As many of you know, for many years, my day job was as a research scientist. I worked in a laboratory at a bench mixing chemicals and became very good at writing down my methods, observations and results. Attention to detail ensured that I could write journal articles and that both I and others could reproduce my results.
Fishing is not so-o-o-o-o different. You fish, you have success or not, and these results are often dependent on weather and water conditions, techniques, locations, baits, and of course last but not least, the vagaries of fish. Most of us have bad, suspect or selective memories about our fishing history, and a fishing log is one way to bring reality back into focus and be able to use past experiences to enhance our future success.
There are many ways to log your fishing data, such as handwritten notebooks and fishing apps for your smart phone or computer. Me, I use a large wall calendar and write daily information in the daily boxes. And of course, I also write a fishing column each week. The methodology is not too relevant. What is important is the data entered that will help make sense of catching success or failure.
At the top of my list is water temperature, which tells you what and when. All fish have a range of acceptable temperatures for them and a Goldilocks, just-right temperature. Fish are very temperature sensitive. I have taken water temperature data in the ocean surf at Bogue Inlet Pier and in Bogue Sound since 1995, so I have lots of data and a good idea of what and when. With this data, I can follow the ups and downs and identify when to expect drastic changes that will fire up or shut down the bite.
Some other “Ts” after temperature are time and tides. Time of day can be very important. Some fish, like speckled trout, are low-light feeders, and some late-rising fish are better caught during the daytime. So, when do you have the best success for Spanish, spots, blues or sea mullet? Your log will key you into the best time of day to catch your target species, whatever it might be.
As far as tides, have you done better on a rising tide? How about a falling tide? Slack tide? Lately, speckled trout in the surf around Bogue Inlet Pier have been chewing at high tide, dead-low tide, early in the morning, midday and late in the afternoon, so logs aren’t perfect. They just highlight trends. They give you just a little edge over other fishermen who just go on dumb luck. Along with the tides, do you check solunar tables? These data relate the lunar and solar positions to feeding activity of fish, and of course, are related to tides. Did you have good success during the full moon? New moon phase?
Weather is always a wildcard in fishing. In my log, I record weather conditions, sunny or cloudy, was it windy and from what direction, did it rain today, and how did I do? Rain and wind have a lot of effect on water conditions and quality. Was the water gin-clear of Yoo-Hoo brown? How about tea-stained? We have seen all the above. Some fish, like speckled trout and Spanish, prefer calm and clear. Other bottom feeders, like spots and sea mullet, like the rough-and-tumble surf that stirs up their forage-like sea worms and sand fleas.
Finally, baits, artificial and natural. As you all know I use mainly metal, plastic and sometimes wood. Fish can be sometimes fussy and sometimes not. Size, color and shape are all more or less important. “Match the hatch” is the fly fisherman’s mantra. Recently, there have been days the trout have been crushing soft plastics on a jig head. Other days, MirrOlures were the hot bait, so make note of what worked and check the color (color is complicated). Were big or smaller baits catching the most fish? Were the baits ripped at warp speed or wiggling through the water like it was molasses? Size and speed are often key variables that you have control over. Not catching fish? Try something else: different bait, different speed or action. Check to see what baits are in the water if a fish is caught and what had they just eaten. Often, they will let you know. Then there are natural or other simulated natural baits: mud minnows, finger mullet, live shrimp, cut baits sand fleas that are often preferred baits for your target species. In addition, there are scented baits like Berkley Gulp! or the very popular Fishbites bits and pieces or added scents like the Pro-Cure gels that can be added to your artificials.
So, a detailed, personal fishing log documenting success and lack thereof, as well as important conditions of the day, can build on itself over time, and in the long term, show trends that can increase your fishing success.
So how was the catching success this week?
The top bill is still speckled trout, led by a whopping 9.9-pound speck landed from the Atlantic Beach surf on a MirrOlure. That may have topped the bill, but the trout are hot almost everywhere: sound and river creeks, Bogue Inlet and Oceanana piers, Topsail and Bogue Banks surf, all having really heated up. On Bogue Banks, the areas just east of Oceanana and Bogue Inlet piers were yielding easy limits. Many fish are 18 to 20 inches in length and fat too. Personally, I’ve caught nice fish in some of the creeks. On Sunday, I easily limited on 19- to 20-inch specks in under an hour while using one of the Betts Billy Bay Halo Shrimp, fished very slowly. Also in that hour, I released a rat red, a short trout and two 17-inch fish. Pretty good for under an hour of fishing! By the way, I caught these fish in the early morning on a rising tide. I left while the bite was still on, and NO, I didn’t go back for another “limit.”
Other places hot with trout include Shackleford Banks, Rough Point and from the slough that runs along the island. There are reds in the mix there too. Results at the Radio Island jetty have been on and off, but if you get there when it’s on, you will do well. There are also specks on the fuel tank side of Radio Island, along with reds and grays. Bottom fishing will get you sea mullet and big puffers in the Morehead City turning basin and inlet, as well as along the surf. I also heard of specks in Core and Back creeks. Remember, all those short trout you let go last year? Well, they have grown up!
If you want a change from spots to stripes, the striper action around the New Bern bridges has also heated up with nice catches in the Neuse and Trent rivers.
As far as pier fishing, Oceanana Pier reports puffers, sea mullet and trout. The pier will close Jan 1 and reopen Feb 15.
Bogue Inlet Pier had a good week with puffers and BIG sea mullet, especially at night and at the end of the pier, along with plenty of speckled trout. They will be closing after business Sunday and reopen in the middle of March for the annual Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Day festivities. If you have a year pass and key, you can get onto the pier in the off season.
At Seaview Pier, guess what? Puffers, mullet and trout. They will be open into December but are undecided on what day they will close.
At Surf City Pier, ditto on the fish already mentioned. They will remain open, but beginning Monday, will be opened only during daylight hours. As for how long, that has not been determined yet.
At Jolly Roger Pier, ditto again on the fish, and as always, they are open all year round.
Finally, North Carolina’s bluefin tuna season opened Sunday. We have heard of some of these giants spotted the last several weeks, and on day one, a bluefin was brought to the scales in Morehead City. Hopefully, we will have a good season this year.
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.