February 5, 2016

Outer Banks Angling: Is it winter?

By ROB ALDERMAN


At times lately, it's been hard to figure out whether it’s the middle of winter or the start of spring.

The weather has been very mild at times, and, at times, just down right beautiful. At least for now, it's been a far cry from what we saw the majority of last winter. But, it’s early yet and anything could happen.

For now, we’ll take what we’ve got.

The surf fishing has been off and on decent. The reports of puppy drum from Buxton to Frisco have sounded worth investigating on a nicer day. Pups, ranging from under slot to slot-size, have provided some entertainment to those hunting at this time of year. Both shrimp on puppy drum rigs and jigs have produced.

At times, the water temps have crept towards the high 50s, and maybe just barely at the 60-degree mark. It's hard to tell at times looking at the infrared, but the water temps definitely do not look all that bad given the time of year.

Along with the puppy drum, some black drum and sea mullet have been caught from the surf.

The blackfin tuna have been blasted at times offshore. This is not generally a busy time of year for the fleets, but the boats that are going out have had some really good days of catching the blackfin.

While blackfin are the smallest of the sought-after Atlantic tuna, they can be a lot of fun to catch and they are great eating. Most captains nowadays target these fish using light tackle and butterfly jigs.

And, as a person who has done this on numerous occasions, I can attest to the fact that this type of fishing is an absolute blast. Using offshore jigs truly puts the angler in a hands-on position in the deep blue. It’s definitely worth trying.

There's been  no real sign just yet of any bluefin tuna. I know they are a big draw for a lot of offshore anglers, but they just don’t show up in any real numbers until late February or early March, but anything is possible.

Speaking of bluefin, "Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks" will be filming a third season. The National Geographic channel is not known for releasing info on anything, but this is a small place and most know what’s going on anyway.

Based on what I was told by my source, we can expect to see several of the same boats with one or more new ones.

The original series and the locally based "Wicked Tuna" both engender some interesting conversation amongst local captains and anglers. Like with all reality TV, there is some choice editing.

And, while there is some real discontent among some of the shows participants, the editors always make it more than it might truly be. We are also all led to believe that a bluefin tuna can make $30 a pound and a whole lot of unrealistic things.

But, many a wise person has said, any publicity is better than none. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the show, it does give the area a national platform.

Recently, there have been a couple incidents of people getting in trouble in our local waters and one even led to the death of a highly experienced, local hunting and fishing guide, Rich Baran.

Rich was duck hunting in the sound on a rougher than normal day and did not return. His boat, his ducks and gear were found, but not Rich.

I never want to believe that an experienced waterman made a mistake that led to a tragic accident, but it can happen to the best. I always think of the possible medical issues that could arise with the healthiest of people. Heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms are just a few of many conditions that could strike a person unexpectedly. And, something like that on the water could easily be fatal, especially if the person was by himself, as Rich was.

I don’t know any anyone who has not gone fishing or hunting by themselves at some point. Many argue that a person wading, kayaking, or boating should never go alone, but that is unrealistic.

We all do it.

I will say that if you are going at it alone, to make sure someone knows where you are heading and what time they can expect to hear from you, so that there is some type of safety net in place. You could even go as far as telling someone that you will check in once an hour or so.

No one believes that Rich did anything wrong, and it’s one of those mysteries that will probably never be solved.

In another incident, a group of three young men found themselves in a little bit of trouble when their boat broke anchor, while they were in their duck blind. Fortunately all were rescued without any harm by N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries officers.

Again, this incident shows that crazy things happen on the water and everyone should be as prepared as possible to deal with them.

At this time of year the Avon and Rodanthe piers are closed for the season, so there are no reports there. However, after losing a section of the pier at the beginning of the year, Rodanthe lost another section the weekend before last.

I’ve seen the damage, and there is roughly 400 feet or so of pier  remaining. The owners have announced that they plan on capping the pier where it currently ends, and they still plan on being open for the 2016 season.

Well, that’s about all for now.

Whether the weather reflects it or not, it’s winter and the fishing reports definitely reflect it.

The warmer weather is about to give way to some cooler temps, with the highs in the 40s by day and the lows in the 30s at night.

Truthfully, it’s still a 100 times better than last year’s winter.

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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