April 16 ,2015

Outer Banks Angling:
Walk don't Whine

By ROB ALDERMAN


Spring seems to be coming in true fashion, which is something we really haven’t seen in recent years. The temps have been as you would expect during a normal mid-Atlantic spring. Daily highs have consistently hit the mid-60s and this has led to some phenomenal fishing  -- especially in the red drum category.

The inshore boats have done very well chasing the schools of drum and sight-casting for them from the Hook to Hatteras Inlet. There have also been some decent bites at Cape Point from time to time.

Puppy drum have been caught from Coquina Beach to Ocracoke from shore, boat, and kayak.

Blow toads have made an appearance as far north as Avalon pier and can be found on Hatteras and Ocracoke, along with sea mullet and bluefish.

But, the good spring bite is not what I want to focus on in this column.

Last week, after a couple good days of fishing, Cape Point was closed to off-road vehicle access for a pair of courting American oystercatchers. These birds do not need this level of protection, since they are not federally protected and are only a bird of concern in the state of North Carolina, and on a good day you will see quite a few of these in backwaters of the sound.

Nevertheless, current National Park Service policy gives these birds a lot of protection that can and usually does affect some type of access within the park. When Cape Point closes to ORVs, folks who really want to fish have to walk around the closures.

Anyone that knows me or has followed me knows I do not support this stuff in any manner. I do believe in protecting resources, but not with rules that far exceed anything in any other national park in the U.S.
Every time these closures are announced, many people hit the web and social media to denounce them. Some simply state their distaste for these actions, while others claim that this has destroyed their fishing and that they will not or cannot take a walk to get to the fish.

You will see comments from folks who say they are too old for hiking, have too many young children to handle it, or suffer from some type of ailment that prohibits them from making a -mile, 10-minute walk. They ask how they are supposed to lug all the gear for the family out to the Point or they will just flat out say that these resource closures have ruined their fishing, so they no longer do it.

Unless you suffer from severe ailments, have lost the use of your legs, are very old or have a newborn baby, then I have only one thing to say to you: Grow up!

I have walked to Cape Point and seen many a child or elderly person or someone I know has a disability walking out there. I still see all the people I learned to drum fish from and whom I have the utmost respect for as fishermen taking this walk. Ninety-nine percent of the Outer Banks' top anglers make this walk regularly.

Neither these comments nor my decision to walk means that I support the Park Service policy on resource closures. Others who are walking also disagree with the regulations. Walking simply means that we love to fish Cape Point and other areas and that we will not allow the adversity to stop us from enjoying our passion.

If you allow adversity to prevent you from enjoying something you love, then you never truly loved it the way you thought or proclaimed you did.

Nothing in life that is rewarding is easy. The same goes for fishing Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke in this day and age.

If you don't support the NPS policy, you can still fish. You just have to work harder. On any given night, you might see 50 to 80 people of all ages who have taken a walk to try and catch fish.

I feel sorry for those who do have legitimate reasons not to walk. And I feel like if they could make the walk, they would -- especially if fishing is a true passion for them.

So, you have a couple young children – good. A 5-year-old can carry a couple plastic sand spikes with no problem, and the 8-year-old can lug the soft cooler with bait. So, you are older and some parts don’t work as well as they once did. In that case,  you can pop a squat on the sand and take a break.

In the winter of 2011, I managed to snap my left Achilles tendon twice in a 90-day period. That injury was devastating and  my leg has never been right since. My left leg is one third the size of my right leg, my balance is impaired, and my right leg has developed issues from carrying more of my weight.

Now my right foot has developed plantar fasciitis, which is very painful. It can bring a grown man to tears to just get out of bed in the morning. The doctor is trying to help my right foot, but that may take some time. For the time being, he told me not to walk barefoot, not to wear flip flops, and not to walk in the sand.

Are you kidding me? I live at the beach, and you want me to stop all of this? Forget it. My pain and discomfort are the price I am willing to pay for my passion.

So, I took a walk to Cape Point last Friday night and it hurt like hell, but I pushed with all I had for five hours.

And guess what? Although the conditions were prime and all the top drum hunters were there, not one drum was caught. By the time I got back to my truck around 12:30 a.m., I just wanted to lie down and die from the pain.

I had to tell myself the same thing I told myself on the walk out to Cape Point, the entire time I was out fishing, and on the walk back -- I think I can. The same story of "the little engine that could" about how to challenge adversity, which is read to children, I used as a 40-year-old man just trying to go fishing.

And I will continue to use it so that I can continue to enjoy my passion.

My wife looked at me on our drive home and asked if the pain was worth it, given the fact that no fish were caught.

I looked her dead in the face and said, “You are damn right it was. This is what I live for.”

So, I mean no disrespect to those who cannot make the walk. I mean no disrespect to all the native islanders who have had their way of life changed.

I just don’t want young people to see grown-ups crying like babies over how they can't or won’t fish because of a little hardship. This is not the message to send to our youth -- or our visitors.

I don’t know how long Cape Point will be accessible to those on foot, but I do know it’s open now to those willing to put in a little work and it is always rewarding -- no matter if  100 fish get caught or none at all.

Go fishing and play hard.


(Rob 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 OuterBanksKayakFishing.com.)

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