Fishing – Is It Better to Fish Early or Late

Historically, it has been the experience among anglers that it’s better to fish before breakfast or after dinner. Whether this preference is based on experience or theory, is anybody’s guess. But there are many reasons why anglers would prefer these times opposed to others.

It could be the cooler conditions or possibly the outdoor experience or it could be that the fish actually bite better during those times. Who knows, but there are several theories that could tell the story. So let’s explore several.

There is definitely a big difference between fishing dawn and dusk verses day time. Coolness verse the heat of the day. Sunrises and sunsets, various moon phases, cooler air and water temperatures along with the amount of light striking the water all can contribute to a change in feeding habits.

The sun has always had an effect on fishing. On bright days with the sun directly overhead seems to chase the fish deep in the water and slows their metabolism. On the other hand, low light and cloudy days seem to turn the bite on.

At dawn and dusk, the sun rays can be at a sharper angle to the water. This angle allows for lower light to penetrate the water and enhances the sight of various marine species. The lower light conditions can give feeding species an advantage finding food or the bait quickly because of their light sensitive eyes.

The moon phases can also affect the movement and height of the tides but more importantly this water movement can confuse many bait fish.  And this water movement can also bring in a change in more comfortable water temperatures.

Another theory is the amount of oxygen content in the water. Cooler water contains more oxygen then warmer water. So it’s natural that fish find comfort in these cooler conditions and tend to feed more.

At dusk, the air temperature will usually drop. The cooler air causes the water temperatures to also decrease slightly. This cooling trend creates a desirable environment for most species Small living organisms and bait fish are extremely active during these times and make for easy prey of the larger fish. So with more activity brings an increase in the possible success rate.

At dawn, the air temperatures begin to increase with the sun rise. The water temperatures will also increase. Even though it might be slight, the fish seem to sense this change and typically will begin to feed aggressively during this period being aware that their feeding cycle may end soon.  As the temperature continues to rise into the morning and dawn turns into day, this change causes the fish and their prey to slow down considerably and seek deeper cooler waters again.

Obviously, these are only couple of theories on why fish feed more aggressively during these times. There could many other conditions and reasons why fish are more active at dawn and dusk.  

Regardless of the reasons, anglers will continue to look forward to that “before breakfast and after dinner bite”.

So now the next question based on the facts, “will you try your luck at dusk or dawn too”?

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Surf Fishing is Fun

Summer is here and what better way to enjoy the Outer Banks by trying surf fishing.

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

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