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Fishing Columnist

I was born and, for the first 23 years, raised in the northeast, occasionally finding some comfort in those roots. Not often, though.

Granted and grateful, I now consider myself a southerner. I could write several columns on that transition, which would include how I felt when I first arrived, and include the epiphanies and subtleties that led to my ultimate assimilation. Someday I will, but it won't be today. Just suffice it to say, the locals had it right the first time.

I raise this because as I sat bemoaning our dearth of good fishing, I happened to watch The Weather Channel, and it reminded me that come January and February, no matter how bad it is here, it's better than being in New York (or Michigan, Massachusetts, Ontario, etc.).

Bad fishing here? Heck, they're talking about bad living there. Fishing is the least of their problems at the moment. Even the Carolinians -- who make jokes about us in the summer -- wish they were here. Watch for a northern push in the next couple of weeks.

We do get several species of fish in the winter that are generally considered 'northern' fish, but from what I can determine, nothing more than usual. There are plenty of little bluefish -- the big guys will arrive in about a month -- but a perplexing shortage of weakfish (yellowmouth trout). Whiting are problematic, in that both northern and southern species look alike to most people.

There are subtle differences in terms of teeth and markings, and most Yankees will recognize them as "kingfish."

Although we've experienced a series of cold/cool fronts, we've had the luxury of intermittent warm spells and the result is that the waters are still relatively warm.

While ice flows and blockages occur in Boston, New York and Chesapeake Bay, our surf is still in the 56-to-60 degrees range, close to what it was in July when the thermocline almost killed us.

Somewhere in between, there are a lot of northern fish heading south, and a multitude of southern fish that haven't moved out. In another month neither will have to.

Surf reports were terrible over the last few weeks but I received several this week promoting big whiting north of Vilano. Mickler's, the Tables, Guana all came in with big whiting that bit pretty much around the tide but primarily during the rise.

As to whether these were southerners or northern migrants (kingfish), I can't say because I didn't see the fish or speak with anyone who knew the difference. I didn't hear any arguments, however, as to how happy the anglers were to catch them.

The same could not be said for south of St. Augustine Inlet where most of the whiting were small, as were the bluefish. In a nutshell, the surf was only good in certain areas.

Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) reports were equally lean in number, but a little better in perspective. For reds, look to the back of the creeks at low tide. Bob Conroy (Mike's Place) came in with a water temperature of 58 degrees, and he's pretty far up North River.

That temperature generally reveals a slow, but not dull fish that is looking for warmth and food. Fishing for it with live shrimp might catch you a flounder or trout as well.

The best trout report came from Devils Elbow, where Ray Dillinger came back daily with trout he caught via live shrimp and artificials. There weren't many particulars on the keys to his success, but other reports said that trout were gathering at the mouths of feeder creeks in the deeper water, especially during the low tide. In candor, there just isn't much verifiable data with which to work.

I expected more in the way of sheepshead and drum at this point, but that hasn't been the case in the last few weeks.

Perhaps it's as much the lack of anglers as anything else. It's been slow; just ask the people who sell bait and tackle. Sheepshead regulars have been just that -- regular -- but that's the best I could say this week. There were nice fish caught, but nothing in the way of big numbers.

The offshore remained terrific -- when you could go. The Jodie Lynn II made a run (46 miles) to 155 feet of water, where they relieved Neptune of four cobia (50 to 60 pounds), 17 genuines (between 10 and 15 pounds), a wealth of redeyes, and a few triggers.
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