December 31, 2015

Outer Banks Angling:
2015 has been an interesting year until the end


The weather on the Outer Banks for the past 12 months has been quite interesting. The area had a blistering cold winter, followed by a decent spring and summer, but fall and early winter have been anything but normal.

The Outer Banks actually saw cooler weather late October and throughout November than we’ve seen most of December, and the water temps have been at a level that has allowed beachgoers to go swimming in board shorts at times.

I must admit that I worry slightly when there is such abnormality in the weather going into a new year, as my mind thinks January and February will be harsh. But, with such a crazy year, only time will tell.

From a fishing standpoint, I think 2015 was an average year in most categories. Outside of a good cobia run, most species were on par, and there were no overwhelming crazy bites.

Cobia have had a great year from boats and piers, along with the occasional fish being dragged onto the sand. The cobia pier bite extended to all the Outer Banks piers for most of their season, which is not something that is typically seen. The north beach piers generally do much better in late summer, while this year it was a steady bite most of the summer season.

In the northern part of the sound, the puppy drum, speckled trout, and flounder were much harder to come by -- especially the puppy drum, which had seen a few good years of bites for
the inshore boats, kayakers and waders. However, the inshore boats still had a fair year with the puppy drum to the south -- towards Hatteras Inlet and the backside of Ocracoke.

Speckled trout have been scarce for the past few years, but we can hope that the highly sought-after fish will catch a break and make an appearance soon. Winter weather for the past few years has wreaked havoc on these fish.

Inshore flounder are still hit or miss, but I feel like their numbers could use a spike also. It seems there were some decent reports throughout the year, but nothing that could be considered consistent.

Big drum were on par for most years. They are so highly driven by conditions that it is truly hard to gauge how their stocks are doing. But, the fish were here this year. They just didn’t get driven into shore in the manner we saw last year.

Offshore fishing seemed good overall this year.

There were good reports of the meat fish throughout the year. Mahi and tuna definitely delighted plenty of anglers this year, and there was a solid wahoo bite. However, I feel that the billfish bite was a little off. The usual white marlin run that is seen out of Oregon Inlet around August and September left a lot to be desired. But there was some weird weather going on, and I am sure that had a lot to do with it.

Those anglers who target surf fish like sea mullet and pompano caught some nice fish this year, but it was slower than last year.

Stripers made a great appearance for the first time in a long time in the sound. While they were mostly all a "schoolie"-sized fish, it was nice to see a slight comeback for this species. After almost three months of solid catching, it seems the bigger fish have yielded to a much smaller fish that ranges around 8 to10 inches.

In the end, this is fishing and each year is going to be different. Maybe because of the stocks, but a lot of times it will be due to weather and when you have weather that is literally all over the place, then it’s going to affect the catching.

I’ll be working on my 16th season on the Outer Banks this year, and I’ve seen some really good bites from a variety of species. But, none of the species has seen a nonstop, excellent 16-year run. All have had their share of good runs and lack-luster runs and for a bunch of different reasons.

I just try to remain positive with the philosophy that everything comes and goes in cycles.

Some might read this and totally disagree with me on my thoughts for the past year, which is perfectly okay, as this is just an opinion piece.

Fishing should not be just about how much you catch or kill to take home.

Everyday professional fishingguides stress about over-catching fish for their clients, as a great deal of the clients want coolers upon coolers of fish to leave with for their money.

This is a hard and true reality. But, fishing is so much more.

Being out on the water or having your feet in the sand. Being able to breathe in some good ol’ fresh air and feel the wind hitting you in the face. Fishing should be about letting go of your cares for a few minutes, not creating new ones.

True hobbyists will set goals for themselves. Maybe it’s to get their first hole-in-one, a 12-point buck with a bow or the largest fish they’ve ever caught. But, there is no reason to let your passion stress you out.

Enjoy and continue to chase your goal and if you complete it, start a new one. Remember that going fishing on the Outer Banks or anywhere is about the experience and not the catch.

I hope in the weeks to come in 2016, the reports will light up with bluefin and blackfin tuna, as some have already made an appearance this month. Time and weather will tell the tale.

For now -- just 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 or


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