Outer Banks Angling: It’s winter
By ROB ALDERMAN
safe to say that a full-blown winter found the Outer Banks this year.
While the area saw more snowfall last year, this year has been one of
the coldest and has broken records in the temperature category.
Even as I write this, we barely missed being hit by a considerable snow storm and lucked out with mostly rain.
March approaches, many anglers start to have hopes of the coming spring
and the fishing it brings. It’s going to be a tough call on what will
happen in the coming weeks. The area will need to see some major
changes in the air and water temps to get fishing started.
severe cold and frozen waters of the sound forced some puppy drum out
into the ocean recently. The fish were trying to escape being caught in
a cold stun.
While the fish do not typically feed aggressively
in mid-winter, they will feed in order to support their movement. So,
when the fish move along the surf in winter, they do get caught, and
some of these runs are better than others.
We had great runs of
puppy drum in the surf last winter, but this winter doesn’t even
compare. This is not because the water wasn't cold enough to force them
out. Rather it is most likely due to those fish aging out and now
living most of their lives in the ocean, as opposed to the sound.
two years straight, we saw great catches of puppy drum, but those fish
should be hitting the 30-inch or so mark, which means we need to see
the next class of spawned drum in order to have solid surf and sound
puppy drum fishing.
Ultimately this is a hard one to call, and
the coming months will tell us more about this year and next year when
it comes to the puppy drum. As the water and air warms up, these fish
will be looking to feed hard and that will give a glimpse into their
The speckled trout will probably be a
completely different story. These fish are highly susceptible to cold
stuns. In tough winters, there are always photos of floating trout.
North Carolina is a big state, and it has plenty of coastal waters
where these fish live and breed. If you ask most Outer Banks anglers
who hunt these fish, they will tell you the speck fishing has been slim.
there have been some nice speckled trout caught at times during a few
decent runs, but there were definitely fewer fish this past year.
love reading how someone caught a big trout and then proceeded to tout
how the fish were not harmed by last year’s cold stuns. Of course, cold
stuns do not kill every fish, but they sure can hurt the overall
A great deal of the Outer Banks’ sound waters froze
these past few weeks, and lot of water is still covered to some degree
with ice. I am curious to see if there are more stuns to come. But,
then again, there might not have been a lot of fish in this area to
Other parts of the state saw some decent speck fishing, but I don’t feel that we did.
forecasts show the temps becoming a little warmer -- in the 40s and 50s
-- next week. It’s kind of scary that a bunch of people will welcome
40-degree weather with open arms.
It’s plausible that if there are
more cold stuns discovered, the fishery could face another moratorium,
as it did last year. A lot of anglers got upset when this occurred and
said that the powers-that-be had a knee-jerk reaction.
that the powers-that-be look at all the info they have at hand. Trip
tickets from commercial fisherman, data from tagging programs, and
information collected from recreational anglers. Their decisions may or
may not be right, but they are just trying to protect the species to
the best of their ability.
However, a lot of time and money goes into chasing fish, and it hurts when you can’t keep a particular species.
love the smell of fish in my cast iron pan or the sweet aroma of fish
baking in my oven, but for me, I just love to catch fish. If I have to
let fish go for a while in the hopes that it will make the population
stronger at a later date, I am cool with it. I am just glad to have
been outdoors doing what I love.
Over the years, I’ve seen big
drum already being caught from Ocracoke Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, and Cape
Point by this time. If it happens this year, I don't think that it will
be until much later in March -- unless we see a lot of southwest wind
that forces much warmer offshore water into the beach, which is always
For now, we will have to see what Mother Nature holds
for our immediate future before too many predictions for spring fishing
can be made.
What I do know is this -- in the coming weeks, no
matter the fishing or the weather, more and more local businesses will
be turning on their open signs and starting yet another year. So, if
you have a late winter or early spring trip planned, you can rest easy
that there will be plenty of people looking forward to your business. And
if the fishing is good, well, that’s just a bonus.
Make sure to
stop by one of the local tackle shops or marinas and spend a little
coin. They always know what is going on in their backyards.
Stay warm my friends. It’ll be fishing season soon enough.
Go fishing and play hard.
Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 13 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,
Release Reels, Yakattack and is an ambassador for Ugly Stik. You can
follow his adventures at www.FishMilitia.com or