Know Knots

When anglers talk about their fishing gear, secret locations and special techniques, they seem to ignore one of the most important parts of their system. The fishing knot. Most anglers are very complacent about knots. They typically will just tie them and forget them. Usually, they are tied once and unless they change a jig head or add line, these are good for the day, a week or longer.

But little do most anglers realize that the knot is the weakest part of their fishing gear and should be re-tied periodically.  And if they are not tied correctly, they could cost the angler not only their catch but the gear and rigging.

There are dozens of different fishing knots used by anglers. But there are only several that are actually needed.  They fall into three categories: line to line, line to tackle or gear “tight”, and line to tackle or gear “loose”.

Let’s talk about the first type: line to line. Knots that work best for tying line to lines are 1) double uni-knots, 2) simplified blood knot and 3) albright knot. These are all very easy to tie and will perform well in most circumstances. The first two are used on lines of equal diameter. While the Albright knot can be used on equal or unequal diameter lines.

The second type of knots are the line to tackle “tight”. Knots that hold the line to the tackle are single uni-knot, Palamor knot, improved clinch knot, and snelling knot. Each of these knots are suitable for securing the tackle to the end of the leader. 

The third type of knot is the line to tackle “loose”. This category contains a doppler loop knot, double surgeon’s knot and spider hitch. These knots allow anglers to create loops or a loose connection that will give the hook or lure more action.

There are many more knots to choose from such as BT and FG knots. Braid, monofilament and fluorocarbon respond a little differently to these knots. This is only a sample list of the most popular and frequently used knots so it’s important to learn which one works best. 

Don’t know some of these.  Check the “Fishing Knots” section on my website or YouTube for great “how-to” videos.

Tip: Remember knots are the weakest link in your gear set up so it is imperative that re-tie your knots at least daily. And while you are inspecting your knots, it could also be a great time to check the condition of your other components and connections.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

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 “Walkingangler.com” 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

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

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