A Keys Destination

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 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 longer 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 eighteen Spanish mackerel 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

Buy It Local

Have you noticed? It seems every day we find that we can buy more items on the internet. Cars, college degrees, and now even pizza. And even more surprising, I read the other day that even the big box stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club are being squeezed out by other online wholesalers. And the future is un-predicable for many more.

How about our fishing industry? Yup, there are now dozens of online tackle suppliers selling every type of tackle and gear on the market at discount prices. Even the very manufacturers have gotten in line with the parade. Seems everyone wants a piece of the angler’s dollar.

What most anglers are finding is that the online retailer’s prices are either equal or even cheaper than that of the local tackle shops plus as a bonus they receive free shipping.

So now what does a local tackle shop do in this killer market to survive?

It’s called provide customer service. It’s the same customer service they have been providing long before the online marketers started wowing the angler away for their business.

Local tackle shops employ many local professional anglers. And for good reason. These local anglers know the waters, fish and what is takes to catch them. What equipment and lure work best? Best times, tides and locations. This is stuff you can’t find on any web site. And the best part – all of this information is free to anyone who either walks in the door or calls.

Fresh bait and fresh fishing reports are the news of the day. Try finding these on the web sites.

Finally, we all know online suppliers can sell us the same tackle and gear that we buy from a local guys a lot cheaper but the online guys can’t supply us with the advice we need to go with it.

If we continue to buy on line at a discount and only go to the tackle shop for advice, the tackle shops will disappear.

Let’s support our local tackle shops every chance we get. They have a lot to offer, all you have to do is ask them.

But only you can make that choice.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Call them New Year Plans

The January cold is beginning to set in and most anglers are wishing for warm weather or at least a chance to cast a line. January is also a great time to make those plans for the New Year. In the past, we used to call them “resolutions”. But I like you, they lasted only a few weeks. Now, if we call them a “plan” there is a possibility that they may work most of the year.

First resolution should be to learn more. There are many seminars available for both the new and seasoned angler. If you can’t find one close to home, there is always one within a nice drive. Check the internet for these.  If all else fails, dozens of professional anglers post instructional how-to videos online on both their web pages and on the internet for free – no excuse for not learning something new.

Next, log it. I created a log in which I log each trip I take regardless if I catch something or not. I not only log the day, time and place but also document every weather condition, gear, technique, the environment in the area. I use every sense – I listen for particular sounds, look for something different, feel the wind or vibration or something effecting your gear or bait as it glides through the water. Do not discount your ability to recognize your surroundings. Want a copy, email me.

Organize your gear – there is no better time than the winter season to organize your gear. The tackle shops are loading up with new products from manufactures daily. Empty your bags and start over. Only carry what you need for the day. Replace old and rusty and corroded gear and equipment.

Take a kid fishing. Most seasoned anglers started somewhere. I started fishing with my dad when I was probably five. These days, we are losing young children to other interests other than outdoor activities. There is an old saying, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime,” I believe if we teach our kids to fish at a young age, they will develop that passion that will last a lifetime. Take that kid, he or she will thank you one day.

One Final Note – And I can’t stress this enough – we need to support our local tackle shops. The online suppliers can sell us the same tackle and gear that we buy from a local guys a lot cheaper but the online guys can’t supply us with the advice we need to go with it. If we continue to buy on line at a discount and only go to the tackle shop for advice, the tackle shops will disappear. Only you can make that choice.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

End of our 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.

Usually 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, will remain open throughout the entire winter season.

The Avalon pier will be staffed daily from 0600 and will close sometime late afternoons. Their hours could change if conditions warrant so if you want to fish there, you should call ahead.

Jennette’s pier will remain open throughout the winter season with fixed hours. Their hours of operation will be 0900 – 1700 daily. Again, anglers should always call ahead to check conditions.

The remaining piers, Nags Head, Outer Banks, Rodanthe, and Avon closed around the thanksgiving weekend. There may be pier staff in the tackle shops but access has suspended until Spring.

All is not lost, the Outer Banks surf should still 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 might find slightly warmer water temperatures and several species of fish should still be around most of the winter season.

So if the warmth 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 one our open piers 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

Bridge Fishing in Fall

Fishing on a local outer banks bridge in the fall gives you that special feeling.

Speckled sea trout and puppy drum bites have been off the charts for the past several weeks. The cool crisp air and those intermittent colder breezes remind you that winter is just around the corner. But the urge to fish exceeds the need for comfort.

Throughout the season the catches seemed easy. The warm days allowed the angler to spend hours searching the various holes and points around the pilings for a catch. But now with the unpredictable winds, current and water temperatures, catching becomes a little more challenging.

When the experienced angler first arrives at their fishing spot, they will study the surroundings and conditions.

Some of the questions they will focus on are: what are the water conditions – moving, still, choppy; what is being caught and with what bait and lure; and is there any special going on such as bird activity or bait fish.

Although, all conditions should be observed, the most important focus should be on the water temperatures and movement.

This time of year, moving lures and baits seem to work well. Most fish species face into the current to feed so the lure must pass within noise range or eye sight. But it also must pass them by at a speed not to exceed their energy reserves.

Quarter to one eighth lead heads with or without a rattle is the preferred jig.

There are a variety of swim baits or curly tail plastic baits available and work great but glass minnows seem to be on the Captain’s short list and for me work best.

Colors do matter. Use dark colors in low light and light colors in bright light.

The retrieval must also be varied to allow time for the fish to see or hear the bait and attack it.

No fish swims in a straight line so neither should your bait. Erratic pauses and jerks might indicate a weak or injured prey.

When fishing on one of the outer banks bridges in fall, take everything in before committing to a certain bait. Watch, wait and act.

The experienced angler who uses all their senses during challenging times, will be more successful.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Old Man and the Sea

With out a doubt, my most favorite book.

From his own words!!

“He’s coming up,” he said. “Come on hand. Please come on.”

The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and a light lavender.

“He is two feet longer than the skiff,” the old man said. The line was going out fast but steadily and the fish was not panicked. The old man was trying with both hands to keep the line just inside of breaking strength. He knew that if he could not slow the fish with a steady pressure the fish could take out all of the line and break it.

He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. I must never let him learn his strength nor what he could do if he made his run.

The old man had seen many great fish. He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone.

Now alone, and out of sight of land, he was fast to the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of, and his left hand was still as tight as the gripped claws of an eagle.

Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea.


Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Don’t make it a Habit

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us – John Dryden”.  This statement applies as much to fishing as well as it does in different segments of our lives.

Catching speckled sea trout with your favorite lure is a prime example.  My favorite lure was always the double bucktail. It gave me confidence during each outing. But after a year or so the lure just didn’t produce hits or catches like I wanted. Was it me or the lure or species?

As any confident then frustrated angler, I considered changing to a different bait or possibly a new technique.

My first change the following year was to the “flavor of the month”.  That time I tried MirrOlure’s – MR 17 “Electric Chicken”. Using the “Electric Chicken” hard bait helped me catch trout that year. But again and after time, it seems to fail to attract and hook fish.

And over the next several years, I changed to metal spoons, top water hard baits, jigheads with swim and finesse baits, popping corks and a variety of other new styles and types.

And as usual, they all did well for a while and then stopped or declined to a point that I needed to change.

My research showed that after a long period of time, many species begin to recognize some type of danger when seeing the same or similar style rigging on a regular basis. Fish are known to communicate and whether they warn each other of impending danger or not, they definitely change habits or preferences to various baits to survive and avoid being caught.

So what is the angler to do? Change, modify and specialize.

My change is using each of these rigs in specific situations. I always keep each of these rigs in my bag. Never discounting their past performance. Varying my retrieval rates and movements.

Modify my plastic rigging. Sometimes I cut a small slice from the tail to enhance vibration and movement. Other times, modify hook size on hard baits or shortening the length of fluorocarbon leader.

Specialize in specific conditions – dark colors for overcast or low light days. Light colors for bright days. Using specialize techniques also gives the angler an advantage.

To be a great angler, keep each of these lures in your tackle bag for maximum success.

Many fish species change habits to survive. And to be successful on a regular basis, anglers need to change too.


Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Don’t Pull It Away

Most anglers will look at these three reels and think why is the captain showing me these three in one picture? Although, they appear the same, there is one distinct difference that could affect their catch rate.

The difference is the retrieval rate. The top reel has a 40” ratio; the middle reel has a 36” ratio; and the bottom one has 28” ratio.

The difference between the top and bottom reel is significant especially if the targeted species only chases the bait a short distance.

We have talked many times about the various species on the Outer Banks waters. All fish species move for a purpose. They move to find comfort, food, spawn and escape a predator. They know how to preserve energy to remain alive.

When feeding they will typically only chase a bait fish so far depending on the amount of energy available. When that level of stamina is exhausted or they perceive the chase will not be productive, their effort will end.

Going back the reels, each reel in this picture has a different retrieval rate. The retrieval rate is the amount of line taken up on each turn of the handle.

Turn the handle or retrieve the line too fast the fish will run out of energy before it catches the bait, Retrieve too slow and your bait may spook them.

So it’s the retrieval rate that can help make that catch successful.

How do you know how fast your retrieval is? Well, measure it.

Layout a tape measure on the ground, extend the end of the line on one end of the tape and turn the handle one complete turn. Then measure the distance.

Once it is determined the rate of retrieval per handle revolution, the angler can adjust their action to avoid pulling it away.

This is especially helpful for novice anglers. Sometimes the excitement of the strike causes the line to be taken up too quickly.

As simple as this may seem, every technique available may help increase the opportunity to catch more fish.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Buy It Just Once

I once over heard a good friend in Florida giving advice to some novice anglers. It’s probably the best advice I could pass on to my fellow anglers here on the Outer Banks and elsewhere.

When it comes to fishing gear, “Buy it right the first time and you only buy it once”.

Great advice to follow.

Until Next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony




Attention Outer Banks Anglers!!

The Outer Banks Anglers Club will be holding their next monthly meeting at 7:00 pm on October 30, 2017.

Guest Speaker is David Glenn, Science and Operations Officer, with NWS Newport/Morehead City. He will be discussing:

“How Does the Weather Affect Boating?”

The meeting will be held at the Kerns P. Pitts Center / Southern Shores Town Hall Complex located at 5375 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Southern Shores, N.C.

For more information see us on our website or facebook:



New Members Are Always Welcome

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony