There are still fish around, but the off-season is a great time to hone and build your angling skills.

Here are a few suggestions:

Some of the greatest concentration of fishing skills and sage wisdom can be found within our local fishing clubs, and the members are very user-friendly in sharing, while the guest speakers are an additional wealth of knowledge.

Inshore, offshore, pier, surf and back water expertise is there, as well as big boats, small skiffs and kayaks. Are you interested in trout, red and black drum? How about cobia and kings, maybe puffers and sea mullet … they got it! The clubs also keep up with changing regulations.

Two of the clubs include the Saltwater Light Tackle Fishing Club out of Morehead City and the Onslow Bay Saltwater Fishing Club in the Jacksonville/Swansboro area.

I have been a member of the SLTFC for many years. We meet at the Morehead City Country Club the last Tuesday of each month. Check out the club’s website at https://SLTFC.club.

The Onslow Bay club meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Supreme Buffet Hibachi Grill, 209 Freedom Highway in Jacksonville. The club can be found on the web at http://www.OBSFC.us.

Other clubs include the Holy Mackerel Fishing Club at St. Egbert’s Catholic Church in Morehead City (https://www.crystalcoastcatholic.org/holy-mackerel-fishing-club) and the Fairfield Harbor Fishing Club in Fairfield Harbor (https://www.fairfieldharbournc.com/fishing-1). I have from time to time given talks to each of these clubs and can recommend them.

The off-season also has a number of fishing seminars which have continued to grow in popularity over the years. They provide a great way of listening and talking to experts and commiserating with fellow anglers as we await the spring. Two popular ones include the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series and the Fisherman’s Post Saltwater Fishing school.

The Saltwater Sportsman 2020 National Seminar Series will be held Saturday, Feb. 1 in New Bern in the New Bern Convention Center. To register, call 1-800-448-7360 or log in at http://www.nationalseminarseries.com.

The Fisherman’s Post Fishing Saltwater Fishing School on Saturday, Feb. 29 will be held at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. To register, call 1-910-452-6378 or find the posting on the web at http://www.Fishermanspost.com. Tickets are also available at Chasin’ Tails on the Atlantic Beach Causeway and West Marine in Morehead City.

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So that’s a few ways to while away your winter days, but there are still fish to be had, not the least are the speckled trout.

Trout are still biting well, and with the recent warm temperatures, are pretty frisky, slamming baits and stripping drag. Where? North River, Radio Island, Wards Creek, the Neuse River creeks, Core Creek, Taylors Creek, the Highway 24 creeks along Bogue Sound and the New River.

Speaking of the New River, don’t forget about the AR 398 reef in the river. I continue to have success with most fish in the 19- to 21-inch class, except in Pettiford Creek where I continue to get skunked.

Many of the same areas are holding red drum, shorts and slots. Places like Taylors Creek are also awash in slot black drum caught on shrimp. Red and black drum and sheepshead are also showing at the Cape Lookout Jetty. There are probably reds in the Core Banks surf too, as they are usually there through the winter.

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If it’s bottom fishing you are looking for, the mild water temps, which are in the upper 50s pushing 60 degrees, there is still a good sea mullet and puffer bite in Beaufort Inlet.

The trick is shrimp on Sam’s Gitters or modified speck rigs tipped with shrimp or Fishbites baits.

If you browse the current Sea Surface Temperature Charts, you might note the warm 70-degree water pushing nearshore in Raleigh Bay from Cape Lookout shoals to Cape Hatteras. These warm temps are holding good numbers of false albacore and king mackerel, along with schools of old reds.

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Now for the tuna. It’s already been an excellent season for bluefin tuna catches with some fish going for over $40 per pound on the market.

We know there are blackfin tuna offshore, along with wahoo, but recently, I’ve also heard of blackfin tuna sighted just off Oceanana Pier in Atlantic Beach. That’s pretty interesting. Over the last few years, we have been getting a spring run of blackfins within sight of the beach around AR 315 and AR 320, and I have even seen a few 20-pounders landed from Bogue Inlet Pier.

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Finally, it seems early, but there are reports of shad (yes, shad) being caught in the Neuse River near New Bern.  Hmmmmm … will we see an early spawning run for the shad this year? Something to keep an eye on.

Hope you all had a great holiday season, and it’s now time to look forward to a good year of fishing in 2020.

Bogus notes

1) Check me out at www.Facebook.com/Dr.Bogus.) Log onto my web site at www.ncoif.com. It’s repaired and up and running and better than ever.

2) "Ask Dr. Bogus" is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.

3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.

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