March 13, 2008

The sound and ocean offer many options for good catches on spring charter fishing trips


Each summer, thousands of visitors flock to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands to take advantage of the exceptional inshore and offshore charter fishing  opportunities, but considerably fewer anglers take advantage of what the boats offer in the spring.

Sure, there aren’t really any marlin until late spring, and there are no big tournaments to enter in March, April, and early May, but that certainly doesn’t mean the ocean is barren.  

If it’s big gamefish you’re after, spring is a good time to target tuna.  

“We expect the yellowfin fishing to be excellent in mid-March and April,” says Capt. Ernie Foster of the Albatross Fleet.  Along with yellowfin tuna, you’re likely to land a few wahoo and might even stumble upon some dolphin, which show up in earnest around early May.  

Spring is also prime time for bottom fishing.  Vermillion snapper, silver snapper, sea bass, and triggerfish thrive in the shallower, inshore waters, while grouper and tiles abound in the deep.  If you have a flair for the exotic, you might want to give bottom fishing a try.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to catch out there,” says Patrick Caton, captain of the Little Clam, who specializes in bottom fishing.  “We’ve caught scorpion fish, queen triggers, flying gurnards, and all kinds of strange fish.”

The Miss Hatteras also targets bottom fish and frequently comes back with a good catch. The Miss Hatteras is a headboat, meaning that you pay per person, or head, to fish for the day, as opposed to paying a flat rate for the boat.

Capt. Spurgeon Stowe starts running full- and half-day charters around mid-March, and it will cost around $100 for a full day and around $80 for a half day.  If you’ve got a big group of fishermen or simply want to get a taste of bottom fishing without having to charter a boat for the day, The Miss Hatteras is a good option.

You can also find exciting inshore fishing in the spring.  Many captains in Hatteras run full- and half-day inshore charters with possible catches of red drum and bluefish in March and April and Spanish mackerel and cobia in early May.  

Sound  fishing is also an option in the spring.  Ken Dempsey is one of the few captains who runs charter fishing trips almost exclusively in the Pamlico Sound.  

“The best fishing starts in mid- to late- April, and the blow toads and sea mullet are always the first to show up,” says Dempsey.  

May brings warmer water and greater variety—namely, drum, gray and speckled trout, bluefish, and flounder.  Fishing in the sound is a good option for those who prefer lighter tackle and calmer waters.

Springtime charter fishing comes with other fringe benefits as well.  Since March through mid-May is still regarded as the off season, you can usually find less expensive lodging.  And because of Hatteras Island’s mild climate, you won’t have to bundle up on the boat—especially if you’re out there on the warm Gulf Stream waters.  

Prices can range anywhere from $475 for a half-day, inshore charter to $1,600 for a full day on an offshore boat.  A half-day charter will generally leave the dock around 6:30 or 7 a.m., depending on the marina and the captain, and return somewhere around noon. They depart again soon after that, returning around 5 or 5:30 p.m. A full-day charter will leave around 6 or 6:30 and generally return around 4 to 5 p.m.

So, give any of the Island’s marinas a call, and whatever your taste—offshore, inshore, deep-dropping, or sound fishing—you’re likely to find something to suit your needs.

(For more information or reservations on charters and island fishing can be found by clicking on advertisers on the Front Page or Fishing Page or checking the links to boats on the Links Page.)


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