Starting around the time of the Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout, reports began pouring in about the great striped bass bite in North Carolina waters.
These fish are no joke, last week two rockfish weighing over 60-pounds challenged the current North Carolina State Record of 62-pounds after holding for five years. The first contender was 63-pounds, and second fish caught later that week weighed in at 64-pounds. Now there are rumors of yet more state record contenders possibly hitting the scales.
We have been spoiled here in Virginia in past years with very good striper fishing right off our beaches into February. But the past couple of years have delivered harsh winter weather, pushing water temperatures below 40-degrees early in the season. These plummeting temperatures encourages the rockfish to travel south in search of warmer water temperatures. Once they settle in, the fish generally stay off the Carolina coast for the remainder of the winter, although they often opt to head for deeper water. This year, the fish are content well within the legal 3-mile demarcation, allowing anglers to access the fish.
Virginia anglers are determined, running up to 40 to 60-miles south to get in on the action. Anglers are reporting steady action, with nice fish ranging mostly from 20 to 35-pounds, with several huge fish in the mix. Folks are finding fish from Corolla, to Kitty Hawk, and on down to Oregon Inlet. Although this is not an easy run, the fish are within reach for boats willing to spend the time and burn the fuel to get there.
If you want to make the run, make sure you purchase a North Carolina fishing license (www.ncwildlife.org), and unless you are looking for a hefty fine, stay within the 3-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, or the EEZ. You could catch the next state record rockfish!