Well, I wish we could say that we are off to a good start in 2018. We as people can control almost everything, but a few things are out of that realm, including Mother Nature. From New Years Day to the following Wednesday we saw near record low temperatures that dropped the water temp in our area down to almost freezing temps, with areas of the marsh, White Oak River, and local creeks starting to show bits of ice on them. By Wednesday Jan 3rd, Speckled Trout were already starting to show up dead and stunned in the White Oak in rather alarming numbers. And then came the snow. With areas here on the coast picking up 3"-6" of snow, followed by 4 days of temperatures well below the freezing line, no one was sure what was going to happen with our fishery. This past Monday through Wednesday when some anglers were able to get out and do some recon to asses the state of the fishery, and it hasn't been very pretty sight. Red Drum, Black Drum, Flounder, and Speckled Trout were littered everywhere. A lot of red drum did manage to find their way to the surf and avoid the freeze. The Department of Marine Fisheries has closed the harvest of Speckled Trout from January 5th to June 15th of this year. This means that commercially and recreationally it is illegal to transport or be found in possession of the specks within that time frame. You can still target the fish hook and line, in a catch and release capacity only. That being said and keeping into consideration the number of fish killed from this recent freeze, it is paramount that we all practice the best and safest fishing methods in the upcoming year. The best way to help our fishery recover from the wrath of mother nature is to be the best angler you can be. Practice good habits. This means anglers may want to consider taking extra care when handling fish, using circle hooks whenever possible, practicing catch and release, and not upgrading fish on a long day of catching. We might not be able to control the weather, but we can control what each of us does every time we decide to put our fishing caps on and step on the boat or bank.
Redfish - With water temps in the marsh barley breaking the mid 40's, and another bout of cold weather predicted for the upcoming week, anglers are going to want to look to the surf zone for their reds. Anglers have been connecting to reds everywhere from the Bogue Inlet Pier to Onslow Beach. The reds will be sitting in the rollers and in sloughs across the beaches in tight schools. Anglers will be looking to use heavier lead heads in the 1/4-1/2oz range to try and make long casts to meet the fish. Zoom, GULP!, and Z-Man baits are all winners, especially with Pro-Cure Bait Scents added to help the fish eat.
Black Drum - It is hard to say what the Black Drum bite will look like until we get a little further past this cold weather. Anglers should be looking in deep holes near the marshes and places that have heavy current over the next two weeks using small carolina and bottom rigs with small circle hooks as their rigs. Frozen shrimp will be the meal of choice for the black drum left in the area.
Hopefully after this next snap of cold we can start working to get back in the swing of it all. Keep tabs on the Pogie's Fishing Center FaceBook Page for the most recent updates. Also be Sure to stop by Pogie's Fishing Center in Downtown Swansboro to talk to our experienced staff and for the most current updates about the local fishery.