Being Prepared

An angler who is always prepared has a significant advantage over those who are not. We have talked many times about using any available data to the advantage of the angler. And if we do our research properly, and there is plenty out there, we can increase our chances of success.

A prepared angler is one who will be able to anticipate, recognize and then control the given conditions they find during their fishing trip. And the only way to do this is to do their “homework” or in other words, develop a strategy.

Developing a successful strategy involves many steps and components.

And one of the most important steps of this strategy should be to know your prey and their comfort zone or their safe environment. And how any outside influences can affect them.

Most fish species don’t achieve longevity or size by being fooled easily. Their environment is one of familiarity. And any unusual or unnatural condition raises a concern for their safety.

All natural underwater environments contain certain influences, sounds and vibrations. These conditions and affects can originate from structure, feeding activities, travel of other aquatic and non-aquatic sources or just a natural flow of above ground vibrations from greenspaces or surface encumbrances.

So the anglers first step of preparation is to know how each of the discussed conditions affect the species you’re targeting in their own underwater environment.

Anglers should also know feeding patterns, temperature preferences, travel highways and how tidal changes affect your target.

One component not typically discussed but is always out there and should be considered: How will your presence affect your prey when fishing from the shore or boat?  There is a big difference between friendly noise and strange unnatural noise. A good knowledge how this affects your target can greatly improve your chances.

Another important consideration – if the fish hear or sense you are near, can they also see you?

Most anglers just grab a rod and bait bucket and head to the nearest bridge or pier and expect a great catch. Sometimes this works but others times especially in aggressively fished areas where your prey is wise to anything unusual, preparation is the key.

Tackle shops and our local pier staff are a great resource. But the best strategy is to study your prey and develop a comprehensive strategy on your own. It will definitely help you understand your prey and improve your catches.

The best advice a good friend gave me some time ago and has helped me catch more fish is, “More fish are caught the night before”.

Until next time – Tightlines. Capt. Tony

Fish are Biting

Fish are biting on the northern beaches. For the past several weeks, it’s been all southern areas including Hatteras Island and the Point. But over the last week or so, most of our spring species have moved into the northern waters.

The surf anglers have seen occasional catches of speckled sea trout, sea mullet, blues and a few puppy drum. Fresh shrimp and cut bait on two hook bottom rigs, fishing close in just in the sloughs and adjacent to the piers appear to be the best bets. Also, any moving lure such as a lead head with variety of soft body swim or finesse bait attracts those hungry fish.

Pier anglers are also catching blues, speckled sea trout with an occasional grey trout mixed in, along with sea mullet, shad, blow toads, and keeper Striped Bass. It seemed the fish bite can be found throughout the day. The old saying, “you just have to be there when they are hitting the baits”. Pier staff can always help with the proper type of gear and baits.

The little bridge has been the hot spot on the northern beach in early May. Speckled sea trout, puppy drum, shad and huge runs of spot have been caught. This spot is an early morning bite. Most serious anglers have their catch and are usually home by sunrise. But visiting anglers frequent the bridge throughout the day with much success. Standard two hook bottom rigs with shrimp, blood worms, cut bait or artificial fish bites have all worked well.  Trout and puppy drum are hitting a moving jig head with various color swim baits.

May is a beautiful month to fish on the Outer Banks. And each day the weather continues to improve and fishing gets better.

Remember – Always use fresh bait. Try not to use frozen or yesterday’s bait if possible. And don’t over-size your gear. Leave the big “rods” and heavy gear at home. Light medium or medium weight gear works best this time of year. But always first check with a local tackle shop or pier professional for the right size gear and bait.

Until Next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Spring Brings Change

Spring is bringing change to the Outer Banks. The official start of spring arrived a month ago but you would never know it by the air and water temperatures. Just this past week though, conditions began to improve on the northern beaches so everyone is ready for mild weather.

As word gets out that the warm temperatures are finally here and fish are biting, new and returning anglers will be flocking to the outer banks.

Returning anglers may find several changes that they need to be aware. Many areas received beach nourishment over the past year. So those familiar sloughs and holes may have moved. Also, several piers sustained damage due to the numerous winter storms and are boasting new and bright structures. The surf and piers are ready for anglers but keep in mind there still may be some unfinished projects. But nothing should affect throwing a line in the water.

The cold weather had a significant impact on one of our favorite’s species. The Speckled Sea Trout had a major stun event and we possibly lost a significant number of them.  North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) placed a moratorium on catching them through mid June. The biologists feel that they can re-bound with a little help from the angling community.

Anglers will need a four-wheel drive permit to park and fish Currituck beaches. This is something new so anglers need to check with Currituck County before planning to fish at this beach. No major changes with the Cape Hatteras National Park. Permits are still required but additional accesses were created and access times adjusted. Anglers should check with the park service.

There will be some disruption on the Oregon Inlet bridge catwalk. Anglers should have access through the summer but parking will be limited so arrived early for the best spots. Also, keep in mind there are several the other local bridges should still offer great fishing. We will be discussing more about these bridges in the near future.

Most regulations on bag and creel limits have remained unchanged but occasionally there comes a need to modify a rule. All piers and tackle shops will have copies of the regulations. A good rule is to always keep a copy handy.

Also, NCDMF has created a pocket size guide titled “Coastal Recreational Angler’s Guide”. This guide is free and contains valuable information on local fishing techniques, species pictures, and much more. Each angler should keep a copy in their tackle bag.

Remember, weather is still unpredictable so if you plan to fish dress accordingly.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Fishing Piers are Open

Fishing piers are finally beginning to see some action on the northern Outer Banks. The calendar says so but Mother Nature is pushing back. The occasional fronts have challenged even the heartiest angler. But conditions are changing quickly.

Starting from the north regions and heading south, here is our pier opening status:

Avalon Fishing Pier has been open all year. The pier hours each day are 0600 until 1000 pm daily

Nags Head Fishing Pier is still closed. The pier sustained damaged over the winter and repairs are progressing. They expect to open in several weeks. Stay tuned for updates.

Jennette’s Pier has been opened all year. Spring hours changed on 31 March to 0700 until 900 pm daily.

Outer Banks Fishing Pier opened on 29 March. They will be open from 0600 until dark or after according to mgmt.

Rodanthe Fishing Pier opened on 28 March. They will be open from 0600 until 900 pm daily.

Avon Fishing Pier is still closed. They too sustained damage over the winter due to the winter storms. Anticipated opening is not until mid-May. Stay tuned for updates.

Water temperatures along the northern beaches are still in the upper forties to lower fifties. It won’t be long before we begin to see those spring species in the surf and piers. For some immediate action, there are always a few skates and dogfish to tighten your lines.

The southern beaches water temperatures continue to hover around the upper fifties to lower sixties. Many of our perennial local species remained in the surf all season and are a favorite target of both fresh bait and artificial lures. Best time to go is now.

After a tough winter, the spring season is shaping up to pick up where our fall fishery left off last year Couldn’t come at better time for those house-bound anglers..

“Remember, last year’s defective gear can cause you to lose this year’s first fish.” Don’t Wait. Repair it Now!

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Investment in Time

Joining a fishing club can be the best way for a new angler to learn about a local fishery. Many regions have similar types of species in their waters but most times it comes down to the techniques, different methods and possibly the gear that separates them. But basically joining a club is about making friends and catching fish.

Typically, anglers will walk into a store, pick up a standard rod and reel set up, package of bait and hit the surf. There is a good chance they will catch something and possibly enough for a meal. But once they get past that stage or the initial phase, they may ask themselves, now what?

Well, that’s where a fishing club comes into play. A fishing club can take that new or even experienced angler to the next level. As with anything else, there are certain techniques that if utilized properly will make the activity more successful and even a lot of fun. And this works the same way with fishing.

The membership with a fishing club will give those anglers that competitive edge. And with the access to knowledgeable members and the support and camaraderie found there, the angler will find it to be a win-win proposition.

Membership is not just one sided affair. This commitment in a fishing club takes work. Each member is required to participate in a number of club activities.

There are monthly meetings, assorted duty assignments, picnics, awards dinners and of course tournaments. These all take volunteers to make it happen.  But the rewards are worth the effort.

Most fishing clubs meet monthly for approximately two hours. Typically, there several parts of each meeting: Club business, speaker, committee reports and open forum.

Fishing clubs are the best opportunity for an angler to expand their skill level. It can open many doors typically not usually available to the casual angler.

If you looking for something new and exciting, joining a local fishing club is time worth spent and is definitely worth your effort.

The Outer Banks Anglers Club is seeking new members. If you are looking for new friendships and a place learn new techniques, then check them out.

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