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

Mid-Season Check

Semi-annual gear checks are always a great way to keep your equipment “catch ready”!

We are now half way through the fishing season. Our gear has probably taken a real beating from the sand, salt and of course catching. So now is a good time to examine the condition of our gear.

When doing a seasonal check, it’s smart to first check the rod and reels. Look at the rod first. Check the rod, guides, tip, reel seat and butt. Check for loose or worn guides, any cracks or corrosion. Replace any loose or defective items now.

Next, the rod needs a good cleaning. It’s best to use a mild detergent over the entire rod assembly. After cleaning, spray a good anti-corrosion coating or even standard furniture polish. Focus on the guides. Try to keep the anti-corrosion spray off the butt and handles. Use a dry non-abrasive cloth to wipe off any excess spray.

Next you need to check the reels. Wipe off any obvious dirt, sand or debris from the reel. Make sure the bail operation is smooth. Disassemble spool, spindle and handle from the body. Check the surface of each. Use small bulb air blower or a Q-tip with a little oil to wipe away any sand or corrosion.

Check the drag washer. As a general rule, the drag knob should always be loose during storage. Many anglers will tighten the drag knob to help secure the line and rigging on the fishing rod. This can cause the drag washer to compress and be damaged.

Once everything is clean, apply a little reel grease to the inside components. This keeps the gear lubricated and moisture and dirt out.

After inspecting the gears and all of the other components are clean, re-assemble everything the same way you took it apart. Make sure you install the washers and “O” rings. If you find either of these damaged, this is the time to replace them.

Once the reel is re-assembled, apply a good coat of reel oil. This will keep corrosion and dirt from sticking to the surfaces. Never leave wet oil on the surface. Just apply and wipe off. Make sure you get the oil into the smallest openings.

If you find any part of your gear that is defective or worn, this is the time to repair or replace. The fall fishing season can be typically more brutal on the gear with many larger fish moving into the surf zones.

Replacement parts are usually available from the manufacturers for the DIYer’s. Also the schematic documentation that came with the reel may assist with cleaning and parts replacements.

Confused about doing the gear and equipment maintenance yourself? Many tackle shops and reel repair companies have professional staffs to assist.

Periodic maintenance is cheap insurance. There should be no excuse for losing that trophy fish due to faulty gear or poor maintenance, It’s simple to do on our own or readily available by professionals in your region.

Good Luck and Great Fishing.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

WOW, that water is cold!!

Over the past several weeks, visitors and anglers have experienced a significant decrease in the ocean’s water temperature. This is not new but can be expected during the typical summer months when most beachgoers are in the water.

This phenomenon is known as up welling. It is typically caused by circular wind motion due to a front from the south west that blows winds along the beach. The steady wind blows the warm summer water out at a diagonal direction which ultimately takes the warm water out to sea. With the warm water now gone, the cold water from the bottom replaces it quickly – thus the sudden decrease in water temperatures from one place on the beach to another. Tides can also aid in replacing the warm water with the cold water. (Double click on picture for water movement).

If you find yourself in an upwelling situation, either wait it out or move down the beach until you find a warmer spot. Unfortunately, if the wind continues to blow, cold water is here to stay. You may either suffer with the cold water, stay on the beach or find a nice pool.

There are fish to be caught so just because you can’t swim doesn’t mean that you can’t fish. Fresh bait, keeping the gear light is the ticket to a great time.

And don’t worry, this situation typically doesn’t last very long, so it might be a great time to visit one of our local tackle shops.

And want something to do during this cold water stretch? The Outer Banks has a new tackle shop. Oceans East Tackle is located in the old Whalebone Tackle building on the Nags Head Manteo Causeway. They had done a fantastic job of bringing a new look to our area. If you haven’t stopped by yet, it is a must.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Fishing – Is It Better to Fish Early or Late

Historically, it has been the experience among anglers that it’s better to fish before breakfast or after dinner. Whether this preference is based on experience or theory, is anybody’s guess. But there are many reasons why anglers would prefer these times opposed to others.

It could be the cooler conditions or possibly the outdoor experience or it could be that the fish actually bite better during those times. Who knows, but there are several theories that could tell the story. So let’s explore several.

There is definitely a big difference between fishing dawn and dusk verses day time. Coolness verse the heat of the day. Sunrises and sunsets, various moon phases, cooler air and water temperatures along with the amount of light striking the water all can contribute to a change in feeding habits.

The sun has always had an effect on fishing. On bright days with the sun directly overhead seems to chase the fish deep in the water and slows their metabolism. On the other hand, low light and cloudy days seem to turn the bite on.

At dawn and dusk, the sun rays can be at a sharper angle to the water. This angle allows for lower light to penetrate the water and enhances the sight of various marine species. The lower light conditions can give feeding species an advantage finding food or the bait quickly because of their light sensitive eyes.

The moon phases can also affect the movement and height of the tides but more importantly this water movement can confuse many bait fish.  And this water movement can also bring in a change in more comfortable water temperatures.

Another theory is the amount of oxygen content in the water. Cooler water contains more oxygen then warmer water. So it’s natural that fish find comfort in these cooler conditions and tend to feed more.

At dusk, the air temperature will usually drop. The cooler air causes the water temperatures to also decrease slightly. This cooling trend creates a desirable environment for most species Small living organisms and bait fish are extremely active during these times and make for easy prey of the larger fish. So with more activity brings an increase in the possible success rate.

At dawn, the air temperatures begin to increase with the sun rise. The water temperatures will also increase. Even though it might be slight, the fish seem to sense this change and typically will begin to feed aggressively during this period being aware that their feeding cycle may end soon.  As the temperature continues to rise into the morning and dawn turns into day, this change causes the fish and their prey to slow down considerably and seek deeper cooler waters again.

Obviously, these are only couple of theories on why fish feed more aggressively during these times. There could many other conditions and reasons why fish are more active at dawn and dusk.  

Regardless of the reasons, anglers will continue to look forward to that “before breakfast and after dinner bite”.

So now the next question based on the facts, “will you try your luck at dusk or dawn too”?

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

The Pressure is On

The specific weather condition that anglers monitor before they go fishing can mean the difference between catching and just sightseeing. Most anglers will go fishing when they can. Other anglers are a little bit more studious and go when the conditions are right. And one of those conditions is barometric pressure reading.

Barometric pressure is the amount of force or weight that the atmosphere pushes down at any point on earth and its inhabitants. This pressure can be either steady, rising or falling according to the current weather conditions. And these three different readings can have a significant effect on fishing.

Anglers have used weather instruments including barometer readings for years. And those anglers have realized that you don’t have to be a scientist to understand how these readings affect wildlife including our saltwater species.

Each living species responds to many different weather conditions. But the change in barometric pressure can be felt in both humans and wildlife alike. And when there is a change, sometimes even slight everything responds including wildlife.

Weather systems are the main cause of barometric pressure changes. When the sun is shining with little wind, the barometer is steady. Falling pressure actually increases the pressure felt on the surface. And rising pressure will decrease this effect.

This rising and falling typically proceeds or follows a weather system. For example, an approaching front will cause the barometric pressure to decrease and once passed the system increases pressure as it does after a tropical storm. The closer the storm is to a particular area, the lower the pressure becomes. And vice versa.

And its effect on wildlife does not have to be significant – only a few degrees of measurement can make a world of difference.

So how does this condition effect fishing?

On steady calm or “bluebird” days, fishing is dependent on many natural instincts of a specific species. They act in a normal fashion. But with an approaching system or storm the pressure begins to fall and this pressure pushes on the fish’s organs, causing them to feel full and reducing their instinct to feed. Now once the front or system passes, the pressure rises and the “full feeling” effect diminishes, and the fish will begin to feed aggressively.

Many anglers who have followed barometric pressure change concept have been richly rewarded.

Looking for one more advantage, why not check the weather page before your next fishing trip.

It just might surprise you.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony