Slowly Back to Normal

Memorial Day is considered the kickoff for fishing on the Outer Banks. It seems this year may be a little different than most but still we hope to find some normalcy.

Visitors are storming into the beach this week hoping to find that little piece of paradise. And with many amenities closed or severely limited, fishing has become more popular than ever.

So how does someone explore this new passion? Several of the first questions will be:

What is the best gear to use to catch a fish? Well, this may be a difficult question to answer unless you know what species you want to target and where you will fish.

Fishing on the surf, piers and bridges have many similarities but also have several differences when trying to figure out what to use.

When fishing on the surf in the summer, you might want to use a light medium rod and reel set, possibly in a six to seven foot range. Eight to sixteen pound test line works fine here. Most fish are primarily small but hard fighting. You will need a light enough set up to feel the bite but strong enough to reel it in. If you don’t mind losing a big fish once in a while, catching more small stuff can make for a great day.

Pier fishing is a little different. You want to use a light medium to a medium heavy rod set up. The piers can attract both our small seasonal fish but also a number of larger fast running species. Your gear needs to be stout enough to successfully reel these in and over the rail. And the line needs to be stronger as well as the rigging. Once hooked, many fish run for cover under the pier and into the pilings. A tougher line will help prevent chaffing on the pilings.

Bridges present the same concerns as piers. But when you can add a fast moving current that flows quickly under the bridge, it can add an additional challenge of bringing the fish to the bridge deck. Retrieving a larger fish to the bridge railing in addition to dragging heavier sinker, you will need some backbone in that rod and reel set up. Medium seven to eight foot rods work well here. On bridges you might also need a variety of sinkers to hold the bottom.

Next the best advice is to head to one of our many tackle shops for the best gear set ups. I try to avoid big box shops for my fishing gear. The discount you get on the gear there can never make up for the better quality of gear and equipment and free knowledge that a local tackle shop can provide. And you will be surprised that the prices are very close.          

Remember the better the quality of equipment and gear you use, the better the chance of success.

In a future article, we will be discussing the different types rigging and the various baits that help improve your chance of success when fishing on the Outer Banks.

Until next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony

A Strange Start

This fishing season has had the strangest start of any year on the Outer Banks. The initiation of stay at home orders, business closings, and the required use of personal protective equipment has challenged the sustainability of our local Outer Banks fishery.

The local tackle shops and piers are just beginning to re-open. So we are good on that front. But one of our favorites, “little bridge” is still closed because anglers were not practicing the social distancing order. Look for bridge to re-opening soon.

In addition, there are plenty of places that remained open throughout this pandemic. Anglers continue to catch fish in great numbers and size. So let’s look at a brief list of many of the favorite shore-based fishing spots that are currently open and fishable.

Surf – Various dune cross-overs. Most of the local beaches are open from Corolla to Cape Hatteras. Keep in mind several areas are still closed due to repairs or maintenance but everything should be open soon. Once open they will continue to provide adequate parking, portable toilets, and stairs and ramps.

Wildlife Pier / William Baum Bridge – The sound side pier is open. Easy access, parking, restrooms, shaded certain times a day, with plenty of benches.

BeBop Pier – This pier is a lesser-known “locals” place. The pier is located on west end on Mann’s Harbor Bridge. It has easy access, but limited parking. The pier had a large shaded area with benches and good for families and safe for small children.

Various boat ramps – Wildlife pier ramp (under Baum bridge) and Oregon Inlet (near Coast Guard Station) ramp remain open and are good places to find many bottom fish between launchings. Anglers need to be considerate of boaters.

Oregon Inlet Fishing Center – Anglers can shore or wade fish on the south point on east side of basin. During the business times, anglers need to watch for waves from boats traveling in the channels and the deep holes while wading.

Bodie Island Slough – This is another “locals” favorite. This area is secluded and sometimes hard to find. The area is accessed through a long the dirt road. Minimal parking.

Pamlico Sound / Hatteras Island Sound fronts – There are many places to pull off along the west side of Highway 12 South in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. There are no facilities. If you park off the pavement lots or on the sand, you may need parking permit.

Daniels Bridge – The catwalk on either side of this bridge is still closed but should be open shortly. Anglers can still fish there from the shoreline and the small dock on the southwest corner adjacent to the parking lot.

Ocean Piers – There only two piers currently open. Rodanthe and Outer Banks. The other five are preparing to open soon. Anglers should check on their websites or here on the “” for updates.

Remember – There are some new regulations this year – Know the Rules before you fish.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Your Tackle Bag

What’s in your tackle bag?  We have discussed this topic many times and now that the weather has warmed up and catches are making headlines each day, what better time to refresh what’s in our bags.

Two of the most guarded secrets an angler keeps is their favorite fishing spot and the contents of their tackle bag. While secret fishing spots are frequently shared only to close friends, their tackle bags contents can be held stealth for years.

The tackle bag, as a general rule, should only include items you will need on the current fishing trip focusing on just your target species. But lots of anglers, including this author, use the bag sometimes as a storage box for everything they possibly could ever use even if it doesn’t work on every trip.

While they might be a great place to store gear when not in use, it can be especially burdensome to drag a heavy bag out on each trip.

So today let’s discuss the basic items the occasional angler should carry during a typical trip.

Standard contents should at least include a collection of sinkers, hooks and terminal rigging gear.

Also several types of two hook bottom rigs, Carolina rig and several self-made or purchased bottom or pompano rigs are needed for those special occasions. Sabiki rigs are great for catching your own live bait.

Anglers should also carry a small bait knife, cutting board, finger nail clippers, and pliers, tape measure, and fish grippers. Several rags will help steady a fish to remove hooks

The bag should also include a variety jigging gear with a variety of lead heads, various soft swim baits, and several different got-cha plugs or top water hard baits. A bottle of attractant will help enhance an artificial hard bait or even freshen fresh or live baits.

A tackle bag with not be complete without “fish-bites” or some other type of artificial baits.

This list is definitely not complete and inclusive but it should give the new or occasional angler as least a start on filing that tackle bag with basic gear.

One tip: If you find yourself with extra gear that will not be used that day, store it in a rubber-made crate and leave it in your vehicle. That way, the gear won’t load down your bag but if needed it’s just a quick walk back to your vehicle.

In a future article, we will discuss, “what’s next” with your tackle bag.

Until next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony

Fishing Equipment Maintenance.

Fishing equipment maintenance is one project that should not be ignored. As we get close to the start of the spring fishing season, now is the time to complete those unfinished jobs. If you let things go until now from the previous season, the job may take a little more effort but needs to be done to ensure a trouble free season kick off..

First, a complete evaluation should be done on the rod and reels. If there is any major damage, cracks or corrosion on either the rod or reel, it might be better to replace them now.

Disassembling the reel from the rod will permit a thorough examination and allow for cleaning. Check the butt, reel seat, guides and tip. If everything checks out, move on the reel.

The reel should be thoroughly cleaned and oiled. Replace any damaged or worn parts. The drag washer should also be checked. And if found warned, either order a new one from the manufacturer or have a tackle shop replace it for you.

Many types of lures and hard bait hooks may not survive more than a year so close focus on these items is imperative. Rusty rings, tangled lines or damaged components can result in potential loss of the catch. Sometimes it’s cheaper to replace the entire lure unless it’s your ‘go-to” catching machine. Then it’s an easy decision to just replace the hooks and rings.

Tackle boxes and bags habitually get cluttered over the season with many of those “I must have those” gadgets or maybe the “favor of the month” lure.

Your best option is empty the bag, sort through what’s salvageable and toss the rest.

Sinkers, loose terminal tackle, swivels, extra leader materials should be placed in separate containers for easy access next season.  Pliers, scissors, line cutters, fish grabbers should be cleaned or at least organized in its proper place. Remove all batteries on any electronic gear such as bait bubblers, night lights and bug zappers.

Knives should be cleaned, sharpened, oiled and placed in a sheaths for protection.

Large items such as coolers, cast nets, pier carts, cutting boards, rod holders and other large pieces need a good flushing, wiped off and stored properly.

Finally, all metal surfaces should be coated with a rods, reels or other gear with an anti-corrosion protectant.

Remember, the off season is the best time to find and replace worn or defective gear or equipment. And the new season is just around the corner.

Because most anglers have their own special fishing collections, I am sure we missed something but that’s what the offseason is for. Finding those issues before they cost you that trophy species next year.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Do You Track It

It seems every year we find ourselves looking for that competitive edge to help us catch more fish. Well, the best way to increase your catch rate is to know your prey and then track your steps.

There is an old saying, “that history repeats itself”.  And this scenario occurs on a regular basis in nature and in angling.

A possible explanation is that fish like other wildlife are creatures of habit. And in nature, this habit doesn’t just happen by chance. It is dialed in to each species DNA for survival.

If fish can be so predictable, then why don’t anglers catch fish on a regular basis? Why do they spend hours on the surf, pier or bridge being skunked? Or occasionally hooking up but for no other reason than luck.

To help improve our catch rate, let’s look at our target. The fish are not in a particular location by accident. They have found a place with a comfortable environment, good food source and protection from predators.

But it is much more than that. So many additional conditions come into play to hold a fish in a specific location or entice another fish to relocate there when one is removed or leaves on its own. Several reasons the location holds fish could be the water temperatures, water movement, moon phases, time of day. And probably one of the more reliable and mostly overlooked is the barometer readings.

To be successful, the angler must be able to predict when and why a species of fish is there and what motivates them to feed. And the best way to gain that edge is to document each trip. And that’s where an anglers log comes into play.

An anglers log can be a small spiral notebook or an elaborate spreadsheet with graphs and charts or anything in between. Either way, this log and the entries will help the angler predict when, why and how to target fish on their next trip. Over time these logs create a pattern and begin to paint a picture showing you the precise information you need to be successful.

So the best way to increase your catching success is to create a log to track your catches and develop trends for the angler to use on future outings.

And now during this “preparation season” is the best time to set up your new system.

The Walkingangler has created a comprehensive “Anglers Log” that we use on every trip whether we catch something or not.

If you are interested in receiving a copy, you can email at and I will email you a copy.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Bluefish Rule Changes

On 28January 2020, the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) announced a modification that establishes new creel and bag limits for the Recreational Bluefish Fishery effective February 1, 2020 at 12:01 A.M. in all coastal fishing waters.

This new rule states:

Recreational anglers that are NOT fishing on a For-Hire vessel may possess up to three (3) bluefish per day per angler. This rule will apply to all anglers fishing from the shore-based areas and from all private vessels. No minimum size limit is indicated.

Recreational anglers that are fishing on a For-Hire vessel may possess up to five (5) bluefish per day per angler as long as the vessel carries the proper documentation. No minimum size limit is indicated.

For clarification purposes, the rule defines a “For-Hire vessel” shall be licensed in one of two ways:

1) Operator must possess a “For-Hire Blanket Coastal Recreational Fishing License” (CRFL) for the vessel which will cover all anglers or;

2) Operator must possess a “For-Hire Fishing Permit for the fishing vessel issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries.

As in all recreational fishing, please only harvest what the angler can use and release the ones you can’t use.

For more information on this rule and other rules, contact:  the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, phone 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632 for more information or visit the division website at

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Destination Fishing

Many anglers seek warm weather angling destinations when they find themselves struggling to find fish during these colder seasons. And fishing the Florida Keys maybe the answer to that interruption for many of these anglers. That hundred mile string of islands has always been a huge draw because of the mild winter climates and abundance of species.

Regardless whether its structure, shallow water, or reef fishing, the experiences in the Florida Keys is one for the memory books. Structure fishing has become very popular in the keys even for the typical novice angler. And with over forty two bridges and well over hundred miles of shorelines, there is no shortage of places for either the casual or passionate angler to try their luck or secure an enough for a meal.

The standard skill sets used elsewhere for successful fishing should continue to apply here regardless of type of fishing. These will always include: know when to fish, where to fish, how to fish, what to use, how fish respond under certain conditions. But the most important and an angler’s best friend is know the tides and structure.

Gear and equipment are also crucial to a successful outing. Most local “keys” species are toothy and are considered predator. Any gear weakness will be exposed. Use only the top of the line gear – this is not the place for the angler to skimp.

Fishing a Florida Keys bridge is a unique experience. Conditions can change frequently under these structures. It can take weeks or even months to master these channels and the water flows. Trial and error, exchanging ideas with other anglers on the bridges and tackle shops, and even sacrificing a few rigs jig just to locate a couple of bottom snags is worth the cost most anglers pay for this indoctrination.

But many times, it’s that five pound sheepshead or mangrove snapper or even that dancing tarpon that make spending the afternoon experimenting and learning all worthwhile.

Look in future entries on various gear and equipment techniques that have made my many bridge fishing trips successful.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony