September 29, 2016

Outer Banks Angling:
Fall has arrived and fish are moving


Well, we’ve already had one storm for the year and we might get close and personal with another, but it's too early to tell. One thing is for sure -- the first storm got some fish moving.

To the north, anglers on the local piers -- Avalon, Nags Head and Jennette's -- have already begun to catch a few big drum, which is definitely a touch early. Rodanthe and Avon pier anglers have also had a couple big drum also.

From a pier standpoint, it’s early because the water has been warm, and I mean pushing 80 degrees. Catching drum in numbers from a pier is rare in these conditions, but that didn't stop anglers on Jennette's from catching almost 30 in one day.

There have also been drum caught from the sand along Hatteras and Pea islands.

So, while the storm wreaked havoc in some areas of the Outer Banks, it also got some big fish moving. And, while most are dreading another potential storm, the truth is an outside grazing with little impact would be perfect for everyone and even get more fish biting.

Even after Hermine passed us on Labor Day weekend, the offshore fishing came back strong after a few days. The boats have had excellent catches of tuna, mahi, billfish, and wahoo. The Internet has been alive with photos from the fleets that have had outstanding days in the deep blue.

I’ve chased the big drum from pier, surf and kayak since the storm. I’ve managed one yearling thus far from the pier, while my wife landed a nice citation from the surf.

I’ve seen an incredible amount of mullet and menhaden on the move in my travels, and I expect if the weather cooperates that the start of pier season for red drum will be incredible.

I say "start" because, even though some have been caught, the season isn’t even here yet. The theory is that water temps down around 70 degrees and just under should trigger a solid bite -- weather permitting.

Often I am asked about pier fishing for drum.

Well, I fell in love with it when I was working on Rodanthe Pier just after having moved here. I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of some of the area’s best and I learned the ins and outs from them.

Surf and kayak fishing for big drum came later and everything I learned from the pier could be used to catch from both.

For those trying to break into this type of fishing the best advice I have is to go sit on the end of a pier for several hours and watch the anglers do it, before you do anything. You’ll instantly know who has the most experience and whom you should be paying attention to and what they are doing and how.

If this seems like something you want to try, then you should go to a local tackle shop and ask for advice on beginner rods and reels. High-end rods and reels are not important in the beginning. The right rig and bait will eventually catch a fish, if you put them to work. The experienced employees at a shop can walk you through what you need.

If the pier isn’t your thing, then I suggest the same for the surf -- watch, learn and go to a tackle shop.

The basics in the 21st century would be a reel that can hold at least 250 yards of 17- or 20-pound test line and an 11- to 13-foot rod rated for at least 6 ounces, but it should be able to accommodate at least 8 ounces or more. The rigging gets tricky for newbies (see tackle shop employee).

I’ve caught drum on fresh mullet, menhaden, bluefish, spot, croaker, and more.

Warning: Drum fishing can be frustrating and lead to multiple curse words at any given time, but it’s also addictive and just flat out fun.

There is an 18-inch to 27-inch slot limit on red drum in North Carolina. Anything under or over has to be released. I don’t mind releasing a big fish after I’ve caught it.

Sure, being able to keep one from time to time would be nice, but I am not losing sleep over it.

The fight a 45-inch plus drum can put up is well worth it.

Each venue in which I chase drum has its own headaches and rewards.

Kayak fishing for them can be challenging, but provide a sleigh ride that can have a kayak leaving a serious wake.

Pier fishing leaves little room for error, as there are tight quarters, but being so high above the fish, the fight is intense. The currents generally created on either side of a pier can give the fish a serious advantage and make for an unreal fight.

The surf allows for more room to battle, but in cases like Cape Point, it can be a little crowded. However, the white wash of the shoals can make for a tremendous battle.

For most anglers, once you’ve caught one, you want to catch more.

October is upon us and this is the time to get the job done. So, do your homework, get yourself some gear and go make it happen.

If you are in town, make sure to check with one of the local marinas or captains because the offshore fishing is well worth a trip. You can go hunt some fish to release and go hunt some meat to take home. Best of both worlds.

Surf fishing is seeing some of just about everything on the move. Spot, croaker, sea mullet, puppy drum, and flounder have all begun to move, and it will only get better in the next couple of weeks.

For now, we hope the next tropical storm passes us by, and leaves us to do what we do in the fall -- fish!

Go fishing and play hard.

(Rob 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 or

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