June 30, 2013

Outer Banks Angling: The return of the southwest wind


It almost seems we are going from one extreme to another this year.

In the spring we had a hard time with pier, surf, and inshore fishing because of what seemed like a never ending northerly wind that helped to keep the water and air temps lower than we would like or needed for hot fishing.

The area needed the southwest wind to prevail in order to raise the temps.

After a nice break from the northerly winds and a great three to four weeks of inshore fishing, the hard and steady southwest wind has found us.

Is the southwest the most dominate summer wind? Most years, the answer is yes.

It’s just that when it gets to blowing as it has been for the past two weeks now, which is constant and blustery, it can have some ill effects.

Remember. I am using the words "can have ill effects."

The Outer Banks as a whole is well over 100 miles long, and winds have different effects on certain areas.

Let's draw an imaginary line down the center of Cape Point and divide that into east and west.

The east side of Cape Point to the border of North Carolina and Virginia is affected one way by wind direction. The west side of Cape Point down to Ocracoke is affected another way by wind direction.

The difference is due to the elbow, so to speak, at Cape Point.

While the vast majority of the Outer Banks runs roughly north to south, the elbow bends the direction of the Outer Banks roughly east to west.

So, one wind direction will be good for fishing and water temps in one area, and it may have adverse effects on another.

Learning what wind is good or bad around here and when, where, and how takes a while.

Now a sustained, hard southwest wind could wreak havoc on Hatteras to a degree. From the west side of the elbow to Hatteras Inlet if the wind was hard enough and long enough, it could cause a lot of current and rough beach conditions.

This would make beach fishing more difficult and it could fire up Hatteras Inlet and make it difficult for the fleets to run.

A hard southwest wind could cause serious upwelling on the eastside of the elbow, which could cause a serious drop in water temps as the surface water is literally flipped upside down and the cooler bottom water takes its place on the surface. This can cause muddy water and possibly force the fish farther offshore in search of warmer water.

As the season moves along, a northeast wind could have the exact opposite effects. See how this works?

It does take some time to understand wind patterns and their effects on the Outer Banks and fishing.

For now, the blustery southwest wind has not lowered the water temps on the east side of the elbow for most of Hatteras, although it has definitely dropped the water temps farther up the beach along the northern Outer Banks.

The hard southwest has also made the sound waters mighty rough at times and I warn waders, kayakers, and recreational boaters to use extreme caution and be aware of that day's conditions.

A hard southwest wind can cause serious currents and big shorebreaks on all sides in the ocean, and people need to use caution when entering the ocean.

Though the southwest wind may give the appearance that the water is flat and calm on the east side of the elbow, strong rip currents can form and you should be aware of that day’s rip current reports.

There was a death because of a big shorebreak in Southern Shores recently after a man sustained a serious head injury, and a young man lost his life on the beaches of Frisco this past week after trying to rescue his brother from a strong rip current.

For now, the forecasts continue to show a dominant southwest wind that hopefully will begin to lay down some towards the Fourth of July.

The wind has had an effect on the overall numbers of fish being caught, but there are still fish being caught.

These conditions can be good for sea mullet, and there have been plenty of them in the citation range that continue to be caught by persistent anglers on Ocracoke and along the beaches of Hatteras.

The southwest wind has been good for producing a semi-regular bite of citation drum at Hatteras Inlet at night and provided some of the inshore boats with catches of the same during the day.

 A mixture of puppy drum, black drum, flounder, and bluefish can also be found by pier and surf fishermen along the islands.

Cobia continue to be picked at from the surf and the inshore boats, but the huge numbers of the "brown bombers" have fallen off, as those fish have steadily pushed north towards the Chesapeake Bay.

The southern inshore charters continue to do well with puppy drum, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish.

The mahi-mahi bite has remained solid for the offshore fleets out of Hatteras and Ocracoke, when the weather has allowed them to operate, along with some billfish and wahoo mixed in.

Charter-boat fleets running through Oregon Inlet have continued to do well with the tuna and mahi. The billfish have begun to show up more for those fleets as the summer has pushed along.

Inshore boats in the Oregon Inlet area have still done well with puppy drum, speckled trout, triggerfish, sheepshead, flounder, and bluefish.

Along with an abundance of southwest wind, we have had a fair amount of rain and thunderstorms, which at times have been ferocious, to say the least.

I do recommend keeping an eye on the radar on your smart phone when planning your day.

Standard issue is a 10 to 20 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms most summer days, but it has been considerably higher in past days.

People always talk about the summer time fishing doldrums. Personally, I think the fishing remains fair, and I hope it continues that way.

For all those who have already booked their summer time vacation, I recommend checking with one of the many local tackle shops on Hatteras and Ocracoke when you get here for the up to the minute reports. The employees at these shops can help you catch the fish you are looking for by supplying you with all the necessary gear and info.
For those on the fence on whether to make a run or not -- I'd say make a go of it.

Accommodations can be a little tricky in July, but I am sure you can find something to suit your needs.

You cannot catch an Outer Banks fish when you are sitting at home.

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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