April 3, 2017

Outer Banks Angling: Spring is upon us


It’s very surreal sitting here and typing an article for the first time for the Island Free Press, since the passing of Irene Nolan.

If someone was to ask any of my teachers if I would've been writing for any reason in my later years, they probably would have chuckled… and so would I. Irene got me motivated to write about fishing, and it is something that I will never forget.

The Outer Banks saw an unprecedented winter, with extremely mild temperatures. Most of April seemed more like early May than the dead of winter.

The roads were alive with locals and tourists alike on the weekends, as everyone was looking to take advantage of the nice weather.

Early March proved that we are still a set of barrier islands in the Mid-Atlantic. The wind started to blow, and the temps sank back to winter-like conditions.

But, for now, the forecasts show mild temps and average early spring patterns.

The offshore fishing this year for bluefin tuna was stellar, to say the least, and the fleets are still getting into them frequently.

Many large bluefin over 100 inches were reported, and it was the single best season for filming the popular TV series “Wicked Tuna: North versus South”.

Even though in January a bluefin tuna sold for over $600,000, the bulk of this season has seen a low dollar amount per pound for this highly sought after sushi ingredient.

Many reasons have been thrown out there for this. The overwhelming catch, the value of the Yen versus the dollar, the availability of farm raised fish, and even the decline in demand for sushi.

Whatever the reason, at times the price has been as low as a few dollars per pound.

And, while this seems crazy, it’s not absurd, as the market for fish is similar to real estate - the prices come and go.

Nevertheless, this did not keep commercial anglers from hunting these fish, and with such a good bite and fair weather, the recreational angler was eager to join the hunt too.

This made for a great season offshore, and it helped that the blackfin and yellowfin bite was very solid at times.

I saw plenty of pictures and reports coming from the deep water jigging folks that got into the blackfin in big ways, along with pictures of nice yellowfin spread out on the docks.

Now that March is winding down I'm sure a lot of the offshore fleets are ready to see some mahi mahi and billfish start to show up, as they are solid draws for anglers.

The beach fishing was also decent off and on over the past several weeks.

Days of good puppy drum were reported, along with sea mullet and blow toads.

The nearshore water temps stayed mild for the most part, and helped to feed some productive days for surf fisherman.

There were reports of blowtoads and sea mullet hitting in February out of Ocracoke, and it didn’t take long before there were some reports from Hatteras.

These fish definitely get anglers excited as they are great table fare. But they also get the big drum fisherman’s heart racing, because they know that if these fish are on the move, there’s a good chance the big fish are too.

Big drum have been caught and released from the south end of Ocracoke, Hatteras Inlet and Cape Point over the past few weeks.

If the water temps are there and a food source is there, then it’s not uncommon for the drum to be there, no matter the time of year.

I’ve seen fair bites of big drum from Ocracoke Inlet when the water temps were teetering on 50 degrees, but there were bluefish and sea mullet around and the wind was blowing southwest, so the drum made an appearance. And though those cool water temps made for lethargic fish, they still bit.

Should our weather patterns continue to hold on the more mild side, I can only imagine that the surf fishing will get really good soon, based on what we have already seen.

But, as anyone who knows anything about the month of April and its weather on the Outer Banks—well—let's just say that it could be really good or we could get nailed with some serious nor’east activity.

Time will tell.

The sound fishing has truthfully left a little to be desired the past couple of years, as harsh winters have hurt the stocks of flounder, speckled trout and puppy drum.

Extremely cold weather and freezing water temps can send the young stock of these fish into cold stuns that they never truly recover from.

A lot of us want to believe and have high hopes that this mild winter will lead to some good sound fishing for boaters, waders and kayakers.

There has already been a fair showing of some nice speckled trout and puppy drum deeper in the sound, and most are hoping these fish find their way into our waters as the water temps continue to rise.

Overall, without a doubt, this has been a great winter—a much needed pleasant winter.

After getting hit by two hurricanes in the fall, we needed a little break.

So, as anglers, we will continue to hope for pleasant weather patterns and a rapid increase in our catches.

With April now here, many local businesses are finalizing their spring cleaning and preparing to reopen for the 2017 season.

It’s a good time to come down and cash in on lower costs for accommodations, and pick up some of last year’s goods that might be on sale.

Stop into your favorite local tackle shop and see old friends or make some new ones, while getting stocked up on gear and getting the latest intel.

One thing remains certain - you can’t catch them from home.

Go fishing and play hard.

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