March 9, 2012

Outer Banks Angling: Has spring sprung?


The weather has been relatively mild, with the occasional, moderate spring cold front moving through every two or three days.

However, the prettier weather has prevailed, and this has led to some good fishing to start the 2012 spring season.

Anglers are always asking when the best time is in the spring to fish on Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Well, there is no good answer. So much plays into the fishing, it’s truly hard to call.

The overall weather, water temps, and the amount of bait swimming in the ocean heavily influence catching – and so does some good luck.

Right now, it seems everything has come together, and you have to take advantage of it while you can for a couple different reasons.

First, just because the weather and fishing is decent now doesn’t mean it’ll remain so. This area could see a fair number of spring storm systems come through one after the other, which would make fishing impossible or destroy the conditions that brought the fish here in the first place.

I’ve seen this scenario a few times. The fishing starts out really good in late winter/early spring only to be destroyed by foul weather and never really return to anything worth bragging about.

Second, starting May 1, you cannot drive on the beach between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., so if you need an ORV to get to a red drum hot spot, you’ll be limited on when you can fish.

So I definitely recommend getting your fishing in while you can, if you can.

If your schedule is flexible and you have a little extra coin in your pocket, then trying to make a spring run soon is the best possible answer.

On the flip side, if the weather is kind to us, then the fishing could be really good for weeks and weeks to come.

So don’t let me discourage you if your money and flexibility is limited to a specific time in the spring to try your luck.

It’s a roll of the dice for everyone.

Even the locals can find it hard to get into a spring bite. This is the time of the year when work starts to pick back up and we can be very busy and unable to get out to go fishing.

Although my own schedule was full last week and I knew I’d be unable to go fishing, I still watched all the factors like a hawk.

I saw a few days of warm weather coming, along with warm water just off the beach and a predicted southwest wind, and I thought to myself that this could be it at Cape Point or the south end of Ocracoke.

Well, it was, and the few who made a go of it caught some red drum, blues, and sea mullet.

Now, they could have easily caught nothing. But, fortunately, the spring factors brought the fish to the beach.

Recently, the tuna fishing has been absolutely insane.

I spoke with Captain Jake Hiles of Matador Sport Fishing out of Oden’s Dock and his report was very promising.

Jake reported the best tuna fishing he had seen in a few years and said that schools of yellowfin tuna stretched 10 to15 miles in some cases. He also noted that there were bluefin tuna schools that stretched more than 7 miles.

Captain Hiles noted that there were blackfin tuna running around the rock piles out of Hatteras, but most boats and anglers were targeting the spectacular yellowfin and bluefin fishing.

I also spoke with local boat builder, Ritchie Howell, of Ritchie Howell Custom Yachts and he was able to convince the owner of a recently completed 60-foot Hatteras-style boat to come down and make a run.

Ritchie told me the owner couldn’t have asked for a better maiden voyage.

With only the bare essentials for offshore fishing quickly thrown onboard, Ritchie and the guys were able to catch 13 nice yellowfin tuna and a bluefin tuna that was touching 225 pounds.

I agree. That was a great way to break in a new Hatteras boat.

So, you can be assured that there are some fish around. And the fishing could get better or it could get worse.

My suggestion is go for it if you can.

There are plenty of boats ready to take you out and plenty of businesses ready to house, feed, and outfit you.

The “OPEN” signs are up.

Don’t sit on the couch. Go fishing.

(Rob Alderman is the owner of the Hatteras Island Fishing Militia website and is a kayak fishing guide. Rob has 10 years of fishing experience on the Outer Banks, and is host of the “Outer Banks Angler” television show. You can follow more of his extreme adventures or contact him at

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