By Skylar Walters
Seventy-eight degrees in February: While it’s not unheard of, it did manage to tie a record temperature set in Wilmington in 1965. That’s some nice weather any time of year and considering the groundhog says we’re supposed to be getting six more weeks of winter, I’ll take it, as I’m sure you will also.
Water temperatures continue to warm and are now reading in the mid-to-upper 50s, a range normally reserved for the month of March, when water temperatures start rising approximately four degrees a month.
This time of year usually brings the coldest temperatures, so unless some drastic cold weather returns, anglers can expect an early fishing season, but not exceptionally early. With that said, the fish are generally still in winter mode so even if the weather stays very comfortable, don’t expect an onslaught of fish to show up until the spring pattern officially starts, which could be as early as March and really get going into the month of April.
On the fishing front, the red drum seem to be loving this warm weather and the anglers also enjoying it have reported good results coming from the area inshore piers, docks and creeks. Those anglers that managed to put away some cut mullet or even finger mullet in the freezer before the season started dwindling down have really been doing really well on the natural bait. The artificial baits are also working but as is usual this time of year, it takes a lot more work and effort to make a lethargic fish eat an artificial bait, but it’s not impossible. A scented artificial bait will help draw interest quite a bit. Using the freshest shrimp one can find will also work wonders whether using a large chunk on a Carolina Rig or tipping a jig head with a shrimp morsel.
Speckled trout fishing continues to be sporadic but anglers targeting them on a regular basis are reporting good fishing can be found, especially on the warmer and sunny days. The back of the creeks where the water seems to be shallower and warmer have been good areas to target as have the inlets along the mud banks. Fish that have been found in good numbers have mainly been on the smaller side but anglers staying with it have been able to weed them out and find some keepers.
Off the beach, the ocean conditions have not been ideal the past week but prior to the wind, anglers were reporting some good fishing for black sea bass being found around the 20-mile range. Water temperatures in that area are reported to be in the mid-60s, which is also warm for this time of year, so once sea conditions improve, it shouldn’t take going much further offshore to find some other species like king mackerel and amberjack.