April 12, 2013
Outer Banks Angling:  Fishing is heating up


Early spring weather was far from postcard perfect. The season started out cold and blustery, and many spring break visitors found themselves wrapped tight in jeans and sweatshirts.

And, like a bad joke, almost as soon as the visitors reached the Wright Memorial Bridge to head home, the clouds parted, the rain stopped, the wind eased back and warmth beamed down from the heavens.

Welcome to March and April on the Outer Banks.

Hard northwest winds, rain, and clouds made most outside activities difficult over spring break. Swimming, kayaking, kiteboarding, windsurfing and such were almost a “no go” for two weeks.

But that didn't necessarily hinder the fishing.

Actually it was fairly decent.

From Buxton to Ocracoke, the blow toad fishing was very good.

Also known as puffers, these fish are a huge favorite on the dinner table. While they are not esthetically pleasing, I can assure you that this prehistoric looking fish is great eating and is often referred to as the "chicken of the sea." The meat is one giant lump that almost resembles an odd shaped corn dog, with one bone running straight down the center of the meat.

If you are unfamiliar with these fish, I suggest you pop into any one of the numerous local tackle shops and the staff will be glad to help you learn more about them.

Puppy drum fishing was fair  near Hatteras village with plenty of throwback and keeper fish being caught, along with some low-end yearling fish.

Ocracoke saw some really nice puppy drum fishing with fish of all sizes caught, including some citations.

Sea mullet have been sporadically reported from Ocracoke to as far north as Rodanthe.

Avon pier is currently closed and may open around April 20. Rodanthe Pier is open and has been reporting scattered blow toads and sea mullet, with an average water temp in the low 50s.

One thing chilly weather and hard northerly winds are good for is cooling off the water. And that can dramatically affect the inshore fishing.

I believe that what this does is just flip the water upside down or cause upwelling. The colder, bottom water is brought to the surface and the warmer water sinks down low -- meaning it doesn't take much nice weather to rapidly warm the water.

This is evident to me by the fact that numerous smooth and spiny dogfish have been reported. Spiny dogfish are predominately a cold water fish, while the smooth dogfish prefer it warmer.

Overall, the extended forecast shows high temperatures in the 60s and lows in the 50s. And, while at times over the next several days we will have some strong winds, the air temps will help drive those water temperatures even higher.

This should result in a steady increase in the productivity of inshore fishing. More big drum will be caught. The flounder and speckled trout will make a better showing. And, in general, there will be more fish over a greater area of the Outer Banks.

The speckled trout fishery deeper in the sound waters was decent most of the winter. Most have the misconception that when the water is cold, the trout are not biting. This is wrong and those who know better and where to fish take full advantage of that misconception.

Recently the speckled trout fishing has been good just a little deeper in the sound, and I expect the Outer Banks will have another good season with these fish.

I have been looking around in my kayak of late and I have seen small minnows, finger mullet, and cobb mullet on the move. If the bait is in the water, the inshore fish will soon follow.

Offshore, the bluefin tuna fishing was excellent, mostly off Oregon Inlet.

Many days the fleets could get onto large schools of these highly sought-after fish and catch until their clients were unable to reel any longer. Several fish that were taken by area boats weighed well over 500 pounds. Most are released.

This is a good sign of the health of this stock, especially as many a captain and mate reported acres of these fish at times.

Some blackfin and yellowfin tuna have also made the reports, along with wahoo, king mackerel, and some mahi-mahi.

You can definitely expect the mahi and billfishing out of Hatteras to only get better in the coming weeks.

The inshore boats have not had much to report as of late, except when they have been wreck fishing. That will also change rapidly.

Captain Norman Miller down on Ocracoke has managed to pull a few citation drum onto his boat, the Rascal. Norman is, however, a master at targeting these fish and is considered one of the best in the world.

Recently the crew and party of the Big Tahuna out of Hatteras managed to land a new, pending state-record golden tilefish. This 46-pound stud awaits formal and final confirmation from the state.

For the past five years Hatteras and Ocracoke islands have had to deal with seasonal spring closures to ORVs and/or humans.

This is a tricky subject among surf fishermen in general, especially because the closures can change daily or hourly.

An ORV permit is required to drive on any open ORV beach, and I suggest you check with the closest permitting office, the National Park Service website, or a local tackle shop about what is open or closed.

Also, pay close attention to all posted signs. They can be a little confusing but are generally informative on a particular area.

So the weather is improving and the fishing is improving.

The only thing left is to figure out when you are coming down to enjoy the beauty of the Outer Banks.

Go fishing.

(Rob Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 12 years and has worked in the recreational fishing industry the entire time. A former variety fishing TV show host, beach fishing guide, tackle shop and pier employee, Rob currently owns and operates Outer Banks Kayak Fishing. He is on the Pro-Staff of Bending Branches LLC, Wilderness Systems Kayaks and Release Reels. You can follow his adventures at www.FishMilitia.com or OuterBanksKayakFishing.com.)

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