Thanksgiving, revisited

•December 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The rest of our Thanksgiving week at the Outer Banks was very good fishing-wise, weather-wise, and family-wise. Not as grand stomach bug-wise. But alas that is ancient history at this point and the good news is that despite my painful night off, I didn’t let the bug slow me down too much Thursday through Saturday.

Thanksgiving was a memorable day with a solid bite of smallish (but some keeper) speckled trout, bluefish, and small stripers from various holes north of Oregon Inlet in the morning. In the afternoon, I discovered bluefish (and one puppy drum) on every cast on the north side of Cape Point. I left after over a dozen fish in less than an hour and with a much larger crowd of metal slingers than when I first started casting! Went far north Friday night to fish the falling tide along a nice tight slough in Kitty Hawk and got a limit of better trout to about 4 pounds.  The wind machine turned on Saturday morning, but I was still able to pull a couple keeper specks from the tip of a bar along the old Lighthouse beach in Buxton.

Since Thanksgiving, the surf fishing reports, particularly from the Outer Banks, have remained very good. However, most of the activity has shifted to Hatteras Island as the persistent northwest blows have dropped the water temps a bit too much (low 50s) along the Bodie Island beach. In my experience, specks bite well in the surf down to around 56-57. Stripers and pups are fine in the low 50s (and lower, in fact), but there are really no stripers to speak of.  Pups are about, however.

On Hatteras, north beach water temperatures are in the mid-upper 50s, with the surf south of Cape Point in the low 60s – perfect, really.  The best trout and pup reports have come from Hatteras to Avon recently, and the Point continues to produce big drum regularly. In fact, Avon Pier had about 20 big drum on closing day last weekend. Fishing should remain good provided the water temps hold.

Further south along the North Carolina coast, surf temperatures vary from the upper 50s to the lower 60s. Reports are more scarce from these beaches, but in general fishing has been good, with big sea mullet, mixed size black drum, lots of (nice) speckled trout, pups and even plenty of blues still in the mix. Recent weather and the short-medium term forecast has more of the same – hard NW winds on cold fronts followed by brief periods of modest warming as high pressure builds.  The pattern thus far in December is certainly more winter-like than last year, and actually pretty seasonable.

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Sick and Tired

•November 23, 2016 • 1 Comment

Sadly, that is my fate today, a beautiful day on Hatteras Island for our annual Thanksgiving family excursion to the beach.  I got out this morning before the stomach bug (and accompanying fever) caught up with me, but missed the better part of a lovely fall surf fishing day.  To add insult to injury, I hear some nice trout were hitting north of Oregon Inlet — there’s a good chance I would have been at least trying up there if I hadn’t been bedridden, as the calming waters following a hard cold front is just the prescription for fall trout in the surf.  Still contemplating a falling tide run, although the 9 pm low is rapidly approaching.  Tomorrow morning might be a smarter choice for both fishing and health reasons.

I have gotten two reasonably full days of fishing in (reasonably is a relative word when you have a young family).  So, for having two young kids, I’ve been able to get some time in and fortunately that has mostly translated into success.  There are black drum (mostly keepers) everywhere.  I’ve been hitting a nice hole that’s produced for me on the higher tide stages and before the plentiful skate take over. I really enjoy catching black drum – great fighters and great eating.

Drum have been running at Cape Point, especially in the hard NW wind (which I generally don’t like, but I may need to rethink things here…) Monday and Tuesday.  A Point sycophant I am not…in fact, I am probably the opposite of a Point sycophant and generally avoid the place because of the large crowds.  The times I do hit it are usually when almost no one else will be there.  Monday/Tuesday that meant midnight to about 2 am and I was rewarded with two yearling drum in the mid-upper 30″ range.  Surely could have caught more, but it was 2 am.  Against my normally better judgement, I fished the Point again Tuesday around sunset and the crowd was even worse than I could have imagined!  The “errant” headlamp lights were unreal…these must be the same folks that don’t bother to turn off their highbeams when driving toward you.  Anyway, the fish were there, but I didn’t get one. Tons of bait in the water at the Point and it has generally been alive with action lately, so yes, I’ll probably be heading back, but more likely will throw lures for blues and such or hit it late night again.

Hoping for a quick recovery here and will try to post again from this week, assuming I have any downtime (usually a bad sign!).  If not, next week I hope.

Just because I’ve been so slack…

•November 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ll repost my recent Cape Lookout fishing report from the Drumwagon website.

 

I was on island Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning of last weekend. I was solo as my buddies all eventually bailed on me! All my fishing was south end, with my basecamp near the lighthouse.

Thursday afternoon was beautiful and warm. Fishing was slow. Started around the point with artificials hoping to entice one of those nice flounder I’d heard were moving out of the inlet (I did see some fileted carcasses and can attest that some 20″+ fish had been caught), but I had nothing. Went back to my camp near the ped/ORV barrier just south of the lighthouse and fished cut bait during the early evening hours. Nothing on cut mullet and just a couple small sea mullet on shrimp/fishbites bloodworm sandwiches.

Cold front blew through with some fury Friday morning and I hunkered down in the tent, until the walls started caving in and dripping! Fortunately, the rain was brief. After I got my act together, I drove toward the point and, not unexpectedly, found small blues working the north beach under working birds — pretty common in a hard northerly wind here. The fish were on the small side, the water was big and there was nothing mixed in with them (sometimes drum will be feeding under the small blitzing blues). But it was pretty fun combat fishing, even if the most of the blues were overmatched by the medium action setup I needed to reach them. Used glass minnow style metal. Also hit the jetty and had a couple nice (but quick) shots at albacore in close, but didn’t get any takers. No flounder either. Some guys were catching what appeared to be pinfish on bait, which tells you how warm the water still was.

Saturday was still quite breezy till about nightfall, but otherwise a very nice fall day. Morning and early afternoon fished one of the very nice holes north of the lighthouse (around mm 39). Got a couple decent sea mullet on shrimp/fishbites and a short black drum, but it was pretty slow. The blues were missing from the north beach, and even bait fishing was generally unproductive, but I got lucky with a 42″x23″ drum from a deep slough near the first ped/ORV barrier north of the point right about sunset. I got it on fresh menhaden cast netted from the south side of the point a couple hours earlier. Evening fishing was really disappointing given otherwise nice conditions. I bait fished the point for several hours after dark with no real takes although I kept losing bait. Also plugged around the jetty – nice conditions but no action.

Was on the 8 am ferry Sunday morning – another beautiful day.

Here it Comes!

•August 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The first late summer cold front is forecast to arrive early next week and I for one am more than ready.  What started off as a nice spring and pretty reasonable summer has evolved into a steambath for the better part of July and August. Surf water temps are about maxed out at the low-mid 80s most everywhere, although the northern Outer Banks surf will upwell to as low as the mid-60s during strong westerlies.

Fishing, for the most part, has been seasonably good.  Although we are currently mired in the dog days of summer – often the slowest surf fishing of the season – the flip side is that all the fish and bait are here…they’re just not always doing much.  The coming cold front should change that.  Even if “cold” means mid-80s instead of mid-90s, the northerly winds are really what matters.  Although we are not quite there yet, early fall is one of my most favorite times of year to fish. The sheer amount of biomass in the water is often incredible.  Park yourself at any inlet on the outgoing current and you are bound to see lots of surface activity as a variety of game fish tear up glass minnows and mullet.  Great stuff!

Anyway, from the surf and piers, fishing for Spanish mackerel and bluefish has been pretty solid all season, with the size of both species larger than we have been accustomed to the past few years.  There have been plenty of big – as in near citation – Spanish, with most coming on live bait from piers; however, pluggers from the surf and piers have had their share of nice fish in the 3-4 pound class.

Early season saw an unusual number of gray trout – weakfish, to Northerners.  Grays are a common catch on the soundside of the Outer Banks in the spring, but there were a good number caught oceanside as well, which tells me their numbers were (are?) above-average this year for whatever reason.  Additionally, there were several reports of nice-sized weaks, including a good run of 4-6 pound trout from Topsail in late June.  That’s unusual these days.  Some sharpies in south-central Jersey – where catching tiderunner weakfish is a spring ritual – did right well, especially in April, though May weather conditions hampered the rest of the spring bite.  Speckled trout seem to be showing well also, both in size and numbers – based on summer reports and the lack of a hard freeze last winter, we’ll hopefully be in for a good fall run in the surf.  I pray.

Bottom fishing for the usual prey – sea mullet, croaker, spot and pompano – has generally been about average, as has surf fishing for flounder. Not bad, not great…on average. Stripers continue to be a common catch on the soundside, which following a much improved fall/winter hopefully portends a continuing recovery for this once-great fishery. Summer drum fishing has been about average, but I am not too concerned about drum. The big drum fishing in the lower Neuse has reportedly been spottier than in past years. Finally, this summer has seen its share of oddities, including mahi, mutton snapper, and multiple small sailfish off various North Carolina piers in the past month or so.

 

Fishing Report – May 20, 2016

•May 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Surf water temperatures are ranging from the low 60s on the northern Outer Banks to the low 70s along the central North Carolina coast.

Spring fishing has been pretty good all over, generally paralleling the weather.  March was mild and there was some good fishing along the Outer Banks for drum, sea mullet, blowtoads and nice 2-3 pound bluefish, including several great bites on lures.

April and May have been variable weather-wise, with a couple short hot spells, but also some extended periods of cooler, often rainy, weather.  Fishing has remained pretty good, with the usual spring assortment of fish, including red and black drum, blowtoads and sea mullet, bluefish and trout.

Bodie and Hatteras Islands – particularly the “north” (or east-facing) beaches, have been good for big sea mullet over the past several weeks, with big blowtoads preceding them. A few nice pompano are starting to be caught to round out the main bottom fish targets.

There was a pretty good run of nice speckled trout along the Bodie Island beaches and sound, with Avalon Pier, the Little Bridge and surroundings areas noted hotspots. That bite seems to be slowing down, but smaller fish continue to caught at the Little Bridge in particular. Gray trout seem to be getting more press this year, both in the sounds and – more surprisingly – from the piers and the beach.  Some of the nicest fish have been taken from the Beaufort-Atlantic Beach area, but the Outer Banks and areas south of the Crystal Coast have also reported better than usual gray trout action.  Bluefish have been very abundant since the latter half of April.  The average size has been larger than usual, with good eating size 1-3 pounders being most common. Although there have been a few smaller fish in the mix, large blues have been mostly absent this spring (it sounds like they are all chasing schools of bunker at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey).

Spanish mackerel and cobia are both currently moving into the area in force. Surf fishing for both species has been hampered by access issues, most notably closures of Cape Point on Hatteras Island and South Point on Ocracoke Island.  Piers, especially from Bogue Inlet south have been hammering the Spanish, and boaters are finding very good cobia action when the wind and weather allows for sight fishing.

 

 

Fishing Report 2/27/2016

•February 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

After a brief foray into winter, the weather seems to be settling into more of a spring-like pattern.  Indeed, the chorus frogs are chirping up a racket in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The pattern lately has been wet, warm and stormy fronts followed by cool/cold high pressure.

The good news is that we never did get any truly bitterly cold weather this winter and there have been very few reports of trout stuns or kills at the coast. Although cold weather stuns or kills can be very localized events – usually limited to shallow, slow moving coastal rivers and creeks, since the trout often congregate in these areas in winter – the effect on their population can be significant. I should note here that the very worst combination for stun/kill events is very cold air temperatures, wind (to mix the water column) and cold precipitation-driven runoff (e.g., cold rain, ice, snowmelt). That cold water goes right to the bottom where the fish are usually bunched up to avoid the cold surface conditions.

Nevertheless, surf and sound water temperatures this time of year are usually a good indication of the type of winter we’ve had.  Right now, coastal water temperatures are ranging from the mid-40s at the northern Outer Banks to the low-50s along the southeast coast. And they really haven’t fallen much below these temperatures all winter. During and after truly cold winters, those numbers could easily be 10 degrees lower than they are now. Given that spring fishing usually starts to kick off in earnest when water temperatures approach the mid to upper 50s, we are in very good shape for an early spring season — barring any polar vortex shifts of course!

Actual surf and shore fishing reports are pretty scarce right now. There have been some red and black drum caught near Cape Hatteras and along the southern Outer Banks beaches recently. Most of the drum are pups but a few big red drum have been caught from the Point during southwest blows. The puppy drum fishing near the Point and Old Lighthouse area in Buxton has been pretty consistent and fish have been caught on both jigs and natural baits. Further south, I suspect the scene is pretty similar. Trout reports from the surf zone have been scarce since the water temperatures have fallen below the mid-50s. Spiny dogfish should provide action for bait fishermen just about anywhere along the beach, but definitely at the Outer Banks.

The lower sections of the coastal rivers have been fishing well for stripers for most of the winter, with hickory shad having picked up quite a bit in the past couple weeks. On the Neuse, some reports have the hicks as far up as Goldsboro, but you’ll probably enjoy better success focusing further downstream. Keep an eye on the NC Wildlife Resource Commission’s coastal river fishing reports which should start back up in a couple of weeks and extend through the striper spawn (mid-May). Knowledgeable guides and other fishermen should be able to find trout and puppy drum in the coastal creeks as well. Bank fishermen in Carteret County have been scoring on trout periodically, but not consistently.

Antigua

•February 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Was able to get in a bit of surf fishing on a work trip to the country of Antigua and Barbuda in the West Indies a couple weeks ago (the first of four such trips this year).  Our hotel was near the tourist beaches of Dickenson Bay, so that’s where I focused, but the islands are surrounded by ocean and Antigua is known as the island of 365 beaches, so potential surf and shore fishing spots abound (at least one for each day of the year!) on both the Atlantic and Caribbean.

My view of the island suggests that the typical formation is rocky point-sand beach-rocky point-sand beach and so on. The beaches don’t seem to have much soft structure, although I am told the Atlantic side (the NE facing shore) is “rougher” so those beaches likely have more soft structure to explore than the Caribbean beaches.

I focused on a rocky point at the end of Dickenson away from the mass of resorts and was able to scrape out a few small fish: one speckled hind (grouper) and a lizardfish (yes, I came all the way to Antigua to catch a lizardfish!). However, the fishing was slow and I really didn’t see a lot of activity that suggested fish moving through the area.

One thing that did not disappoint was the views, so enjoy…

Antigua #a - 3

Rainbow over Dickenson Bay

Antigua #a - 2

McKinnon’s Pond – tarpon are here

Antigua #a - 1

Turner’s Beach

Antigua # - 4

the point

Antigua # - 1

speckled hind grouper

Antigua # - 3

the point