Looking Back – Tournament Time

It’s twenty-nine years later and the excitement is still present in the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournaments. Will there be another fantastic finish? Well, in 1990 there was. Here is my take on that exciting day 29 years ago.

Fishing tournaments can be very unpredictable. The winners can be determined by either the last fish caught or maybe a last minute weigh-in finish. In the case of the 1990 Pirate Cove Billfish tournament, the winning boat was going to end up with both.

It was a warm day for the 7th Annual Pirate Cove Billfish tournament in August 1990. The previous six tournaments were exciting events but for some reason this one just felt a little different.

My love for fishing and boating brought me to North Carolina as a visitor at a young age and ultimately a resident. Those early years, our family would walk the docks at the various fishing centers to admire the boats and the catch of the day. And attending the annual tournaments were always a highlight of our summer trips.

The first three days of the 1990 tournament appeared like any normal competitive event. Boats crews were boasting and bragging about their catches and admiring each other’s flags. The crowds seemed to grow larger each day with the increased catches and excitement of crowning the winning boat.

On the fourth day of the tournament, we arrived early afternoon at the marina. Unlike the other previous afternoons, the marina docks appeared to be even more crowded than before. Most of the boats had already recorded their scores. And people milling around waiting to see the winning boat and crew.

Minutes before the tournament ended and lines out of the water, a rumor began to spread that a tournament boat had just hooked up with a possible record blue marlin and they were still fighting it. And then several minutes later the rumor was confirmed that in fact the Sea Toy was fighting what may not only be the winning fish but could be a tournament record.

The next report, almost thirty minutes later, indicated that the fish had been landed and the Sea Toy was headed in. With less than two and a half hours until the weigh-in closes, Sea Toy had no time to waste. It would be full throttle and the engines wide open from the Gulf Stream through the inlet and up the sound into the narrow channel leading to the Pirates Cove marina.

Could they deliver this fish on time? Would the boat hold up with this beating? Time and equipment were now becoming a major factor.

On the docks, excitement continued to build at the thought of this record finish. But also you could feel this strange awe overcoming everyone. The thought of being a part of this tournament with a trophy marlin and a last minute finish was just fascinating.

It was still early and the thought of this full size charter boat steaming full throttle into the narrow Pirate Cove creek to the hoist and scale with hundreds of spectators standing within feet of the water was not a concern – no not YET.

Time was running out when the Sea Toy radioed in that they crossed the bar and passed Oregon Inlet. They were now heading full throttle into the shallow waters of the Roanoke Sound and a marina full of expensive yachts and hundreds of spectators. Sea Toy called ahead and asked that all yachts be double tied and all spectators are aware of the huge bow wave from the approach to his berth.

As the huge vessel made the left turn into the creek, the huge hull seemed to be completely out of the water. The double secured yachts seemed to disappear behind the wall of water. Spectators were amazed at the sight – even ignoring twelve inches of water pouring over the docks and covering their feet.

The Sea Toy sped toward the head of the creek and with one quick turn she was backed into the slip. Within seconds, the mate grabbed the hoist line, fastened it to the tail and hoisted the 654 pound Blue Marlin to first place finish!! And a mere 60 seconds to spare!!

It’s been twenty five years since I witnessed this amazing event. And I still get a chill just thinking how special this event was for me. Remember tournaments are unpredictable – just because you don’t fish it does not mean you can’t enjoy to fun.

The next 32nd Annual Billfish Tournament is being held on August 11-14, 2015 at the Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo, NC.

Will you be there to witness history?

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

WOW, that water is cold!!

Over the past several weeks, visitors and anglers have experienced a significant decrease in the ocean’s water temperature. This is not new but can be expected during the typical summer months when most beachgoers are in the water.

This phenomenon is known as up welling. It is typically caused by circular wind motion due to a front from the south west that blows winds along the beach. The steady wind blows the warm summer water out at a diagonal direction which ultimately takes the warm water out to sea. With the warm water now gone, the cold water from the bottom replaces it quickly – thus the sudden decrease in water temperatures from one place on the beach to another. Tides can also aid in replacing the warm water with the cold water. (Double click on picture for water movement).

If you find yourself in an upwelling situation, either wait it out or move down the beach until you find a warmer spot. Unfortunately, if the wind continues to blow, cold water is here to stay. You may either suffer with the cold water, stay on the beach or find a nice pool.

There are fish to be caught so just because you can’t swim doesn’t mean that you can’t fish. Fresh bait, keeping the gear light is the ticket to a great time.

And don’t worry, this situation typically doesn’t last very long, so it might be a great time to visit one of our local tackle shops.

And want something to do during this cold water stretch? The Outer Banks has a new tackle shop. Oceans East Tackle is located in the old Whalebone Tackle building on the Nags Head Manteo Causeway. They had done a fantastic job of bringing a new look to our area. If you haven’t stopped by yet, it is a must.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Is it time to fake it?

Artificial baits continue to revolutionize catching fish but none as innovative as Fish Bites. Fresh and live baits are still the best way to catch fish but anglers are finding many advantages of using this new synthetic bait either alone or in conjunction with other baits.

Fish Bites are a synthetic bait that uses a new technology to help the angler catch more fish.

The Fish Bite bait consists of a mesh “skelton” surrounded by a hardened but still flexible gel that has a flesh-like texture. It has been infused with a powerful flavor/scent technology that helps attract fish to the bait. Once in the water, the Fish Bite bait begins to slowly dissolve releasing this powerful scent that can drive most species to feed aggressively.

Fish Bites are found either pre-cut or in long strips. Pre-cut pieces work as packaged but some anglers will modify them to fit a particular application.

Fish Bites are manufactured in either standard or longer lasting. Each has their own purpose.

The standard type will disperse a powerful scent quickly once it comes in contact with water. The purpose of this type is to quickly put lots of scent in the water all at once.  This rapid release will attract fish in the surrounding area. Although extremely effective, the standard type dissolves quickly and needs to be replaced soon.

The second type is longer lasting. The longer lasting type also releases the scent in the water but at a slower pace. One advantage of the longer lasting is that it will hold on the hook longer.

Because fish bites contain such a powerful attractant, many anglers use them to dress other lures such as fresh bait or other artificial soft plastics. They will either attach a small piece or an entire strip to enhance the scent and action of their jig head or other lure.

Another advantage of using Fish Bites is that they come in convenient packages and doesn’t need refrigeration.

Fresh, natural and live baits are still the “go-to” baits for most anglers. They catch fish but if you are adventurous, the fish Bite artificial bait is a great addition to your arsenal.

Some anglers are reluctant to try something new but this is one bait that must be in their tackle bag.  So next time you question the price and benefit of fresh and natural baits, try Fish Bites. You won’t be disappointed.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

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

The Pressure is On

The specific weather condition that anglers monitor before they go fishing can mean the difference between catching and just sightseeing. Most anglers will go fishing when they can. Other anglers are a little bit more studious and go when the conditions are right. And one of those conditions is barometric pressure reading.

Barometric pressure is the amount of force or weight that the atmosphere pushes down at any point on earth and its inhabitants. This pressure can be either steady, rising or falling according to the current weather conditions. And these three different readings can have a significant effect on fishing.

Anglers have used weather instruments including barometer readings for years. And those anglers have realized that you don’t have to be a scientist to understand how these readings affect wildlife including our saltwater species.

Each living species responds to many different weather conditions. But the change in barometric pressure can be felt in both humans and wildlife alike. And when there is a change, sometimes even slight everything responds including wildlife.

Weather systems are the main cause of barometric pressure changes. When the sun is shining with little wind, the barometer is steady. Falling pressure actually increases the pressure felt on the surface. And rising pressure will decrease this effect.

This rising and falling typically proceeds or follows a weather system. For example, an approaching front will cause the barometric pressure to decrease and once passed the system increases pressure as it does after a tropical storm. The closer the storm is to a particular area, the lower the pressure becomes. And vice versa.

And its effect on wildlife does not have to be significant – only a few degrees of measurement can make a world of difference.

So how does this condition effect fishing?

On steady calm or “bluebird” days, fishing is dependent on many natural instincts of a specific species. They act in a normal fashion. But with an approaching system or storm the pressure begins to fall and this pressure pushes on the fish’s organs, causing them to feel full and reducing their instinct to feed. Now once the front or system passes, the pressure rises and the “full feeling” effect diminishes, and the fish will begin to feed aggressively.

Many anglers who have followed barometric pressure change concept have been richly rewarded.

Looking for one more advantage, why not check the weather page before your next fishing trip.

It just might surprise you.

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