July 20, 2012

Outer Banks Angling: Weather or not


It seems like yesterday that I moved to the Outer Banks, although in reality it was more than 10 years ago.

I’ve been very fortunate in my recreational fishing career in that decade.

I’ve fished alongside with some of the area’s best. I had a chance to host a local fishing show. I’ve caught the numerous species this water has to offer, and I have fished the many venues this area has to offer -- pier, boat, surf, and kayak.

I do not proclaim to be an incredible angler, but I can hold my own and I can catch a fish if I put my mind to it.

The one thing I have learned and mastered is that one can never take the area’s weather for granted. One of the many local sayings goes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.”

On the Outer Banks, the weather can change in an instant.

I’ve been caught in some precarious situations over the years.

For me, the worst possible place to be when an unforeseen storm arises is in my kayak.

At times, I do some long paddles to shore and shelter and at other times, I have been in the middle of Diamond Shoals with nowhere to run.

I’ve gotten caught two miles out in the sound in open water and in the dark in a horrific thunderstorm. That storm had me wondering if my friends and I would even make it back to shore without being struck by lightning, as the bolts cracked overhead for the entire paddle home.

I’ve gotten caught in a huge squall off of Cape Point that left me calling water rescue to come and get a friend, who was unable to paddle back to shore against the wind and swell it generated.

You would think I’d make sure to leave little to chance when it comes to the weather and my safety.

Well, I do.

Yet, no matter how pretty it is outside and no matter what the forecast says or the radar shows -- in five minutes everything can change on a string of barrier islands.

Recently, I was fishing in open sound water with one of my kayak fishing guide clients.

It was 8 a.m. and we had been on the water for a couple of hours and were catching a few speckled trout and flounder.

The morning was going well, and the weather was pleasant.

That morning before I left home, I checked the weather. There was little on the radar, the wind forecast was moderate, and the chance of rain was 20 percent.

I had just made a cast and was working on methodically retrieving my artificial lure as I noticed something off the tip of my rod. A small, but menacing black cloud was approaching and it appeared to have a black finger reaching out of the sky.

I lowered my rod, and to my dismay, I saw a waterspout.

Less than a half mile from me was one of the ocean’s most violent and unpredictable events.

A waterspout is nothing more then a land tornado, except it’s over water.

In my time I’ve witnessed these events from pier, surf, and boat, but never while riding in a 13-foot piece of plastic with nowhere to go quickly.

My experience with waterspouts has also taught me that they are highly unpredictable.
They can move swiftly and erratically or they can barely move at all and almost seem frozen in time.

And, it’s not uncommon for there to be a few waterspouts in a general area at one time.

When I realized what was happening, I was concerned for my safety and especially for the safety of my client. Over my shoulder, I called back and asked my client if he had seen what was going on and he replied that he had.

We both watched in awe. It was amazing to see the spout clearly spinning and working its way out of the cloud formation to the water’s surface, which looked as if it was continuously exploding in one spot.

This waterspout was hardly moving and was lingering on the rear edge of this small cloud.

We were somewhat relieved but we were sitting just under the front edge of this mini-system, and I knew it was plausible for another spout to develop and drop just about anywhere this cloud passed.

We continued to watch this spout for about 90 seconds before it finally dissipated.

My spirits rose slightly and I was a little less concerned -- until about two minutes later when another spout formed in almost the exact same spot.

My fears of a spout dropping right over top off us rose once again. Now it was evident that this cloud was a prime producer of waterspouts.

The cloud was laced with gray, with blue and white clouds entwined throughout.

Once again, this spout was gone in about 90 seconds.

Another sigh of relief.  But it was short-lived, as a third and much larger spout formed and dropped out of the sky.

This spout was three times the size of its predecessors. The wind around us instantly kicked up, along with the water and overall conditions.

Now I was thinking to myself that we may be in real trouble. But my head told me to remain calm.

All three spouts had formed in the same spot on the rear edge of this cloud and had barely moved at all. I could hope only that this pattern would remain.

Truthfully, my client and I didn’t have many options, so all we could do was what we had been doing all along -- watch and fish.

Yeah, we never stopped fishing and just kept making sure that the spouts stayed on their side of the cloud.

Subconsciously, I think we just kept fishing because it was a way to stay calm and relaxed. It was a way to observe this mayhem without losing our cool.

In no way, shape, or form, did I want to turn my back on this system and that’s exactly what we would’ve had to do to try and run from it. So, it was better to keep picking at the speckled trout and flounder and hope it left us alone.

After a few minutes, the spout went away and took the wind and seas with it.

My client and I reflected on what had just happened and how easy it was for a rogue storm, squall, system or whatever you want to call it, to catch you off-guard.

On the Outer Banks, Mother Nature can easily remind you on a regular basis just how insignificant you are.

In fishing news, the area offshore fleets continue to pummel billfish and mahi-mahi, while the surf fishermen continue to catch citation sea mullet and pompano in good numbers.

Large Spanish mackerel have been caught by the inshore boaters and a few cobias are still being reported at the docks.

A dominate, strong southwest wind has prevailed lately, and the forecasts continue to show this pattern for the next five to six days.  There is also a chance of rain and thunderstorms.

There are plenty of adventures to be had on the Outer Banks. Are you going to let a little weather stop you from experiencing them?

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 www.FishMilitia.com)

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