Closed for the Season

Outer Banks Fishing Piers have closed for the season. Or at least for most of them.

Fishing on an Outer Banks pier over the past eight months has provided much excitement, a learning experience for many and in some cases recorded some trophy catches.  

Although, it’s been a great year, the weather hasn’t always been kind to our fishery. Occasional storms and hurricanes chased many anglers off the surf and piers. But on the same note, these fronts always relented quickly only to an improved catch days later.

The Thanksgiving weekend signals the un-official closure of some of my favorite places to fish.

But all is not lost though with two local piers, Avalon and Jennette’s, as well many soundside piers, bridges and docks will remain open throughout the entire winter season.

The remaining piers, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Outer Banks, Rodanthe, and Avon all closed just after the thanksgiving weekend. There may be staff in the tackle shops but access has stopped.

All is not lost, the Outer Banks surf should hold fish throughout the entire winter. Special gear will be needed but those dedicated enough to brave the elements can be rewarded.

The best bet for our winter anglers is to head south on the Hatteras or Ocracoke island beaches. There they will find slightly warmer water temperatures and fish should be around most of the winter season.

So if the sight of bright sunshine, sounds of crashing waves, and a brisk cool breeze against your face doesn’t chase you away, there are miles of surf to fish on or a railing on a pier waiting for you to hoist a fish over.

As we charge into the off seasons, there is much to do and learn for the coming season. 

Stay tuned!!

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

A Call for Help

October is the peak fishing month on Ocracoke Island. Jumping mullets move along the inlets and beach, providing a great source of bait for game fish such as drum and bluefish. Water temperatures start to cool down toward the end of the month, bringing larger bluefish and citation (over 40 inches) red drum to the surf.

But this year was different. On September 6, 2019, Hurricane Dorian approached the small island of Ocracoke of North Carolina flooding the entire island with over seven feet of water and devastating winds. The flooding destroyed homes, businesses and infrastructure. And what the water didn’t do, the wind finished it. But most of all it affected the people. Their spirit is broken as well as their lives. But they are a determined to not let the storm defeat them.

Businesses on Ocracoke Island depend on their summer visitors to live but they need the fall visitor to survive. This year after the Hurricane Dorian, they and the rest of the island are suffering.

But we can help. You can help.

Alan and Melissa at Tradewinds could really use your help now. Have you ever wanted an official T-shirt, sweatshirt or even a hat from Tradewinds Tackle? Well now you can get one delivered right to your door and help them. Now you can order one from e-bay.

To place an order for any of their merchandise, use the link below.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/264496952701

Ocracoke Island Slogan, ““A Short Ferry Ride Away But A World Apart” by Alan Sutton

Friends helping friends – let’s all pitch in and do what we can to help.

Tightlines – Until Next Time – Capt. Tony

Striped Bass Fishery 2019

Today the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) announced the opening of the Striped Bass Recreational Season effective October 1, 2019 at 12:01 A.M. in the Albemarle Sound Management Area.

Striped bass maybe caught by hook and line or recreational commercial gear for recreational purposes all seven (7) days per week.

These fish must be at least 18 total inches and each angler may keep no more than two (2) fish in any one day.

The season is scheduled to close at 1159 P.M. on, Thursday, April 30, 2020 unless closed by the NCDMF proclamation.

Additionally, the Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass fishery remains open to all anglers at one (1) fish per day at a minimum of twenty-eight (28) inches. For more information on the ocean fishery, please check with your local tackle shop.

It’s been a long time since we had a good striped bass fishery. Only take what you can use. All others should be safely returned to the water.

And only you and I can preserve this important Outer Banks fishery.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Can They See You

Most angler’s use the old game of hide and seek when fishing from a shore line or bridge. Most times without even recognizing that they are doing it.

Hide and seek is a popular kids game where they attempt to conceal themselves from being seen or heard. The goal of the game is to be the last player found.

Anglers frequently use the same skills of hide and seek. An angler who stands out on a bridge or shoreline with bright clothing, erratic movements or makes noise not natural to the area is sure to spook an already skittish target. So being stealth is the ticket for improved success.

Most targeted fish have tremendous eyesight and other senses that will warn them that danger is close. Anglers should keep this in mind when planning their next fishing trip, selecting a location or even what prey they plan to target.

Clothing is the first line of hide and seek. Wearing a contrasting shirt color against either a bright or cloudy day can warn the fish that some type of danger is present. So anglers should try to avoid standing out from the background.

A good rule is “If the sky is a bright blue, your shirt color should blue”. Similarly, if there is an overcast day, your shirt color should match as close to the background as possible. In this case, your clothing could be pale or light grey.

But what about partly sunny or clouds, colors should be neutral or natural. The best rule to follow is use only colors that are not bright or result in the angler to standing out.

Erratic angler movement can also influence a targeted prey to flee. When fishing on a bank or other structure, the angler’s movement is probably just as important as camouflage clothing. Trees or other vertical structures do not move erratically unless there is wind or significant weather condition.

Fish can sense the surrounding weather conditions including wave action, wind and other environmental influences, so they will know what is unnatural. Anglers should limit their movement to a minimum.

Unnatural sounds are also a component of stealth. Noise and unusual sounds that are not typically found in a specific location, such as loud voices, dropping gear, banging rods against railings or other such noises put up a warning. Unusual noise, banging of gear or even some levels of voices can be heard and possibly felt for some distance under the water.

Being stealth and using good camouflaging techniques will give you a significant advantage. Smart anglers consider these techniques as well as many others when trying to avoid being detected.

So next time you visit your neighborhood tackle shop, look a little closer in the camouflage section.

You might just find the color that can help improve your catches.

Until next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony

Pier Fishing Basics

Fishing on one of the seven Outer Banks Piers is safe and enjoyable for the entire family. Most piers have ample parking, tackle supplies and food and beverage concessions. They will also rent you equipment and supply you with everything you need to fish.

There are four things I recommend you do after you arrive at the pier but before you start fishing. The four things are: “Homework”, “Observe”, “Ask” and “Try”.

“Homework” is researching the most recent fishing activity. Your findings will include, what has been caught recently and using what bait. Where is the best action? Do you have the proper gear and rigging? What are the tides and other weather conditions? There are many other considerations that both the pier staff and tackle shop professionals can help with.

“OBSERVE” is the next thing – once on the pier try to watch what other anglers are doing. Are they casting or just dropping the baits.  What type of equipment or gear are they using? What type rig or bait are they using and are they successful with that method. Spending several minutes can save much time and help avoiding that learning curve.

“ASK” is the next thing I do. Ask the other anglers what they are catching. What type of bait or rig works best? Your best bet for success is to copy what the others are doing.

“TRY” is the final step. Try out the information you received.  Work the pier is some type of order. I start on one side and typically close in. I work my way out to the deeper water. Each time I move, I watch the other anglers.  I follow the end of the pier. I then will either switch over the other side or just move close in and begin my journey from close in to the end of the pier.

Keys to success on the pier is moving around to find fish. If you don’t catch something right away or after a short period – Move. I will move many times both out and back and switching sides occasionally. 

There are many reasons you will not be successful on a fishing pier. But none is more damaging than using “DEAD BAIT”. What do I mean about using dead bait – its’ bait that is days old or allowed to sit in the sun and “cook”. Air dried and stale bait will turn off the fish quickly Keep your bait in the shade or better yet, in a cooler. Remember – Fresh bait has a natural scent and catches more fish.

When using fresh bait, always buy the best whether it’s shrimp, squid or blood worms.

Using the proper gear and equipment for the various seasons can mean the difference between success and failure. Medium to heavy gear in spring and fall and lighter gear in summer.

Sharp hooks and good rigging make for quick hook ups. A variety of sinkers will hold the bottom during different conditions.

Angler safety is also imperative. Dress for the conditions. Sun screen is needed year round. Bringing plenty of fluids and snacks make for an enjoyable day.

A cooler with plenty of ice will keep any fish you plan to harvest. Also, try to practice “CPR” – that is Catch, Photo and Release!!

So keep it simple and pier fishing will help create memories that last a lifetime.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Looking Back – Tournament Time

It’s twenty-nine years later and the excitement is still present in the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournaments. Will there be another fantastic finish? Well, in 1990 there was. Here is my take on that exciting day 29 years ago.

Fishing tournaments can be very unpredictable. The winners can be determined by either the last fish caught or maybe a last minute weigh-in finish. In the case of the 1990 Pirate Cove Billfish tournament, the winning boat was going to end up with both.

It was a warm day for the 7th Annual Pirate Cove Billfish tournament in August 1990. The previous six tournaments were exciting events but for some reason this one just felt a little different.

My love for fishing and boating brought me to North Carolina as a visitor at a young age and ultimately a resident. Those early years, our family would walk the docks at the various fishing centers to admire the boats and the catch of the day. And attending the annual tournaments were always a highlight of our summer trips.

The first three days of the 1990 tournament appeared like any normal competitive event. Boats crews were boasting and bragging about their catches and admiring each other’s flags. The crowds seemed to grow larger each day with the increased catches and excitement of crowning the winning boat.

On the fourth day of the tournament, we arrived early afternoon at the marina. Unlike the other previous afternoons, the marina docks appeared to be even more crowded than before. Most of the boats had already recorded their scores. And people milling around waiting to see the winning boat and crew.

Minutes before the tournament ended and lines out of the water, a rumor began to spread that a tournament boat had just hooked up with a possible record blue marlin and they were still fighting it. And then several minutes later the rumor was confirmed that in fact the Sea Toy was fighting what may not only be the winning fish but could be a tournament record.

The next report, almost thirty minutes later, indicated that the fish had been landed and the Sea Toy was headed in. With less than two and a half hours until the weigh-in closes, Sea Toy had no time to waste. It would be full throttle and the engines wide open from the Gulf Stream through the inlet and up the sound into the narrow channel leading to the Pirates Cove marina.

Could they deliver this fish on time? Would the boat hold up with this beating? Time and equipment were now becoming a major factor.

On the docks, excitement continued to build at the thought of this record finish. But also you could feel this strange awe overcoming everyone. The thought of being a part of this tournament with a trophy marlin and a last minute finish was just fascinating.

It was still early and the thought of this full size charter boat steaming full throttle into the narrow Pirate Cove creek to the hoist and scale with hundreds of spectators standing within feet of the water was not a concern – no not YET.

Time was running out when the Sea Toy radioed in that they crossed the bar and passed Oregon Inlet. They were now heading full throttle into the shallow waters of the Roanoke Sound and a marina full of expensive yachts and hundreds of spectators. Sea Toy called ahead and asked that all yachts be double tied and all spectators are aware of the huge bow wave from the approach to his berth.

As the huge vessel made the left turn into the creek, the huge hull seemed to be completely out of the water. The double secured yachts seemed to disappear behind the wall of water. Spectators were amazed at the sight – even ignoring twelve inches of water pouring over the docks and covering their feet.

The Sea Toy sped toward the head of the creek and with one quick turn she was backed into the slip. Within seconds, the mate grabbed the hoist line, fastened it to the tail and hoisted the 654 pound Blue Marlin to first place finish!! And a mere 60 seconds to spare!!

It’s been twenty five years since I witnessed this amazing event. And I still get a chill just thinking how special this event was for me. Remember tournaments are unpredictable – just because you don’t fish it does not mean you can’t enjoy to fun.

The next 32nd Annual Billfish Tournament is being held on August 11-14, 2015 at the Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo, NC.

Will you be there to witness history?

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Fishing the Wash. Baum Bridge

There are many places to fish on the Outer Banks but none better than the pier under the Washington Baum Bridge. This dock is a favorite for both locals and visitors. Most days throughout the summer and fall, you will find scores of anglers lining the railings.

The pier is located on U.S. Hwy 64 just under the western end of the bridge. The pier along with one of the finest small boat ramps can be easily accessed at the light past the western end of the bridge and just across from the entrance of the Pirates Cove Marina.

Anglers use the side road that parallels with the highway to access the area and then follow this road toward the ramp. The pier is located on the left. In addition to the easy access, there are more than 50 parking spots, toilet facilities and sloped ramp that help those with limited mobility to access the pier.

The pier is several hundred feet long with plenty of benches and the best “fish railings”. The entire area is family friendly and a great place to spend the day either catching dinner or just enjoying the outdoors.

Fishing is very good here with many species seeking safety under and around the pilings. Anglers frequently catch croakers, spot, and black drum and keeper flounder, speckled trout, and occasional puppy drum. It is not unusual to catch under-slot stripers all year but the best catches of keeper Stripe Bass are in the cooler fall months.

Anglers will typically use light tackle 6-7 foot rods with either two hook bottom rigs or a Carolina rig with cut bait, blood worms, fresh shrimp or Fish Bites. Don’t oversize your hooks especially in summer. Squid is an effective bait for flounder but it also seems to attract crabs.

There is a deep slough just north of the pier that holds plenty of fish. But only a strong cast can reach those holes. It’s best to focus under the pier and just a dozen yards out.

You should avoid the south side unless you are fishing the water surface. During the bridge construction much of the rubble and left over debris was stacked on that side. So unless using a popping cork or jigging, it’s smart to stay on the north side.

Another favorite fishing spot is at the eastern most end. Anglers who cast toward the huge bridge bumpers can catch larger species that travel along the faster currents.

Overall this pier has been a favorite spot to fish for both novice and seasoned anglers for years. It’s the go-to-place when anglers need a change of pace or to get away from the hot summer sun.

Fishing licenses are required to fish on this pier so check with your tackle shop before you go. Also, follow the bag and creel limits. Only harvest what you can use.

So if you are looking for a place to spend the day, discover this pier for your next outing. You won’t be disappointed.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony