September 25, 2014

Outer Banks Angling: Autumn


Monday was the first official day of fall, and it sure feels like it around here. Cooler temps and a northeast wind generally signify that summer is behind us.

That's okay. Fall is just as much fun and can be just as entertaining on the Outer Banks.

If we are lucky, our weather pattern gradually shifts with an occasional, small northeaster in the mix. This allows the migrating fish a chance to move close to the shore nice and slow and will generally allow for a good, extended fall fishing season.

All the signs tell us that the fall fishing is just beginning.

Baitfish of all sizes are on the move. Anglers are throwing cast nets, trying to harvest mullet of all sizes along the shoreline and in the local bait hotspots.

False albacore can be seen from one end of the Outer Banks to the other, along with citation-size drum, which are making a scattered appearance from the piers to the north. From Little Island Pier in Sandbridge to the Avon Pier, citation drum have been caught.

This is always a sign that fall is here.

A mixture of small bottom fish have been taken by surf and pier fishermen alike. Flounder, spot, sea mullet, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel are just some of the fish to make the reports of late.

Puppy drum are still being caught all along the Outer Banks. These fish have been around to some degree since January. Given their current overall population, you might surmise that puppy drum fishing will be really good as we get deeper into fall.

We've had a bit of northeast weather this week. Once again, we want the water and air temps to come down slowly, so the occasional, short-lived storm will not hurt anything -- it just needs to move quickly.

The offshore boats out of Hatteras have seen a mixture of scattered billfish, wahoo, and mahi, while the inshore boats have seen red drum of all sizes, speckled trout, gray trout, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish.

The offshore boats out of Oregon Inlet have seen some billfish, but most captains would say that the white marlin bite has been disappointing overall. Most years at this time, the white marlin are being caught hot and heavy, but that's fishing. Scattered mahi, wahoo, and other billfish have also been taken.

Cobia continue to make an occasional appearance for the inshore boats, along with flounder, drum, and speckled trout.

I launched my kayak off Cape Point the other day, and I must have seen 200 tarpon rolling the surface over the five-plus hours I was out there. But I never even came close to hooking one.

There was, however, no shortage of Spanish or bluefish out there.

I did notice in my travels that day that what is referred to as the " Narrows" on the drive out to the Point was just that -- very narrow. There was barely enough room for two vehicles to pass one another because of erosion.

Now, with all the recent onshore winds, that area has become completely impassable. As of Sept. 25, it is not offically closed by the Park Service, but drivers of ORVs are taking big risks to try to get out there.

There is no other way for an ORV to get out to Cape Point. Even though there is a bypass that goes behind the dune line at the narrows, the bypass doesn't dump out on the beach far enough to get beyond the erosion.

There has been some chatter on local websites and social media about the frustration with not being able to drive out there. Unless the National park Service authorizes a new path, I can't see an immediate remedy. We can hope only that the water recedes, so we can drive out through the Narrows again.

The situation is mighty disheartening, given that the Point closed to ORVs in April and reopened only in late August.

I believe that, except for the bridge and beach issues, erosion is the single greatest threat that Hatteras and Ocracoke face. You  may be able to ward off erosion, but stopping it all together is a different story.

Pumping sand over a 60-mile stretch is unrealistic, so erosion will definitely affect certain fishing spots in the years to come.

Access to Hatteras Inlet has already been changed because of erosion.

I do know that Cape Point is still open to anyone who wants to walk out, and that may be the only form of access for the immediate future.

Sportsmen are facing  a wide variety of issues that threaten their sport and access all over the country. We can only hold our heads high and continue to do what we love to the best of our ability and hope for some relief.

Go fishing and hard!

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