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Carolinas fishing forecast: Big bluefin tuna appear off Morehead City

Bluefin tuna measuring up to 81/2 feet and weighing more than 500 pounds finally have reappeared in numbers off Morehead City after a five-year absence.

Two of the giants were among an estimated 30 bluefin boated Tuesday measuring from 73 inches to 104.

The latter tuna was caught Monday by John Cauthorn of Morehead City. Bluefins of 102 inches were taken Tuesday by local fishermen Brian Herrington and Marty Hyatt, angling together, and by a party skippered by Chris Kimrey, also of Morehead City.

“The fish caught by Brian and Marty was so big they couldn’t get it in their center-console boat,” said Joe Shute, a Morehead City/Atlantic Beach guide and lure maker who is a native of Monroe. “They had to tie it alongside the boat to get it back to the dock.

“We haven’t seen any bluefins to speak of since 2009, so this is very exciting. Hopefully, they will stay in our waters until March, like they have in some past years when coming here to winter and feed.”

All three of the biggest tuna caught struck lures of Shute’s creation. These have 3-ounce white lead heads and crystal skirts.

The forecast:

Lake Norman : Very good for hybrids, the striped bass-white bass cross, mainly on live baits such as herring. Spotted bass, stripers and white perch are mixed in the schools, which generally are being found 30 feet deep north of the N.C. 150 bridge. Good for crappie on minnows, with some limit catches reported from around brush 25-30 feet down. A mix of several species from the shorelines at the Plant Marshall and McGuire Station hot holes.

Lake Wylie: Good for crappie around brush 30 feet deep on minnows. Continuing fair for largemouth bass at the lower end on small crankbaits and rattling lures cast near schools of forage. White perch on jigging spoons and minnows.

Mountain Island Lake : Fair to good for crappie around deep brush.

Cane Creek Park Lake: Little activity.

Yadkin-Pee Dee River Lakes: Fair for crappie the length of the chain, from High Rock through Tuckertown, Badin, Tillery and on to Blewett Falls. Best reported catches are from the Smith Lake section of Blewett Falls on minnows and Kalin jigs fished around relatively shallow cover.

Lakes James, Rhodhiss, Hickory : Good to excellent at James for limits of smallmouth bass on shiners either drifted or slow-trolled over points. Little activity at Rhodhiss. Stripers at the lower end of Hickory on live baits.

Fontana Lake : Excellent for a mix of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass on jerk baits, spinnerbaits and Gulp! lures cast to the shoreline. Limit catches are reported.

Lake Wateree : Improving for crappie suspended 18-22 feet deep along the river ledge on minnows. Fair for largemouth during early morning on topwater lures, then later around docks from Beaver Creek to the dam on crankbaits, spinnerbaits.

Lake Thurmond: Fair to good for stripers, hybrids, moving uplake and taking live baits 30 feet deep around humps during early morning. Later, the best action is coming on baits and lures trolled under planer boards.

Lake Murray: Very good for shellcrackers as the moon waxes, on earthworms fished just off the shoreline out to10 feet deep. Good for stripers, feeding in surface schools lakewide and striking a variety of lures. Also, stripers on live baits worked 30 feet deep.

Santee Cooper Lakes : Very good for limits of crappie to 3 pounds, with the fish suspended 10-18 feet deep over brush 20-35 feet down. Very good for bream, generally being found 18 feet deep. Good for catfish on cut shad drift-fished 8-25 feet deep, with a slight edge in action to the lower of the two lakes, Moultrie.

Lake Hartwell : Good for white and yellow perch 30-35 feet deep in the middle of creek channels on minnows. Fair for largemouth at the same depth on jigging spoons and drop-shot rigs. Spotted bass in surfacing schools near the dam.

Lake Keowee: Unchanged, meaning fair to good for largemouth and spotted bass in surfacing schools. When not feeding on the surface, the fish are hitting drop-shot rigs worked 25-30 feet deep.

Lake Jocassee : Continuing fair for trout on spoons and live baits worked 80-100 feet deep.

Outer Banks : Nags Head area: Slow in the surf. Scattered croaker, gray trout and whiting at Jennette’s Pier; Oregon Inlet: Good inshore and near-shore for striped bass. Blackfin and yellowfun tuna, plus a few wahoo, offshore when sea conditions are good; Hatteras Island: Excellent offshore for blackfin tuna to 30 pounds and king mackerel when sea conditions are decent. Black drum to 61 pounds, plentiful blues, red drum, speckled trout and whiting in the surf from Rodanthe to Hatteras Village. Flounder in Hatteras Inlet and limits of puppy drum in the sound; Ocracoke Island: Black drum, blues, puppy drum and whiting in the surf; Morehead City area: Speckled trout to 9 pounds at the Cape Lookout rock jetty. Gray trout and whiting in the shipping channel and along the Shackleford Banks, where some red drum also have been reported.

Southeast Coast : Black drum, puppy drum and speckled trout to 6 pounds in the backwaters and at the Little River jetties. Wahoo, sailfish and a few dolphin offshore of Ocean Isle.

S.C. Coast: Little River area: Black drum in the 16-inch range along with a few croaker and whiting; Grand Strand area: Very good for speckled trout at Charlie’s Cut, the Murrells Inlet jetties and Weaton Flats on live shrimp. Continuing good for black drum and sheepshead at the Murrells Inlet and Georgetown jetties. Fair blues, pompano and whiting in the surf. Puppy drum in the surf at Litchfield Beach. Trout off Surfside beach on strips of mullet; Charleston area: Wahoo to 70 pounds offshore when sea conditions are decent. King mackerel offshore in 50-70 feet of water. Excellent offshore for bottom species. Whiting at Folly Beach Pier; Beaufort/Hilton Head area: Speckled trout on soft plastic lures worked under popping corks during the outgoing tide.

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