By Skylar Walters
The up-and-down weather pattern that the month of February has shown so far continues to provide anglers with some fishing opportunities in what is normally the slowest and most mundane month of the year. The continued spring-like conditions with air temperatures reaching into the mid-to-upper 70s and weak winds have allowed anglers to get out and enjoy some offshore time as well as the inshore variety. However, just as this report is being typed, the weather pattern is changing and calling for gale-force winds into the weekend, so the offshore fishing will probably be taking a break for a little while. Water temperatures are plenty warm for this time of year, reading in the mid-50s.
Offshore, the boats looking for wahoo have been doing well with lots of fish in the 50-pound range being reported. Areas around the Steeples and Same Ole Hole have been producing when the boats can get out. Areas in the 20-mile range have been producing some very good bottom fishing for large black bass and grunts.
Some bottom fishing anglers fishing out of the Southport area have been reporting schools of large red drum being found around 15 miles out. Of course, this is catch and release only and if targeting them, please make sure to use tackle large enough to get them to the boat quickly for a safe and healthy release. Some slot red drum and a few larger fish have been found by anglers knowing what to look for in the surf areas around Masons and Rich’s inlets. Large schools of fish can be found on the calmer days, which won’t be this week, unfortunately. Larger spoons and even cut bait soaked in the suds will work for these fish.
The warmer water has kept the speckled trout action going although it’s a matter of finding them and getting them to bite. The deeper creeks and areas around mud banks and inlets are all probably holding some fish. If you can find them, live mud minnows are a hard bait to beat this time of year but artificial baits will also work, they just take more work and patience.
Anglers are also enjoying some very good striped bass fishing in the Cape Fear River near downtown Wilmington. Areas along the waterfront, around the bridges and also the creek mouths are holding fish. Swimming plugs and bucktails both work. Just be sure to bring enough tackle and expect to lose some to the submerged structures you’ll encounter.
All in all, if the warm weather continues to pay us a visit every few days, February may just shape up to be one of the better ones and get us through rather quickly to the month of March when things should start showing signs of progress.