January 3, 2014

Outer Banks Angling: Reflecting on 2013


Another year has come and gone, and as I get older, each year seems to go by faster.

I remember when I was a kid and a year felt like a century, especially when you were waiting for the typical growing-up milestones. Becoming a teenager, getting your driver's license, turning 18 and becoming old enough to consume alcohol, all seemed points in my life that took ages to reach.

The years just dragged on as a kid-- to the point where you never told anyone you were just 15 years old, but rather you told them you were 15 1/2 years old, as to speed things up.

I have no desire now to tell someone I am 39 1/2 years old. I am trying to figure out ways to shave some years off--not add them.

Nowadays, I blink and an entire year is gone.

2013 was a crazy year in the big picture and it just zoomed right on by.

The fishing was incredible for inshore and offshore anglers.

Tuna and white marlin fishing was downright insane and yielded one great report after another from the fleets.

In the spring and early summer months, entire fleets were leaving the docks at 5:30 am and returning before noon with their limits of yellowfin tuna, along with the occasional big eye or blackfin tuna.

Tuna is a highly sought after and strong fighting meatfish and is very pricey to buy at a market. So when this type of fishing is hot, it's good for the local economy.

Marlin is more of a trophy fish than a meatfish in the 21st century. Most anglers are targeting these fish for the pure fun of the fight, rather than to put on their dinner tables, but there still remain a lot of people from all over the world who will not hesitate to come here and chase them when the fishing is hot.

From mid-summer to early fall, it was no big deal to see 100 flags flying in a given marina from that day's release of marlin.

Another great draw for the local economy.

Puppy drum and speckled trout fishing was ridiculous this year. Just tons and tons of these fish made the reports all year long, and the puppy drum continue to do so.

People love these fish and will chase them avidly inshore, from piers, surf, boat, and kayak.

The sea mullet and pompano fishing were great from spring through fall and lots of people will fish hard from pier and surf to put them on their dinner plates.

Just another great economic boost for the year.

2013 didn't pack any huge storms such as Irene or Sandy, but it did throw a few economic curve balls.

The federal government was unable to get its act together in the fall and come up with a reasonable budget, which led to a partial government shutdown that closed seashore beaches for a few weeks.

Fortunately the economic blow was minimal -- but unarguably unnecessary.

Islanders found their line to the outside world abruptly and unexpectedly shut down after Thanksgiving, when it was discovered that the structural integrity of the Bonner Bridge was in question.

A 12-day closure of the bridge led to irritated visitors and locals in long, frustrating ferry lines.

But, given the time of year, the economic impact was once again minimal.

The bridge has been in need of replacing for more then 20 years and has been a major point of contention the entire time -- only politics and lawsuits has prevented its permanent replacement prior to now. So it's easy to say that this too was unarguably unnecessary.

The overall weather in 2013 was great.

Most of the year could easily be described as pleasant and welcoming for beachgoers.

That weather definitely helped draw people to the area all year long.

I'd like to believe that looking at the overall pros and cons from 2013 that the year was an economic success for most.

Issues with yearly and seasonal beach closures because of the seashore’s new off-road vehicle plan continue to plague the area, but a lot of locals, businesses, and visitors have adapted the best they can for now.

There are a few different avenues that are currently being worked to overturn these changes or to try and lessen them, but there is no way to know if they will work or when they might take effect if they do.

The islanders can do only what they have been experts at over the centuries, which is hold their heads up and charge forward.

The Outer Banks in its entirety is rich in its commercial and recreational fishing history and has survived on both for sometime now.

Commercial fishing fed the locals both at their table and by putting coins in their pockets long before the first sunbathers came along.

The recreational fishing industry in the area helped to develop offshore and surf fishing around the world.

Local boat builders are some of the most respected and recognized in the world.

I once had the opportunity to meet world famous fisherman and artist, Guy Harvey, and when I answered his question about where I lived, his response was " Nice."

Harvey knew exactly what this area had to offer in its fishing, as most avid anglers around the country do.

Unfortunately, commercial and recreational fishing in the area and around the country will struggle to maintain life in the years to come.

Most commercial fishermen only fish any more because of their love for doing so, and in the end it’s all they know. Regulation and environmentalism is forcing more and more commercial fishermen out of business.

Recreational fishermen face the same regulations and environmentalism as their commercial counterparts, along with rising fuel costs and what a lot of professional fishermen refer to as "aging out."

The world has dramatically changed in the past 20 years.

Homes now have 400 channels on their TVs via a satellite, state of the art gaming systems, and access to 30,000 movies and television shows streamed directly into their living rooms.

The newer generations are less inclined to spend time outdoors than our parents and grandparents.

The older generations who had to seek entertainment outside and that were just generally brought up outdoors are now aging out.

This has lead to a decline nationwide in fishing and all outdoor recreational sports.

If an industry loses two generations of participants and the newer generations are not interested in participating, then a serious loss will be felt.

The United States is lucky to know fuel prices that hover around $3 and change per gallon. Most of the rest of the world is paying far beyond that.

One can hardly imagine the impact to operating costs on a professional or recreational boater if the gas was to rocket to $5 or $6 a gallon.

It would be catastrophic.

But, at sometime in the years to come, this will be inevitable, as history has shown.

Boat builders feel all of the above, along with a slow or sluggish economy. It doesn't take much for the boat building industry to come to a grinding halt.

So, yes, I believe that 2013 was a successful year for catching fish and making a little money on the Outer Banks.

I can't say whether or not 2014 will be a good fishing year or if business will be booming all along our coast.

What I can say is we have to protect what we love.

Take a kid fishing.

Turn off the electronics at home and get a child on the water or in the sand. Let the youngsters feel the wood of a pier swaying beneath their feet and the salt spray hitting them in their face.

Get kids involved in the outdoors again and help them understand that this is the way life was meant to be spent --not sitting on the couch killing zombies eight hours a day.

Stop by a fish market and purchase some fresh seafood from time to time. Let the commercial fishermen know that you love a nice tuna fillet or a bushel of oysters on the grill.

Pool your money with family or friends and take a boat ride with a professional fisherman. Let him or her help you have a real memory of an outstanding day outside.

You may not catch the first fish, but you will always leave with something to remember.

As anglers and outdoorsmen, we must help to ensure that our culture endures and that we reinforce our numbers.

Or one day we might find that we have been regulated out or that our sports are no longer affordable.

Get Outdoors.

(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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