Tides Make a Difference

Tides have a major influence on whether you catch fish or not. It’s the tides that help create ideal conditions for fish to feed. And if the angler is present during these times, their chances improve.

As a rule, most anglers prefer to fish on the high or low tides. And frequently, anglers will also monitor sun and moon phases but it’s the tides that brings them out. But it’s the specific part of these tides that make all the difference.

Let’s take a closer look at why you too should consider following the tides.

Ocean tides occur up to four times per twenty-four hour period – two high and two low. The tide phases are influenced by a number of conditions but mostly the moon.  Frequently, we hear that it’s best to fish on the exact full or new moon or on the top of the high or low tide because in theory that’s when the bite is on.

Well, this is only partially correct. Let’s take a closer look at how the tides affect the bite.

First, a little background – when the high and low tide are at their peaks, the water is slack and not moving unless there is outside influence such as wind. And second, when the tide is between the high and low, this is where a significant water movement can occur between the two tide phases.

Now, let’s break down one side of a tide. At the highest phase of high tide the water is slack. As the tide begins to fall, water starts to move toward the low tide phase. As the level continues to fall, this tide or water begins to pick up speed until it reaches a certain point usually two thirds into this phase at which the water begins to slow again to a slack phase.  Then the process starts again but in reverse.

So let’s do an example to help find the best time to fish. Let’s start with high tide at 600am and the low tide at 1200 noon. The tide is slack at 600 and with gravitational influence the water level or tide begins to fall. As the tide continues to fall, it will pick up speed typically around 0730 and continue to increase flow or speed until 1030. At this point the tide begins to lose its force and between 1030 and 1200 noon the tide slows and finally is slack again.

As you can see in this example, the fastest moving water and the best times to fish is approximately 1-1/2 hours after high and before low tide. Other times work too, but for increased success pick these. These three hours are the key!!

Remember, there are many other conditions that can influence the bite. Water movement is just one. Monitoring water temperature, seasonal migration and barometer can also improve your success.

But reviewing tide phase should always be part of your fishing trip preparation.

So the next time you pick up a local tide chart – do some homework and you might just catch some more fish.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony  

Doing the “Jig” Thing

Fishing with a lead jig head and soft plastic lure is one of the most popular methods of fishing on the Outer Banks. You will find anglers on the piers, bridges and even the surf utilizing this simple technique.

Jigging is the practice of retrieving a lead jig head with an attached soft plastic through the water at varying directions and speeds. And depending on the size and shape of the jig, the angler can cover vast amounts of water and all levels of the water column quickly. Additionally, by covering more area, this technique increases the chance for success.

The “jigging” method is designed to mimic a bait fish that may be struggling in the current. Two methods of jigging are a slow and steady retrieval speed with an occasional pause or intermittent pull, pull, pause. Either, initiates an aggressive strike. And during the pause phase that most strikes and hookups occur.

The jigging method can increase the success rate when the angler focuses on three important phases: the action, sound and vibrations, and smell and scent.

Jig head and soft plastic action is the most important. The speed or erratic behavior of jig head and soft plastic can quickly attract the attention of a target species. A hungry speckled trout or puppy drum can sense a struggling or wounded bait fish by its erratic movements. A slow moving bait can also be an easy prey for a waiting fish.

Sounds or noise from a lead head pushing through the water or different configurations of the soft plastic can cause a significant vibration. Sound and vibration can travel great distance under water so any unusual sound will get the attention of a searching species.

Soft plastic bodies are designed to make specific sounds by the each manufacturer. For example, swim baits create a drumming sound as the paddle tail swings in the current. Twister tail plastics cause a high pitch tin-like sound. And a finesse plastics will give off a swishing sound. Each soft plastic has their own specific sounds when dragged through the water. So the angler should select the specific soft plastic body for each targeted species.

Finally, selecting the proper scent or favor for the soft plastic body needs to correspond with the specific bait fish in the water. Fish have a tremendous ability to smell. And they can sense a fish scent dozens of yards away. So when choosing a soft plastic always select one with the scent that is imbedded into the bait. Adding an after-market scent can also provide that smell although plastics designed with scent will retain that scent longer.

The key to successful jigging is to select the proper lead jig head action for the specific area and depth you are fishing. Select the soft plastic that can give off the right sound and vibration. Also very important for the angler to vary their retrieval rate frequently. And finally, make sure your soft plastic bait has the same scent as the other bait fish in the water.

Remember – when handling scented soft plastic baits, make sure your hands are clean. Don’t allow any body oils and suntan lotion get on you soft plastics. Any foreign substance may compromise your ability to fool your target.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

My Favorite Places Fish

The most frequently asked question by visiting anglers. Where can I go fishing while visiting the Northern Outer Banks? Well, here are the “Walkingangler’s” favorites.

Daniels Bridge – great bridge deck to fish from both on north and south sides. Easy access, parking, restrooms, shaded area, fishing cleaning station. Good for crabbing. Look for channels and moving water. There is deep hole approximately one hundred fifty yards south of bridge. Long casts and covering more water increases catches.

Wildlife Pier / William Baum Bridge – long dock that extends into Albemarle Sound. Easy access, parking, restrooms, shaded certain times a day, benches. Fish the north and east sides of dock. Drag baits along the pilings and cast north into the slough / channel leading into marina. Avoid south side – rubble and snags from bridge construction.

Various boat ramps – Wildlife pier ramp (under Baum bridge) and Oregon Inlet (near Coast Guard Station) ramp are good places to find many bottom fish. Long casts into the sound and slow retrievals into the holes increase catches. Watch to boats being launched and loaded.  

Oregon Inlet Fishing Center – south point on east side of basin. Good wade fishing and crabbing Watch for waves from boats and deep holes while wading. Parking is good at marina. Restroom facilities are fishing center.

Various dune cross-overs. KH, KDH and NH have dozens of dune break for immediate access to the surf. Some areas require a long walk. Some areas have adequate parking, potable toilets, and stairs and ramps. Fish the moving tides and focus on the close in sloughs.

BeBop Pier – west end on Mann’s Harbor Bridge. Easy access, limited parking, shaded area with benches.  North side is good for shallow fishing. East and south are adjacent to bridge. Long casts toward bridge into slough increases chances. Lots of crabs and mosquitoes during the summer.

Bodie Island Slough – west end of parking area at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Long walk through gate at end of circle along a dirt road. Minimal parking. No restrooms adjacent to fishing area. Once at slough, good fishing to the north or around any structure. Lots of crabs and mosquitoes most of the year.

Pamlico Sound / Hatteras Island Sound fronts – many pull offs along the entire coast with direct access to shallow water. No facilities. Park parking permit may be needed if off pavement.

Obviously, there are dozens more but these are my favorites. We haven’t included the piers because they are a given. These are the special spots. Piers will be discussed during another post.

Remember – anglers will need a license to fish any of these spots.

Good Luck and Enjoy!!

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

The “Little Bridge”

The Melvin R. Daniels Bridge is one of the favorite places to fish on the Outer Banks. Better known as the “little bridge”, it was once one of the local’s best kept secret. But with its central location, easy access, amenities and abundance of action most of the year, this bridge is now known as one of the best places to catch fish.

The Daniels Bridge is located in the town of Nags Head on Rt. 64/264 Manteo Causeway just west of Whalebone Junction. The concrete structure has easily accessible guarded walkways on both sides of the bridge. A five foot concrete barrier on the south side provide protection from wind and traffic.

The parking lot on the west side of the bridge can accommodate dozens of vehicles.  And adjacent to the parking area, visitors will find a nice picnic area, covered pavilion and modern restroom facilities. There is also fish cleaning table and running water as an added convenience.

When fishing this bridge, most anglers will start on the south side and work their way along the walkway from west to east. After working the south side anglers will typically flip to the northern side of the bridge.

Many species of fish can be found around this bridge. The key is watching the bait fish and other anglers. Try to mirror their actions. The sound bottom is mostly sandy with minimal structures outside the bridge footprint.   Unless jigging, it is a safe bet to fish close in toward the bridge pilings. Fast moving current under this bridge is the angler’s best friend.

Most anglers use a light to medium fishing gear to either bottom fish or jig for roving schools speckled trout or stripers. The standard two hook bottom rig tipped with small #4 hooks with fresh shrimp or cut bait is best for bottom fishing. When jigging, anglers typically use small lead head jigs fitted with a swim bait or other artificial plastics.

The best advantage for anglers who fish on the bridge is they don’t need any special equipment. It is important to just keep it simple. A simple light rod and reel, a two bottom rig and some fresh bait should help to get the action started quickly.

Anglers who want to fish on the Daniel’s bridge need to purchase a saltwater fishing license and obtain a copy of the local fishing regulations. It is also imperative that all anglers know the creel and bag limits for each species.

The saltwater license, a copy of the regulations, fresh bait along with any fishing gear can be picked up at any local tackle shop.

So for a great place for the beginning angler, kids of all ages, families or the experienced angler looking for that trophy fish, the Melvin R Daniels “Little Bridge” is the place to go.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Organize Your Bags

Tackle bags can sometimes be compared with our backyard sheds. We buy a great tool, maybe use it once or twice, and then need a place to store it before the next use. And that next use may not be anytime soon.  So we place it in the shed and then the next thing we know, the shed is full and when we need that tool, you can’t find it.

Well, our tackle bags are a lot like those backyard sheds. We need a place to store our go-to items along with that special gear we purchased with the hope that it would work. And like storing dozens of tools in the shed, the fishing gear somehow gets shoved in our tackle bags and frequently gets lost or damaged.

Not only can gear get damaged but the angler can get injured reaching into their bag for something only to get stuck by a hook or bait knife.

Organization of fishing tackle and gear is imperative. Most anglers use plastic trays or zip lock bags to store items in their bag. Hooks, sinkers, floats and other items should be kept in their original containers if possible. Bags and boxes have many compartments which can be used for frequently use tools, extra line, scents.

So when the fish are biting or the blitz is on is no time to begin digging into you gear box or bag to retrieve something. It’s best to put things in their place where you can access them quickly before the big rush occurs.

Remember, your target species won’t wait around for you to rig up the right gear and catch them.  You must be ready at any moment.

“Because most times you only have a moment to make that cast”.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Sea Mullet – Our Mainstay

Sea mullet are one of the easiest fish to catch on the Outer Banks. They have slender body with a slightly arched dorsal fin. Their color can range from a light to dark grey with dark shaded stripes. Their mouth faces downward to assist in feeding.

They range in size from several inches up to eighteen with the typical size being caught range to ten to fifteen inches.

Sea mullet can go by several names including Whiting, Kingfish or roundhead.  Most anglers just call them “fun to catch”

Sea mullet can be found along the entire Outer Banks coastline from April through October. They typically show up in the spring when the water begins to reach fifty degrees and stay around until the water cools in the fall.

Local anglers target these fish in the shallow surf zones and on the piers. They can range from the close in sloughs to out in the deeper water and also adjacent to structures such as piers and docks.

I usually find them either right near the beach in shallow water or half to three quarters out on the piers. When fishing on the piers, I usually will cast out and away from a structure and retrieve back to me. South side seems to work best for me but either should work when they are there.

They are typically bottom feeders and prefer cloudy or stained water. Sea mullet will stay in a zone where there is a lot of water movement.

This constant water movement stirs the bottom and mixes the food source that the mullet search for. They also search for food by smell so fresh baits are always the best way to go.

These regular visitors to our waters are caught on standard one or two hook bottom rig. Sea mullet have a small mouth so I always start with a small hooks and depending on my success, and change up or down in size as needed.

I prefer a number four “J” or circle hook. I just bait the hook with a small bait. The best baits for sea mullet is fresh shrimp, bloodworms, or fish bites.

When you use shrimp, always purchase eating type shrimp. I never peel the shrimp. The hard shell usually helps the bait they on the hook.

To increase your chances of catching, change the bait frequently.

When the sea mullet are in season, you can fill a cooler in no time. And most probably one of the best eating fish with its white flaky meat.

But please remember, when fishing, only harvest what you plan to use fresh. Frozen sea mullet or any fish loses it favor quickly.

So grab a rod and hi the surf today. There is no better time to catch a sea mullet is now.

Oh, and one more thing that will make your day better is to take a kid fishing. With every fish they catch that smile gets wider.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Know the Rules

Fishing in Florida during the colder months can be an extremely rewarding experience if you know the rules. Now we are not talking about the rules and regulations on creel and bags limits. Although knowledge of these regulations are mandatory in every region, it’s the small subtitles that can make a difference of success for the visiting angler.

We hear all the time that fishing is the same regardless where you fish. But in Florida that can’t be further from the truth. The various species are stealth and they spook very easily. And catching them can test even the most passionate angler.

There several interesting techniques that can increase the potential for success.

Know your target. Some of the most important items to be aware of when fishing in Florida is to know your targets specific tendencies. Temperature preference, tide phases, feeding habits, and movements and means of comfort and hideaways are important tips that help the angler. Being familiar with these can help improve your success potential

Match the hatch is probably the second most important tip to remember. Many species are creatures of habit and they will feed on the most plentiful and easiest bait available. So the best way to increase the success rate is use a lure or bait that is similar to what’s in the water. Color is also important but it’s the contrast and presentation technique that can have more influence. The key: mimic the food source and try to “BE THE BAIT”.

Downsize your gear. The lighter the gear the easier it is to place the bait in the proper location, present it naturally and then feel the bite. Minimize any foreign objects from the environment. Anything outside the lure should appear natural. So use the lightest leader materials, limit you connections to only small knots and avoid any type of metal on your tackle or baits.

Technique and Presentation. Regardless of your lure or bait selection, it’s the natural presentation that can make all the difference. The retrieval technique can make the difference between a strike and spooking your target. Remember, most strikes occur during a pause in any retrieve when the prey is most vulnerable.

Change it up. Some anglers will switch their salt to fresh water gear to encourage the strike. Modifying baits such as adding a rattle or cutting a slice from a plastic swim bait that mimics a wounded fish may spark the interest of a feeding fish. As a general rule, “change is always good”.

Although there are dozens of other techniques, I have found these to help increase my catch rate.

Never be satisfied with the basic package, experiment and challenge yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Until Next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

News on Bonner Bridge Catwalk

Pedestrian Access to Old Bonner Bridge to be Closed Starting Next Week

During the week of March 18, contractors for the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will be installing gates and fences around the southern end of the Bonner Bridge and adjoining catwalks, as workers prepare for demolition work on the bridge. This will temporarily end public pedestrian access to the bridge while the demolition takes place over the next year.

“It’s a safety issue,” said NCDOT Division One Engineer Jerry Jennings. “The south end of the old bridge will become a work zone for the next 10-12 months, so we need to keep the public out of harm’s way.”

About 1,000 feet of the bridge will remain after the demolition process and be converted into a public walkway. That section is expected to reopen in 2020 when the demolition project is complete.

For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.

“March” into Spring

We are rapidly heading into the spring fishery on the Outer Banks with numerous reports of blow toads and sea mullet beginning to show up on the Hatteras Island beaches. Water temperatures are gradually increasing and it won’t be long before our spring species are well settled in both the ocean and sound waters.

But are you ready? At the end of the last fishing season, there were many things to address.  Let’s look back to our new year’s resolutions and see what still needs to be done.

First item – Get more knowledge. This doesn’t mean we have to go back to school but fishing seminars do help. Learning new things is important for increased success. The best way to gain more knowledge is look back at your log book. What worked best and when? The variables were time of day, tides, weather conditions but probably more important was the water temperatures and barometer readings. One of the best sources of knowledge you can have.

Another way is stopping by your local tackle shops. They can help with any new gear or specific techniques. You may even want to check the various manufacturer’s web sites. Lots of tips can be found there. These are the professionals – they make it their business to make you a better angler.

The next one was “logging-it”. Most anglers don’t have time to jot specific notes or keep a log about the day’s fishing trip. At the end of the day, it’s all we can do to clean and organize our gear. Added time if you need to clean your catch.  Some cases, you may have to add boat maintenance.  But if you don’t document it, the information won’t be there when you need it.

The best way to increasing your success rate, is logging your trips. Not just important but basically imperative.  Other reports can be a ‘guess-estimate” or second or third hand information. Your log is real data. Can’t get any better than that.

It is extremely simple to create your own log or purchase one already designed for the type of fishing you do. If neither of these work. Email me and I will send you a copy of my log. Not sophisticated but it has worked for me for years.

Rods and reels are the most important part of your fishing system. Hopefully, these were not overlooked. These need to be checked, cleaned and stored in a location away from harm. If not, there is still time to do the maintenance.

Remember even a small defect in your rod or reel could cause you to lose your trophy catch. So check your rod and reels closely and don’t skimp here when maintenance or repair is needed.

Finally, you need to organize your gear. Remove everything from your box/bag and lay it out on the table. Place the defective or rusty items in one place and the good ones in another. I separate hooks, leaders, bottom rigs and other odd size items in plastic zip lock bags. Everything else goes in the see-thru plastic trays. If needed, replace the old plastic lure boxes with new ones. Final thing to check your pliers and other tools. If you find them rusty or defective, now is the time to replace them.

That first run of spring species is just around the corner. Take the time now. The fish are heading our way.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

NCDMF Needs Your Help

Release: Immediate

Contact: Patricia Smith

Date: Dec. 21, 2018

Phone: 252-726-7021

North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries ask public to report cold stunned trout.

 

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries wants to remind the public to report any cold stunned spotted seatrout they may see in North Carolina coastal waters.

During the winter, spotted seatrout move to deeper, warmer waters in coastal waters and the ocean. Cold stun events occur when there is a sudden drop in water temperature or during prolonged periods of cold weather, making fish so sluggish that humans can harvest them with their hands.

Many fish that are stunned die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant impact on spotted seatrout populations.

No cold stun events have been reported so far this winter, but if there are concerning weather conditions in the upcoming weeks as previously described then a cold stun event could occur in coastal creeks and bays.

Anyone seeing a trout cold stun event should report it to the N.C. Marine Patrol at 800-682-2632 or to division spotted seatrout biologist Tracey Bauer at 252-808-8159 or Tracey.Bauer@ncdenr.gov

Under the N.C. Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold stun event occurs, the Division of Marine Fisheries will close all spotted seatrout harvest until the summer.

A significant cold stun is determined by size and scope of the cold stun event and an evaluation of water temperatures in areas where cold stuns have been reported. Monitors that continuously log water temperature are deployed statewide in the coastal rivers and creeks prone to cold stuns.

Closing harvest allows fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest re-opens. Peak spawning occurs in May.

Under N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules, the spotted seatrout season automatically closes in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.

Click here to learn more about cold stun events and how they impact spotted seatrout fisheries management in North Carolina.

nr-102-2018 

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632