Who Does Structure

What does having structure have to do with being successful?  Plenty!!

An angler can significantly improve their catch rate if they are able to recognize the presence of structure and how to use it to their advantage. This knowledge along with several other scouting skill sets can give both the novice and experienced angler that competitive edge.

Structure can be defined as anything having an unusual characteristic found either horizontally under water or standing vertically in the water column. Many structures are created by nature or installed to either support another structure or another purpose. Regardless of the types of structures, they can also be found at various locations and water depths.  Either way, structure is beneficial for both anglers and many saltwater species

Vertical structure could be pilings, bulkheads, tree stumps, root systems or jetties that extend above the surface. Horizontal structures are submerged and may include depressions, holes, drop-offs, ledges, rocks, tree roots or sunken logs. The most common horizontal structure are small holes or depressions and the change where sand bottom meets a grass flat.

Structure provides safety and food source for many species. The fish’s ability to move around this formation provides their ability to avoid another predator. Also, many small bait fish and crustaceans remain close to structure adding to the larger species food source.

When fishing a vertical structure, the angler should focus on the leeward side. Fish typically remain in the calm leeward side waiting for a bait fish or other species pass by.  When fishing a horizontal structure such as a depression or grass flat, let your bait pass as close as possible, changing speeds and action of the retrieve.

When fishing structures, anglers should mimic the action of a bait fish or crustacean. They must provide a natural retrieve. Bait or lure presentation here is extremely important as not to spook or chase the fish out of that zone. The bait or lure should be retrieved slowly both in the current and static areas. Then repeated.

Proficient anglers have the ability to use various retrieval or twitching actions that cause the fish to either sense anger, fear or instill their interest to increase to attack.  But it is imperative that the action must be natural and lifelike.

Some structure is easily located but others are not.  Vertical structures are obvious – they stick out f the water. But horizontal must be discovered. One way to locate a bottom structures is to take either a bank sinker or a lead jig head with the hook removed attached to a break-away light test leader and cast out in various locations. Feel and resistance during the retrieve can reveal uneven bottoms and structure created components.

Ability to recognize and use structure is the easiest way for an anglers to improve their catch rate.

And although it’s an important part of finding fish, its only one tool in the angler’s catch box. The ability to recognize structure and use it to catch fish can be a game changer.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Hot Weather Fishing

Fishing in the summer months can be challenging. The air temperatures can easily reach well into the nineties with “feel like” air temps being well over a hundred. Combine these high temperatures with the occasional storms and increased humidity and you have conditions that can test even the most seasoned anglers.

But the summer season also brings in the most variety of marine species. So regardless of the conditions, many anglers will brave these high temperatures to test their luck on a local pier or the surf.

There are several choices anglers can make to stay healthy on the water and still enjoy fishing.

Sun glasses are mandatory. The reflection off the water can damage your eyes quickly.  Sun glasses should provide UV protection and block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Also, opt for wraparound sunglasses or close-fitting sunglasses with wide lenses that protect your eyes from every angle. There are many sun glasses to choose from but don’t skimp on these.

Next item is a hat. Use only a hat that covers both your face and neck. Baseball caps are common place on the water but they typically only provide partial protection. Be smart and get a good hat.

Also, many anglers are utilizing buffs and gloves. A buff is a lightweight tube fabric used to cover your neck, face and ears. Gloves can protect your hands from not only sun but sharp edges. Some gloves allow your fingers to be exposed for handling gear. Only use types that protects you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Many tackle and specialty shops sell a cooling towel. These towels are soaked in water and wrapped around your neck and head. They are definitely worth the price but remember these towels do not have a UV rating so extra precautions are needed when using these towels.

The final component is clothing. Wear long sleeves and long pants. I know, these can make you hotter but there are many styles that are “cool-infused”. If you get hot, roll your sleeves. Remember always look for UPF 40 and UV protection.

OK so you don’t care for long clothes or cover up, then use at least a 50 SPF or higher sun screen lotion. They even make a spray – so there is never an excuse. Apply liberally before you head out and every hour. Don’t worry, you will get plenty of sun through this protection.

Finally, stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages. Water or other sports drinks can help keep you cool. Alcohol can rob your system of valuable fluids. So save that for after you come out of the sun.

Remember smart anglers use some type of sun protection every time they are out fishing. Over exposure of the sun can ruin your day and your future.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Surf Fishing Basics

Summer is well under way and what better way to enjoy the Outer Banks by trying surf fishing. We have talked about this topic and since the weather is beautiful and the fish are biting what better way to enjoy your vacation.

Fishing on the surf is one of the most relaxing and least expensive activities you can do at the beach and it can be fun for the entire family. All you need is a simple saltwater rod, reel and several items to enjoy this hobby.

The first thing you want to do is research the regulations. Make sure you know the limits of any species you catch. Also, you may need a license to fish on our beaches. Licenses and rules can be obtained at any local tackle shop. Tackle shops are the new (and experienced) angler’s best friend.

Next is selecting the spot on the beach. I always check with other local anglers or tackle shops for this information. They can usually point you in the right direction. But basically, any spot on our beach will hold fish.

Like any sport, you will need specific gear. These items will include a good medium seven rod and reel set up, a bottom rig, package of hooks, several different size sinkers and bait. If you don’t have your own rod and reel set up, a complete package can be purchased any tackle supply shop.

The standard rod and reel from a tackle shop will already be rigged with line. You will attach the bottom rig to the line. You can either tie the rig directly to the line or tie a snap swivel to the line first and then hook the rig to this connector. A snap swivel allows for a quick change over if you need to replace the bottom rig.

Next you want to install the hooks. Number four or six size hooks work fine. I slide the loop end of the hook line over the bottom rig loop and slip the hook through the bottom rig loop. This creates a strong connection. A sinker is attached to the bottom of the rig. I carry different size sinkers and attach the lightest one that will allow me to hold the bottom.

Bait is the most important component. I use fresh shrimp or fish bites. Do not peel the shrimp; just place a small piece on each hook. Sometimes, I insert a small quarter inch piece of a fish bite over the hook after the shrimp. This keeps the shrimp on the hook and prevents smaller fish from stealing the bait before a larger fish eats it. Remember – the fresher the bait – the better the chance for success.

Most bottom fish can be found within fifteen feet of our shore line. So cast just over the waves. Let the bait sit on the bottom and wait for the bite. The bite feels like a tap tap tap. When you feel the bite, just raise your rod tip and reel in. If your line moves on the bottom, change to the next size up sinker.

It’s that simple.

So the next time you have a little free time and want to learn a new hobby – take up fishing on our coast. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful beaches.

One final tip – release all fish carefully that you are not going to keep the fish so it can be caught again

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

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