I first moved to the Outer Banks and worked on the Rodanthe Pier, I
remember that the top anglers -- the ones who were considered the best
-- each had their own top anglers or captains that they would talk
about like legends.
I was lucky enough to run with some top red drum anglers and learn from
them. They would talk of others who they learned from or fished with
and who amazed them.
One of the many names I heard over and over again on the end of a pier,
standing in the sand, or from other boat captains was Norman Miller.
Captain Norman Miller is one of those legends -- well known and highly
respected among the drum fishermen and all fishermen in general. Norman
is considered one of the nation’s top red drum taggers and has tagged
over 10,000 drum in his time.
I’ve been fortunate in my time on the Outer Banks. I’ve fished with
many a great captain seeking many species of fish and I had a ton of
fun with each and every one of them.
I can also say that when I recently had a chance to fish with Norman on
his boat, Rascal, I was very excited to finally spend some time
with a man I had heard so much about.
My stepson, Braxton, who is in the Coast Guard and currently stationed
in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently came home on leave for a visit. My
wife wanted to spend a little family time on Ocracoke. I saw this as a
prime opportunity to suggest a trip with Captain Miller.
I am lucky that my entire family loves the drug of the tug, so pitching the idea to go fishing was easy.
I could hardly sleep the night prior to the trip.
It’s a bit early for serious drum hunting out of Ocracoke right now,
although stumbling on a school is possible. After a discussion with
Norman, I told him I wanted to go wreck fishing. I felt this
could be highly productive, as the wrecks and artificial reefs out of
Ocracoke get less pressure, as their fleet is smaller.
We met Norman at the Rascal after the family and I enjoyed a good,
quick breakfast at Pony Island Restaurant. We were all stoked and ready
Norman fired up his 1981, 30-foot Sisu boat and began getting a few things ready.
This boat does not have a flat screen TV, air-conditioning, a
microwave, a refrigerator or a couch. This is a bare knuckles
vessel—one like I have fished on many times before. However, the boat
was still spacious and had a good ride.
After about 15 minutes, Norman undid the lines and we were off and out of Silver Lake.
We had no sooner wrapped the corner from Silver Lake when Norman
knocked the boat into neutral and started handing out rods. They were
equipped with hand-tied bottom rigs and baited with squid. It was going
to be our job to catch our own live bait for the day’s fishing.
Norman knew right where to be and we started bailing small spot and
croaker immediately. Norman continued to work on rigs, while Braxton
and I helped remove fish for the others and fish for ourselves.
Braxton and I love to fish and we wanted to do as much as possible.
It didn’t take long before the Norman said that we had plenty of live bait and we headed off to the reefs and wrecks.
On our first stop, the fishing was hot. Norman baited a rod for my
step-daughter, Maddy, and dropped it down to the bottom, which was
roughly 100 feet. Within 30 seconds, there was a bite and a fish was on.
Unfortunately, that fish and Maddy’s next fish broke off on the
structure we were fishing over, but she landed the third fish, a gag
The trick with groupers and such is that you have to be fast when the
bite happens, so you can get them up and away from the wreck, before
the fish retracts back into the structure and cuts you off.
Braxton and I were busy getting other rods baited, while Norman helped Maddy.
Braxton fed a live bait out with no weight on it and let the fish free
swim. It wasn’t long before his rod was screaming. This fish fought
hard and ate a ton of drag. I thought for sure it was an amberjack, but
I was wrong.
After a hefty battle, the fish surfaced, and to my surprise, it
was an African pompano. In all my fishing exploits, I had never
seen one caught on hook and line. While filming an episode of the Outer
Banks Angler, some friends and I went spear fishing for them. I saw a
lot of African pompano that day -- and never one since.
I know they get caught traditionally, but in all my wreck fishing and butterfly jigging trips I had never seen one.
Braxton was so happy to have caught a new species, and the entire family was super happy for him.
For the next hour we caught everything from amberjacks (AJs) to grouper
to red snapper. Amberjacks are a powerhouse and these were big fish.
Everyone had a blast wrestling these fish.
Throughout the fishing, Norman held excellent conversations with each
of us. He traded stories with Braxton about fishing in San Juan and the
Florida Keys, where Braxton had also been stationed.
Norman was shocked to hear that as a sophomore in high school, Maddy
was already eyeballing the Coast Guard Academy. Yes, we have two water
rats and they want to be on it non-stop.
Norman and I traded stories about drum fishing and all the mutual friends we have. And, his stories about drum are incredible.
We moved onto the next spot where we hammered more of the same. We even
managed two, release citation-sized amberjacks on this spot.
These are fish over 50 inches and if you don’t know—a 50-inch AJ makes
rods, reels and anglers beg for mercy. AJs locally are referred to as “
reef donkeys” because of their incredible power.
We fished at this spot for a while, before we moved onto our final
spot. We still managed more grouper, red snapper and AJs. The red
snapper are closed to harvest, so it hurt to turn loose these amazingly
beautiful and tasty fish, but it is what it is.
We fished until we ran out of bait. Not that any one in the group had the strength to reel any longer.
Our full day trip was over and we headed back to Silver Lake. Captain Norman helped to clean our catch and we said our goodbyes.
The kids talked about their catches and the trip for the next two days.
I was thoroughly impressed by Captain Norman Miller. He is truly one of
the many legendary fishermen on the Outer Banks and I highly recommend
fishing with him.
Go fishing and play hard..
Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 16 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.)