October 5, 2013

Outer Banks Angling: A total mess

By ROB ALDERMAN



Unless you have been in a cave or completely unplugged from the world, you must know that there has been a massive federal government shutdown that has totally closed down the beaches and other facilities at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Technically, all of the seashore beaches are closed, but the Park Service is not bothering folks on the village beaches or even most of those who park in closed down oceanside turnouts and walk over the dunes. You can also launch boats from private land on the soundside of the islands.

However, the Park Service draws the line at driving ORVs to the beach, and most ramps are blockaded or chained.

We are into Day 4 of the closures, and it's anyone's guess as to when Congress will get its act together and fix this problem.

So, I am not going to harp on this. You can follow all the current details of the beach shutdown right here on the Island Free Press.

I had the opportunity recently to fish onboard the Miss Hatteras out of Oden's Dock with Captain Spurgeon Stowe.

The Miss Hatteras is a 75-foot long headboat and can typically accommodate 45 passengers. Stowe actually owns two headboats that he uses to bottom fish and wreck fish, both offshore and inshore.

These trips can generally produce anything from sea bass, triggerfish, sheepshead, snapper, and grouper to a plethora of other species.

Spurgeon is a salty character with a life-long knowledge of the area's water. He has the ability to remember the name of almost every person on his boat. He loves to joke around and interact with clients.

On this day, I was with my co-workers from a part-time job on the boat. My boss had rented the boat for the employees to go play.

The weather was nice, although we were coming off a decent northeast blow, so the water was choppy, with a mild ground swell.

The process is simple. All the equipment is supplied, though you can bring your own. The mates run around while heading out and bait all the rods.  

The captain pulls up on a wreck, the mates drop the anchor, and then the captain sounds the horn, which lets you know it's time to start fishing. And you do so until the captain sounds the horn again, which signifies it's time to reel in and move the boat to the next spot.

We stopped on top of a few different inshore wrecks.

From the time we started fishing on the first stop, we managed to catch a couple nice triggerfish and some small sea bass. We weren't tearing up the fish, but everyone was getting bites and we were having a good time just being out as a large group.

These trips are interesting, because inshore or offshore, you never know what you might stumble onto in our waters.

One of our crew did manage to catch a small octopus. It was something I've seen more  than a few times, but for most, it was a first and an exciting experience.

Throughout the entire trip, the mates and Spurgeon move around, assisting the anglers and conversing with them. The crew members were doing what all professional, recreational fishermen do -- helping their clients feel at home and learning about where they are from and what they do for a living.

Throughout the day, we saw a school of false albacore come through, along with a variety of sea turtles and marine life.

We fished for about four hours before it was time to head home.

The fishing was far from hot and heavy, but it was truly a great time.

These trips are very affordable for small groups or individuals. They do not require a fishing license, as the boat has a blanket license. Large groups can book the entire boat for a private party.

The Miss Hatteras is currently booking trips for king mackerel. This is a live-baiting trip with very limited room per trip. This trip is pretty awesome, and the single most affordable king mackerel trip I know of.

You can book or get more info about the Miss Hatteras and other boats, by clicking on the Oden's Dock ad on the Fishing Page on this website.

Prior to the beach shutdown, fishing was good from the surf along Hatteras and Ocracoke. Plenty of keeper puppy drum were being taken, along with spot, sea mullet, and bluefish.

People are still fishing the beach -- both in the open and closed areas, and I am hearing the fishing has remained good.

Rodanthe Pier has had some bluefish and Spanish mackerel in the mornings and evenings, while throughout the day, anglers are catching a mixture of sea mullet, spot, croaker, and flounder. A few yearling drum have been caught sporadically.

Avon Pier, a Park Service concession, is currently closed because of the government shutdown. Because of its location, the owners are required to have a commercial use permit from the NPS, which is null and void during the shutdown.

On the other hand, because of erosion, the Rodanthe Pier is no longer located on park land and does not require a permit. Rodanthe, by the way, is honoring all Avon Pier season passes during the shutdown.


Offshore fleets out of Hatteras and Ocracoke have done well with yellowfin and blackfin tuna, along with good catches of mahi-mahi and some decent wahoo.

Inshore boats in that area have done well with trout, flounder, puppy drum, and occasionally a citation drum or two.

The fleet at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has been moved to other marinas, as it too operates under a commercial use permit on NPS land. The marina is currently off limits. You can still book the boats through their toll-free number.

The fishing for the boats running through Oregon Inlet has been good when weather has allowed. White marlin continue to get caught, though the numbers have slowed slightly. There are fair numbers of tuna and mahi being caught.

The inshore boats have had excellent puppy drum and speckled trout fishing.

The current forecasts show highly fishable weather, and while it's hard for me to recommend coming down to beach fish with all the government closures, I can say that the beaches in front of the villages are open, the fishing fleets are still running, and Rodanthe Pier is open.

I hope that by my next report, the government closures have been lifted and the beaches are open again.

For now, you can't catch fish 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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