackerel. The catch was so rare, there are no DMF rules regarding this species caught from a pier. This fish was legally kept.
The mild winter seems to have confused many species of fish like this lone blackfin tuna. It is supposed to be many miles offshore in very deep blue water. but could not resist following his favorite meal, the bonita mackerel.
The sea mullets are running strong in the breakers as we begin May. These first sea mullets are larger than normal, with some topping the scales at better than two pounds apiece.
Fresh shrimp, if you can find it, is always a better bait than frozen. These sea mullets are very aggressive this time of year, and will bend the heck out of a medium-action rod.
Flounder seem to run stronger every third year. This is that third year in the cycle. We are looking forward to gigging at night in Bogue Sound in June.
Last year, we had a very good season on the Pamlico Sound for catching flounder on hook and line. We found flounder along the shores of the sound just about every place we visited.
We caught lots of keeper flounder, especially around Rose Bay and Swan Quarter. Some of the flatfish were quite large.
When the hurricane hit last August, the flounder left these familiar places and did not return for the fall fishing season. We hope all the hurricanes stay out to sea this fall.
Speckled trout fishing is improving since the massive kills of the 2010 and 2011 winters. The fish are a bit small, but their numbers appear to be good as we get going in 2012.
The 14-inch size limit for speckled trout is good, as these fish have the opportunity to spawn at least once before they are caught and kept. We need to honor this rule so the species can continue to rebound from near disaster.
Now that the season for rockfish is officially over, it is time to wet a saltwater line. We are ready for the big water, and all the wonderful adventures it has to offer.