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By Barrett McMuullan
I feel like William Wallace from the movie “Braveheart,” when he held his army back from attacking the approaching enemy until the perfect moment. “Hold the line. Hold! Hold!”
Well, it’s March and we fishermen are being unfairly forced to restrain ourselves from attacking all those fish out there thanks to Mother Nature.
For what seems like the last several months—but probably more realistically the last few weeks—the wind has kept eager fishermen with cabin fever on the hill just waiting for the opportune moment to wet a hook. When the weather is sour in January and February we sort of expect it and are OK with the winter break. It gives us time and an excuse to slow down, reflect on the prior year’s fishing adventures and begin preparations for the fishing year ahead.
By March, however, rightly or wrongly, we are fit to be tied and ready to put some fish on the deck. The truth is March is typically a pretty tough weather month around these parts, especially if you are an offshore fisherman. The Winds of March is no wives’ tale. Every year, March signifies the beginning of spring, but truth be told the fishable days in March are usually not too far off January or February. Now that isn’t going to stop us from keeping a close eye on the forecast, and with the slightest weather window provided, make no mistake, the bow will be in the wind.
So, while we patiently hold the line waiting on our opportunity to satisfy our primal need to catch fish, what do we do? We talk about fishing, of course. This Saturday, March 16, at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center is the annual OIFC Spring Kickoff. This year the event has been totally revamped with new events, speakers, sales and all types of fishing-related activities aimed at quenching the thirst of all types of fishermen out there ready to get back on the water. From spot fishermen to blue marlin fishermen, the spring kickoff is for everyone. See the ad on page 11B for the schedule of events. We hope to see you there.
Now, if the weather were to break, what could you expect to find out there in the way of gamefish prey? Inshore, the water has been crystal clear, which is good because you can see the large schools of redfish hanging on shallow oyster and mud flats. It’s bad because the redfish can also see you seeing them, which makes them skittish and difficult to catch.
The best bet is to set up your boat as far away as you can cast and either use some type of scented Gulp bait retrieved slowly bouncing along the bottom or, if you have access to them, quartered blue crabs are the ticket.
Nearshore, the black sea bass are so thick from depths of 30 feet out to 100 feet you can just about forget catching anything else off the bottom. Thanks to our federal government and its fishery experts, we are still not allowed to keep any delicious black sea bass because of fear of overfishing an endangered population. Let me tell you from firsthand experience, if black sea bass are endangered now, someone will make a horror movie out of a “healthy” black sea bass population.
Offshore along the Gulf Stream break, wahoos are the name of the game. It would not be likely this time of year to have steady action all day, as they are running in tight packs. But if you hit a pack, there is a great chance at multiple hookups.
Farther to the north above Hatteras, the bluefin tuna are still prevalent. They are at the top of my list when we get a weather break.
For now, hold! Hold! Hold! Soon it will be time for…attack!
Barrett McMullan, a two-time winner of the SKA national championship, is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.